Sunday, 30 April 2017
Just War Theory
I'd like to take this moment to apologize to anyone who's decided to read through these initial 26 blogs. I think apologies are getting a bad rap these days, so I just through I'd throw one in, and make apology tours great again.
But, it's impossible to hide I'm in the middle of a rush job to achieve the A to Z challenge. Let me just say, while quality will be impossible to maintain, I hope readers will at least be left with some key points about how I see things. Then later, when its not about blogging challenges any more, we can see how these ideas might apply to political issues of the day, or how they came from philosophical, political and religious readings or investigations I did in the past. Just War Theory is a case in point. It will be impossible to do a complete investigation of a topic that deserves it more than just about any other.
Two kinds of just war ethics
Ok onto the topic. There are two ways to think about Just War Theory. The first, and most obvious, is the ethical justification for waging war. Are there ever situations where war is just?
The second, outlines the boundaries for conducing war. Rules of war, like the Geneva Conventions come to mind. For the purpose of this blog, I'm just talking about the first kind; although, I have plenty to say about the second, if someone reminds me to do so later on...
The main rule of war - Reluctance
I wanted to cross reference a basic idea about war justification between Christian apologetics and a classic Chinese text, to show how wide spread and culture crossing the concept is. Showing something's wide acceptance, doesn't make it true. However, it makes a good starting point for later discussion.
So, reluctance to go to war and the related concept: ethical justification leads to reluctance. This is so because the very nature of adding an ethical foundation has a built-in reluctance in the formula. It's “baked in the cake”, as Americas like to say. For most of us, what is ethical, stands in contrast to what war is. War is a pragmatic approach to things on the *extremes* of social/moral acceptance. It is “politics by other means”; but, clearly the normal means have broken down.
St Thomas Aquinas had a certain predictability with regard to what he was going to say about war. Christians are supposed to turn the other cheek, so there were only going to be limited ways any Christian could consistently talk about doing any kind of violence, never mind engaging in war. He and St. Augustine are pretty true to that pattern: they show an extreme reluctance to enter war.
Sun Tzu's difficult benchmark for war
Sun Tzu, who's work, "Art Of War", which I skimmed through for the first time in many years before writing this entry, showed near agreement on war justification, that was close to stunning to me. He went beyond the need for an ethical justification. He argued, it was best to be RIGHT about the issues being fought over. Notice the difference between this and propaganda, where you are merely trying to convince people of your reasons.
Sun Tzu literally thought the side that was right about its convictions could count this as an advantage on the battle field. That isn't to say, convictions are going to win any fights without a proper supply line. But, holding those things equal, the side that's right about why its fighting, will have an advantage.
Very few wars qualify as just wars
The moral underpinning, even in the case of Sun Tzu, for a just war, means that very few wars are going to be just.
If you are not defending yourself or not helping someone you are not trying to stop a force that's truly "evil", It's already going to be questionable if you can meet the ethical conditions for war. Wars for adventure, to create opportunities for one's industries, not only, do not pass the ethical standard for a just war, they, in the long run, fail to meet their own objectives, and they, through their short shortsightedness undermine the military plan itself.