Sample: No War in the Modern World Can Possibly Be Just

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Many arguments and theories have been developed by proponents of contemporary war in an attempt to decriminalize war. Such theories have proven to be incoherent, and Walzer’s just war theory is a case in point. The flip-side of modern war that scholars and politicians evade touching on are the negative implications that come with war. This is a clear indication that no modern war can be just in participation and form (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5). Also, the right intention for waging war against another state is always a question which is unsatisfactorily answered by just war theorists. However, in classical situation, the right intention is met when a hostile nation attempts to realize a just and peaceful situation (Cole, 2001, pp. 174-193).

            Quite a large number of people argue that modern wars, like other wars waged before, are natural, and as tribal animals, we are bound to be in strong urge of defending our land and tribe.  Humanists differ with such suppositions, stating that it is our moral obligation to use our reasoning mental faculties and intelligence to deliberate on war and overpower such natural instincts. Thus in the emergence of war, we ought to explore non-violent interventions (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5). Walzer at some point admits that his conception of just war yields incoherent ethical prescriptions. In some circumstances, Walzer supposes that his theory both condemns and allows the same course of action (Parsons, 2012, pp.663-690).  

Peaceful solutions are not often simple to arrive at or put into force, as the past record of the United Nations suggests. However, human beings should be committed to support the UN’s peaceful efforts towards resolving conflicts among states. A significant number of humanists, such as Betrand Russell, have come out to vehemently oppose the use and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. Today’s religion is absurd since it is supportive of violent means of resolving differences and injustices (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5). Just wars are not necessarily focused on when justice demands a nation to go to war, contrary to what just war theories are inclined to think. In almost all situations, the effort put in defending human rights makes it not unjust to wage war (Kamm, 2001, pp.328-343).

            Religion should never be a justification for participating in war. Non-religious individuals are quick to highlight the many wars that have been waged for centuries owing to religious differences. These are ridiculous reasons for taking away other people’s lives. They also condemn the role that world’s major religions play regularly in promoting war. Liberal democracies have a good overall reputation when it comes to violence. In fact, most liberal democracies will be remembered in the annals of history as having an excellent record for not igniting or promoting wars (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5). The question that the modern generation keeps asking is how can any violence be just in an era in where the armed forces and civilians have become so desperately blurred, that discrimination is but mythical? We are living at a time when water pollution, defoliation, starvation and skeptic eruptions continue to kill hundreds of thousands even after ceasefires (Kamm, 2001, pp.328-343)

             Today’s religions have deviated from seeking faith and purity, and instead become entangled in activities geared towards promoting war. In the past, Christians expressed reservations towards participating in military activities. Quite a negligible fraction of Christians today root for the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’. Equally, they cite Jesus’s advice to turn the other cheek and not resist evil, as a guideline for pacification. However, when Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church changed its convictions and began to accommodate war, arguing that there exist just wars (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            The doctrine of just war championed by the Roman Catholic Church was developed from the Medieval Greek thinkers and Roman Lawyers. To them, the fundamental ethical principle was not criminalization of killing, but that it is usually wrong to murder the innocent. Today’s Christians have interpreted this to mean that it may be justifiable to execute soldiers of an enemy country if it has committed atrocities, such as conquering and looting the territories of another nation. A war meant for paying back such atrocities can be termed as a just war (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5). While the just war theories condemn participation in unwarranted war, most justify a nation’s participation in war which are in themselves deemed unjust. They call attention to alternative and even more severe implications that, in retrospect, would have taken place if the state had gone to war, or will prospectively happen if it does not take part in war (Higgs, 2012, pp. 305-306).

The principle of just war from the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church and these Greek classical thinkers, show that it can never be morally upright to murder civilians, since, being non-combatants, they are innocent. This is the center of argument of what is today commonly known as the just war theory. Augustine is usually lauded as being the doctrine’s pioneer, even though this does not take into consideration earlier Greco-Roman Contributions made by thinkers like Aristotle and the likes. The theory’s modern-world influence is slowly declining, since it is antagonistic to realism. The theory has since outgrown its Greco-Roman and Christian foundations, to become the modern mentality of war, as well as an integral part of principles guiding the international law. It offers an open and perceived plausible way of thinking concerning the rights and wrongs of violence (Parsons, 2012, pp.663-690).

The principles of just war are usually contravened by the parties taking part in violent activities. This is an indication that they are tough principles, requiring values which we should be pushing states and governments to put into force. The just war theory concerning the morality of war has major weaknesses. First, if it is morally an offence to murder the innocent, then all wars waged with modern weapons are in essence wrong. For instance, most wars today involve the bombing of populous cities, where innocent non-combatants reside. As such, they are bound to be executed (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Secondly, it is almost impossible for just soldiers compelled to take part in unwarranted war, to make a distinction between innocent non-combatants and those who are not. Moreover, most soldiers do not choose to go to war; they are compelled by their seniors to do so. For this reason, their deaths, arising from forced participation in war, are as terrible as the innocent civilians’ (Harbour, 2008, pp.421-437). In as much as the act of distinguishing between the innocent and the guilty civilians can prove futile, many would argue that there is something atrocious in knowingly aiming weapons at civilians in war (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Modern weapons of mass destruction like atomic bombs and biological weapons, which if used can clear millions of average individuals would be wrong to justify. Many activists have pushed for the abolition of such weapons, rooting for pressure groups such as Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Therefore all wars, being unjust, should be done away with. In many instances, war attains nothing but terrible suffering, which leaves an inheritance of bitterness. This has the effect of sowing seeds for future wars (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5). It is the utmost responsibility of everybody residing in the planet to value every human life and regard them as unique and precious. Humanists view skeptically the justifications states give for causing deaths and property destruction in war.

            The arguments developed by just war theorists such as Vitoria and Suarez, are incoherent. Other pacifists also hold the view that nothing can justify people’s killing on a large scale such as during times of war. There are sufficient reasons to believe that during war the noncombatants are bound to lose their lives and/or severely harmed. Vitoria and Suarez’s views can be likened to the Christian just war theories. This is because they agree with Aquinas’s conditions for participating in a just war. Additionally, they accept his perception of the innocent as guiltless as well as his double effect point of view (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Despite their sixteenth-century context, their understandings of war are arguably important for analyzing the justice behind planning, undertaking and terminating a war. There exists inconsistencies within the context of their Christian just war supposition. They defend the categorical immunity of the innocent not to be knowingly executed. They also champion the exacting of collective punishment on the innocent and the guilty alike, during and after waging a just war. In so doing, they give room for deliberately meting harm on the innocent. Such a deliberate imposition of pain and anguish on the innocent can give rise to death. For that reason, championing for both claims appears incoherent (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            The aforementioned incoherence is not distinct to Christian just war proponents. By giving space for the chances of pursuing collective punishment against combatants and noncombatants alike during cases of supremacy emergency, and following an unjust war, modern just war theorists like Michael Walzer, face the same tension. Walzer is not alone. The international law also stands to be corrected since it defends the immunity of noncombatants but give provisions for the UN Security Council to inflict sanctions against pariah states. Indeed, there is tangible experiential proof backing the allegations that broad and prolonged economic sanctions meted on pariah states are severely felt by the most vulnerable societal members, who happen to be not only noncombatants, but also innocent (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Theorists of just war sadly argue that in times of war, the people entrusted to act on behalf of the offended state can justifiably inflict harm on average civilians of the offending state, who might be considered guiltless of the offence. To Victoria, if a sovereign state declares an unjust war against another, the harmed party may loot and seek all the other rights of war against the sovereign’s subjects, although they are innocent of the atrocities. The views presented by Victoria seem deplorable. Nonetheless,  such offenses committed by the offending state need to be tolerated rather than going to war against them, which further aggravates the situation (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            At this day and age, there is no agreement on the moral assessment of the world’s conflicts. The bombing of Lebanon, the Gulf War, and other civil unrests all have strong support and opposition. Therefore, military personnel often find themselves in the position of being compelled to take part in a war whose overall justice is in want. Vitoria and Suarez hold that people enjoy categorical immunity strictly on conditions that it is fully wrong to deliberately kill them through commission or omission, under ordinary circumstances (Zehfuss, 2012, pp. 423-440). Nonetheless, one can be justified or cleared for intentionally imposing harm on them under stressful situations (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            By stressful circumstances, Victoria means the conditions under which the guiltless are unavoidably under threat and prone to harm after all. War is a classic instance of a stressful circumstance. Having both claims- the categorical immunity of the guiltless as well as giving room for intentionally inflicting harm on them in times of stressful circumstances-brings increases the level of inconsistency in both Christian and just war proponents (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            The parties involved in attempting to justify administration of harm on the victims are likely to encounter serious dilemma among the ideals proposing their theories, application and their use in real life situations. Suarez’s refutations on war are not an exception to these oppositions. They give a nod to intentional harming of the innocent in cases where it is reasonably unavoidable for overpowering and/or punishing the parties behind waging the unjust war.  If one were to strongly believe that in a just war the intentional harming of the guiltless should be logically avoidable, then no war on earth will be justified (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Victoria and Suarez’s justification of some wars, even though they hold that no war is justifiable in essence show that there is no just war. Some of the conflicts they justify include war against great evil to bar, stop, or administer punishment on the aggressors. To them, intentionally harming the guiltless is in practice unavoidable (Zehfuss, 2012, pp. 423-440). They therefore acknowledge that at the heights of war, it is virtually impossible to remain pursue a just cause. When waging an unjust war, individuals entrusted to act on behalf of the wronged state can justifiably inflict harm on civilians of the offending nation, who in most cases are always innocent of offence in a mens rea sense (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            If a sovereign state declares an unjust war against another, the hurt state may plunder and look for other rights of violence against the citizens of that sovereign state, even though they are not responsible for the offence. Victoria is therefore ethically licensing the militants of the offended state to administer any form of punishment they so wish, on the civilians of the offending state. Whereas the average civilians of the state that participates in an unjust war against another state might be innocent of offence, they might not be guiltless or harmless. This means that they might be non-innocent in the material sense. This idea appears to be Victoria’s reasonable presumption when he asserts that if a sovereign state allows any injustice in the exercise of his mandate, the fault rests with the commonwealth, because the commonwealth is supposed to be responsible for entrusting its power to somebody who will justly exercise any power or authority bestowed on him (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            The relevance of Victoria’s assumptions can be illustrated for a modern context on the following grounds. First, the average civilians of the offending state are not only dangerous for putting trust the executive authority to an unjust group of people (Zehfuss, 2012, pp. 423-440). Secondly, they are held responsible for directly promoting the aggression by offering logistical and and/or material assistance for the course without directly participating in the real war, like individuals working in munitions plants, scientific researchers taking part in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, private contractors, diverse collaborationists (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            They can also be perceived as innocent threats by being technically innocent but materially dangerous, like deceived scientists who have been misguided to channel their knowledge and experience in the manufacture of weaponry, thereby unconsciously taking part to the war agenda. Others can be compelled into compliance with the war agenda. Nevertheless, they represent a group of innocent but technically dangerous citizens of the offending state. For that reason, soldiers of the sovereign state can justifiably aim offensive weapons on them (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

In some cases, the perceived innocent citizens of the belligerent nation are terrorists. The people who lost their loved ones on September 11, 2001, would agree that a sovereign nation ought to be severe in administering punishment against the nation hosting terrorists. Indeed, many pedants and scholars argue that the victims of war on terror and their entire nation had in some ways brought the damnation on themselves (Brattebo, 2005, pp.71-76).

Average civilians of the offending state appear guiltless on the surface, because they belong to the state that declares and executes an unjust war against another state. They can bear the collective guilt of the nation by acquiescing to entrusting, or electing the unjust executive authority (Zehfuss, 2012, pp. 423-440). Except among children, the seriously ill, and the mentally incapacitated, average responsible civilians of an offensive state appears to have an equal share of moral guilt. But whether their extent of moral guilt is severe enough to fault them at personal level for their government’s wrong policies and ideologies would be dependent on their intentions at personal level and character (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Perhaps, for instance, they could have fled the country but chose to remain, or they could have successfully connived with the enemy state against their hostile government were not courageous enough to do so. Another possibility was to trigger civil unrest and disobedience against their hostile government to topple it so as to do away with the oppressive policies but opted otherwise (Medina, 2013, pp.47-64). But in all these cases, putting faults on ordinary civilians of a hostile nation on grounds of the aforementioned reasons would be morally controversial, if the reasons are inexistent. For instance, an opportunity for fleeing the country might have been inexistent. For others fleeing the hostile state might have proven expensive or burdensome an exercise to even attempt. For others, the possibility of mounting unrest against the hostile government might have been suicidal (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Irrespective of their guilt, in the event that an offensive state is overpowered, and the sovereign state administers reparations on the destroyed, then all the citizens of the vanquished state will be collectively at risk. That is the inevitable reality about war. In the ideal spirit of Victoria, Suarez asserts that in a just military conflict, the parties in the right side can justifiably deny the guiltless their properties, resources and their freedom. The explanation is that the innocent group makes a significant fraction of the iniquitous commonwealth, and for reasons of collective guilt of the entire nation, they may be penalized although it doesn’t in itself share in the blame (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Theorists of just war believe that if we form part of a collectivity of corporate body, like nation or commonwealth, our fates are inevitably bound with it. If that is the case, innocent civilians of a hostile nation may be intentionally punished, thus collectively harmed. Suarez in this case gives room for the innocent to be collectively punished. Reading from the same script, Walzer asserts that citizenry is a common fate. Therefore, even harmless noncombatants cannot be exempted from the penalties that might be administered on them arising from being part of an aggressive or hostile nation. Irrespective of their innocence, the winner of the war is likely to penalize the vanquished. This concept is referred to as collective punishment (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Just war proponents picture a nation or commonwealth as a moral and legal collectivity or corporate body. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to knowingly punish the corporate entity without intentionally harming its fragments. In spite of being a secular just war proponent, Walzer argues in the same line (Medina, 2013, pp.47-64). One would require extraordinary wisdom, which is realistically inexistent, to come up with a morally convincing way out of such a dilemma. Either you penalize a corporate body such as a state, that systematically and continuously infringes on citizen’s fundamental human rights, at both local and international level, thereby collectively harming all civilians of the hostile nation, or decide not to administer penalty on the aggressive corporate body and allow its leaders and bureaucrats to go on violating the fundamental human rights of its citizens without being punished (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Some scholars have suggested unworkable solutions out of this dilemma. They suggest that upon defeating hostile state, one can always attempt to try the perpetrators of the draconian policies and legislations of the corporate entity, as in the instance of the defendants at the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials following the Second World War, were held accountable for crimes against peace, and causing war. From the precedence left by the Nuremberg case study, the international community has in recent times created the International Criminal Tribunals to try the former Yugoslavia President, and Rwanda, under the provisions of UN Security Council (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            While Suarez and other just war theorists condemn intrinsic injury to guiltless individuals, he asserts that in a just conflict, if the end is allowed, the means required towards achieving that end is also permissible (Medina, 2013, pp.47-64). It means that in the entire duration of the war, hardly any activity administered to the opponents involves justice, except the killing of the innocent. From Aquinas’s supposition of double effect, under no situation can the guiltless be knowingly killed. But at the same time he acknowledges that they might be incidentally executed when necessity dictates, especially for reasons of seeking victory and when they cannot be differentiated from the hostile group (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            In response to the concept of a modern-day Dominican Theologian, Silvestro Mazzolini da Priero, who pushed for the legality of terrorizing the opponents, or for arousing the passions of the soldiers if necessity dictates so as to perform a just war, Victoria acknowledges that Silvestro’s assertions are likely to give soldiers the freedom of committing all forms of atrocities. Such crimes may range from murdering and torturing the guiltless, defiling young girls, raping women, and looting churches and other religious buildings. He adds that, in such situations, it is without doubt unjust to annihilate a Christian town except in the most pressing situation, and with the severest of causes. But if necessity dictates, it is to him not illegal even if the likelihood is that the militants will commit crimes of such magnitudes (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            It is clear that even the just war scholars permit acts that are considered immoral or illegal in normal situations, during times of extreme necessities. These acts may take the form of incinerating the enemies’ town or territory. In such conditions, the innocent and non-innocent alike are inescapably harmed. So if anybody supports Aquinas’s visualization of double effect as Victoria does, one may acknowledge the act of harming the innocent to the extent that the objective of those in the right is to overpower the unjust villains (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

             The far-reaching implications of their actions are predictable but not necessarily meant to occur. Better still, whether the harsh penalties are justifiable for overpowering remains a mystery. There appears to be no refutable methodology for determining when and if an extreme circumstance exists. Furthermore, even if such strategies were to be present, the excusal of severe behavior in the battlefields would remain a serious legal and ethical challenge (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            Secondly, theorists of just war acknowledge that the soldier’s frightening deeds are likely, therefore foreseeable. However they assume that the subsequent crimes were never intended by the parties who are in the right for overpowering an aggressive enemy. In other words, the atrocities committed by the soldiers’ shocking behaviors, are neither uncalled for nor tangible for justifying steps taken by, for instance the political class of the offended state to attempt to overpower the atrocious enemy (Medina, 2013, pp.47-64). The reason for seeking to destroy the unjust enemy’s territory was to defeat them instead of harming the innocent civilians inhabiting it (Norman, 2007, pp.1-5).

            In light of the preceding facts, it is arguably a tall order to wage a just war in the modern times. The sophisticated weapons of mass destruction destroy the innocent citizens of the target states indiscriminately. Also, there is no ideal situation that can offer room for practicing just wars. As such, just wars exist only in hypothetical situations.

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