Is There Such a Thing as a Just War?
War is never the answer.
This is not a Q1 violation so long as you honestly prefer all other circumstances to war and you aren’t defining "war" in an unusually narrow way (that is, you wouldn’t say something like, "That wasn’t war, it was self-defense.")
This is not a Q2 violation unless you would blame a country for not defending itself or its allies militarily.
A just war is a war that is morally justified. That is, it is a war in which a country does not earn moral blame for the act of declaring war.
If a war is just, it must meet certain criteria. If no war is just, then those criteria are either insufficient or impossible to meet. Which (if any) of the following would you say are necessary conditions of a just war?
- It is in response to significant aggression against innocent people.
- Going to war is less unjust than not going to war.
- All other attempts to solve the conflict have been exhausted.
- War must be declared by a body with the authority to declare war.
- The possibility of victory exists.
- Combat isn’t waged using methods or weapons that are immoral in and of themselves.
- Combat isn’t waged using methods or weapons more horrible than the threat they are trying to counter.
- Combat is directed toward combatants, not uninvolved civilians.
If you consider any or all of these to be necessary qualities of a just war, you should examine them closely to make sure that they are rigorously defined in your mind. For example, if war is only allowable after all other means to resolve the conflict have been tried, does that imply that passive resistance must be tried before active defense, or that so long as negotiations are taking place you may not declare war, even if the enemy might just be delaying while they build up their army?
Depending on the criteria you select, it may be possible for one party to be waging a just war while another party is not. For example, a country may be just in defending itself from invasion, while the country invading is not just. This implies that a war as a whole might be unjust, even if one of the parties involved in the war is acting justly. Does this create a moral problem for you?
Even if we have a working definition of a just war, all war might be unjust if any of these are true statements:
- Violence against another person is never allowable, even in self-defense.
- It is better to let a country be invaded than to wage war, particularly when the invading army is composed of soldiers who are themselves oppressed, unwilling, or have been given a false pretense.
- Human nature will prevent violence in the face of passivity.
If war is sometimes just, which (if any) of these would you say is justification for war?
- A hostile country broke the terms of a peace treaty.
- A hostile country broke the terms of a peace treaty in a minor, technical way, but is unrepentant.
- A country defeated your country in a previous conflict and deserves to be punished.
- A country gained some land at the end of a previous conflict, and you want it back.
- Two countries have been enemies for hundreds of years.
- A country is serving as a refuge for criminals or not prosecuting natives who commit crimes against citizens of other countries.
- A country is sponsoring criminal activity, revolution, or terrorism against your country.
- A country is actively engaged in criminal activity (such as piracy or forging your country’s money).
- A country is actively engaged in activity that is not globally considered criminal but that your country considers harmful (such as online gambling or producing recreational drugs).
- A country is developing weapons of mass destruction.
- A country is preparing to go to war with your country.
- A country has a form of government that you consider to be evil.
- A country has laws based on a religion that is offensive to God.
- A country is dominated by believers in a false religion.
- A country is occupying land that was given to your people by God.
- The federal government will not allow your province to secede and form its own country.
- The government is corrupt and deserves to be overthrown.
- A country has significant mineral and petroleum resources and won’t share them.
- A neighboring country is polluting a river that your country relies upon.
- A country is producing goods that are much less expensive than goods your country can produce, damaging your economy.
- Your country is in dire financial straits and a popular war could significantly improve the economy.
*I use "country" to identify an organization involved in a war, but it is possible that some non-governmental party might be involved (during a revolution, civil war, or crusade, for example.)
You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.