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What is a 'Just War'?

By wiredog in MLP
Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 11:44:46 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

From St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica A Just War

  • Has a just cause,
  • Is declared by a proper authority,
  • Possesses a moral intention,
  • Has a reasonable chance of success,
  • The end is proportional to the means used.
Killing civilians in war is allowed, so long as their deaths are not intended but are accidental. (Collateral damage)
This is from the Resources on Just War Theory page. Also there are the Weinberger Doctrine on when US forces should be committed, as well as the Powell Doctrine.


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Related Links
o Summa Theologica
o Resources on Just War Theory
o Weinberger Doctrine
o Powell Doctrine
o Also by wiredog


Display: Sort:
What is a 'Just War'? | 54 comments (51 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Ok lets test (4.00 / 9) (#1)
by jayfoo2 on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 09:56:23 PM EST

--Has a just cause

The cause of this war is to end the threat of terrorism. A secondary goal is punishment of those responsible, directly and indirectly, for the deaths of over 5000 civilians in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.

We'll get to the means and methods in a second but I would like to hear from anyone who believes that this is not a valid and just goal for a nation.

--Is declared by a proper authority

Historically this has meant a nation-state or group of nations. The United States acting unilaterally would qualify as a proper authority. In the past 10-20 years however the United Nations has been more and more widely regarded as the only body capable of authorizing the legitimate use of force for extraterritoral conflicts.

Currently the United States, and its allies in NATO are not in fact in a declared state of war. They are however acting under the aegis of the United Nations. By that standard, which certainly isn't perfect but is the best avaliable, the Western nations and their coalition allies have the authority to wage war.

In practice of course, anyone who can back up a declaration of war can declare it, the United States meets that criteria as well.

--Possesses a moral intention

The moral intention of this conflict is to ameliorate the threat of terrorism to (western) civilians. I have already stated that I believe this is a valid and just cause. Self-preservation is pretty universally believed to be a moral justification for the use of force.

--Has a reasonable chance of success

It will of course take time to determine if this course of action is successful but it can certainly be argued that it has a reasonable chance of success. Denying the use of Afghanistan for the shelter and support of terrorists cannot but help to diminish the overall threat of terrorism. Setting an example to other countries that would harbor terrorists will also provide a degree of safety.

The counterargument is that 'stirring the pot' will lead to worse attacks down the line. This is a not altogether invalid argument. History has proved however that isolation and appeasement rarely dissuade a preditor (The Nazis are of course the obvious example but there are others).

In reality this action has its best chance of succeeding because the net result (which is in fact an intended result) will be to raise the living conditions of the Afghan people. By removing the Taliban, a brutal repressive regeme, the Afghan people will have a chance.

Consider this. 2 million people were starving to death in Afganistan in August. In all likelyhood far less people will do so if the Taliban is removed from power.

--The end is proportional to the means used

This is of course the big question for many pacifists. Are the means we use (bombs), which are certain to cause some civilian casualties, the most humane way of acheving the (just) goals of the campaign.

The unfortunate answer is yes. We do not have a better tool to remove the Taliban from power. We cannot use sanctions. They would kill millions. We cannot use diplomatic pressure, it has failed several times (remember the Buddahs?).

In an unperfect world we are left with airstrikes and follow-on groud operations as our best choice. It is in fact the most humane option we have. By striking hard and ending this phase of the conflict quickly we will save thousands of Afghan lives, from execution, torture, and starvation.

Thus I submit that this conflict is just. I of course understand that others do not think so. I ask you this. Based on these criteria is there a way to interpret the objective facts (saying war is bad over and over is not objective) differently. Or alternitivly are their other criteria that should be used.

Or heck, maybe you just agree with me. That would be a first on K5 ;)

Disagree, but... (3.80 / 5) (#3)
by PhillipW on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 10:10:10 PM EST

I personally do not think we have a very good chance at succeeding in our goals in Afghanistan. When invasion attempts were made, the Afghans embarrased Alexander the Great, The British, and the Russians(though the latter was with American assistance.) The secondary goal listed definitely seems attainable.

And you are correct, appeasement will not work. But terrorist attacks will increase... a lot. At least in the short run. I am of the belief that it will harm us in the long run as well, but I've been wrong before. I think the best plan is to address the root causes. While we can't make everybody happy with us, we certainly can reduce the number. The wide support expressed by world leaders in the west for a Palestinian state is a very good start. And I think that the fact that they are being so vocal about it now is proof that in the future this will be a very high priority.



-Phil
[ Parent ]
oh dear (3.00 / 4) (#14)
by streetlawyer on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 07:27:21 AM EST

I think that the fact that they are being so vocal about it now is proof that in the future this will be a very high priority.

You have a long life of disappointment ahead of you.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

I don't think so (3.33 / 3) (#21)
by PhillipW on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 02:19:08 PM EST

I am hoping for something good to turn out, but I would not say I am being overly optimistic about it. Given the circumstances of the Western powers trying to rally Arab support, and show that they are not anti-Muslim, they, for political reasons, are more likely to recognize Palestinian demands.

-Phil
[ Parent ]
I disagree. (2.83 / 6) (#5)
by Merc on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 11:14:46 PM EST

Just cause / moral intention: Overall the US seems to be trying to wipe out terrorism, and to overthrow the Taliban. I think these are good reasons, unfortunately I don't think they're the only reasons the US is involved. But I'll give them this one.

Is declared by a proper authority: In this one I disagree. The US is acting pretty much unilaterally, after declaring "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists." The UN has done nothing to support the US actions other than state that it affirms the right of nations to defend themselves. While the US presumably trying to prevent further attacks, what they're doing is not simple self-defence.

If someone attacks you in the street, runs away, you chase them down to their house and attack them, that's not self-defence. If someone attacks you, runs and hides in someone else's house, that person refuses to give them up, then you attack and kill both the house owner and the guy who attacked you, that's not self-defence.

Besides, the US is a member of the UN. As a member of the UN the US has agreed not to attack a foreign country unless it is in support of a UN resolution. The UN has made no military resolutions regarding Afghanistan. Thus, the war has not been declared by a proper authority.

Has a reasonable chance of success: Depends, what's the goal? Bush keeps calling this "the war on terror". If the US intends to wipe out the emotion known as terror using military action I'd say the chances of success are zilch. If it intends to wipe out "terrorism" as a tactic? I'd say the chances are only marginally better. Even here in the US where life is relatively good there have been the Unibomber and McVeigh. The only thing I think the US has a reasonably good chance of doing is severly damaging all current known terrorist groups. So, my vote is no. The US has no chance of success.

The end is proportional to the means used: That is a big pquestion isn't it? If the goal is wiping out "terror", or "terrorism" or "current terrorist groups" the answer is no. The US is attacking the Taliban which, despite it's evils, is not a terrorist group. Wiping out the Taliban makes wiping out Al Qaeda easier, but it is not a necessary condition. That's a different battle. So I won't give them this one either.

But hey, 2/5 ain't bad, right?



[ Parent ]
Self Defense (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by wnight on Wed Oct 17, 2001 at 04:41:51 PM EST

However if someone expresses their intent to kill you, attacks you with a deadly weapon, fails to kill you and runs away...

Legally you're obligated to let them go.

Morally... I'd say you're free to shoot them between the shoulder blades as they run, or to follow them home and kill them. If you leave them alive, they'll probably attempt to kill you again. And personally I think the peace of mind of the attacked is more important than the life of the attacker.

If they run off to hide in someone's house and that person doesn't know, it would be wrong to kill or injure them in the pursuit.

If however, the person sheltering them knew of their actions and still supported the person, I'd say they're essentially backing their attempt to kill you. If they harbor this person who then attempts to kill you again, are they not both guilty?

This all assumes there's no police force you can call.


[ Parent ]
UN Membership (none / 0) (#54)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:31:05 PM EST

As a member of the UN the US has agreed not to attack a foreign country unless it is in support of a UN resolution.
Not saying you're wrong, but could you point me to such an agreement? Certainly the Article you cited above indicates no such agreement, and in fact refers to the "the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence". Article Two
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
certainly speaks against expansionist war, but I'm not sure that it applies here either.

I guess I just can't picture Franklin Roosevelt signing away one of the traditional aspects of sovereignty. In fact, given the mention of the power to declare war in the US Constitution, I'm not sure that the US government could relinquish that authority without a constitutional ammendment

[ Parent ]

Has a reasonable chance of success? Possibly. (4.50 / 4) (#6)
by Blackfell on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 11:15:59 PM EST

Here lies the problem, as I see it. If the war is confined to Afghanistan, as long as the US and the international community makes a serious effort to rebuild Afghanistan and help its people out of the unfortunate state that they are in, we should avoid serious problems

On the other hand, in the larger 'war on terrorism', success is not so clear. If the US continues to prop up oppressive foreign governments and otherwise engage in the same things they did in the Cold War (a distinct possibility, IMO), the US just ends up generating more people with a grudge and nothing to lose. In addition, we also risk being drawn into a larger, regional conflict if military action expands outside of Afghanistan. Pakistan is less than stable these days, and the possibility of an fundamentalist revolt does exist. Given that Pakistan has the Bomb, a US reaction in this case would be a near-certainty.

In short: If the US sticks to clear short-term plans along with constructive nation-building (ensuring stable, democratic government, solid infrastructure and no more), success is reasonable. Otherwise, the US may very well end up stirring the pot quite well and create even more problems.

Written by a single drunk monkey with a copy of MS Word 2000.
[ Parent ]

Let's get a few things straight. (3.83 / 6) (#9)
by HereticMessiah on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 11:43:22 PM EST

--Has a reasonable chance of success

No, it hasn't. ObL isn't lying about one thing - each time a missile is launched against Afghanistan, he edges that much closer to victory. This so-called `war' against whatever-it-is-now is exactly what ObL wants. He's getting exactly what he wants out of all this: a larger and yet more zealous band of followers.

ObL doesn't give a rat's ass about J. Ahmed Afghani, he has bigger fish he wants to catch like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, etc... And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out why.

The American military are approaching this `war' from completely the wrong angle. GWB said this `war' was a new kind of war that demanded new tactics. Why haven't we seen any? It can't be to wipe out the Taliban's military might because they don't really have any besides their excellent guerilla army. See what I'm getting at? This should have been fought more like a new kind of war, a guerilla war where the big superpower uses large numbers of special-ops groups to perform surgical strikes in the hope of capturing ObL. But all we've seen is pussy-footing with clumsy missiles rather than doing the job properly.

Weaken ObL's allies this way, ensure there's no way for bad tactics to be used against you in a propaganda war like they are now, and get the people on your side. Doing this, you have all but won the war against him and his cadre.

--The end is proportional to the means used

I've already answered this - the means being used are disproportional to the end. In this case, there are unexpected ends like the Arab world coming behind ObL because he's been able to use the tactics used by the Americans against them in a propaganda war. There's a reason why they say `the pen is mightier than the sword' and this is one.

The Afghans/Taliban (very few people seem to place a distinction between them for some bizarre reason) are being touted as the enemy. Everytime this is said, ObL wins over more support - it looks more like it's Islam that's America's nemesis.

A few words on the food drops: the idea is sound, but not enough is being sent anyway and even then when combined with the missile attacks it seems as if America is just keeping Afghanis alive today to be killed tomorrow.

And remember that the lesson of the Gulf War wasn't that the Allied forces should have marched on Baghdad but that they should have backed up the word they gave to the people of Iraq. But I'd guess this is lost on most people.

--
Disagree with me? Post a reply.
Think my post's poor or trolling? Rate me down.
[ Parent ]

The Nazis were not terrorists (3.83 / 6) (#13)
by streetlawyer on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 07:24:08 AM EST

Get your threat model straight before you start saying things like:

. History has proved however that isolation and appeasement rarely dissuade a preditor

In fact, appeasement worked on the Kenyan Mau-Mau, the Israelis in 1948 and on the Irish in 1916. Because they were terrorists rather than nation states; their economic base was not dependent on conquered territory, as one salient difference.

I have repeatedly asked for without getting one single instance in which terrorists have been subdued by bombing or similar armed repression. I don't believe that there is one.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Were they not? (4.50 / 2) (#28)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Oct 17, 2001 at 01:21:16 PM EST

It seems to me that no small number of similarities exist between some of the "unnofficial" brown shirt movements and Al Queda and between Hitler's National Socialist Party and the Taliban.

BTW, if Al Queda turns out to be the arm of some state, (and if Al Queda was indeed the culprit behind the attacks) does that mean that the attacks on the US on Sept 11 were not acts of terrorism?

Regards,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

no; you're wrong (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by streetlawyer on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 04:20:56 AM EST

It seems to me that no small number of similarities exist between some of the "unnofficial" brown shirt movements and Al Queda and between Hitler's National Socialist Party and the Taliban

But not strategically relevant ones.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Such as? (none / 0) (#38)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 08:28:48 AM EST

What an interesting conversation: <paraphrase>
me: Similarities exist.

John Saul:No they don't. Except for the ones that do which aren't important to the discussion, but I'll be damned if I'm going to back up my argument with any sort of support because I'm right and you're wrong except for when your're right but that only happens when you act like a arsehole member of a high school debate club.

</paraphrase>

Sure, whatever, Johnny boy.

Look in the mirror and give yourself a kiss from me, my darling streetlawyer.

Regards,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

Appeasement (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by scorchio on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 06:07:13 AM EST

In fact, appeasement worked on the Kenyan Mau-Mau, the Israelis in 1948 and on the Irish in 1916. Because they were terrorists rather than nation states; their economic base was not dependent on conquered territory, as one salient difference.

Irish War of Independence 1919-21, culminating in the establishment of the Irish Free State. Appeasment, as you call it, didn't work for too long.

However, the use of the word 'appeasement' is redolent of the Munich conference. I've seen many tortured attempts to compare what the US is doing in Afghanistan with what the Allies did to Hitler. Not one is in the least convincing. Well, they do convince one of the lamentable state of the American education system. History and logic are obviously low priorities for this generation of consumers.

[ Parent ]

Cause....hmmm. (3.00 / 4) (#20)
by M0dUluS on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 01:45:56 PM EST

The cause of this war is to end the threat of terrorism.[...]I would like to hear from anyone who believes that this is not a valid and just goal for a nation.

No, the cause of this war is US imperialism which leads to the creation of un-democratic regimes which themselves may turn against us, or which lead to terrorism against us because we support those regimes. No, a war to end the threat of terrorism is ridiculous. The threat of terrorism will never be ended. It can at best be reduced.

Currently the United States, and its allies in NATO are not in fact in a declared state of war.

Very good point.

The moral intention of this conflict is to ameliorate the threat of terrorism to (western) civilians. I have already stated that I believe this is a valid and just cause.

No, you stated that it was to end the threat of terrorism (note that G.W.Bush doesn't go along with you on this either, he says it is to end terror)

Denying the use of Afghanistan for the shelter and support of terrorists cannot but help to diminish the overall threat of terrorism. [...] In reality this action has its best chance of succeeding because the net result (which is in fact an intended result) will be to raise the living conditions of the Afghan people.

Unsupported assertion like this does not an argument make. What is a "reasonable chance of success?" and does that definition match your evaluation in this case?

By striking hard and ending this phase of the conflict quickly we will save thousands of Afghan lives, from execution, torture, and starvation.

Your evaluation is counter to that of the aid experts in the region.

One question for you: do you think that the "some civilian casualties" should be allowed to make the choice between the risk of being killed by US bombs or by the Taliban? Should they be allowed the choice to live (possibly miserably) under the Taliban or should you take the gamble with their lives for their own good?



"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Interesting... (4.50 / 4) (#2)
by bluesninja on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 10:01:02 PM EST

...if not very clarifying. When is a cause just and an intention moral? An easier question for St. Thomas to answer than for more secular authorities.

Who is a "proper authority"? Again, easy for Aquinas to answer, (i.e, his rightful sovreign), harder for us.

More interesting and relevant to modern day, perhaps, is Sun Tzu's advice:

He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish. ... In military matters, the Sage's rule is normally to keep the peace, and to move his forces only when occasion requires. He will not use armed force unless driven to it by necessity. (Project Gutenberg texts)

In other words, a war is just exactly when, and only when, it is necessary.

/bluesninja

Proper authority (4.25 / 4) (#4)
by John Thompson on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 10:35:06 PM EST

> Who is a "proper authority"? Again, easy for
> Aquinas to answer, (i.e, his rightful sovreign),
> harder for us.

In the USA at least the answer is clear: the Constitution unambigously gives Congress the power to declare war. Until then, whetever its other merits, the war has not been properly authorized.

-John

[ Parent ]
Yes of course (4.00 / 3) (#7)
by bluesninja on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 11:16:38 PM EST

It's easy to say that a state is a proper authority to declare war. That's pretty uncontentious. The troubling question is when a civil war is just.

I'm sure most people would agree that at least some civil wars are justified. (American civil war and the French revolution seem like good candidates). Aquinas didn't have this problem: Medieval thinking made any sort of disloyalty to one's king and country a serious moral offence -- one's King, after all, was second only to God Himself. Nowadays, we are more willing to recognize that loyalty and obediance are not always virtues.

That's one of the reasons I prefer the pragmatism of the Sun Tzu passage I quoted. It scales well.

/bluesninja

[ Parent ]

American Civil War (3.50 / 2) (#15)
by wiredog on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 08:19:18 AM EST

Was started by the South.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]
Which civil war? (none / 0) (#33)
by MrYotsuya on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 12:51:18 AM EST

The US has had at least 2 civil wars in it's past.

[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 0) (#37)
by wiredog on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 08:26:53 AM EST

Civil War in 1860's. North vs South. Big armies on the march. It's the only one.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]
civil war/ revolution/ symantics. (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by garlic on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 11:23:15 AM EST

depends on how you count it.

In the 1860s, the southern half of the United States of America rebelled and seceded unsuccessfully from the United States of America.

In the 1770s, the British colonies rebelled and seceded successfully from the British Empire.


HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.
[ Parent ]

Re: Proper authority (3.50 / 2) (#8)
by jasonab on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 11:30:47 PM EST

In the USA at least the answer is clear: the Constitution unambigously gives Congress the power to declare war. Until then, whetever its other merits, the war has not been properly authorized.
Except that the President has the Constitutional authority to order the military into combat, and the Congress has acquiesed to the President's actions. A declaration of war is a formality not required under Aquinas' moral paradigm.

[ Parent ]
doesn't help (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by Ender Ryan on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 12:39:27 PM EST

Define "necessary"

Necessary for what? The survival of as many people as possible? Survival of as many non-aggressors as possible? Survival, period?


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

I would like to know the "Official" posi (3.50 / 2) (#10)
by emc2 on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 04:02:43 AM EST

Many Christian scholars have screwed up big time during story, Pope John Paul II has been apologizing ever since he began his papacy for all kind of crimes commited in the name of Christianity.

This is relevant because I read and hear more and more people that claim that war is justified by religion. Not being a religious person but being fairly well informed about religious matters, the previous ascertion seems dubious to me, but alas, I am not a religious scholar of any kind.

Does anybody here can provide some links to Christian authorities (the Pope, or equivalent) or closest equivalent in other faiths and denominations about their official (should I say dogmatic) position about war? While some protestant priests were in complete agreement of waging war the Pope prayed for a peaceful solution to the conflict, so it seems to me there must be some radical differences in dogma relating this matter.



E=m*c*m*c
Honest.

You've got one above (4.50 / 2) (#16)
by wiredog on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 08:24:17 AM EST

St. Thomas Aquinas is cited as an authority by the Catholic Church.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]
Then why the Pope does not support openly war? (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by emc2 on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 10:05:48 AM EST

I am not trying to be polemic for the sake of it. I want to find reasons for some institutions' behaviour.

E=m*c*m*c
Honest.

[ Parent ]
Killing Civilians - The US's Real War Doctrine (4.00 / 15) (#11)
by greenrd on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 04:57:19 AM EST

Killing civilians in war is allowed, so long as their deaths are not intended but are accidental.

The US and the UK governments have failed this test, again and again. They have repeatedly killed civilians in order to advance war aims or even political aims (such as installing evil dictators like Pinochet instead of socialists with strong popular support). Too many times to count.

This shows a clear pattern and one that I am 99% certain is already being followed in Afghanistan. We already have some evidence, which is being dismissed as "Taliban propaganda" by hysterical right-wingers who wouldn't believe the US military would do anything wrong no matter what the evidence.

The US and UK have fighting dirty as unofficial, but very real, war doctrines.

WWII: Hiroshima. Nagasaki. Tokyo. Dresden.

Vietnam: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it". This was not some bizarre anomaly, this was essentially official US government policy. (Except that it wasn't "in order to save the villages", it was in order to prevent "the threat of a good example"). Defoliation. Agent Orange (which incidentally came courtesy of the world's now favourite imperialist multinational, Monsanto).

Nicaragua: Noam Chomsky notes:

We should remember that there are real precedents for this. The most obvious, because it is supported by a World Court decision and UN Security Council resolution, the highest authorities. Twenty years ago the United States launched a war against Nicaragua. That was a terrible war. Tens of thousands of people died. The country was practically destroyed. Nicaragua did not respond by setting off bombs in Washington. They went to the World Court with a case, the World Court ruled in their favor and ordered the United States to stop its "unlawful use of force" (that means international terrorism) and pay substantial reparations. Well, the United States responded by dismissing the court with contempt and immediately escalated the attack. At that point Nicaragua went to the UN Security council which voted a resolution calling on all states to obey international law. They didn't mention anyone, but everyone knew they meant the United States. Well, the United States vetoed it. Nicaragua then went to the General Assembly which, two years in a row passed a similar resolution with only the United States and Israel opposed. El Salvador in one year. But of course, the United States is a very powerful country. If it opposes lawful means, they can't be pursued. So Nicaragua could do nothing. On the other hand, if the U.S. pursued those means no one would stop it. In fact, everyone would support it.
Iraq: Destroying civilians infrastructure, and imposing economic sanctions, together leading to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. That's even leading aside the hotly debated issue of depleted uranium.

Cambodia: The US supported Pol Pot first, and then decided "actually he's a genocidal maniac, maybe that wasn't such a good idea". It's not just support for Pol Pot, however:

The U.S.-imposed holocaust was a "sideshow" to the Vietnam War, the United States bombing Cambodia heavily by 1969, helping organize the overthrow of Sihanouk in 1970, and in collaboration with its puppet Saigon government making period incursions into Cambodia in the 1960s and later. "U.S. B-52s pounded Cambodia for 160 consecutive days [in 1973], dropping more than 240,000 short tons of bombs on rice fields, water buffalo, villages (particularly along the Mekong River) and on such troop positions as the guerrillas might maintain," a tonnage that "represents 50 percent more than the conventional explosives dropped on Japan during World War II". This "constant indiscriminate bombing" was of course carried out against a peasant society with no airforce or ground defenses. The Finnish government study estimates that 600,000 people died in this first phase, with 2 million refugees produced. Michael Vickerey estimated 500,000 killed in phase one.
I might do an article on this later, but right now I don't have time to add more info. Go search or look here (for example "Killing Civilians To Show That Killing Civilians Is Wrong") for more info.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes

wow, you figured it out! (4.00 / 5) (#23)
by theantix on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 04:23:04 PM EST

Yes, the hidden agenda of the US military is to kill as many civilians as possible! They are spending millions on targeted missiles instead of much cheaper dumb bombs. Silly me, I thought that was an indication they are trying to prevent civilian casualties to maintain the fragile coalition. But obviously my right-wing hysterics (read: I'm not a bleeding socialist) are leading me down the wrong path. Thankfully Noam Chomsky has figured it all out for us.

Reality check. The 20th century was filled with horrible war crimes committed by many, many parties. The Americans were one of those parties, but only one of many. That doesn't forgive what they have done, but clearly they are trying to do things better since the time after the Vietnam war. If you believe the Americans are intentionally trying to kill Afgan civilians you are badly in need of a reality check. How could that possibly help them? Why would they risk their fragile coalition for no benefit? Their past record is not necessarily a good indicator of this campaign because of the vast differences between this and every conflict you mention above. Period.

--
You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]

Reality check (2.00 / 6) (#26)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 05:44:43 PM EST

If you believe the Americans are intentionally trying to kill Afgan civilians you are badly in need of a reality check
Reality check: the US is bombing Afghanistan, and the cruise missiles are not slamming in unintentionally, either.

And if you think that an attack against Talibans is not the same thing as an attack on civilians, then you probably also think an attack on all Republicans is not an attack on civilians, because some Republicans are also soldiers.

[ Parent ]

I make a distinction (4.66 / 3) (#27)
by theantix on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 06:06:18 PM EST

And if you think that an attack against Talibans is not the same thing as an attack on civilians, then you probably also think an attack on all Republicans is not an attack on civilians, because some Republicans are also soldiers.
No, I make a distinction between the two cases and stand by it. When I (and most likely everyone else) mention the Taliban, I am talking about the military component of the Taliban that is protecting the terrorist camps within their country. If you support your country by being part of the military, you willingly risk your life to fight. The Taliban soldiers don't have to side with the Taliban, remember that there has been a civil war taking place there for many years.

I would venture that most Taliban soldiers know that UBL has declared war against the United States, and that their government actively supports the survival of the terrorist training camps within the country. If they know that, and continue to fight for the Taliban and against the rest of the world that wants to stop them, it is at their own peril.

I understand that it is not black-and-white, that perhaps in some ways the Taliban is better for Afganistan than the United Front, and many soldiers are just trying to create a better world for them and their families. Perhaps they felt that supporting the Taliban was better than an enduring civil war, or perhaps they are worried about the anti-Pashtun United Front. I feel for those people, I really do. But they take the risk of their own deaths upon themselves when they follow someone who has pledged to kill all americans. Just as the american soldiers take the risk of death upon themselves when they follow the words of President Bush into battle. I equate the innocence of the American civilians with the innocences of the Afgan civilians, and don't want to see the deaths of either.

I equate the American targeting of the Taliban soldiers with the Muslim bombing of the USS Cole. The targeting of military installations is a world apart from the killing done on 9/11.

--
You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]

Civillians have always been used as human shields (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by ennui on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 11:10:21 AM EST

In certain types of conflict, especially those where a indigenous, poorly armed force is up against a well armed invader, the defender generally takes advantage of the noncombatant population to hide its forces, and to take advantage of the political backlash killing civilians potentially brings. You can see the Taliban taking advantage of those factors, just as the Afghanis used them to advantage when the Soviets invaded, and the northern Vietnamese used them when America invaded. Making a distinction between civilian and military targets is a political exercise designed to overcome political objections (for example, humanitarian and pacifistic) objections to warfare. In war, noncombatants are resources like any other, and one of the factors in "winning" a war is reducing your enemy's resources.

War is not an honorable, fair game, where human chess pieces are set up on a board far away from homes and churches. War is a situation where every measure not taken, and every advantage not pressed, regardless of political considerations, ultimately makes "winning" that much more unlikely. Every "rule" you impose on yourself that your enemy doesn't impose on itself is to your disadvantage. For example, if you can't attack your enemy when they're in a place of worship, that is itself a type of defeat.


"You can get a lot more done with a kind word and a gun, than with a kind word alone." -- Al Capone
[ Parent ]
All wars are just wars (3.71 / 7) (#12)
by anansi on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 05:32:07 AM EST

How else do you think the generals are going to find teenagers willing to risk their lives in order to break things and hurt people?

It's become increasingly more difficult to justify the use of military force when there's a very real possibility for building a world court able to serve up justice, and a global police force able to enforce those rulings. The main obsticle is ambitious nations like the US, that think they can do better with their own military and a superb PR machine.

The present situation in afghanistan is a good example: the Taliban is willing to offer up our hated enemy for trial, but our local sheriff will stop at nothing short of a lynching. it makes me cringe.

I'm all for bringing Bin Laden in for trial, even using troops to do it. But we don't accept civilian casualties when SWAT team drug raids go wrong here at home, and we shouldn't hold international operations to a lower standard.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"

I partially agree....but.... (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by TheCaptain on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 04:11:29 PM EST

The present situation in afghanistan is a good example: the Taliban is willing to offer up our hated enemy for trial, but our local sheriff will stop at nothing short of a lynching. it makes me cringe.

Bin Laden isn't the only terrorist in Afghanistan...his name sure is used alot by the media however. He's also not the only person there who is very strongly suspected of having a significant roll in the events of September 11. (Actually...there are others there that might even have a larger and more direct roll.) If there is to be justice for the attack (and most people are at least in favor of that much), they would have to hand over alot more than just one man for trial and call it done.

[ Parent ]
Defining 'justice' (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by anansi on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 12:46:20 AM EST

If there is to be justice for the attack (and most people are at least in favor of that much), they would have to hand over alot more than just one man for trial and call it done.

Your point is well taken. Bush's sudden declaration of another war on a noun doesn't make justice any more likely, though. One Friday, we were told that there was a $5 million bounty on the guy's head, dead or alive. The next Monday, we were assured that there was compelling evidence that he was responsible. I hope more people's involvemt comes out and sees the light of day, but this feeling of a lynch mob still persists.

To reiterate: Justice does not come from an army or its weapons. Justice comes from a court. The US has an awful record when it comes to flaunting decisions of the world court. Given that the Taliban is talking about a trial, and our 'duly appointed president' is still talking assasination, I have to say the Taliban's offer sounds pretty good, [sarcasm] even if they don't look like us and preach a different book than the christian bible.[/sarcasm]

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Justice comes from a court (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by wiredog on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 08:29:46 AM EST

No. Law comes from a court. You can have law without justice and justice without law. Any black who lived in the US in the Jim Crow era (and to an unfortunate extent today) experienced the first, and Nazi Germany experienced the second.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]
Wait... (none / 0) (#47)
by ghjm on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 04:31:43 PM EST

Godwin notwithstanding, I'd like to understand how you interpret Nazi Germany as just but lawless. Seems a bit odd from where I sit.

[ Parent ]
I think what he was saying.. (none / 0) (#48)
by physicsgod on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 05:09:04 PM EST

Was that what happened to Nazi Germany was just without a framework of law.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Yup [n/t] (none / 0) (#49)
by wiredog on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 08:12:01 PM EST


The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
Phage
[ Parent ]

Not exactly (none / 0) (#52)
by anansi on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 02:18:39 AM EST

Laws come from the legislative branch. The judicial branch tries, and the executive branch enforces the laws: brings in people to the judicairy's attention.

That't the way it works inside the US. But since foreign nationals aren't protected by the US consitution, the exectutive branch can lay judge, jury, and executioner, and there's no legal reason they can't.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

What world court decisions does the U.S. flaunt? (none / 0) (#44)
by sonovel on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 02:03:01 PM EST

Just curious about the U.S.'s "afwul" record flaunting world courts. Do you have any cites?

[ Parent ]
No Offer (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by Merk00 on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 05:10:40 PM EST

The Taliban has not offered to turn over Bin Laden. They've offered to discuss turning over Bin Laden to a third party to try him if the air strikes stop. And in all likelyhood this is merely a stalling tactic to get an end to the air strikes.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

No wars are just wars (3.66 / 3) (#17)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 09:29:56 AM EST

The term "just war" is a misnomer. More appropos would be the term "justifiable war".

War, point black, is always a bad thing. Engaging in war under any circumstances is always a bad thing. Killing someone is always a bad thing.

However, sometimes the alternatives are even worse things. Killing a homicidal maniac is certainly less of a tragedy than allowing said maniac to kill your entire family. (And of course it is also possible that killing the maniac isn't the only option to prevent death of your family.) Allowing the Third Reich to finish their Final Solution would have been far more heinous of a crime than going to war against Germany in WWII.

I think the proof of my view is easy. Are there any people that would contend that wars would exist in an 'ideal' world? It seems to me that only those who think such would be able to define war of any type as a moral good.

Regards,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

WWII and "justified" war - a history les (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by gromm on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 04:20:33 PM EST

Allowing the Third Reich to finish their Final Solution would have been far more heinous of a crime than going to war against Germany in WWII.

It's worth noting that when Britain went to war with Germany in 1939, Britain certainly didn't do it to save the Jews. In fact, anti-semitism and other forms of racism were probably almost as bad in Britain and the United States as it was in Germany at the time. It's also worth noting that noone outside of the German occupation knew anything at all about their "final solution" until the concentration camps were found by invading soldiers. All that the people in France and Poland knew was that the Jews were being taken away to concentration camps. And even inside Germany, it was not widely advertised that they were being exterminated.

World War II was not about saving civilians, it was about 1) nationalism and imperialistic expansionism on the part of the Axis powers, and 2) alliances. The world was a very, very, very different place at the time, a place where most of the countries in Europe had actual Empires. To say that the world was fighting imperialism is silly. There wasn't a single country that fought in that war that didn't have an empire of one sort or another. (And yes, this includes the US) Every country also had a policy of putting their immigrants (or Jews, or gypsies, which, in the mindset of the day were "at least as bad") into concentration camps because they might not have been loyal enough to their country. The *only* thing that made Germany different or in any way worse than any of the other countries involved in that war was that they were *actively* killing the people in their concentration camps, rather than passively killing them through negligence. And again, this was not something that was known until the war was almost over.

The second world war was no more justifiable than the one before it. The Allies weren't fighting for freedom or truth or beauty or anything like that, they were fighting because they were attacked by the Axis. And the Axis attacked because they might win. This war was simply a demonstration of the full extent of human stupidity. The only thing keeping us from doing it again on such a scale is the fact that we all know the ante is too high, and that the chances of winning are nil. It's nice to know that nuclear weapons managed to smack some semblance of intelligence into the human race.
Deus ex frigerifero
[ Parent ]

Collateral NOT acceptable (3.90 / 11) (#19)
by M0dUluS on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 01:08:50 PM EST

An interesting analysis that was forwarded to ZNet Sustainers (available by signing up to support the invaluable resource) argues that the "collateral" argument is unacceptable based upon an analysis centered in criminal law. An extract:
The Civilian Toll by A. J. Chien Institute for Health and Social Justice / October 11

As the bombs fall on Afghanistan, the toll among civilians mounts: 76 dead and over 100 injured after four days, according to Reuters. While to many it is indefensible to kill innocent people, US and NATO leaders offer a defense: that civilians are not being targeted. As Tony Blair claimed, "This military plan has been put together mindful of our determination to do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties." But there's two problems with this defense: it's not relevant, and it's not true.

On the first point, consider something called the "mens rea" analysis of criminal law. According to Michael Tonry, Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota, "In the criminal law, purpose and knowledge are equally culpable states of mind. An action taken with a purpose to kill is no more culpable than an action taken with some other purpose in mind but with knowledge that a death will probably result. Blowing up an airplane to kill a passenger is equivalent to blowing up an airplane to destroy a fake painting and thereby to defraud an insurance company, knowing that the passenger will be killed. Both are murder. Most people would find the latter killing more despicable" (Malign Neglect, p. 32).

[...] Let's assume, as we are told, that civilians are not being targeted. It doesn't matter. The first wave of attacks reportedly consisted largely of "dumb" bombs dropped or launched from long distances, and even current "smart" bombs hit their targets only 70 to 80 percent of the time. So our leaders know full well that the bombs will kill innocent people, indeed admit as much. By the principles of our criminal law, they are therefore just as culpable for these deaths as they would be if innocents were targeted. Similarly for the foreseeable starvation of Afghan civilians because of the bombing's disruption of humanitarian aid efforts - only in this case there are potentially millions of victims.

What if the purpose is noble? One could defend the predictable deaths of civilians if it resulted from, say, shooting down an airliner in order to keep it from smashing a skyscraper. In Afghanistan the purpose is, as a New York Times correspondent puts it, "to tilt the balance of power within Afghanistan against the Taliban," put forth as a noble goal in the fight against terrorism. But recall that the Taliban does not stand accused of the terrorism of September 11. The Taliban is guilty of real crimes, but the reason we are bombing them is for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden without seeing the evidence against him. Its punishment is to be overthrow by an equally brutal regime.

Notwithstanding the headlines in US dailies, nobility is not immediately apparent, never mind anything so noble that it outweighs a great many deaths. Let's now consider whether all the targets are really military, in conjunction with some relevant international law. Under article 48 of the Geneva Conventions, "In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives." But the main aim of the US strikes is not military but political, to remove the Taliban from power. For all its wretchedness, the Taliban is not simply an army but a political entity, and its members largely civilians, not combatants. So the distinctions of article 48 evidently have not been heeded: many of the targets hit, such as Taliban headquarters and other buildings in Kabul and Kandahar, would seem to count as "civilian objects" (just as the White House presumably would, notwithstanding its hosting of the commander-in-chief).

Then there is article 51: "Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited...[such as]...an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated." And similarly we have the Nuremberg Charter, which classes as war crimes any "violations of the laws or customs of war which include...wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."

Are there violations here? Among the targets so far are airports, communication facilities, electrical plants, government buildings, houses - all attacked for a political purpose. After a building that housed UN de-mining workers was destroyed, the UN appealed to the US to protect civilians in its military strikes: in less polite terms, to obey international law mandating such protection. Apparently they do not agree with Tony Blair that the attackers are doing all they "humanly can." (In Ramsey Clark's The Fire This Time, similar arguments and many more are made with regard to the Iraq war.)



"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
War (5.00 / 3) (#24)
by Merk00 on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 05:08:43 PM EST

It's important to remember that all military actions have a political goal. There are no purely military goals. To fight a war without a political goal is foolish as you will never know when you accomplish it.

As far as US target choices, they are all acceptable under the Geneva Convention. Airports, communication facilities, electrical plants, and government buildings are all legitimate military targets. They all serve military purposes.

Now as far as applying criminal law to the laws of war is silly. War is a breakdown in normal conditions necessitating a military action. Criminal law can only be enforced in an area where there are normal conditions. It's also important to realize that in most cases it's illegal to kill anyone and yet that happens routinely in war; while outlawing it might be nice, it wouldn't work in a war. So the analogy of criminal law to the laws of war is an impromper choice.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

War (none / 0) (#45)
by PhillipW on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 03:40:07 PM EST

War has not been declared, therefore, this change in rules, even if it were right, is not relevant to the current situation.

-Phil
[ Parent ]
Applicability of criminal law (none / 0) (#53)
by M0dUluS on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 03:56:28 PM EST

As far as US target choices, they are all acceptable under the Geneva Convention. Airports, communication facilities, electrical plants, and government buildings are all legitimate military targets. They all serve military purposes.

Very arguable. The Geneva Convention emphasizes repeatedly that targetting civilians and/or infrastructure essential to the well-being of civilians is wrong. The "broad coalition" has admitted that it is going to kill civilians as a result of it's actions and also that it is disrupting aid to civilians. These acts are arguably prohibited by the U.N. and by the Geneva convention.

Now as far as applying criminal law to the laws of war is silly. War is a breakdown in normal conditions necessitating a military action. Criminal law can only be enforced in an area where there are normal conditions

The point of the article is to emphasize the precedent of thought, legally ensconced that considers killing with knowledge aforethought to be the same as murder. This allows precedent to be brought to bear on the question of whether or not the deliberate epiphenomenal slaughter of civilians can be considered to be murder. It is an arguable point.



"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
collateral damage known ahead of time (2.50 / 2) (#29)
by Chrisfs on Wed Oct 17, 2001 at 04:30:17 PM EST

The problem with declaring collateral damage as 'ok' since it wasn't intentional is that the armed forces know that if they do heavy bombing, there will be collateral damage, the bombs are not precise enough and the information on targets are not accurate enough to insure that no civilians will get hurt. it is known from the time that the bombing is ordered that innocent people will get hurt. If you know that, then it can't really be called unintentional.

"justice" vs. "war" (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by Jim Madison on Wed Oct 17, 2001 at 05:38:29 PM EST

Here's a good article and conversation on the subject.


Got democracy? Try e-thePeople.org.
One by one... (4.00 / 2) (#50)
by scorchio on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 05:43:59 AM EST

  • Has a just cause: The cause is just, far too just. To juxtapose Kant and Aquinas, the man who feels his cause is just, or must conceive all of his actions to be just is likely to cause more evil than the man who engages in an avowed war of conquest. No war is just, and even if it starts with good intentions, the very nature of war will pervert it until it becomes unjust.
  • Is declared by a proper authority: I suppose so, tho' it could be argued that Bush's authority is lacking because of the way he got into power.
  • Possesses a moral intention: ominously, yes. See point 1.
  • Has a reasonable chance of success: Here's the problem. The declared war on terrorism has, by its nature, zero chance of success, since 'terrorism' is not a country, ethnic group, or geographical area. A war on terrorism can last for ever, drag every army in the planet into it, and still be unwinnable. You cannot make war on a state of mind. I would have thought the Americans would have learned at least this much from their vaunted democracy.
  • The end is proportional to the means used: We'll have to wait and see.

The problem with Aquinas' theories about just war is that they are necessarily retrospective. We won't know whether this war is just until it ends, when it'll be too late to do anything about it.

I do find it disquieting that Aquinas is being bandied about at the moment, perhaps a medieval philosopher who lived in a time of dreadful religious conflict (which this seems to be, banalities from Sheikh Bush and Mullah Blair notwithstanding) is more apt than philosophers of the enlightenment. This war is too muddled, too dangerous.

What is a 'Just War'? | 54 comments (51 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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