My recent post on the history of American wars, and my conclusion that no major American war can be considered “just” (with my placeholder for the south in 1861), that all Americans who died in these wars died for lies or died as the aggressors, got me to thinking – so, just when is a war…just? Well, as you know, this ground has been ploughed:
Just War Theory: The purpose of the doctrine is to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. The criteria are split into two groups: ‘the right to go to war’ (jus ad bellum) and ‘right conduct in war’ (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war and the second with moral conduct within war.
Philosophers and theologians infinitely more capable than I am have attempted to answer such questions. I will leave these questions to men such as Augustine and Aquinas, or to ancient Indian epics like the Mahabharata.
Perhaps easier to answer: when is a war not just?
Fair warning – I am not going to get deeply philosophical with this (even if I wanted to do so, I am not very well qualified). I am just throwing this out for some thought / consideration, and to help me work on my thinking on this topic.
I will suggest three criteria: if any one of these is violated, a war cannot be just. To be clear, I do not suggest that if a war meets these criteria it is, therefore, just (application of the non-aggression principle must also be considered). Instead, I suggest that if a war violates any one of the following, it cannot be just:
First, the financing of the war must be voluntary; second, those doing the fighting must do so voluntarily; finally, the justification for entering war must be based on truth.
Why these three? I will start with the first two – the voluntary nature of funding and joining.
It seems to me that if a cause is just, enough volunteers will be found. If enough don’t volunteer (in time and money), then it would seem the fight is not justifiable in the eyes of those asked to do the fighting and funding.
I don’t just consider “just” only in regard to the enemy, the other. It isn’t merely a question of “just” in regards to my killing him. What of the one forced to do the fighting and funding? Is it “just” that someone is forced to fight when he does not want to do so? Forced to fund the fight when he does not see the value in the cause? Can a war, built on a foundation of forced participation, be considered “just” in the eyes of those forced to support it? Is there justice to be found behind the threat “or else”?
It seems not. Where the initiation of aggression begins, justice begins to end. Aggression in the form of forcing others to do the fighting and funding eliminates the possibility of a “just” war, it seems to me.
Now, what of my third item – the justification must be based on the truth? When asked to take the most solemn action – the cause of death over an enemy – can justice be found if the foundation for the action is built on lies?
That’s it – pretty superficial, but I am trying to work through these points. The best way to start is to put something in writing.