Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Determining the Innocent

by Wesley Gibbs

During Mavrodes’s article, he tackles the problem of the noncombatant, and what makes it so that a noncombatant cannot be killed. I think that he is right when he attacks the immunity theorists on their support for the “guilty” versus “innocence” stance on what determines noncombatants. Some of the arguments made by the immunity theorists don’t really resolve the issue of the “innocence” question, and others are contradicted by later statements that the writer makes (I’m looking at you Anscombe). I do have a problem with Mavrodes’s argument as well because he also fails to really resolve the issue. He just points out that by the criminality standard Anscombe and Ramsey use, some noncombatants are “guilty” and that some combatants are “innocent.” One problem I see with his argument and that of the immunity theorists is that they look at “innocence” and “guilty” as two categories with nothing in between. Mavrodes at least points out that the “innocence” issue seems to be as vague as that of the noncombatant, but after this statement he just moves on to his next topic. The “innocence” issue isn’t one where clear-cut distinctions can be always made; it is instead an issue that is filled with gray areas.

When looking at the issue of “innocence” as a quality that an individual can have, it is apparent that some will be more innocent than others. It is also apparent that when one looks at “innocence” in regards to noncombatant status that some individuals involved in the actual fighting will look to qualify as “innocent” and therefore a noncombatant. Mavrodes gives a good example of this when he speaks of the soldier who is drafted and has limited mental ability. He is “innocent” because of the fact that he might not understand the war, was forced into service, and may want no part of the war. The question then arises of why it is okay to kill him and not others who might support the war but not be fighting on the frontlines. The reason I would propose is that the mentally limited soldier is on the frontlines, that is, he is directly involved in the violence of warfare. Actual involvement in the fighting, whether or not one wants to take part, is what strips him of his right not to be killed. His involvement in the violence of warfare acts as a nullifying agent that destroys his “innocence.” Thus it is morally acceptable to kill this soldier and maintain that “innocence” determines whether or not one is a noncombatant.

There is also Mavrodes’s other example which is that of the citizen who advocates the war, gives his voice and money to the war as well as voting for the war. Mavrodes says that this person would be thought of by most as a noncombatant since this individual takes no part in the actual violence of warfare. He then goes on to explain that this individual has pushed for the war and supported it all along, even when it was just a prospect. He infers that this makes the individual “guilty” since this individual was a driving force in the war being declared and maintained.

I agree with Mavrodes that this individual is “guilty.” When one looks at this individual, it is evident that this person is likely one with political power. An average citizen within a society doesn’t vote (and it matter) on whether or not their nation goes to war, only a politician has that power. I am therefore going to assume that this person is a politician. This is the reason that I agree with Mavrodes that this individual is “guilty,” but I differ with him in that I also consider this person a combatant due to their guilt. This politician has some responsibility for this war, and is accountable for the part he played in the war’s creation and continuation. Due to this responsibility, he is a valid target for the opposing army, and it would be morally acceptable for them to eliminate him. Even if a nation’s leaders only go to war in order to defend the people of their nation, they are still morally acceptable targets for the opposing. When these men and women seek to lead their nation, they gain power over the nation and the responsibility that comes with that power. So even though the war was a last resort for them, these leaders are still valid targets because they chose to seek a position of power. They should be aware of the choices that they might be called upon to make and realize that they are responsible for whatever choice they make.

Another individual that needs to be looked at in deciding “innocence” and the noncombatant status is the average citizen of a nation. This is where the gray area of “innocence” appears. A man cannot be considered “guilty” for supporting or not supporting a war. He is allowed to think what he wants, and in some countries say what he wants as well. The only time that “guilt” arises is when he starts to contribute in someway to the actual war. A farmer is not “guilty” just because he grows crops that will feed soldiers. In many cases, he does not know where his crops will end up when he originally starts to grow them. They might end up as food for soldiers in a war, or be food for a stockbroker in New York. Since the farmer can have no reasonable idea of where his crops will end up, he cannot be considered “guilty” and is therefore a noncombatant.

On the other hand, there are the citizens who work in factories that supply weapons, vehicles, and ammo to the troops at war. These individuals know what purpose the item they make serves, which makes them an active part of the war effort. However, they can only be considered part of the war effort while they are actively engaging in the acts that make them part of the war effort. When they are at home, they are not valid targets, and it would be morally unacceptable to kill them. The reason that they are “innocent” for a duration of their time and “guilty” for another is because it is not reasonable to assume that one could know their views about the war and how they support it. They might support the war and show that support by working in a plant that produces the guns the soldiers carry. Another citizen might oppose the war, but be forced to work in the same factory in order to support their family. Since it is improbable that an attacking nation could know the circumstances of another nation’s workers, it is only morally acceptable for them to attack the factory workers while they are working and adding to the war effort.

This slide between being “guilty” and being “innocent” does not to apply to everyone who contributes to the war effort in a semi-direct way. Scientists who design bombs, rockets, guidance systems, etc. and those who work on chemical and biological weapons are always “guilty,” even when they are not actively working on something. I say this because a scientist does not just contribute to the war through his manual labor; he also contributes through his intellect and what his mind devises. A scientist who chooses to work in an area that relates to warfare is responsible for that decision. His mind will be put to creating or improving upon weaponry, and thus he is contributing to the war effort of a nation. Similar to the workers of the factory, it is not probable that an attacking nation could know a scientist’s views on the war, but it is also impossible for them to know what he is thinking about. Many scientists take their work home with them, and due to this possibility they make themselves targets even when they are at home.

The other problem is that the scientist is a walking storage device for the blueprints to a particular weapon. Even if an attacking country is able to destroy the place that the weapon was being created in, the scientist who thought up the weapon and designed it might still be alive. If he is alive, he would have the opportunity to continue his work. It thus becomes imperative for an attacking nation to destroy not just the weapon’s research facility, but also the researcher who designed the weapon.

Overall I think that Mavrodes had a good point about some individuals being “guilty” even though they aren’t directly on the frontlines. I think that his main flaw was saying that a combatant could be “innocent.” In a way it is true that some combatants are “innocent” due to their disapproval or lack of understanding of the war. He forgets that they are on the frontlines though, which makes them involved directly in the violence of warfare. Whether or not they wanted to be involved is no longer an issue the second that they pick up a weapon, start planting mines, or running a base’s communications. This active involvement nullifies their right to be considered an “innocent.”

9 Comments:

Anonymous Jamie McCall said...

I think you provide an interesting view point here, especially on whether or not "intent" should matter on deciding whom gets combatant status in warfare. Have you considered thorougly the "intent" factor? It is possible, if we take your analysis to its logical conclusion, that nearly everyone in a war is guilty of atleast abiding and enabling front-line combat (even if they do not intend to do so). Thus, almost everyone should be killed in war. The intent of people in war seems to be the best way to judge who should be killed and who should not, however, as you demonstrate, such is hard to do and produces unclear results.

Not that I have a problem with that though, since I do like realism..

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Mitch Ullman said...

Yeah, I see something a little sneaky going on with the intent factor.

Consider the following example. A person or groups of people, gathers foodstuffs, morale boosters, etc. to be sent to front-line soldiers. They drive vehicles that have emblems on them that denote their direct contribution to the war effort. Are these people targets? I'd assume so, given the intent issue.

It doesn't really matter much though, given we are talking about realism and the ability to wipe out any and all persons that are outside of one's self.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Wesley Frazier said...

In response to Jamie :

I'm not sure one would be forced to declare everyone to be guilty of the war. One could still divide along those who actively enabled the war vs passively enabled the war. (One assumes anyone in the country who worked against the war would be immune from guilt.)

THAT being said I am not confident that such divisions would line up where one would comfortably rest them.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Kim Morrison said...

Good paper. I especially like the fact that you tied in a lot of what we discussed in class last week. The issue of "intent" when determining whether a person is a combatant or not is apparently left to interpretation (like so many other things). What I find particularly interesting is that people working in factories which support the war effort would be considered combatants. After the U.S. entered WWII factories that didn't even make materials for war began to do so. With the men gone to war the women took over at work. Many things were rationed so there would be enough for civilians and soldiers alike. Anything metal was usually donated to help make whatever was needed. Applying all these to the "intent" issue, every person in the U.S. was a viable target for Japan, not just the soldiers. Even Bob Hope and the other celebrities with the USO show would be combatants. If Japan had known this would the war have turned out differently?

I'm part of an honor/service society that is currently involved in a service project called Adopt a Platoon. We'll be collecting things to send to the troops in the sandbox. Am I to be labeled a combatant? I guess my real question is this: Is there a difference between those who support the war effort and those who support the troops? I wanted to end this with another question but I can't get it to sound right so I'll just leave it be.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

i agree with u, i see it as that if all of ur country goes to war and you do nothing to get out or create a nutural zone then u are just as guilty. Ex the british would hang civilains for treason even if there were not soliders

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Steven Grueshaber said...

The following points are based on the assumption that only one side of a war is just. Many of us agree that the only time a war could be just is in self defense or, possibly, in the defense of others. Because of this, one side must be promoting the violence and is, therefore, unjust.

In my estimation, people that contribue to a war via manufacturing or development are viable targets because they are either 1) contributing to an unjust war which will cause the deaths of moral individuals or 2)contributing to the cause of a just war.

I do not mean for "viable" to be the equivalent of "morally acceptable." I think in case 1 it is morally acceptable because they are fighting the just war. However, in point 2, the opposing army is unjust in killing them. If the opposing army is unjust to begin with, they will not be acting justly anyway. They could target these people regardless of moral significance.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Adam Johnson said...

While the 'intent' factor can result in some conclusions I personally do not favor (ie Realism), I hesitate to dismiss it entirely. Specifically, I like to evaluate intent in one main situation - forced war assistance. It doesn't sit well with me to allow the wholesale slaughter of people who may be indirectly assisting in the war effort simply because they have no other choice.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Page said...

The idea that a combatant can be "innocent" and a non combatant can be "guilty" is interesting. This seems to make a case for realism, in my mind, it screams "realism just means 'most practical!'" There is no point in looking at the shades of grey during combat, and I doubt any soldier really has that on his mind as he's being fired on, if you're in the way-you're a candidate for death.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Jimmy Moore said...

You did a good job showing the reader the difference between guilty and innocent, combatant and non-combatant. There is a lot of grey area that needs to be sorted out in this issue and I don’t think it is okay to say, well can’t figure it out lets go to realism. Realism seems to be the universal response with some of you.

9:36 PM  

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