Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Time and Its Effect on “The Just War”

by Kim Morrison

Philosophy is not an easy topic to wrap one’s mind around, at least not for me. However, when I chose to read the article by Wells I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to follow his philosophy on “The Just War” despite all the philosophy terminology and conspicuous use of words not used in everyday conversation. Although I suspect some of you probably do know the meaning of casuistry, I actually had to look it up in the dictionary. (By the way it is defined as “specious or overly subtle reasoning intended to rationalize or mislead.) The reason I could follow his philosophy, when he was speaking English of course, is due to his comparison between medieval and modern warfare. I’m not a history major but I am fascinated with the history of the British monarchy. I have read several books written by a very talented woman named Alison Weir. The time and effort she takes in doing her research is astounding and the bibliographies of her books can be seven or more pages in length. What was pertinent to my understanding while reading Wells’ article are Weir’s vivid descriptions of battles fought during the period of which she is writing. With my amateur knowledge of British history, current awareness of modern warfare, and the rather ambiguous conditions of the “just war” doctrine I will examine the affects of time on the “just war.”

As we learned in class last week there are seven conditions a war must meet for it to be called “just.” The list provided by Joseph McKenna is as follows: “(1) the war must be declared by the duly constituted authority; (2) the seriousness of the injury inflicted on the enemy must be proportional to the damage suffered by the virtuous; (3) the injury to the aggressor must be real and immediate; (4) there must be a reasonable chance of winning the war; (5) the use of war must be a last resort; (6) the participants must have right intentions; and (7) the means used must be moral.” As the reader can see there is a difference between McKenna’s list and the one we used in class. McKenna’s list has conditions three and seven while our list in class had “just cause” and “noncombatant immunity.” The differences are slight but possibly significant and may have grounds for further investigation. For the purpose of this paper, however, I will refer to McKenna’s list and examine the two conditions that time seems to have had the most significant affect upon.

Condition 1: the war must be declared by the duly constituted authority. In medieval England the “duly constituted authority” was of course the monarch. The sovereign could declare war whenever it was necessary to defend the realm or, on several occasions, his or her reign. The reigning monarch was advised by a council on matters of state. If their sovereign wanted to wage a war, the council could make appeals to him, or her, based on the advantages and disadvantages of waging that war. However, the monarch made the decision whether or not to wage war, and in some instances, did so against the advice of the council. With no organized military force, the men of the realm were at the monarch’s disposal to use in waging a war. Just picture a little boy playing with a bucket of those little green toy soldiers.

Unfortunately, that same image can be applied to modern warfare, the only difference now is that those little green soldiers are part of an organized military. Today’s modern war is still decided by the “duly constituted authority” only there is, most often, more than one person involved in making the decision. The president of the United States can only declare war if it is okayed by Congress first. And yet that image of a little boy playing with toy soldiers still persists because the American public has no real control in whether or not the troops are sent to war, how long they will be there, how many times they will have to go back, or numerous other heartbreaking scenarios. Protests against a war may receive attention but are hardly effective in bringing about any changes in this respect.

In both instances it is ignorant for a country’s citizens to believe that their leader (or leaders) is completely competent when making important decisions or that they really have the country’s best interest at heart. It is interesting to note however, that more often that not, a king (or a representative of the reigning queen) would command a group of soldiers himself, which could lend more strength to his cause. When has a president of the United States ever commanded a battalion of troops during wartime? Only thing I have seen in my lifetime is a president’s ability to serve Thanksgiving dinner.

Condition 6: the participants must have right intentions. This condition seems to be the most ambiguous of the seven and Wells incorporates the immunity of noncombatants into this condition making it an even more loaded condition. First of all, who can say with unquestioned authority that one country has the right intentions while another country does not? Apparently no one can be that unbiased to begin with and those who are unbiased do not usually have that type of authority. In the 16th century, Spain’s attempted invasions of England may have had the right intentions to Spain but certainly not to England. As for an unbiased judge in the situation it definitely could not have been France. They were waiting for the outcome and making preparations for offering loyalty to the winner. In modern times Switzerland was, and has been, neutral through several wars. The country tends to be unbiased but obviously did not have the authority to decide which country had the right intentions in the wars fought around it.

Even with the dispute over who had the right intentions, in medieval times it was generally accepted that deaths of noncombatants were to be avoided at all costs. Chivalry, a dying art. Battles were usually fought in large fields or meadows that were away from areas with a significant population of noncombatants. In battles fought between Englishmen on opposing sides, an army’s commander would order his soldiers that only the nobles of the opposing side were to be killed. This may seem odd but it was a brilliant strategy. The title of the dead noble could be stripped from his family and given to another on the winning side and the soldiers whose lives were spared were generally absorbed into the army of the winner. People in power with the same goals and a larger army improved odds of winning an entire war more likely, whether or not that side had the right intentions upon entering the war. In some cases these orders may not have been heard by all before a conflict began or they were even ignored. When this happened the results could be devastating. An entire enemy army could be nearly annihilated in the course of a battle. But no matter the devastation to the enemy’s army or one’s own, the civilian population was to be left unharmed. Accidental deaths did occur on some occasions and sometimes they were hardly accidental. Some commanders would allow their army to sack an enemy town or city with few limits on what they were and were not allowed to do. Stealing, raping women and girls, and generally terrorizing the citizens were among the exploits of an invading army. Many commanders forbade their soldiers to sack a town or city they intended to occupy but sometimes those orders were not followed. Even with the occasional rape and pillage of a town, deaths of civilians were to be avoided. This was also rather easily accomplished because of the limitations of the weapons used at the time. You couldn’t aim at a target that you couldn’t see, much less make an accurate hit. That is until now.

In modern wars chivalry seems to have gone out the window. Wells states that “[m]odern war is total at least in the sense that there are no innocents,” (p. 826). How else would the United States have been able to drop bombs on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima? If the government had believed that there were innocent people in those cities the bombs could never have dropped. This calls into question how responsible a nation is for the decisions of its leaders. Were the Japanese civilians really responsible for their leaders’ decision to bomb Pearl Harbor? Are the civilians of the Middle East responsible for 9/11? In a modern war it is apparently hard to tell where the line between the guilty and the innocent is to drawn or if should even be drawn at all. Another problem that adds to this dilemma is the fact that those that should be innocent, are not as much as they should be. A young Iraqi boy is harmless enough until he is given an automatic machine gun and learns how to plant roadside bombs. I don’t know about you but I would like to know how the present situation in Iraq and Afghanistan would have been handled in 1942. Would the United States have bombed Baghdad and Kabul without batting an eyelash? Also, the United States was not accused of trying to cleanse the world of the Hindus or Buddhists by bombing Japan and was considered a proportional response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor but now it seems any similar bombing attempt would be regarded as the beginning of the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and, in all likelihood, be regarded as a crime against humanity. Is the increasing concern with being politically correct inhibiting the ability of a country to wage a “just war”? This is where the different interpretations of the conditions of a “just war” come into play. In my opinion, time has definitely taken its toll on how those conditions are interpreted, how they are applied to different situations, and the impact different beliefs of the world have on them.

In choosing Wells' article as my paper topic I never realized I would end up having so many questions about the way modern wars have been conducted. The conditions laid out by McKenna are obviously not all adhered to and those that are adhered to are left to the interpretations of those using them. Wells observed that applying these conditions to modern war isn't as easy as it may seem. After examining the effect that the passage of time has had on these conditions and the ways in which they are applied to justify a war, I agree with him. It would seem that the condtions of a "just war" need another revision.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Mitch Ullman said...

I know you will most likely cringe when I say this; I would have liked to see your commentary, based on your reading of Weir's books, pertaining to the other six conditions of JWT. Mind you, I do realize that you take up more than the first, but being a little OCD, I love to see things compartmentalized into categories -damn Kant and his categories!

Anyway, I agree that the list that McKenna gives has implications that would seem to significantly change the way JWT is looked at by those of us who have been using a different list. Namely, I'm thinking of number three. The injury being immediate is what I'm wanting to draw the most attention to. Essentially, it is saying that you can't wait for X to, say, depose a ruler in Y and then go to war with X supposedly on your own behalf, much less Y's. This ties in with the right intentions bit, I think. You, seeing that Y is being attacked, must make an immediate response to X's aggression rather than wait for a 'double quarry.' Anyway, I'm going WAY OT to this paper and I'm going to stop here.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Wesley Gibbs said...

I enjoyed reading your paper and I agree with you about how much war has changed over time. There needs to be at least some new ways to classify a war as being just because times have changed. I also agreed with much of what you said about condition six in determining exactly what the right intentions are and who has them. As condition one goes, it would be interesting to see a president lead his troops to war. I do believe though that a small number of people educated in the matter should be the ones to decide whether or not a nation goes to war. It just isn't practical to have the citizens vote on it since most are not aware of the actual happenings of a war or the reasons behind it.

I think it would have been interesting to delve deeper into the differences in the way McKenna states JWT and the way that Aquinas does it. A huge problem would arise when one looks at McKenna's number seven. He only states that the means used must be moral, but moral to who. The citizens of a nation, or just the person who has the authority to declare the war. Even if you pick a particular person or group, the problem arises of how these individuals define morality.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Jamie McCall said...

First off, interesting analysis...

I think the implication that time has on war is very important to take note of. Especially interesting (to me, but Im odd like that) is the political implications of who now would consistute "duly constituted authority" - especially as we have progressed towards democracy. I know we previously assumed it would be a combination of the president/congress, but even this is a progression away towards the "one person" decision making. Perhaps we could even get around to voting on wars. Practical implications aside, of course..

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Jamie McCall said...

Note to self: reading what you post before you post it is a GOOD THING, I apologize for my inability to type in the above response...

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Mitch Ullman said...

Freudian slip?

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Wesley Frazier said...

Like Mitch McKenna's 3rd requirement for Just War baffles me but for a very different reason.

I am unable to understand how "immediate and real danger" is seperate from "last resort". It strikes me that the first might actually be a slightly better rendition of the later. As it seems to be immune, in a sense, from the infinite regression "last resort" often faces.

A real and immediate danger, does seem to constitute the spirit of the "last resort" cause. Unless "immediate" has some other alternate meaning I am unaware of, in this context.

9:32 PM  
Anonymous steven grueshaber said...

Modern warfare forces us to rethink how just war theory is implented. With nations moving away from monarchies and totalitarian rule, it is difficult to determine who has control over declaring war. With the possibility of multiple people having some control over the decisions to declare war, several different motives will be represented for going to war. In this case, "right intention" loses almost any meaning. The chances that everyone involved is proposing or abstaining from war with no regard for personal agendas is highly unlikely.

Also, modern warfare is tricky when it comes to "last resort," or even "real and immediate danger" as it is stated here. With the power of the weaponry available today, you don't always have time to work through every possible scenario before starting a war. "Real and immediate danger" can be hard to determine as well. If a neighboring country possesses nuclear weaponry yet their motives are unclear, are they still considered an immediate threat? Just war theory needs to be able to answer these sorts of questions.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Adam Johnson said...

Your analysis of condition one brings up some interesting points. There is certainly room for extensive discussion on what ought to actually qualify as the 'duly constituted authority.' I personally think, however, that this condition is very close to irrelevent or least way less important under the assumption that McKenna's other six conditions are met. Indeed it seems somewhat silly in the context of the examples of authority you mentioned (The king of ages past and the President/Congress today). As you noted, neither of these entities is necessarily the pinacle of information as far as the other six conditions are concerned - at worst they may even be strikingly underequiped and uninformed to make the call. It seems to me that whatever individual or group or collective can adaquately fill and properly discern conditions two through seven would sort of automatically acquire the authority to declare the war itself. Afterall, if the war is truly just does it really matter who declares it?

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Kim Morrison said...

I'm not sure if we're supposed to comment on our own paper but I'm going to anyway. First, I'd like to say that my original intention had been to address all 7 of the conditions of JWT. Unfortunately it has been a few months since I last read one of Weir's books so I was even a little rusty on what I did remember. Wells did not address all the conditions in his article either and some of them he seemed to group together and I didn't really know what to do with that. Also, I really would have liked to address McKenna's condition 3: the injury to the aggressor must be real and immediate. I think the reaction of the United States to 9/11 would have made an excellent example. But doing all of the things I had wanted to would have made this paper way more than 5 pages so I had to be stingy with what I discussed. I chose conditions 1 and 6 because I felt they were the ones on which time seemed to have had the most effect. As for my comparison between kings of medieval England and the President/Congress, they were the two subjects I knew the most about in the context in which they were discussed. Although it might have been interesting to compare medieval England with modern England. But I still know more about our government than I do about England's. But I do agree with you Adam, it shouldn't matter who declares war as long as the war is truly just. Unfortunately, in this day and age, I'm sure there would be someone out there (probably the aggressor) who would believe that they were the ones whose war was just. And we're back to where we started from: interpretation of the coniditions of JWT.

I was very nervous about this paper and I'm very pleased to find out that you guys didn't think it was a total disaster. LOL! :)

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Page said...

Condition number six seems to be the most vague (3, 5 and 7 are pushing it too), but I don't think that it is an impossible criterion to use. I would suggest that "right intentions" would not be nearly as relative as you used it in the essay. I figured it was probably easier (for anyone) to criticise condition 6 by making it a relative judgment. Simply advancing one's own country's private interest is hardly "right intentions." I would suggest some sort of litmus test, which I'm sure exists (beyond the 7 conditions), would be implemented. What it would be evades me at this point though. Good essay; times keep on changing.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Joe Miller said...

Like several others have mentioned, I think that McKenna's third criterion that the danger to the aggressor be "real and immediate" is interesting, if in need of cashing out. To be fair, McKenna does actually say more about these conditions, though Wells doesn't pass that along.

We would, nonetheless, have to assess what actually constitutes a "real and immediate" danger. Does that mean that my own nation must already have been harmed or can the threat be less tangible (like the invasion of one of my allies, say)? Or can the threat be even less tangible, as in some vague possibility that a nation currently arming itself might be doing so with the hopes of eventually going to war with me? Tough questions to answer. Fortunately, we get to take them up in a few weeks when we look at preemption.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

I feel the same way, being a historian it is hard to put in perspective what others think when it comes to JWT. the list that Mckenna gives might change the way JWT is looked upon but sometimes we have to go deepier than that. War has changed over time and you are right by stating tha but i argue that dynamics of attacking has not and that when we go to war we have to keep in mind the implications of what it might bring, over all wonderful essay

1:45 PM  

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