November 15, 2007


The lawfare of warfare: a review of Just War: The Just War Tradition – Ethics In Modern Warfare by Charles Guthrie and Michael Quinlan (Alasdair Palmer, 01/11/2007, Daily Telegraph)

The most reliable guarantee of some kind of 'justice' in war – where that means commanders and troops abstaining from such excesses as the wholesale slaughter of civilians – has always been the realisation that your opponent could employ the same tactic against you.

Fear of retaliation was why even the Nazis did not use chemical weapons against the Allies: they used them only against the Jews, then a subject people who could not retaliate. It is also why the only time a nuclear bomb has been used, it was against an enemy that did not possess one.

The dropping of the atom bomb is an indication of what happens when the restraining effect of deterrence is absent. America is now so much more powerful militarily than almost any of its rivals that it can expect to be able to destroy its enemies in a war. The issue of what America should be 'permitted' to do when it goes to war with small states becomes very pressing, because military self-interest does not require the US to limit the violence it can employ.

Guthrie and Quinlan hope the Christian tradition of the 'just war' can be of help in defining what those limits should be. After reading their short and very clearly written book, I am not so sure. That's not because any of the principles they enunciate are wrong, for who could disagree that a state needs to have a 'just' and 'proportionate' cause before going to war? Or that it needs a reasonable prospect of success, and that war itself should be a last resort? Or that the destruction caused should be 'proportionate' to the goal that is to be achieved?

The problem is rather with the application of the principles, which are so general and abstract that a state could say that they were satisfied in almost any situation of conflict.

As BH Lidell Hart said, "The object in war is a better of state of peace." We can at least say that those wars that achieve that end are, de facto, just and, as the reviewer notes, there is no de jure in reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 15, 2007 12:00 AM

Briefly, now. When we apply the above standard of a so-called "just war" to the global situation we arrive at an acceptance of the legislative power of the world government.

Consider absolute strategic supremacy together with the tactical proportionality obtained through the surgical precision of our contemporary tactical systems.

What then is licet for those who hold world power? Moreover, what is our duty to humanity in light of the capabilities with which we have been entrusted.

We may seek the answers in Paul's Letter to the Romans, or we may ponder the mechanisms of evolutionary sociology, to measure our powwer and our duty.

The striking think about this is the extent to which the rest of humanity accepts and submits to the authority of the world government. Examine deeds, not words, to divine intentions.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 15, 2007 5:10 AM

Very interesting, this 'Just War' theory. My only question is: Who is going to bell the cat?

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2007 9:24 AM