Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Further Note on Just War Against the Proposition that there is Nonesuch

Proportionality can be tricky admittedly. But here is a simple example of lack of proportionality. A small kid tries to hold me up and I easily overpower him and disarm him and subdue him. But then I beat him a lot maybe on the rationale(ization) of teaching him a lesson. It may be, for example, Israel was justified in striking back against the years of Gazan shelling—a just war, perhaps. But if at some point it crossed a line over to a disproportionate response—which can argued both ways--then we have an international and recent example, analogous to my simple home spun example, of a just war which arguably lost righteousness once the line of proportionality was crossed.

And what about military incursions to staunch genocide?

(An “eye for an eye”, by the way, was in fact a progressive advance over more ancient examples of revenge- based wider bloodletting. Of course enlightened countries moved past "an eye for an eye" and moving past it, needing to, that is to say, was exactly the theme of Hamlet.)

I really don’t understand all the anatomizing of the concept of self-defence in an effort to deal with the morality or justice of it. I can understand and respect a pacific position though I think it is intellectually unsustainable. If for example A is willing to endure all manner of aggression against his person and refuses on principle to strike back even in self-defence, I can see and even admire that. But what if A is present and by proportional force can prevent harm to someone within his lawful charge, his child or his wife or his student, but does nothing out of pacific principle? Then I think A's position falls apart because it entails harm to an innocent other for whom A is responsible.

International analogies include, as mentioned, the state protecting its citizens from aggression, an ally coming to an ally’s aid—first Gulf War, and preventing genocide—the bombing in Yugoslavia, not to mention the master example, the allies’ fight in WW 11.

War is hell. Of that there is no doubt. It is, as someone said here: “… miserable, disgusting, ridiculous and sad.” But, for all that, it does not follow that every war is unjust nor does it follow that no one wins a war. That is of course a patent historical absurdity.

Here are the conditions of a just war as laid down by Aquinas (all credit to Wiki):

1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical and ineffective;

3. There must be serious prospects for success;

4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating the fourth condition.

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