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War and Peace. D’oh !. The Problem of War. War presents a major challenge to the morality of the modern world; in our age of progress and reason, why is it that the human race is so self-destructive? Can armed conflict ever be justified?

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War and peace

War and Peace

D’oh!


The problem of war
The Problem of War

  • War presents a major challenge to the morality of the modern world; in our age of progress and reason, why is it that the human race is so self-destructive? Can armed conflict ever be justified?

  • From the religious perspective, war is doubly problematic. World religions have often claimed the moral high ground, but how can this fit with an acceptance of killing? Thus, we find much debate within religion in the modern world concerning the justification (or not) of war.

  • Christian approaches to war are particularly varied, with a spectrum of different attitudes ranging from the enthusiastic endorsement of ‘holy war’ to outright principled pacifism. These tensions in Christianity reflect the mixed signals we find in the Bible, as well as a long history of Christian involvement in politics and conflicts.

  • The question is, is there any one just and reliable ethical approach to war? Our options include classical just war theory, Christian realism, and pacifism.


Origins of just war theory
Origins of Just War Theory

  • The first approach we’ll consider is just war theory. This is a practical ethical theory, first developed by the Christian philosopher Saint Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430 CE).

  • The earliest Christians by and large were pacifists. However, the Roman Empire converted to Christianity under the Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century, and so it was necessary to have a Christian army to defend the first Christian empire. The justification of war thus became a pressing concern.

  • Augustine, one of the great ‘Doctors of the Church’, looked back to the Bible and found quite a mixture of ideas. While a previous generation of Christians had cautiously sided with the most peaceful option, Augustine thought that a clear case could be made for justified Christian warfare.


Many Christians have pointed out that Jesus seems to condemn all forms of violence in the New Testament: “blessed are the peacemakers”, he said (Matt 5). Jesus did not oppose those who crucified him.

However, things are a bit different in the Old Testament, and this might help Christians to justify war. God commands a number of wars against Israel’s enemies. Meanwhile, in Exodus 15 it is said that “the LORD is a warrior”. This implies that God sometimes approves of war, particularly in the case of idolatry and fighting against foreign gods.


So, Augustine developed what is now known as just war theory, basing his arguments upon the belief that God commanded justified wars in the Bible.

Augustine divided his theory into two main parts: jus ad bellum – just reasons for going to war, and jus in bello – just practice while at war.

Much later, in the 13th century, Augustine’s ideas were taken up a developed by the philosopher Thomas Aquinas. He sought to formalise and expand upon Augustine’s ideas. Like Augustine, Aquinas was a major Church authority and saint (known as ‘Doctor Angelicus). His ideas were hugely influential in the Church and in history as a whole.


Aquinas jus ad bellum
Aquinas: theory, basing his arguments upon the belief that God commanded justified wars in the Bible.jus ad bellum

  • Through history, philosophers have developed seven key criteria for jus ad bellum, for going to war. If the criteria are met, the war is justified. Aquinas, building on Augustine, gives the first three of these:

  • Just Authority – The war must be ordered by a competent and legitimate authority (king, pope).

  • Just Cause – There must be a just reason for going to war in the first place, (e.g. self defence.)

  • Just Intention – The war must be intended to achieve some good outcome (e.g. lasting peace).


Suarez and di vittoria jus ad bellum
Suarez and di Vittoria: theory, basing his arguments upon the belief that God commanded justified wars in the Bible.jus ad bellum

  • During the war ravaged era of the Reformation, the theory grew in significance as a justification for the new bloodshed and was further modified. The philosophers Francisco Suarez and Francisco de Vitoria (16th cent.) added another three criteria for jus ad bellum:

  • Proportionality – the injustice which led to the war must be proportionate to the damage it causes.

  • Last resort – all peaceful alternatives must first have been attempted.

  • Reasonable chance of success – a war can only be just if it can succeed. Hopeless wars are immoral.


The Catholic Bishops: theory, basing his arguments upon the belief that God commanded justified wars in the Bible.jus ad bellum

  • Finally, the Catholic bishops of the United States later (1983) decided that jus ad bellum should receive one extra criterion, in their statement The Promise of Peace:

  • Comparative justice – the interests of both sides must be taken into consideration.

Wars are rarely just, because they are usually one-sided. Governments seldom think of their enemies when waging war.


Applying jus ad bellum criteria
Applying theory, basing his arguments upon the belief that God commanded justified wars in the Bible.jus ad bellum criteria

  • Now that we have examined all of the criteria for jus ad bellum, let’s see how this might apply to a conflict from history. You may wish to make this sort of application (briefly!) in the exam.

  • The conflict which we will look at is the Allies’ war against Germany in World War II. This is usually regarded as ‘just’ by most Britons and Americans, so it is worthwhile considering whether it fits with the criteria.


Despite my rude gestures, I (Winston Churchill) should probably be regarded as just authority. Britain was a parliamentary democracy, and I governed with the consent of its people.

In 1939, the German army made an unprovoked attack on Poland. Britain and France wanted to protect their ally, which was unfairly treated. Arguably, this gave them just cause.

Throughout the war, I (Adolf Hitler) led Germany with my fascist and racist National Socialist Worker’s Party (Nazis). The Allies wanted to remove me from power, which suggests that they had a just intention.


The war started quite badly for the Allies and they were desperate for success. They would try anything to get an advantage, including the bombing of large civilian areas such as Dresden. This makes it questionable as to whether they fought with proportionality.

Britain did everything it could to avoid war with Germany, including intensive negotiations between Hitler and Neville Chamberlain. So, it is fair to say that war was a last resort.

To begin with, the Germans were successful, having greatly superior military technology. So, the Allies were unsure as to whether they would win. Still, they had a reasonable chance of success.


Today, Germany is a successful and peaceful democracy. Arguably, this has directly resulted from the Allied victory in the war. Since the German people have benefited from the destruction of the Nazi party, one could claim that comparative justice was served.

Overall, it seems that a fairly good case can be made for the Allies fighting a ‘just war’ in World War II. They had the right authority, cause and intention. The war was a last resort and, although it was quite risky, the Allies still had a fair chance of success. The strength of modern Germany also suggests that comparative justice was served. However, even this war has a real problem in terms of the criteria: was it really proportionate? Thousands of German civilians lost their lives, often unnecessarily.


Jus in bello just practice in war
Jus in bello: Arguably, this has directly resulted from the Allied victory in the war. Since the German people have benefited from the destruction of the Nazi party, one could claim that Just Practice in War

  • Another aspect of just war theory is what is known as jus in bello – during the war itself, just practices must be maintained.

  • This concept goes back to the medieval Church, which tried to regulate the way in which Christian nations fought each other, trying to promote codes of conduct such as chivalry.

  • The key ideas of jus in bello include discrimination (only killing or capturing active participants) and proportionality (only using measures which are fitting and humane).

Certain types of behaviour and virtues are expected during war: courage, loyalty, fairness, etc. Of course, these apply to Christians; there would be no rules to protect Muslims during Crusades.


Modern approaches to jus in bello
Modern approaches to Arguably, this has directly resulted from the Allied victory in the war. Since the German people have benefited from the destruction of the Nazi party, one could claim that jus in bello

  • The modern world has seen a number of attempts to implement the ideal of a just and fairly fought war, particularly in international agreements (early 20th century):

  • Hague Conventions – a set of agreements designed to regulate military conduct, banning cruel weapons such as “bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body”.

  • Geneva Conventions – these aim to protect prisoners of war, outlawing torture and other cruel forms of treatment.


Strengths of just war theory
Strengths of Just War Theory Arguably, this has directly resulted from the Allied victory in the war. Since the German people have benefited from the destruction of the Nazi party, one could claim that

  • It fits with commonly accepted views of justice, allowing wars to defend, protect or prevent a humanitarian disaster. The concept of a just war is popular and has historical precedent (World War II).

  • It is realistic; it recognises the need for force and tries to make it as fair as possible.

  • It provides important checks on a state’s use of force. It outlaws war except in defence of others or upholding important values.


Criticisms weaknesses
Criticisms/Weaknesses Arguably, this has directly resulted from the Allied victory in the war. Since the German people have benefited from the destruction of the Nazi party, one could claim that

  • It contradicts the teachings of Jesus, who brings a message of peace in the Gospels.

  • Aquinas contradicts himself; in his Natural Moral Law he claims that life is sacred and must be preserved. Yet, he allows killing in warfare. How can this make sense?

  • The attempt to justify war actually encourages war; it suggests that war can be positive.

  • The criteria are open to interpretation and can be manipulated for evil purposes. For example, in 1939 Germany faked a series of ‘Polish attacks’ to give them just cause for invading.


Pacifism
Pacifism Arguably, this has directly resulted from the Allied victory in the war. Since the German people have benefited from the destruction of the Nazi party, one could claim that

Learning Objectives :

1. To UNDERSTAND the history of Pacifism

2. To LEARN the basics of Pacifism

  • Generally speaking, this is the view that violence is wrong in any circumstance. People can be pacifists for religious, philosophical or practical reasons. Pacifism is often advocated where just war theory is held to be inadequate.

  • Historically, many Christians have been pacifists, looking back to the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus lived non-violently and brought a non-violent redemption (against some messianic expectations). The very first Christians refused to join the Roman army.

  • Following the Reformation (16th century), a number of pacifist Protestant sects emerged: Quakers, Mennonites, Brethren, etc. These groups remain powerful advocates for peace today.


“Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5).

“They that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matthew 26).

Religious, Christian Pacifism

“We totally oppose all wars, all preparation for war, all use of weapons and coercion by force, and all military alliances.”

(Quaker Peace Testimony)


Principle pacifism
Principle Pacifism the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5).

  • Or, ‘philosophical pacifism’, this is a deontological, absolutist view: violence is always intrinsically wrong. It assumes that people have real moral duties and must always seek to preserve life. Opposition to warfare is thus a consequence of other, abstract ideas.

  • This approach can be supported through a sanctity of life argument. If killing is intrinsically wrong on an individual level (i.e. murder) then it must also be on a national or societal level (i.e. war). The whole point of an absolutist principle is that there are no exceptions, and so, argues philosopher Richard Reagan, to say that war is an acceptable form of killing entails a contradiction.


Other pacifisms
Other Pacifisms the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5).

  • Relative Pacifism – this is the view that peaceful solutions should always be the first choice, but without having an absolute objection to war. Wars might sometimes (very rarely) be allowed. Nationally orchestrated violence is always an evil, even if it is the lesser of two evils.

  • Pragmatic Pacifism – the view that peaceful approaches to conflict should be taken because they work better. Pragmatic pacifists can point to the success of non-violent protest campaigns in bringing about political change (e.g. Martin Luther King’s peaceful march on Washington was highly effective).


Criticisms of pacifism
Criticisms of Pacifism the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5).

  • We can reject the underlying principles: perhaps life is not intrinsically valuable. Utilitarians might say that it is sometimes right to kill, to protect others. It is the greater good.

  • Pacifism is unrealistic; wars will happen. The most we can hope is that wars will be just.

  • Violence is sometimes necessary to defeat great evil, as with the destruction of Nazi Germany. The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr argued for Realism – the view that violence can be used to restrain the actions of evil people.


Other the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5).

Christian Realism

Having once been a Pacifist, Reinhold Niebuhr changed his mind after he witnessed the evil perpetrated by Germany in the Second World War.

He adopted ‘Theological Christian Realism’ – the view that the collective character of all humans contains a natural disposition to do evil. In his book Moral Man and Immoral Society, Niebuhr wrote:

“Evil is not to be traced back to the individual, but to the collective behaviour of humanity.”

For Niebuhr, this meant that lawful and legitimate governments would need to use violence to restrain the evil tendencies of some human beings. The Allies needed to defeat the evil of Nazi Germany.


Final things to think about
Final things to think about… the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5).

  • In the AO2 (evaluation) component of the exam, you might be expected to have an opinion on these issues:

  • Which is generally superior: Just War Theory or Pacifism?

  • Are certain forms of Pacifism compatible with Just War Theory?

  • Generally, can war be justified?

  • Is warfare compatible with religion?


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