Principles of Just-War Theory

Lynn Roulstone at the Open University raised the questionsWhat do we think to Aquinas’s Just War theory?  Is it ever possible to have such a thing?” and provided a link to a short explanation of the seven principles of Just-War Theory.

I wasn’t particularly impressed by them and this was my response:

1. Last Resort
Sartre, Ghandi and Jesus said a violent response need not be the final resort.  Deciding not to use violence is also an available option.  It was certainly the best way for your civilisation to survive an invasion by the Roman empire, the Mongol hordes or many other invading forces who purpose was to subjugate.

2. Legitimate Authority
We have a representative democracy so if Tony Bliar decides to start a war despite dodgy evidence and 3 million people protesting, he is perfectly entitled.  If Obama declares war on Mexico tomorrow, he has legal, personal, absolute authority to do so under USA law.

3. Just Cause
Righting a wrong done to A committed by B by killing C is as logical as bombing for peace.  It just results in tit-for-tat feuds that need never end.

4. Probability of Success
If it is wrong to fight in case you lose – and there is always the possibility of unexpectedly losing – then one should not fight.  Conversely, if one has such overwhelming power that victory is inevitable, there must be diplomatic alternatives to using overwhelming violence.

5. Right Intention
A hollow argument.  The victor is always right, after the event.  Also, if the intention of war is to re-establish peace, then the best outcome is genocide of one’s enemies and destruction of their culture since that best guarantees peace.

6. Proportionality
The minimum amount of force absolutely necessary is often the assassination of one person or one dynastic line.  However, international conventions have long, long agreed that targeted execution of the leaders of sovereign states is against the rules.  Killing millions of the people who happen to live in the same country is OK though.

7. Civilian Casualties
The concept of total war (which is thousands of years old) means that the economy and production ability of the enemy are part of the war machine and valid targets.  Bombing dams to flood valleys is fine.  Armaments factories employ civilians as do the mines and refineries that serve them.  There is no point continuously killing their soldiers if they just keep breeding and equipping more – one must raze their cities, salt their fields, sabotage their infrastructure and starve the population into defeat.  The civilian capacity to raise armies must be destroyed.  The alternative is to not use total war, but then you lose to someone who is.

I do not see how there can be a just war.  Expedient, yes, but just, no.

Philosophy at third year of study – yea or nay?

Been too busy to post, lately.  Life, eh?

Anyway, do I do philosophy at level 3 in my custom Peace Studies degree?

I had intended to do module A333 Key Questions in Philosophy with the Open University specifically for topic 2 of 5: “War – Can there be justice in war?

That part is described thus:

“Is there a clear moral distinction between killing combatants and killing non-combatants? Are there circumstances – situations of supreme emergency – in which it is justifiable to suspend the accepted conventions of war? Should all soldiers be treated in the same way, regardless of whether their cause is just? This book will guide you through some of the core ideas of Just War Theory and recent criticisms of this approach.”

I could just study those questions for myself and produce my own conclusions on here.

Is western philosophy inherently violent?

I’m studying philosophy (“should war criminals should be punished for crimes committed half a century or more ago?”  “what we ought or ought not to do”  “what brings about the greatest possible amount of happiness in the world?”  ought we fight for our country if it is under threat?” “political obligations: can I just opt out? When did I opt in?“) as part of my custom Peace Studies degree.  But sometimes the best material comes not from text books but from unexpected sources.

A favourite web cartoon strip is Dead Philosophers in Heaven.  In the comments below the strip about Machiavelli: immoral sociopath or satirist?, is this:

Machiavelli’s The Prince just describes the fact that there is no state or nation in history that hasn’t been founded on massive violence.  Arguably creating the biggest, fattest, ugliest paradox of western political philosophy.  He also lets us know that any state at least partially dependant on consent, if it’s going to last, is going to have to learn how to deceive its citizenry.

Ouch!

Re: I feel depressed because of war 2

I get so sad , and also can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t ignore the fact that they are suffering.

The solution to feeling sad is action.

How are you going to stop war in the world?  You can’t it’s impossible.  You can stay as positive as you want its not going to stop war.

There have been, over the past few centuries, many treaties which have defined and redefined what is and is not permitted in a war.  We’ve moved on a long way from the massive horrific hack-people-to-death battles of the middle ages that in a couple of days could kill a significant percentage of a country’s men.

  • All sorts of tactics and weapons have been banned because of their cruelty or long term effects.
  • Rules have come in about targeting civilians and what is permitted by those in uniform and what is forbidden by those who are not.
  • The law has changed around much of the world regarding conscription; it is no longer legal to force someone to fight and kill others if it is against their conscience to kill.

So, there have been many changes made to violent conflict.

There have also been changes to prevent conflict, such as:

  • The formation of the EU which arose from a treaty designed to prevent another war between France, Italy and German.
  • International courts have been set up on every continent to prosecute those who break these treaties and laws.
  • The League of Nations and then the United Nations were formed to provide somewhere for communication to occur so war can be avoided.

So, there have been changes made to prevent conflict.  These have all happened because people have been active and made them happen.

I don’t think violent conflict will ever be eliminated. But we can continue to prevent it, reduce it, constrain it and clean up after it to minimise its impact.

There is no pax Americana

Bringing down stable governments of countries and failing to put something in its place is the principal cause of the terrorism and conflict going on in the world at the moment.

When the Romans invaded, they took control, dictating foreign policy, providing defence in exchange for a promise to not rebel and pay tribune.  In so doing peace reigned over the Roman Empire at the cost of freedoms at a national level. This was the pax Romana.

The Islamic Golden Age, inspired by the philosophy that “the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr“, in which huge advances were made in medicine, mathematics, culture and science, was also a period of peace, sometimes called the pax Islamica.

A thousand years later the Mongols conquered much of Asia and held it to produce the Pax Mongolica.

The Ottoman Empire in turn provided peace to its citizens in the pax Ottomana.

A similar arrangement to the Roman Empire was achieved by the British Empire to produce the pax Britanicca.

Chinese empires have come and gone and provided their own periods of internal peace, as have many other cultures.

The concept of “empire” has come to be seen as purely a bad thing since the mid 20th century as countries gained their independence, partly through economic consequences of the World War 2, partly through improved communication and education and partly through the disruptive influences of the Cold War.  In place of an imposed external governing body, freedom for those of a territory has been granted, often with disastrous consequences.  The lesson that could and should have been learned from those experiences are that independence should be done slowly, replacing institutions and structures with new ones, a part at a time.  It is frustrating, but far more stable. [Note to self: specific examples needed.]  A clean break leaves a county with no stable government and civil war and decades of turmoil is the usual result.

But the desire to ignore the beneficial benefits of a benign empire has resulted in much chaos, death, suffering and desire for revenge of late years.  The removal of stable governments from countries like Iraq and Libya without replacing it with something else that works has been far worse than what most empires have done in the past.

It would have been cheaper and less destructive (but probably no more productive in the long term) to simply assassinate those leaders that were considered undesirable.  At least there would not be hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed civilians and a world-wide problem with revenge terrorism.

The idea the USA has been the global policeman producing a pax Americana is a fallacy.  They are not spreading peace: just fear and hate, chaos and disorder.

Instead of toppling a regime, take it over and change it from within, fools.  Learn from thousands of years of history.

Don’t blame me – my robots did it

Here’s a scary essay that needs writing.

Dr Robert Sparrow of the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Monash University, wrote a paper entitled “Killer robots” (Sparrow, R. 2007. Killer Robots. Journal of Applied Philosophy 24(1): 62-77, March).

Top and bottom, it says:

Abstract
The United States Army’s Future Combat Systems Project, which aims to manufacture a “robot army” to be ready for deployment by 2012, is only the latest and most dramatic example of military interest in the use of artificially intelligent systems in modern warfare. This paper considers the ethics of a decision to send artificially intelligent robots into war, by asking who we should hold responsible when an autonomous weapon system is involved in an atrocity of the sort that would normally be described as a war crime. A number of possible loci of responsibility for robot war crimes are canvassed; the persons who designed or programmed the system, the commanding officer who ordered its use, the machine itself. I argue that in fact none of these are ultimately satisfactory. Yet it is a necessary condition for fighting a just war, under the principle of jus in bellum [sic], that someone can be justly held responsible for deaths that occur in the course of the war. As this condition cannot be met in relation to deaths caused by an autonomous weapon system it would therefore be unethical to deploy such systems in warfare.

and

Conclusion
I have argued that it will be unethical to deploy autonomous systems involving sophisticated artificial intelligences in warfare unless someone can be held responsible for the decisions they make where these might threaten human life. While existing autonomous weapon systems remain analogous to other long-range weapons that may go awry, the more autonomous these systems become, the less it will be possible to properly hold those who designed them or ordered their use responsible for their actions. Yet the impossibility of punishing the machine means that we cannot hold the machine responsible. We can insist that the officer who orders their use be held responsible for their actions, but only at the cost of allowing that they should sometimes be held entirely responsible for actions over which they had no control. For the foreseeable future then, the deployment of weapon systems controlled by artificial intelligences in warfare is therefore unfair either to potential casualties in the theatre of war, or to the officer who will be held responsible for their use.

There is another conclusion that can be drawn from this work. One should use robots to kill people because then one is much less likely to be held responsible for the atrocities they may commit. I doubt I am the first person to think of that: the marketing people in the autonomous arms industry will already be selling that benefit.

The long term effect of airstrikes

When the airstrikes begin, such as they did at the start of the second Gulf War, and as is desired by US, UK and French leaders against Syria, large numbers of government buildings are attacked, resulting in the deaths of large number of civil servants in the country being attacked.

(The legality of targeting civilians is another question worth considering another day: link1, link2, link3, link4, link5, link6.)

The elimination of these civil servants has the desired effect of damaging the military organisation of the target country: supplies are not ordered, shipments are not arranged, payroll does not happen, communication is disrupted: information does not get escalated and orders do not get distributed, intelligence is not analysed.  In this way the machine of war is halted despite the troops and armour being intact because the troops have no food or bullets, the guns have no shells, the tanks have no fuel, the aircraft have no targets.  It is a seemingly ‘humane’ way of disabling an opponent or one party in a civil conflict.

The reality is, the combatants are left intact while the civilians are killed, maimed or forced to flee, adding them to the numbers of refugees.  Amongst those refugees will be the pacifists, the civil rights specialists, the conscientious objectors and the fearful who left the country during the crisis.

How very ironic is it that those who speak for our armed forces say killing civilians instead of soldiers is more humane?  That makes it quite clear where their allegiances lie.

If the external influence is effective, and the targeted government falls, then who will form the civil service of the new administration?  Certainly not the corpses and the cripples and the refugees of the deposed government.

It will be recruited mostly from the victorious liberating army, that group of ‘rebels’, ‘terrorists’, ‘insurgents’ and ‘insurrectionists’ that became redefined as ‘freedom fighters’ because their winning suited our political convenience.  An army including reactionaries, the vengeful, hot-blooded young anarchists, psychos, criminals, malcontents, sufferers of post-war stress syndrome and anyone who decided to pick up a gun and kill their police officers, armed forces members and government officials despite them being fellow citizens.  It is from these ranks the new government’s officials will be constructed.  Those who can answer the questions:

What did you do in the war, Daddy?

and

How many did you kill?

Experienced administrators from the previous government, those who left because of their conscience, the displaced – these people are least likely to get their old jobs back.

So is it any wonder that when we interfere with another country by applying airstrikes that the incoming government is itself full of turmoil with police recruits shooting their colleagues, suicide bombers, corruption, instability, ongoing car bombs and ultimately another revolution?

Perhaps if we stopped killing their filing clerks, accountants, data analysts, IT staff, secretaries, junior supervisors, PAs, human resources officers, trainers, typists, middle managers, and office cleaners then maybe their future governments might be competent, organised, capable and stable.

The outcome of using airstrikes are:

  • the deaths or injury of many fit, intelligent, taxpaying, civilians;
  • the armed forces and their matériel are left intact;
  • ongoing national incompetence for many years;
  • the need for greater external influence in maintaining stability;
  • those who may have a bias towards peace and reconciliation become personae non gratae;
  • a continuation of civil disorder and violence;
  • the likelihood of major armed conflict in the future.

So what are the real agenda when airstrikes are used?  Anyone would think it was advantageous foreign policy, commercial interests and the maintenance of the arms industry.  It certainly is not humanitarian reasons.