War-is it ever justified?

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War-is it ever justified?

Postby qinwamascot » Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:18 am UTC

After doing a cursory search, there were no topics solely about this. So I'll begin.

Do you think war is ever justified? If so, what makes a war justified? Is it possible for a war to be a good thing?

In all of my thinking about the subject, I can't think of any wars that were, in my view, justified. OK, maybe in the case of self-defense, but I don't really even think that is a "good war", only a "necessary one". I'd argue that if we just stopped fighting wars except to defend ourselves from invasion or rebellion, then we'd be better off overall.

I have a few more thoughts on this (regarding game theory and such) but for the most part, my question is "is a war off your own soil ever justified?"
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:43 am UTC

I don't think it is possible for a war to be justified for both sides. A war defending one's own soil could be justified for the defender but not for the attacker. Most wars aren't justified for either side. Even World War II wasn't justified for either if you ask me. From what I understand the original plan was to ship the Jews to Madagascar and the death camps were only enacted once that became impossible. Once we figured out that they were killing them off in horrific fashion it made for some potent propaganda to try to justify the war to the citizens. Of course, having read little about this particular area of history yet, I could be completely wrong.

Personally I tend to view war as the bickering of children on a much grander scale. Even if there is legitimate offense between the children the problem is never solved until an adult slaps them on their wrist and decides a fair compromise. Unfortunately the closest thing we seem to have to an adult is like a babysitter who doesn't command any respect from the children and only intervenes when she can't hear the tv over their squabble.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:54 am UTC

Depends on your text-processor.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mane » Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:50 am UTC

The Mighty Thesaurus wrote:Depends on your text-processor.

Worst.

Joke.

Ever.

As the the OP, yes, yes it can be justified.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby qinwamascot » Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:53 am UTC

If so, then when? I can't think of any cases in which it is justified other than what I wrote.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mane » Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:59 am UTC

qinwamascot wrote:If so, then when? I can't think of any cases in which it is justified other than what I wrote.

When you're fighting for what you believe.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mzyxptlk » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:28 am UTC

War is justified when all other means have been exhausted, when there is a reasonable chance of success and when going to war inflicts less suffering than not going to war.

I'm of the opinion that there's not been a single morally right war in the last 63 years. This includes Korea, Vietnam, the Russian and US invasions of Afghanistan, the Iraq war, the US attacks on Central America, the wars in former Yugoslavia (including the bombings by NATO forces), the Cambodian civil war genocide, all of the wars against or by Israel and all of the conflicts in Africa.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Outchanter » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:31 am UTC

It sounds like you're advocating a kind of prime directive, where you never use military force against another country so long as they don't harm you. Even if they practice slavery or genocide.

Which is actually how a lot of countries operate. As comedian Eddie Izzard observed, it was only when Hitler started invading other countries that they declared war on him. He could probably have murdered all the Gypsies, gays, Jews and disabled in Germany without any interference.

"But the other mass murderers got away with it. Stalin killed many millions, died in his bed, well done there. Pol Pot killed one point seven million Cambodians, died under house arrest, age seventy-two, well done indeed. And the reason we let them get away with it is because they killed their own people, and we're sort of fine with that. Ah, help yourself, you know - we've been trying to kill you for ages! So you kill your own people, well, seems to be ... Hitler killed people next door. Oh, stupid man. After a couple of years we won't stand for that, will we?"
Last edited by Outchanter on Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:43 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:36 am UTC

Mane wrote:
qinwamascot wrote:If so, then when? I can't think of any cases in which it is justified other than what I wrote.

When you're fighting for what you believe.


So you think that every single war in history was justified then?
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mane » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:38 am UTC

Avelion wrote:
Mane wrote:
qinwamascot wrote:If so, then when? I can't think of any cases in which it is justified other than what I wrote.

When you're fighting for what you believe.


So you think that every single war in history was justified then?

Not every war in history was fought because people felt they had to fight, most wars tend to be resource wars, and they aren't justifiable.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:41 am UTC

They're fighting because they believe they need/are more entitled to the resources than you are.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:45 am UTC

I agree with Thesaurus, but for the sake of argument aren't almost all wars not concerned with territory/resources religious wars? Is it right to kill others because they don't think the same way you do?
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mane » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:48 am UTC

Avelion wrote:I agree with Thesaurus, but for the sake of argument aren't almost all wars not concerned with territory/resources religious wars? Is it right to kill others because they don't think the same way you do?

Not Civil wars.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:50 am UTC

What makes a civil war different than "You think different therefore must die." other than the fact that it is brother against brother?
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby EmptySet » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:53 am UTC

Mane wrote:[War is justified] When you're fighting for what you believe.


That philosophy would mean that the arch-villain who wages war against the entire world is entirely justified, because he's defending his belief that he is the rightful ruler of the universe. I think you need to add some qualifiers.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby qinwamascot » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:54 am UTC

Mzyxptlk wrote:War is justified when all other means have been exhausted, when there is a reasonable chance of success and when going to war inflicts less suffering than not going to war.

I'm of the opinion that there's not been a single morally right war in the last 63 years. This includes Korea, Vietnam, the Russian and US invasions of Afghanistan, the Iraq war, the US attacks on Central America, the wars in former Yugoslavia (including the bombings by NATO forces), the Cambodian civil war genocide, all of the wars against or by Israel and all of the conflicts in Africa.


Ok, while i don't agree with your criteria, I agree that all the wars mentioned weren't right. Perhaps if the total suffering is reduced, I could see that as a reasonable argument, but it seems to me that a country should deal with its own suffering on its own. Or better yet, combine all the countries together into one super-country. The only problem is creating a super-country entails suffering and war...

Outchanter wrote:It sounds like you're advocating a kind of prime directive, where you never use military force against another country so long as they don't harm you. Even if they practice slavery or genocide.

Which is actually how a lot of countries operate. As comedian Eddie Izzard observed, it was only when Hitler started invading other countries that they declared war on him. He could probably have murdered all the Gypsies, gays, Jews and disabled in Germany without any interference.

"But the other mass murderers got away with it. Stalin killed many millions, died in his bed, well done there. Pol Pot killed one point seven million Cambodians, died under house arrest, aged seventy-two, well done indeed. And the reason we let them get away with it is because they killed their own people. And we're sort of fine with that. Ah, help yourself, you know. We've been trying to kill you for ages, so you kill your own people, seems to be ... Hitler killed people next door. Oh, stupid man. After a couple of years we won't stand for that, will we?"


I don't have a problem if people in other parts of the world are dying. I'd prefer that they not die, but I don't think that preference is ever more important than governing our own people and protecting ourselves. So I'd have asked Hitler/Stalin/Pol Pot to stop, but not go to war over it. If they declare war on us, then we can protect ourselves, but only to the level necessary to ensure we minimize our own losses. So yes, I guess the prime directive what I'm advocating. I don't even know if self-defense is worthwhile, but for ease of argument I'll assume it is.

So I'm not sure if you're opposed to this idea or not. You could be using that quote for either pointing it out, or you could be trying to attack the idea. I can't really tell.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mane » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:00 am UTC

Avelion wrote:What makes a civil war different than "You think different therefore must die." other than the fact that it is brother against brother?

It's not, but if you feel strongly enough about an issue to go to war over it, then it's justified.

That philosophy would mean that the arch-villain who wages war against the entire world is entirely justified, because he's defending his belief that he is the rightful ruler of the universe. I think you need to add some qualifiers.

No, but going up against him, and starting a war, would be justified.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:08 am UTC

Mane wrote:
That philosophy would mean that the arch-villain who wages war against the entire world is entirely justified, because he's defending his belief that he is the rightful ruler of the universe. I think you need to add some qualifiers.

No, but going up against him, and starting a war, would be justified.

What's the difference?
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:09 am UTC

So, simplifying things, if you feel strongly enough to kill someone in cold blood, and you accept the consequences in doing so, then you're are fully justified to do so. Also, I'm curious to know your stand on religious wars like the one we are currently in.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby qinwamascot » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:16 am UTC

Avelion wrote:So, simplifying things, if you feel strongly enough to kill someone in cold blood, and you accept the consequences in doing so, then your are fully justified to do so. Also, I'm curious to know your stand on religious wars like the one we are currently in.


hmm...this is a bit different, because war is international conflict, but what you have suggested is national. Still, I see the point, I just think it could maybe be expressed a little better, like:

If country A (let's say Iran) hates country B enough (let's call it Israel) then country A attacking country B is justified. Which is still absurd. (not that I support Israel, but Iran attacking them would be far worse than any of the human rights violations they've committed.)
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Outchanter » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:19 am UTC

qinwamascot wrote:I don't have a problem if people in other parts of the world are dying. I'd prefer that they not die, but I don't think that preference is ever more important than governing our own people and protecting ourselves.

If by 'ourselves' you mean only the USA, I assume you think the USA should also withdraw from NATO? Since it's a mutual defense pact and all.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:21 am UTC

I was simply bringing his idea down to the level of an individual. If it is justifiable for many people to do it then it should be for one person to do it.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby qinwamascot » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:33 am UTC

Outchanter wrote:If by 'ourselves' you mean only the USA, I assume you think the USA should also withdraw from NATO? Since it's a mutual defense pact and all.


Yes, that is correct. Ideally we could just get rid of the mutual defense part though. I was referring to the USA, but I think it can be applied to any country.

Avelion wrote:I was simply bringing his idea down to the level of an individual. If it is justifiable for many people to do it then it should be for one person to do it.


The way he phrased it does seem to indicate that.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mane » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:34 am UTC

Avelion wrote:I was simply bringing his idea down to the level of an individual. If it is justifiable for many people to do it then it should be for one person to do it.

But wars are not fought between mere men, to bring it down to that level is to lose all significance related to war.

qinwamascot wrote:
Outchanter wrote:If by 'ourselves' you mean only the USA, I assume you think the USA should also withdraw from NATO? Since it's a mutual defense pact and all.


Yes, that is correct. Ideally we could just get rid of the mutual defense part though. I was referring to the USA, but I think it can be applied to any country.

One could argue that, because no nation is an island, then defending others is no different from defending yourself, having allies doesn't just mean mutual defenses, it means having people who are willing to trade with you and work with you.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:39 am UTC

War is fought between mere men. There may be multitudes of them, but they are mere men. There is no signifigance to war more than one group of people wanting to kill another group of people for whatever reason they have.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby EmptySet » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:41 am UTC

Mane wrote:
Avelion wrote:What makes a civil war different than "You think different therefore must die." other than the fact that it is brother against brother?

It's not, but if you feel strongly enough about an issue to go to war over it, then it's justified.

That philosophy would mean that the arch-villain who wages war against the entire world is entirely justified, because he's defending his belief that he is the rightful ruler of the universe. I think you need to add some qualifiers.

No, but going up against him, and starting a war, would be justified.


How are those two responses at all consistent?

1. If you feel strongly enough about an issue to go to war over it, you are justified in doing so.
2. Baron Evilbeard feels strongly enough about people not acknowledging his rightful rule of the universe to go to war over it.
3. Failure to acknowledge Baron Evilbeard's right to rule the universe is an issue.

.: Baron Evilbeard is justified in going to war over the world's failure to acknowledge his rule.

Which part of this do you dispute?


More generally, anyone who goes to war must feel strongly enough about something to go to war over it. Otherwise they wouldn't go to war. It follows that anyone who goes to war must be justified in doing so.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mane » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:55 am UTC

EmptySet wrote:More generally, anyone who goes to war must feel strongly enough about something to go to war over it. Otherwise they wouldn't go to war. It follows that anyone who goes to war must be justified in doing so.

One would have to justify what you feel strong about then, wouldn't you? it's not as simple as going to war because the other guy is black or such, because clearly racism, no matter how you spin it, is not a very justified position, but, say, going out and stopping Hitler because he's trying to destroy your way of life, then, say, that is a justified reason, or at least more justified then "because he's black". Hitler, conversely, was also justified in causing a war because he was trying to help his people.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mzyxptlk » Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:24 pm UTC

Outchanter wrote:It sounds like you're advocating a kind of prime directive, where you never use military force against another country so long as they don't harm you. Even if they practice slavery or genocide.

I mostly agree with this. However that does not mean I'm an isolationist. Just that I think there are better ways of saving lives than going in with guns blazing.

Outchanter wrote:"But the other mass murderers got away with it. Stalin killed many millions, died in his bed, well done there. Pol Pot killed one point seven million Cambodians, died under house arrest, age seventy-two, well done indeed. And the reason we let them get away with it is because they killed their own people, and we're sort of fine with that. Ah, help yourself, you know - we've been trying to kill you for ages! So you kill your own people, well, seems to be ... Hitler killed people next door. Oh, stupid man. After a couple of years we won't stand for that, will we?"

Cuba has suffered through 45 years of sanctions, despite the fact that the government, while totalitarian, has largely stayed in power without resorting to violence. Almost a million people were murdered in Rwanda, while several western countries actively blocked international involvement (US, Belgium), or even aided in the training of the militia (France). I would laugh if it wasn't so tragic.

qinwamascot wrote:Ok, while i don't agree with your criteria, (...)

What are yours?
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:44 pm UTC

Mane wrote:One would have to justify what you feel strong about then, wouldn't you? it's not as simple as going to war because the other guy is black or such, because clearly racism, no matter how you spin it, is not a very justified position.


That didn't stop the German people from supporting Hitler.

If you're going to war than you have already justified your reason and the majority of the people advocate war or are complacent. The question her is whether everyone else sees the war as justified.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:56 pm UTC

Their opinion isn't worth a damn unless they win.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Gunfingers » Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:57 pm UTC

I'd say the protection of one's own citizens and the citizens of friendly foreign nations seems like a good justification for me. If we had a good international justice system i'd throw in "the protection of citizens of any nation" in application only to them.

Under this (all from an American perspective)

WWI is only vaguely justified, if at all. Nations friendly to the US were involved, but they were only acting to protect nations the US didn't particularly care about. Not to mention the initial act of aggression (assassination of a german nobleman, if i remember right) was taken by the side we ended up on.

WWII is justified, on both fronts. Nazi Germany posed a direct threat to America's allies and Imperial Japan had already struck.

The Korean and Vietnamese conflicts are somewhat indirectly justified, in that containment of communism was vital to ending the Cold War quickly and without bringing about the apocalypse.

Desert Storm I involved protection of two friendly powers.

OEF was basically about bringing a criminal to justice. If the Afghan government at the time had given him up no war would have been necessary. By that logic i have no problem with putting it under the "protection of citizens" umbrella and calling it completely justified.

OIF would have been justified, had the events that instigated the invasion turned out to be...y'know....true. Or for that matter if there had even been strong indication that they were true.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 1:03 pm UTC

Ugh, the Pacific theater of WWII is a testy subject for me. I believe we were justified in retaliating for Pearl Harbor, but nothing could ever justify Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Gunfingers » Sun Oct 19, 2008 1:41 pm UTC

I'm hesitant to ask this for fear i'll completely derail this thread, but...what would you have done?

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 1:50 pm UTC

I honestly don't know what I would have done. I probably would have tried to go the old fashioned way of taking territory until you get to the enemy's leader and capture him. Or at the very least if the atom bomb was necessary(I think they're an insult to science myself) I would have aimed it at the emperor's head. Seeing their god king die in a hellstorm by our hands would have broken the will to fight of any soldier at the time. Targeting civilians exclusively, however, is such a despicable and cowardly act that I almost wish we had lost so Truman would have went to court for war crimes.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mane » Sun Oct 19, 2008 2:06 pm UTC

Avelion wrote:I honestly don't know what I would have done. I probably would have tried to go the old fashioned way of taking territory until you get to the enemy's leader and capture him. Or at the very least if the atom bomb was necessary(I think they're an insult to science myself) I would have aimed it at the emperor's head. Seeing their god king die in a hellstorm by our hands would have broken the will to fight of any soldier at the time. Targeting civilians exclusively, however, is such a despicable and cowardly act that I almost wish we had lost so Truman would have went to court for war crimes.

Some how, I doubt dropping a nuke on the seat of government is anyway to get them to surrender, seeing as they can't do so without a government in place to organize such.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Avelion » Sun Oct 19, 2008 2:14 pm UTC

I assume it would fall to the highest in the chain of command left in the military. That's rather beside the point as I said only if it were necessary, which the situation hadn't even been near to at the time. My definition of necessary would mean that the enemy is at our doorstep and if there's no decisive victory soon our civilians are going to begin dying. Also, someone correct me if I'm wrong, I'm fairly certain that the emperor's palace wasn't the seat of the government at that time anyway.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mane » Sun Oct 19, 2008 2:36 pm UTC

Avelion wrote:I assume it would fall to the highest in the chain of command left in the military. That's rather beside the point as I said only if it were necessary, which the situation hadn't even been near to at the time. My definition of necessary would mean that the enemy is at our doorstep and if there's no decisive victory soon our civilians are going to begin dying. Also, someone correct me if I'm wrong, I'm fairly certain that the emperor's palace wasn't the seat of the government at that time anyway.

We're talking about a military who sent it's biggest ship on a suicide mission; I don't think, had the Emperor/government, not told them to stop fighting, they wouldn't have, until they had no more weapons to fight with.

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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Mzyxptlk » Sun Oct 19, 2008 3:59 pm UTC

Gunfingers wrote:OEF was basically about bringing a criminal to justice. If the Afghan government at the time had given him up no war would have been necessary. By that logic i have no problem with putting it under the "protection of citizens" umbrella and calling it completely justified.

Seven days after bombing started, the Taliban offered to hand over Osama Bin Laden to a third country, if they were presented with evidence of his guilt. Bush turned them down, claiming "There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty". Of course we can't be sure if they really intended to do so, but clearly not all alternative solutions were considered.

Avelion wrote:Ugh, the Pacific theater of WWII is a testy subject for me. I believe we were justified in retaliating for Pearl Harbor, but nothing could ever justify Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Let's not forget the firebombing of Dresden.
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby roc314 » Sun Oct 19, 2008 6:26 pm UTC

Gunfingers wrote:WWI is only vaguely justified, if at all. Nations friendly to the US were involved, but they were only acting to protect nations the US didn't particularly care about. Not to mention the initial act of aggression (assassination of a german nobleman, if i remember right) was taken by the side we ended up on.
It was the Archduke of Austria-Hungary Franz Ferdinand (second in line to the throne, if I remember correctly) by Serbian nationalists, who were on the Allied side. WWI is always interesting as trying to figure out why we entered is like playing Six Steps to Kevin Bacon.

Re the OP: I don't think it's best to justify wars from a moral standpoint. There are many wars (almost every war) where each side was equally morally justified in fighting. Take the American Civil War, the North was justified for fighting because they were trying to protect the unity of their country; the South was justified because they were fighting to defend their freedoms. Whose moral cause overweighs the other's?

It's even worse when neither side in a war seems to have any kind of legitimate morality on their side at all. The American colonists rebelled and started the American Revolution because they didn't want to pay taxes (there were other reasons, but those mostly dealt with Britain trying to enforce its tax laws). How is that morally justified at all? The explanation our leaders gave is a complete cop-out: "we believe that man is endowed with inalienable rights by their creator" (paraphrased, obviously). This was from a group of thinkers from the Age of Reason--people who thought that everything could be shown to be justified rationally/logically. By using this as their justification, the founders might have well just said that they didn't have any justifiable reason at all, so they just pulled the old trick of using god to justify their actions. Britain was obviously unjustified in fighting this war as they were destroying the lives of so many innocents (IIRC, only about one third of the colonists supported the revolution). Both sides were unjustified in their fighting, but rather than try to peacefully resolve their difference in opinion (which would have been morally justified), a few hotheads impetuously started a war.

Which brings in the next dilemma about war: sometimes a war without a strong justification to fight will lead to positive outcomes. Back to the American Revolution, even though I don't think either side was justified in using violence, I'm grateful that the war was fought because I like the outcome of it. But this leads to even more gray territory. If the outcome is good enough, does that justify any war? Would that not just be a case of saying the winner is always right, so long as the winner gets something out of it? What about wars that indirectly led to positive outcomes? The French/Indian War indirectly led to the American Revolution, does that mean the F/I War was justified? WWII obviously led to a relatively positive outcome (stopping Hitler is better than not stopping Hitler), but as WWI led to WWII, is it also justified? Or is it unjustified because it led to the situation that made WWII necessary?

The way I see it, war can be necessary and it can have positive outcomes (and it isn't always true that these outcomes would not have happened without the war), but it is never justified. No matter what good comes out of it, I'm not sure it is ever worth the cost, in human lives, suffering, and misallocation of resources. Even if the net result of the war was lives saved (say, for example, a war is fought to save 10 million lives and 5 million die in the war), war leaves deep scars on humanity as a whole. It can and should be used, but only as a last resort.
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Bubbles McCoy
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Re: War-is it ever justified?

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Mon Oct 20, 2008 12:03 am UTC

I think just looking at taxes is a rather shallow view of the American Revolution. Leading up the war the colonists were getting progressively more agitated towards British rule, and wanted more absolute freedom and autonomy over themselves, and Enlightenment views of government were widely popular (I believe over a million pamphlets of Common Sense were distributed before the start of the war). Ultimately, when the was was fought it was entirely fought by volunteers who would rather give their lives for the sake of their own freedom, which I really don't find amoral in of itself. Perhaps their freedoms weren't terribly restricted at the time, but I can understand how the fear of creeping oppression and general resentment might drive one to the point of being willing to fight, and I think without actually experiencing the same things they did we don't have a very good perpective on whether they should have been willing to die.


qinwamascot wrote:
Outchanter wrote:If by 'ourselves' you mean only the USA, I assume you think the USA should also withdraw from NATO? Since it's a mutual defense pact and all.

Yes, that is correct. Ideally we could just get rid of the mutual defense part though. I was referring to the USA, but I think it can be applied to any country.

Going back to your mention of game theory in the OP, would you have eliminated NATO during the Cold War? I think mutual defense treaties can be useful in that a large country can absorb many small ones piecemeal over time, but should they all defend each other then the larger country will lack the necessary force.


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