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Just Wars
the great beautiful eye
arkadelos wrote in reasoned_voices
This is a debate I love to have and to listen to. What is the difference between a just war and an unjust war? Liberals think that all war is evil and therefore unjust, while conservatives believe that there are just reasons for war although they acknowledge that some wars are unjust and immoral. Any war requires the enemy to be dehumanized, but this dehumanization process facilitates savage behavior and also atrocities. Because of this, it is very important to understand the difference between a just war and an unjust war; without any understanding, all wars are painted with the same brush and look the same. So, what do you believe qualifies as just and unjust?

Um... when you reply, please don't mention Hilter or much from WW2. Few wars are as obvious as from that time period.

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Thanks for posting this. I think this is a great topic to start the ball rolling and get some discussion going.

Not that this is a direct answer to the question, but I have met some people who are on the liberal side and defended the US going into Somalia and Kosovo... just because of the fact that those actions were undertaken when Clinton was President. They couldn't give any real reasons why, other than it was under Clinton. Of course to them the War on Terror was bad, and they could cite all sorts of reasons for that ("we need to understand them and why they did this to us", "we're going to kill civilians").

I guess to them war under a Democrat = good, war under a Republican = bad. It annoyed me how they didn't get into specifics on the Democrat side.

But to start in answering your question, for me a just war is one in which we were attacked - or our interests were attacked - and we are required to defend ourselves and our way of life. IMHO, if we don't fight back, we show the enemy that we're weak and they can keep on attacking.

Just or unjust war is not about making statements about our strength or about our way of life.

Let's say Canada attacks Alaska.

A just war must be fought carefully, where we target only combatants who've entered into Alaska and are currently causing deaths of Alaskans. If they's moved into Alaska but have not killed anyone yet, then we form a front of some type to stop that advance. We don't just annihilate the Canadian troops. And if they have killed people, we don't just bomb that area if it meant that more innocents would be killed than is necessary.

As little damage as necessary.

And then after we move them back or defeat their advance, appropriate sanctions are taken against the Canadians, war crimes prosecuted, etc.

That seems to be a start to looking at a just war of some sort...

So, the only wars are defensive wars? What about the civil war? Even though the south attacked first, they believed they were defending themselves against an oppressive government.

If people from India decided to immigrate due to overpopulation and lack of opportunities - and especially if their desire to better their lives forced them to displace smaller and weaker peoples, resulting in a war - would you consider this war just or unjust?

Everyone thinks their own cause is a just cause.

How are we going to determine whether any particular claim is indeed a just claim to start a war or to wage a war in offense or defense? We need some way to determine the moral validity and necessity of WAR as opposed to some other means of addressing the supposed dispute.

We also have to consider what the intentions of the war-starters are. One could fight for the just cause of preventing oppression, as you said, but if they want that oppression taken away so that they themselves can then choose to be oppressive, it becomes clear that a just cause alone is not enough. It must be done fairly, for reasons that would be right.


Also... what about General Sherman leading his troops to burn and pillage the southern states? Would that make the northern side unjust? Then again, atrocities occur in every war...

I vaguely remember studying this in my Media and Politics PoliSci class.

I had to go to Wiki to refresh my memory, but I think some wars are justified, like as Jess said, to defend a way of life when attacked. Extending this to the Civil War in America, than both sides were justified.

The South was trying to defend the use of slavery so they could continue to prosper economically (since cotton and crops were huge, not only in size but in thinking) and essentially wouldn't loose or split up their pieces of land. The North was fighting to 1) end slavery and (in my opinion) uphold the Constitution and belief that all men were created equal (the whole African American's not being equal til the 19th Century is another debate) and 2) preserve the Union. I think preservation of the Union trumped slavery for many people. The South recceeding not only damaged America's economy as a whole, but also put a huge wedge between the country. A country that was working together was suddenly breaking apart. Sorry, Social Studies Teacher coming out.

Was (for the sake of where the argument and points have turned) the South wrong for defending their way of life? Was the North wrong for trying to keep the country from collapsing?

One of the tennents of Just War is "all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective." The fact that Lincoln was than elected President and had said no more slavery for the states who would join America, only wrenched the line deeper, making the South's sucession the start of the war. Of course one must remember that the South (Confederate's) attacked a millitary base (instillation as they were called) at Ft. Sumter in South Carolina. Lincoln than called for volunteers to help defend. The next year in 1862, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation made ending slavery an end goal in the South (upholding another tennent of Just War - "there must be serious prospects of success."

History gives us 20/20 about wars and what happened. The raping and piliaging happened on both sides (although here in Texas people squarely blame us Yankee's for doing it all) - that was unjust. Actions within wars I think can be unjust, even if the cause itself is just.

I noticed a couple people here defend the possibility of a just war if it meant fighting to continue "a way of life."

What does this mean? That would seem to mean that anyone could fight a war to continue their status quo or their "way of life", and they could call it a just war under this premise.

Maybe I am misunderstandind. And since this thread has slowed down, maybe someone can explain this way of life argument a little.

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