Thursday, March 13, 2008

War and Morality

"Grandpa, what did the pastor mean when he said that war is the most immoral of all that man does. Why would he say that?"

"Boy, that is a very complicated issue in itself. It depends upon how you view it. If one was to look at the issue from the viewpoint of intent and purpose it could present itself one way. If, from the actual deed, it presents an entirely different picture. Then you have the conclusion and the picture can be said as ever changing. I say ever changing because the future is effected by it and the future is ever changing.

Morality is but a generalized term that is used by people to indicate that there be certain laws that man needs to adhere to in order to be called righteous. These laws are called principles. So, when you hear someone say that something is immoral they are saying that it is not the right thing to do because it is not following certain principles that we agreed to adhere to.

The problem here is that the principles he speaks of are ones he agreed to and presupposes that everyone else does also. And yes, that will includes you and me when we speak of an immoral act. Debates result from the revelation that the presupposition is incorrect.

Yet there is another concept that must be followed. They be the laws of necessity. The principle behind this is that when something is necessary or needed to be done then we do it regardless of whether or not we want to do it. And one reason that we may not want to do it is because it does not abide by the principles of morality that we adhere to. This is described as being a necessary evil. A good example of this is when a man feels he has no other option except to steal in order to put food on the table for his family.

This term will be most frequently applied to government. Its existence is considered as a necessary evil. The reason I give for it to be called a necessary evil is because it demands that men to do exactly the opposite of what we would declare as moral for a man to do. Some would even take the position that governments take on power that should only be God’s. And I have never found a good argument to counter this.

War be another act of man that could be called a necessary evil. For it is an action sanctioned by governments allowing men to do exactly the opposite of what we would consider as moral, the deliberate and premeditated taking of the life of another human being. The fact that war be a group decision doesn’t make it more moral than if it was an individual decision. And we do not ascribe to the idea of one individual having the right to take the life of another.

The declaration of Independence declares that every man have three basic rights and those rights were given us by God, those rights being, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And every war violates those basic rights. And since every right is dependent upon those rights as given to us, wars violate every right of man. I say this because once the right of life is taken from an individual how can he enjoy any other right that we might declare he possessed? Only the living can enjoy the benefits that come from the possession of rights.

Some would say that an individual has sacrificed his life so that others may enjoy their rights. And, in a sense, they would be correct. But if we speak of morality, a better way of seeing it is that any individual who is killed in war has sacrificed all of his rights including the right of life. One more thing we must remember, and this is important, that the life sacrificed was also a life taken by another.

And we must also remember that the life sacrificed was given involuntarily because he had no intention of giving up his life. He had no desire to die for a righteous cause. That individual went into battle with the intent of taking another man’s life for a righteous cause not to sacrifice his own life. Intent is a very important element of morality. And because of this intent the word sacrifice is being misused within this context.

In war there is another element that is common. That element being that we use derogatory terms to describe the enemy. Both sides of a war use this as a means to justify what they are doing, killing people. The use of derogatory terms allows us to perceive the enemy as being evil. In the minds of people evil must be eradicated so that goodness will prevail. The problem here is that the use of wars is, in essence, declaring that the end justifies the means.

Now, I have given you enough to think about for now, boy, and I know I have not answered the question you asked fully yet but it will be answered as best as possible the next time we speak."

I just nodded, feeling a little disappointed, but knowing that when grandpa says enough, he means enough. I would just have to wait until he was willing to speak again. In the mean time I began to go over all that he had said already.

2 comments:

Donald Douglas said...

Interesting, Griper. I think that a nation's morality can be captured in its constitution, and the people invest authority in the state to protect the national security of the people. The citizens have also invested coercive authority in the name of the state, so when called to duty and sacrifice, that's moral, even if that means killing an enemy.

Boy, that's a big subject.

I have qualms about killing civilians, of course, which is an issue I raised at my page.

The Griper said...

professor,
" have qualms about killing civilians, of course, which is an issue I raised at my page."

and why should this be? was it not civilians that declared war and isn't it a civilian that leads our troops into war per the Constitution?

and when war is declared is it not declared against a nation? and what is a nation except the people. so, when war is declared it is declared against the people of that nation named. it is that which justified our bombings of civilian populations in Germany. it is that which justified our use of the atomic bombs in Japan

does not the Constitution recognize a militia as the defenders of this nation? how is militia defined but as citizen soldiers? are civilians any less of a citizen than a soldier?

what makes a civilian's life more valuable than a soldier's? should not a civilian be as willing as a soldier to defend their rights against the enemy?

was it not the loss of civilian life that brought Japan to surrender?

i may be no soldier but i am just as willing to pick up a gun and kill the enemy as any soldier will and i believe you are too. that makes us just as much an enemy as any soldier is to our enemies.

and in war the idea is to kill before getting killed so that makes me and you very much a just target for the bullet of the enemy that seeks to live, as any soldier. the only ones that it would not be justified is the collaborator.

remember also that the only difference between a civilian and a soldier is the uniform. take that uniform off and that soldier becomes a civilian in the eyes of the enemy. should that protect him in war?

in theory it may be good but in life, a man's life is at stake and that man must make a decision at moments notice. he does not have the luxury of time to make that decision to kill or not to kill.

War is hell on earth. and whether we like it or not we cannot use peace time principles to judge war time situations.

winning is the only option of war and when we apply rules to it one side will break those rules if they think it helps them to win. history is proof of this. the insurgents in Iraq are proof of this.

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