“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.” – John F. Kennedy
Before assisting to the lecture on “Ethics of War”, I honestly knew very little about the topic itself. I tended to neglect this matter since it did not evoke any interest in me. However, after this week’s discussion and student seminar on “Is torture justifiable?”, I learned a lot, and it made me realize that ethics of war is one of the most important concerns of Global Ethics.
We have seen so far how war has been commonly practiced by our diverse nations, and how societies have developed different ideas about how we refer to war, its purposes, and how it needs to be conducted.
I have often been asking myself how we, individuals, always manage to find excuses about not being able to feed the poor, or provide them with any kind of humanitarian aid, but, however, we always seem to be able to fund a war whenever and wherever it is ‘needed’.
What I personally find very interesting here is how the “Just war theory”, justifications of how and why wars are fought, has evolved over time with its two distinct aspects, known as “Just ad bellum” and “Just in bello”.
The first one deals with reasons to go to war: “What is your objective? What are the alternatives that can be taken into consideration?”. The one point I find positive here is that it tries to prevent war from happening.
Whereas, the second one deals with arguments of how to behave while in war: “The justice of conduct of war”. The advantage here is that it really seeks to limit the suffering which has been caused. We know that no war is forever, therefore, we should agree on the same principles that will allow us to live as neighbours afterwards.
Moreover, we have seen how Wheeler, utilitarian and deontological, opposes Walzer’s contemporary contractualist beliefs.
If I had to choose between who draws best on the just war theory, I would stick to Wheeler’s arguments. I believe that the importance lies at the heart of the individuals’ lives. It is crucial to minimize the killing of individuals, and not the survival of the state and of political communities.
Suppose you are facing a war with the choice to follow either contractualist beliefs or utilitarian. What would you fight for? Fighting to protect the innocent or fighting to protect the survival of the country? You should ask yourself: in reality who wins? Does our society seek to preserve the life of citizens, or does it defend the state as a whole?