Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Project O.
Are all wars unjust or are some wars legitimate?
On the question of war. There is disagreement as to the legitimacy or lack thereof for the perpetration of violence of states against other states. States self-legitimate their actions through a variety of causes, which are oftentimes little more than thinly veiled excuses.
Here are some of the usual suspects:
1. Ideas: We are doing it for liberty, democracy,
2. Economic security: We can’t afford for oil supplies (or other scarce resources) to be in the hands of unfriendly governments,
3. Ethics or morality: He is an evil dictator who kills his own people,
4. Ideology – usually nationalism: We have a right to this land, it is populated by our people, they need our protection and we can only offer them security by taking over the land they populate.
5. Geopolitics – the zero sum game: We can’t allow the other Big Guy to have unchecked influence in that area for either economic, political or ideological reasons. Or: Land/Sea disputes: Historical ambiguity as to what belongs to whom, coupled with the discovery of precious resources on land or at sea can often result in war.
6. Security: We need to make a pre-emptive strike because the state in question is plotting an attack. Or: They are in our back yard so our security is under threat due to their external policy commitments. Or: Their political/ideological stance is destabilising the region which in turn is a potential threat to our security. Or: They have weapons of mass destruction. Or: They are building weapons of mass destruction. Or: They are planning to build weapons of mass destruction.
7. Politics – related to border security and economic advantage: They have elected or they have a government that is not of the right political persuasion (usually of the left, when the US would prefer a friendly and submissive right wing government or dictator), so we will attack to remove this government and institute one that would play the game by our rules.
8. Religion: God told me to. This is a holy war. (The Bushability effect) Of course, during the Middle Ages most wars were clashes between distinctive systems of belief, all vying for dominance.
9. Retaliation: They stole something of ours (oil / water supplies etc.) so we are attacking to claim back what is rightfully ours.
10. Civil Opposition: The government no longer has legitimacy, the people are against it. We are supporting the will of the people.
I cannot claim this list to be exhaustive so feel free to add to it. It is a start however.
International relations are anarchic. There is no way of policing how states act towards their neighbours or towards far away states that are deemed of interest. Before the Iraq war state sovereignty was respected in so far as states would not be threatened with war unless they ‘misbehaved’ externally. They had free reign on internal matters. The Iraq war changed that. Now no state is safe from external intervention. Syria is another example, and I am afraid there will be many more.
This article has been written in reply to April, for Project O. Please follow the link below if you would like to read her full contribution: http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/09/26/project-o-article-104-april-georgia-usa-scheduled-for-9-26-1800/
This is the Q&A I have focused on for this piece:
Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.
April @ http://momof3isnuts.wordpress.com/ replied: “Being that I grew up during the Vietnam war, and experienced the debacle of the war in Iraq, I am strongly against war. I don’t have any unique thoughts, it’s just something that I can’t comprehend.”
Dotta Raphels says: “War numbs the human spirit period! Those whose lives have been touched by war will attest to this, war is not a good thing at all; many share your feelings. Still on 6, IMO we influence events in our everyday lives without even realizing it. I can understand anyone carving out a haven to protect their hearts or beings; sometimes it’s the only way we know how to cope with many dire situations which confronts us.”
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I don’t know if I would say that war is inherently bad. It has, as all things do, a propose.
Thank you for your comment, Nina. You make an interesting point. It is not a matter of war being good or bad, as this would involve a discussion along the lines of morality. Rather, it is a matter of considering whether war is just or justifiable.
The list of the usual suspects pretty much covers it all. I can honestly say I don’t think I would advocate for war in any circumstance, as long as the realities we know war leaves behind, still are the same.
I know when taken into consideration, some of these usual suspects make very convincing reasons why war must be, but all I can think about, is the irreversible damage already done, where war ensues. I have never witnessed war, the closest I have come to war is perhaps a riot I was caught up in many years ago back in my country of birth,Nigeria; in the eighties.
As a teenager, I thought the world was coming to an end. The Military had to come in to control the situation, and that was when a tiny sample of what war could look like was seen by me and many my age then.
There was rape, beatings, looting,murder and death; many of these committed by those sworn to protect. I know this may seem a simple example to give here, but I speak from the experience of a child…which brings to mind the effect war has on the most vulnerable of our world, children.
Ours is a world filled with so many harrowing injustices and evil,and I still remain amongst those who despite this knowledge, will never accept any form of combatant confrontations to reverse or at least try to correct these evils. It behooves man to try whatever possible to avoid the deathly silence war creates…this silence lingers, even long after the guns and grenades cease to explode and fire; it haunts minds and ravages souls, some even unto death.
Dear Dotta, thank you for your thoughtful comment, and for expanding on the themes of your original reply to Project O in this context.
I agree with you regarding is the irreversible damage where war ensues. I have witnessed war – civil war – the image of tanks moving in the midst of night down my grandparents’ street will forever stay with me.
I agree too with your view that whatever the injustices faced by civil society, war seldom improves matters. And your final lines say it all: “the deathly silence war creates…this silence lingers, even long after the guns and grenades cease to explode and fire; it haunts minds and ravages souls, some even unto death.”
You have a special way of getting the mind to reason Vicki 🙂 I’m enjoying everything so far…will go put in my bit on broken promises sometime today. This one bites! lol
Thank you, Dotta. Look forward to your comment, as always. Hope the bite works – we have just exited Halloween week after all 😉
For me a war is more about power and authority (be it over a piece of land or a belief or the minds of the people). And I am not a fan of that. I also believe that every nation has a right to be prepared in case of any eventualities. But I hope everyone involved knows that there are no clear winners in a war. The humanity, in general, suffers.
“there are no clear winners in a war” – such truth. Thank you, KG. A poignant comment.
The awful mess left in Afghanistan after the expenditure of billions of dollars and loss of so many lives is a reminder that war brings suffering to the residents, especially those living in poverty, destroys infrastructure and kills innocent people. As Hamid Karzai said here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-29/was-australias-role-in-the-afghan-war-worth-it/5056376 “The years of combat caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering and a lot of loss of life and no gains because the country is not secure.”
Similarly, I have just read an excellent book by a journalist who spent a year living in the North of Afghanistan and documented a lot of so called collateral damage due to NATO attacks.
Your list resonated with me and it’s essentially the list that I would put together too so thanks for going to the effort!
Thank you for your extensive comment, strivetoengage, and for including the link to Hamid Karzai’s article. Will make sure to read it. I am pleased that the list I compiled resonated with you. This is a very important issue, and the points you add regarding loss of life, the suffering and poverty, the destruction of infrastructure that come as a result of war- are all pertinent. Thank you.
Hi, I actually didn’t find an original source for Karzai’s comments and only included a link to a discussion of Australia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan that included a quote from Karzai. Yesterday I posted a review of a book that discusses the damage that centuries of war have wrought in Afghanistan!
I realised that when I opened the link. Thank you in any case. It was an interesting read. Will make sure to comment on you review at some point later today. Regards, Vic