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Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars

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Context: Princeton Professor of social science. Motivated mainly by the Vietnam War, he combines philosophy, law and morality to debating wars. He is an idealist, but recognizes that a nation’s self-interest will play into decisions about war.

Thesis: The language of international law is primarily used to debate war. Walzer proposes that non-lawyers can apply practical morality (the present structure of the moral world) to debating the justification for war and the conduct in fighting one. Walzer argues nations must fight a just war with a just cause.

Argument: Walzer attempts to use historical examples to prove his point of practical morality in debating war. One of his fundamental underlying contentions is the right to life and liberty – involving people in a war against their will is immoral. He condemns wars of aggression and attacks against civilians.

  • Jus ad bellum – the justice of war (statecraft, leaders decides to go to war); Jus in bello – the justice in war (very soldier is involved); a just war can be fought unjustly and an unjust war can be fought justly. Self Defense is always an inherent right. If you believe war is HELL, is everything allowed? NO. Just wars can be fought unjustly and unjust wars can be fought justly.
  • Rules of War: restraints are the product of culture, religion, social structures, etc.
  • We hold soldiers to higher standards even when they fight unwillingly (draftees)
  • Jus ad Bellum; just cause, last resort, proper authority, right intention, proportionality.
  • Jus in Bello; Discrimination who is a legitimate tgt) and proportionality
  • Law and Order in International Society: States have rights of territorial integrity and political sovereignty – are justified in protecting it via self-defense and international intervention.
  • Preventive war: war fought to maintain the balance of power before an imminent threat exists. Can be JUST
  • Preemptive strikes: the line between legitimate and illegitimate strikes does not balance on imminent threat but at the point of sufficient threat. (Preventive and Preemptive; time scale is the difference)
  • Interventions: states should never interfere in the domestic affairs of other. Civil Wars are problems as they blur the distinction between the opponents right to govern
  • War’s Means – the Importance of Fighting Well
  • Utility and proportionality--it is not permissible to do "any mischief which does not tend materially to the end [of victory], nor any mischief of which the conduciveness to the end is slight in comparison with the amount of the mischief.”
  • Excessive harm--two criteria: 1) Victory is a military necessity; 2) Proportionality
  • Double Effect: Noncombatants cannot be attacked at any time. They can never be the objects or the targets of military activity. (Civ can be attacked, if they holds info/are essential for the war effort)
  • Soldiers must take positive steps to limit even unintended civilian deaths and must take steps to enforce the war convention and hold men under their command to its standards.
  • Supreme Emergency: supports the concept of necessity based on imminent danger and its nature. If we are to adopt or defend the adoption of extreme measures, the danger must be of an unusual and horrifying kind – Nazism (bomb their cities, only mean available and they fought for survival over a greater evil)
  • The Crime of Aggression: Political Leaders and Citizens
  • The assignment of responsibility is the critical test of the argument for justice – based on the sovereignty of the political community but to the representativeness of its leaders.
  • Democratic responsibilities: This is Gray's principle, which I mean to adopt and expound: "The greater the possibility of free action in the communal sphere, the greater the degree of guilt for evil deeds done in the name of everyone."

Implications for Strategy:

  • Morality must be a consideration in determining whether to fight and how to fight. Even if your enemy doesn’t adhere to your morality, you will be best served by adhering to it.
  • The morality of soldiers and officers reflects and impacts society.
  • The legal argument alone cannot sufficiently debate the decision to go to war. The debate rests on practical morality.
  • Practical morality is relative to the time and place in history, thus it changes. Be cognizant of the domestic and international environment when deciding on a military course of action.Write the text of your article here!

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