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Subject: War and morality rss

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Moshe Callen
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Dandechino raised an interesting theoretical point in another thread in regards to the morality of killing. I am not a pacifist and I do not believe that war is murder but I can accept that in terms of ethics, the pacifist's logic is much simpler and straightforward. A pacifist says that war is systematic killing of other human beings and that homicide is wrong except in direct self-defense (which the pacifist does not consider war to be) and so to the pacifist war is unjustified killing of human beings, i.e., murder. Now again like most people, I do not accept that position.

My question is only to those who like myself do not view war as murder (war crimes being distinct from war in this sense). The question is: How do you justify that opinion to yourself?

I intend to give my own answer as a response to this OP but I am curious to see the responses of others.
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Moshe Callen
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I believe in justified and unjustified wars. Soldiers who do the actual killing so long as they stay within the law in their actions IMO are justified in killing even in an unjust war because they are not responsible for determining whether a war is just or not except perhaps in the most extreme cases. In the case of unjust wars, it is the national leaders and decision-makers who bear the culpability IMO.

A just war IMO is a war of self-defense. A gov't has the responsibility morally to protect its citizens and their property and interests. When other means to protect those citizens, their property, and their interests do not suffice, war is justified. Interests must be reasonably balanced with those of others though.

The question then is why gov't should have such a right to make war when war is justified. Pragmatically, I accept the historical precedent that it does. Religiously I accept it because Jewish Law does. While I can see the pacifist's POV and that logic is simple and even appealing, it fails IMO because a just war is an extension of the right and moral obligation of self-defense and defense of others.
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The challenge for the pure pacifist here is genocide etc -- should we stick our noses in and murder some villains to stop it? I think yes, but I think that situation is pretty rare, and that most times western nations go to war it's unjustified.

You can make a utilitarian argument that x murders are justified if a) they prevent x+n murders, and b) we maximise the lives saved per murder we commit. This goes against the traditional Clausewitzian napalm-the-maternity ward approach that is still in vogue, and probably puts one at a disadvantage.

I think religious people (where the religion has a "don't murder" rule) are straight up hypocrites if they support even the justified murder above, particularly if they won't make similar exceptions to lesser rules ("don't eat this", "must wear that", "don't sleep with them").
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Moshe Callen
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sbszine wrote:
…I think religious people (where the religion has a "don't murder" rule) are straight up hypocrites if they support even the justified murder above, particularly if they won't make similar exceptions to lesser rules ("don't eat this", "must wear that", "don't sleep with them").

Why? If a killing is justified, it isn't murder. Where's the hypocrisy?
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whac3 wrote:
Why? If a killing is justified, it isn't murder. Where's the hypocrisy?

This is heading into ends and means territory, but I think a lot (most?) of the killing in war is of basically innocent people, even if that's the most utilitarian approach. Bombing civilians to get a quick surrender or reduce factory output, for example. I would call that mass murder, but it's certainly arguable that it might result in fewer deaths than a war continuing.

Sometimes the hypocrisy is more explicit, e.g. a pro-lifer defending the killing of babies in a bombing campaign. A Hammas muslim militant blowing up a school bus, a Mormon drone striking a wedding.
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If you have nothing worth dying for, you have nothing worth living for.

I originally wrote that with "fighting" instead of "dying", decided dying sounded better, but it doesn't answer your question as well as it did with fighting.

Whatever
 
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Boaty McBoatface
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whac3 wrote:
Dandechino raised an interesting theoretical point in another thread in regards to the morality of killing. I am not a pacifist and I do not believe that war is murder but I can accept that in terms of ethics, the pacifist's logic is much simpler and straightforward. A pacifist says that war is systematic killing of other human beings and that homicide is wrong except in direct self-defense (which the pacifist does not consider war to be) and so to the pacifist war is unjustified killing of human beings, i.e., murder. Now again like most people, I do not accept that position.

My question is only to those who like myself do not view war as murder (war crimes being distinct from war in this sense). The question is: How do you justify that opinion to yourself?

I intend to give my own answer as a response to this OP but I am curious to see the responses of others.
I can only do so for one war WW2, becasue the alternative was far worse.
 
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Steve Fitt
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whac3 wrote:
Dandechino raised an interesting theoretical point in another thread in regards to the morality of killing. I am not a pacifist and I do not believe that war is murder but I can accept that in terms of ethics, the pacifist's logic is much simpler and straightforward. A pacifist says that war is systematic killing of other human beings and that homicide is wrong except in direct self-defense (which the pacifist does not consider war to be) and so to the pacifist war is unjustified killing of human beings, i.e., murder. Now again like most people, I do not accept that position.

My question is only to those who like myself do not view war as murder (war crimes being distinct from war in this sense). The question is: How do you justify that opinion to yourself?

I intend to give my own answer as a response to this OP but I am curious to see the responses of others.

I abandoned Christianity when I was about 15 and confirmed it at about 20 when my Mom killed herself due to bi-polar disease and God hadn't responded to her prayers and sent her to Hell for eternity for doing that.

So, I have no problems with this. Pragmatism is my justification.

Letting evil people march into other nations because for you it isn't self-defense yet allows the evil people to get strong enough to invade your nation.

In the '40s France learned the lesson that fighting is better than being occupied by truly evil people. We should remember that lesson and not need to learn it for ourselves by letting evil people occupy our nations now. If war is necessary to achieve that goal then so be it.

Murder is defined [to me] as the un-lawful killing of a human being. It is up to the society to decide for themselves what is lawful. Individuals should not be able to chose a more liberal rule just for themselves, but they can have a more strict rule.

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There is a thin line between self defense and unjustified. Iraq, Vietnam and Korea could be argued was neither of both.
 
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Koldfoot wrote:
If you have nothing worth dying for, you have nothing worth living for.
... which I might have more respect for if the phrase wasn't constantly used by those in power to get young men & women lined up to give their lives for causes that amount to protecting the wealth & sovereignty of the rich. When you try to push that sort of "do or die!" line in places like Vietnam, or Iraq, or the barren mountains of Afghanistan, then it ceases having meaning and devolves into an empty slogan akin to "my country, love it or leave it!"

As a libertarian, it would be nice to get back to a place where the military was actually solely used as "something worth dying for" instead of just an excuse for nation-building & imperialist tendencies.
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whac3 wrote:

Why? If a killing is justified, it isn't murder. Where's the hypocrisy?


"Justified" is only labeled like that by a winner.
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I don't think that Aquinas completely nails his argument, but I do think he makes a good start with his concept of the 'Just War'.

Darilian
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Moshe Callen
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Darilian wrote:
I don't think that Aquinas completely nails his argument, but I do think he makes a good start with his concept of the 'Just War'.

Darilian

Do you what to give us the precis translated into non-Christian terms?
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Moshe Callen
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Altair IV wrote:
whac3 wrote:

Why? If a killing is justified, it isn't murder. Where's the hypocrisy?


"Justified" is only labeled like that by a winner.

Nonsense. It's a great quip but for example the wars of the Native North Americans when the US broke its treaties were justified self-defense. They still lost.
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I think that trying to stop a crime (like genocide) and having to defend yourself from the armed people between you and that goal is self-defense. It's not actually the act of killing that has to be analyzed for morality, but the goal itself. Preventing Vietnam from becoming communist could be argued as not a moral position to put the military in harms way for and force them to defend themselves from and with lethal force. But, if the resulting Communist regime was murdering civilians en masse after taking power, it might be.
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Mac Mcleod
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Well, I can only justify by example at this time of the morning so let's see.

Can defensive war be justified.

* You have a right to try to stay alive. If you say all killing is bad (say because of respecting others right to try to stay alive) then you can you kill if you can't run away .

1) to protect your possessions?
2) to protect you and your loved ones from enslavement?
3) to protect you and your loved ones from being killed?

If you do not kill, then you will remain morally "clean" but your belief system decrease your reproductive fitness in situations where you could have killed to stop the results.

Can offensive war be justified.

1) to improve your status and wealth?
2) to break out of an unjust system enslaving you?
3) protect your people from being peacefully wiped out over time?

If you do not kill, then you will remain morally "clean" but you (and your people) may be wiped out via peaceful non murderous means.

---

Just a thought experiment - no position.

Wars (and riots) are what we resort to when talking fails. Pacifism is not a dominant survival strategy. Pacifists rely on people who are willing to fight and kill to protect them for protection. In the face of murderous foes, pacifism is not a survival strategy.

Making war is no longer as useful as a selective strategy. Peaceful life offers more benefit and more wealth. People who engage in war actually live like poor people for long periods and may die.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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Self defense is perfectly sound justification for violence.
Collective self defense is an efficient form of self defense.
Defense of reasonable international order is a sensible preemptive collective self defense.

All of the above can be abused but the basic logic is sound.
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One time, my daughters asked me why I play wargames and why do I read so much military history instead of studying "real" history. I told them that, by my reading, the study of war IS the study of history. I can't remember the exact number, but some historians did a review of history and determined that out of roughly 6,000 years of basic civilization, the years without a war somewhere was somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 years. Peace is the aberration, war is the old and new normal.

My viewpoint on the "morality" of war neatly coincides with Moshe's second post. Some wars can be justified, particularly when one side is defending its people and territory against an aggressor. But too many wars were fought, and still continue to be fought, to protect one country's/region's elites property and power from other country's/region's elites. The common people were merely in the way, and hardly any of the elites cared what happened to the people in those areas.

That being said, I understand the geopolitical ramifications of war/not war. Rwanda is a horrific example of how failing to use proper military force leads to an even worse outcome -- genocide. Iraq is an example of the improper use of military force, where a bad situation has become worse.

Still, if you're looking for "morality" in war, you'll have less luck than Diogenes and his lamp. There is nothing moral about wholesale slaughter and destruction. It may be necessary (self-defense) but it is not moral.

War is the proof homo sapiens is nowhere near as advanced as people like to think.

Great thread, great discussion. Well done Moshe.
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bramadan wrote:
Self defense is perfectly sound justification for violence.
Collective self defense is an efficient form of self defense.
Defense of reasonable international order is a sensible preemptive collective self defense.

All of the above can be abused but the basic logic is sound.
I don't necessarily disagree, but you do have to recognize the plain logic of your first sentence compared to the hazy slippery-slope relativism of your third sentence. Especially when the phrase "defense of reasonable international order" has been used by every tinpot dictator & genocide since man first picked up a pointy stick.

"Everyone has the right to be safe!"
*crowd claps and agrees wholeheartedly*
"We should partner with allies to ensure our ultimate safety!"
*crowd claps some more*
"So today I promise I will eradicate all of our bordering neighbors from the face of the earth, grind their sons' bones into dust & collectively sell their daughters into sex slavery! FOR OUR SAFETY!"
*crowd kinda looks around and wonders how we got here*
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remorseless1 wrote:
…There is nothing moral about wholesale slaughter and destruction. It may be necessary (self-defense) but it is not moral.…

Here is where we fundamentally disagree. If a thing is justified, then it is necessarily also moral. If a thing is immoral, it is not justified.
 
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I think all killing of humans is immoral, but sometimes some killing is more immoral than others and so we must kill. It's not a black or white thing to me.

For example, I believe all people have the right to defend themselves. If they kill defending themselves it is immoral, but it is more immoral for the other person to kill them. One wrong (another person trying to murder you) doesn't make what you did right. But that is why we ask God for forgiveness.

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whac3 wrote:
remorseless1 wrote:
…There is nothing moral about wholesale slaughter and destruction. It may be necessary (self-defense) but it is not moral.…

Here is where we fundamentally disagree. If a thing is justified, then it is necessarily also moral. If a thing is immoral, it is not justified.

Yeah, I know. We've had this discussion before. I think our different religious backgrounds are clashing, not us personally. But I will say that even though war is not moral, there are times when war is not immoral. Falls into that neutral area. I think we'd both agree this is not a simple question to answer.
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Moshe Callen
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galad2003 wrote:
…If they kill defending themselves it is immoral, but it is more immoral for the other person to kill them.…

See I just don't get how self-defense is supposed to be immoral. I think this the evil side of the "Turn the other cheek" idea; it makes people think the morally correct act-- self defense-- is in fact immoral.

EDIT:
It's traumatic and horrific to go through but not immoral.
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whac3 wrote:
galad2003 wrote:
…If they kill defending themselves it is immoral, but it is more immoral for the other person to kill them.…

See I just don't get how self-defense is supposed to be immoral. I think this the evil side of the "Turn the other cheek" idea; it makes people think the morally correct act-- self defense-- is in fact immoral.

EDIT:
It's traumatic and horrific to go through but not immoral.
A 2 year old child hits me, I shoot it in the face.

Is this moral?
 
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bramadan wrote:
Self defense is perfectly sound justification for violence.
Collective self defense is an efficient form of self defense.
Defense of reasonable international order is a sensible preemptive collective self defense.

All of the above can be abused but the basic logic is sound.


Many pacifists say self defense and defense of others does not justify killing.

In many circumstances, violence simply begets more violence.

In some circumstances, unflinching sacrificial pacifism stops violence.
 
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