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z5310339 Critically discuss when is it justifiable to go to war

Critically discuss when is it justifiable to go to war.
When considering logical justifications for when circumstances of war are plausible, it is
important to also equally take into account moral perspectives. Given that emotional and
psychological wellbeing is an inherent requirement for the functionality of the human race,
this significantly impacts state decisions to engage in war and the level of support that is
gained from its citizens. However, this moral compass has not prevented historically conflict
between nations from occurring purely due to nihilistic beliefs or unavoidable situations
where military defence was deemed as an appropriate response. Extremist perspectives
should be undoubtedly rejected as neither pacifism nor aggressive warfare are sustainable
stances nations can adopt in the modern-day world. Political conflict amongst nations cannot
be avoided given the nature of varying government structures and regimes worldwide.
Disagreement is inevitable even amongst different parties within the political sphere of a
country alone, thus war as a manifestation of hostility is inescapable.
Similarly, with the proliferation of ruthlessly destructive weapons impacts of war are even
more dire. Hence, war is only justifiable when attacks are only acted as a mechanism of
defence or resistance towards military action initiated by another agent or nation first. Even
in this situation, ensuring that the lives of innocent citizens are preserved is critical as the
collective damage should not exceed the level of the initial attack. Otherwise, there is
insignificant difference between the brutality adopted by both parties in combat and will
contribute towards greater collateral damage for both. War is also an acceptable course of
action given that the purpose is not to forcefully obtain or conquer areas that are not equitable
territory. It is important to explore in detail, the specific conditions which allow for a
concrete reasoning to undergo defence-based war whilst taking into consideration public
wellbeing. Wasserstrom effectively explores existing perspectives on the ‘Morality of War’,
in-order to determine if a uniform principal can be established. Thus, for the purpose of
gaining insight into possible reasonings for war that can be deemed as valid, this detailed
study will be closely examined.
Unquestionably, war should be avoided at all costs given the detrimental consequences it
does induce for all parties involved. These repercussions include social, economic, and
political degradation, requiring years of committed efforts to revive. For example, the longlasting trauma inflicted on the Japanese during World War II (WW2) due to nuclear
bombardment, prompted a significant decline in industrial output and consequently financial
stability. Apart from economic damage, a total of 140,000 Hiroshima’s population died
immediately from bombing with additional causalities due to radiation poisoning (Morris,
2020). Although, the catastrophic harm experienced by the Japanese is undeniable however
their role during WW2 is equally condemnable as that of the United States. Rielly argues that
Japanese employment of kamikaze attacks on American navy at initial stages of the war,
paved way for barbaric warfare and exacerbated the intensity of conflict. Given high stakes
for both parties, ruthless war tactics became normalised and appropriate mechanism for
attaining victory. Specifically, more than “400 incidents of Kamikaze attacks occurred on
American ships” however, these figures remained unaccounted for a substantial period of
time due to greater focus on the mutilation of Japan (2010). Despite, the origins of WW2
stemming from different causes however, both American and Japanese responses are prime
examples of unjustified warfare which could have been settled through less damage causing
means. A gradual sensualisation of nihilating warfare has contributed to acceptance of this
phenomenon and validity for its use in circumstances where achieving absolute control is the
fundamental objective. Morally, this is incorrect due to the level of social harm that can be
potentially caused from nuclear warfare, but it also does not abide with the principles set by
Just Ad Bellum in which the good achieved in a war must outweigh the bad. Given that
nuclear destruction is irreversible and holds potential to mass eliminate, any war that utilises
this sort of methods even for a just cause can be characterised as unjustified.
National defence to protect citizens against forceful takeover or any jeopardy to
independency is a legitimate reason for engaging in war. Even in this case, there are certain
rules that must be complied with to ensure the war does not deviate from its sole purpose of
border protection and security. War can only be considered as justified if the motive behind
resistance does not intend to cause greater harm than initiated by the opponent. This involves
taking necessary military action to prevent infiltration yet carefully considering nonaggressive tactics that prevents causalities of citizens. When considering Wasserstrom’s
position it can be agreed that it is difficult to assess which individuals constitute as innocents
and should therefore be not be put in any form of danger. Quite evidently a grey area exists
amongst the notion of preserving the lives of “innocents” as it is unknown if only noncombatants meet the criteria for this classification. Wasserstrom establishes that it is common
to shed combatants in a negative light and exclude from protection given that they are
involved in the front-line. Accepting the “claim that non-combatants are all of those persons
who are not in the army” is deceiving since there are other civilian involved in warfare
completing backend duties (1969). Distributing propaganda and active involvement in
ammunition formation can technically be deemed as active involvement, thus making it
difficult to distinguish and protect innocents. Consequently, this means that participating
even in war based purely on safeguarding national security is to some extent morally wrong
as human value should be equal in spite of military position or obligation to participate based
on job profile and pure circumstance.
Several philosophers have deeply explored and studied the principles of just war established
by jus ad bellum as there is uncertainty given the level of broadness it encompasses. In this
manner, Fabre and Lazar investigates the importance of numbers in determining the
legitimacy of war. Originally, suggested by Mcmahan “the number of aggressors to
defenders” plays a role in determining if killing is permissible and can be put into context
when speculating whether British forces taking action against 20 Argentine combatants to
ensure the safety of 1,800 inhabitants in Falklands Islands can be substantiated (2014). At its
core, the purpose of this defence is for maintaining sovereignty over inhabitants that wish to
remain subjects however, this is potentially debatable as a justified reason for conflict,
considering the territory was initially taken through force. This dismantles the argument if
defence against aggression or another nation attempt to overtake is warranted. Taking into
account past military actions of the British, who have forcefully taken possession of territory
worldwide using deplorable tactics; defence is unjustified regardless of the low opportunity
cost involved. Alternatively, if national security is at risk in a similar scenario, then numbers
would play a critical role in discerning what action is appropriate to take. Duty of care exists
for political leaders of a state towards citizens and is unquestionably the primary goal or
acceptable form of conducts. Wasserstrom asserts that an inherent assumption for a political
leader or state to act in favour of its citizens will exist infinitely due to being “imposed by
virtue of the position or role they fill” (1969). Consequently, the livelihood and security of a
nations citizens is most certainly of top and utmost priority to those involved in governing as
compared to those that do not reside within their borders. This is natural behaviour since
acting in favour of citizens is necessary for re-election purposes and attaining public support
for a longer political career and term. Taking a moral perspective is profoundly rare in reality
however, an obligation to consider or value life exists to a certain extent and is the
appropriate protocol to follow in a “just war”. Similarly, no matter the level of credibility for
the cause of war, it cannot be proclaimed as reasonable if rationality is not taken into account
or ruthless means are utilised for achieving an end.
Furthermore, from a moral standpoint war is validated if the motive is to avoid deteriorating
harm where possible via humanitarian intervention in a situation where a state lacks resources
or appropriate facilitates to sustain effective defence or resistance against attacks. An
international obligation to protect and preserve human rights as a part of international treaties
means that members should act in adherence and take prompt measures if an abuse is
detected. This applies towards circumstances such as those of Cambodia in 1978,
representing a prime example of where Vietnam’s intervention liberated Cambodians from
the terrorising rule of Khmer Rouge. Although, there were 30,000 Vietnamese troop
casualties, the military operation proved as successful against the ongoing brutality of Khmer
Rouge, responsible for massacring up to two million civilians (Doyle, 2014). Criticism
surrounding Vietnam’s actions exists due to the prolonged presence of troops in Cambodia
even after executing elimination has meant perceptions towards this intervention have shifted.
To some extent, this is reasonable as humanitarian intervention is required by definition only
when an escalation of situation can be observed, or a resolve has not been achieved.
Persistent intervention or extended occupancy can be viewed as problematic or holding
wrongful intention of dominance over territory. War as a manifestation of concern
undertaken by other nations is a justified reason for conflict however, this should be
relatively short and successfully achieve the objective which was publicly set out. The
extremely protracted war in Afghanistan is symbolic of an unavailing attempt of intervention
by American troops and is highly condemned for both its origins and unnecessary damage
that has effectuated.
USA operations in Afghanistan can be perceived as a persistent struggle to legitimise its
actions since 2001 and adhere to the principles of Just war. Connah argues that the terrorist
attack of 9/11 set pretext for US to take action for self-defence as there were obvious
alternative routes which could have been employed against the Taliban instead of placing
civilians through relentless grief. Initially, the war was propagandised as a “just and noble
war” and picturised Americans as victims who were trying to bring an end to violence and
oppression (2021). In reality, if acting in the best interests of civilians was a prime objective
then significant consideration would have been placed into assessing ramifications of US
involvement and be short-lived. Developing or cultivating a relationship of trust with
civilians through establishing schools and health clinics is not sufficient or a reasonable
reimbursement for the level of psychological and physical harm that was inflicted during the
course of the war. Civilian causalities most definitely bring into question the ethical aspect of
engaging in war and if this decision lacked moral accountability. The UN Assistance Mission
in Afghanistan reports a total of 1,659 civilian deaths from armed conflict in the first half of
2021 (United Nations, 2021). This figure fails to count for additional deaths in previous years
which have not been formally registered or identified by sources at ground level. Given the
expanse of damage triggered by the war in Afghanistan, the decision to engage in conflict is
worthy of vilification and exemplifies a scenario in which there is a lack of justification. This
is based on the inability for the war to achieve its purpose and have detrimental repercussions
on individuals who satisfy the definition of “innocents”. Thus, humanitarian intervention can
only be utilised as vindication when the intention of preserving human rights is considered
and practically applied during military warfare.
In addition, proportionality is another logical reason for just war to take place whereby the
good achieved is profoundly greater when compared with the negative consequences
produced. However, current proliferation of nuclear weapons and extremely injurious arms,
absolute harm is inevitable and can only be prevented in rare circumstances. Wasserstrom
asserts that the “conception of total war” waged by Nazi Germany during WW2 has meant
that acceptance of chivalrous warfare increased and, in a way, distorted moral values of
rightful behaviours (1969). Prisoners of war and wrongful acts on the battlefield have also
heavily been normalised historically hence, reducing possibility for adhering to the principle
of proportionality. Putting this notion into today’s context, by examining the current war in
Ukraine, it is evident that the purpose behind sustained defence is the interest of safeguarding
citizens from any jeopardy to their independence. Although, a total death toll of 2,435
Ukraine civilians since February is an alarming figure however, Russia’s decision to invade
has meant there are no alternatives at hand for maintaining security and sovereignty (United
Nations, 2022).
From a defence standpoint, Ukraine’s decision to retaliate is justifiable yet, Russia’s advances
are prominently immoral and deprecated worldwide. Cancian contests that Ukraine’s decision
to defend territory is foolish considering its limitation of resources and capacity of meeting
Russia’s level of military attack. An independent poll in Ukraine prior to invasion revealed
that religiously and culturally the nation was deeply divided therefore, making it more
vulnerable towards offense. Naturally, a lack of unity corresponds with military weakness
and warfare skills to effectively challenge the force of Russian troops (2022). Taking this into
consideration, the war is an example of one that is not justified given prominently low
prospects for success of Ukraine against Russia’s miliary power. In contrast, there is both
right intention behind Ukraine’s resistance as well as the last resort in an attempt to ensure
civilians remain liberated.
War itself is difficult to justify and reason purely since collateral harm and damage is
experienced by both parties involved. This is inevitable and cannot be prevented due to the
nature of conflict, which requires military force to essentially achieve an end or objective
desired. As a result, distinguishing circumstances for when war is acceptable or an
appropriate action to take is increasingly complex. When assessing the origins or causations
of war, accounting for moral obligations is equally as important. The radical or nihilistic view
that war cannot follow an ethical footprint is both flawed and incorrect considering that this
may the only valid option in circumstances where alternatives fail to exist. National defence
and humanitarian intervention are critical examples of situations in which war is rationale and
must be undertaken to ensure safety of civilians is preserved.
Similarly, in adherence with the principles established by Jus ad Bellum, war that occurs due
to right intent and also holds convincing prospects for success can be considered as logical.
One important ethical facet which must be viewed is proportionality whereby, the damage
inflicted is weighted as lower than the positive consequences. In other words, if stakes for
fighting a war are extremely high, then this will provide sufficient reasoning for engaging in
war. However, aggressive warfare that does not comply with protecting lives of ‘innocents’
cannot be deemed as permissible. Both realism and pacifism are defected in their perspective
of viewing conflict or war since practically there are situations that can be justified or are
completely unjust. Although, the Just War Theory does clarify and establish common
scenarios of well-reasoned military conflict however, each situation must be assessed
independently for all factors involved.
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