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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8024/morality-and-political-violence/

Morality and Political Violence

April 15, 2008 by

Professor Coady is best known for a book on the epistemology of testimony, Testimony: A Philosophical Study (Oxford University Press, 1992); but he has also established a well-deserved reputation as an authority on the just-war tradition. In Morality and Political Violence, he has produced a major work, characterized by an abundance of good sense and acute argument.

I have no hesitation in recommending Morality and Political Violence. It deserves to replace the hitherto standard work, Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars, as the first book to consult about the morality of warfare. FULL ARTICLE

{ 13 comments }

Inquisitor April 15, 2008 at 9:15 am

Something to add to my to-read list.

fundamentalist April 15, 2008 at 9:17 am

“Another nation’s development of weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, may create various worries and uncertainties, but there is so much that can come between that development and its hostile use that we should not risk the hazards of war on behalf of the alarming prediction. (p. 102)”
So in effect Coady argues that we must wait for someone to attack us first, and suffer the first casualties, or no war is just? At what point would a first strike be justified. For example, in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Arabs has massed their armies on the borders and Israeli intelligence had clear evidence that the Arabs were about to attack, so Israel attacked first. At what point does the desire for strict adherence to morality, although man-made and therefore without authority, become suicidal? And in the case of the Iraq war, could not the argument be made that the US was protecting Iraq’s neighbors when they couldn’t protect themselves? Does the just war doctrine permit war-like states to devour their weaker neighbors as long as long as it doesn’t attack someone stronger? It seems that the just war doctrine would have let Hitler take over all of Europe as long as he avoided the USSR and Great Britain because neither would have a just cause for attacking Germany. Certainly, the just war doctrine would have condemned Hitler for having started an unjust war, but it would have done nothing to stop him from destroying millions of lives.
“I have argued that a primary reason for concern about WMD is their propensity to kill the wrong people rather than their tendency to kill large numbers.”

It seems this discussion needs a serious dose of reality and less abstract reasoning and counting angels on pin heads. Only Europeans and Anglo-Saxon nations care about civilian deaths. No one else cares and they see our concern as our major weakness. That’s why Palestinians, Hezb’Allah, Al Qaeda, the Shia militia, the Taliban, the Viet-Cong, and just about everyone else we have fought since WWII hide behind women and children. Even during WWII, Hitler and the Japanese hid munition factories among civilians and trained civilians, even children, to fight. If a nation ever decides that no civilian casualties are permissable in war, then that nation might as well disband its army because every enemy it faces will use women and children as shields.

Contrary to what many libertarians have written, total war did not begin with Western democracy; it has been the norm since the beginning of history. For a brief time in the 18th and 19th centuries, and only in Western Europe, armies tried to limit warfare to military personnel, but the rest of the world never understood nor adopted that policy. Outside of the West, total war has always been the rule.

As for the use of nuclear weapons being immoral because they kill so many people at one time, that’s a purely utilitarian argument. For example, the US killed around 100,000 Japanese civilians by dropping two atomic bombs. Some people think those bombs ended the war early. Had the US not dropped those bombs, and instead invaded Japan, the military at the time estimated that one million US soldiers would have died and close to 20 million Japanese. If you’re going to use utilitarian arguments, shouldn’t you consider all of the alternatives?

“Our author calls attention to a neglected topic: even in case of a justified war, one must avoid demands for unconditional surrender. Because so many modern wars have been passionately ideological … the very idea of negotiating with enemies prior to crushing them can seem preposterous or even immoral. Something like this seems to have been behind the appeal to “unconditional surrender” in World War II.”
As I wrote above, the idea of total war has been the norm. It wasn’t invented in WWII. The demand for unconditional surrender was during WWII wasn’t rooted in ideology. It was rooted in justice, a concept modern moralists seem to be totally unfamiliar with. Japan and Germany had launched wars without good cause and had committed many crimes in the process. Without unconditional surrender, the generals and politicians who responsible for the wars would go unpunished; there would be no justice for their victims.
“Coady thinks that had reasonable terms of surrender been offered, this might have made it easier for the German opposition to overthrow Hitler.”
That’s pure speculation, which Coady doesn’t permit in the argument for pre-emptive strikes, so he shouldn’t be allowed to use it here. In fact, conditional surrender that would allow those in power to remain in power (otherwise, why would they agree to it?), would have empowered the Nazis, not weakened them.
“Insistence on unconditional surrender led to “the devastation wrought by the Soviet army in its push through eastern Germany to Berlin … rape, pillage, and casual murder by Soviet troops were commonplace.”
That’s pure nonsense. The Russians had always fought like that. Rape, pillage, and casual murder have always been a part of warfare except for the experiment with limited war in Western Europe. Any historian of warfare will tell you that until the Protestant Reformation, which changed warfare in Europe, kings paid their armies by letting them pillage and rape. The opportunity to pillage and rape were the chief methods of motivating men to fight.
While I applaud efforts to inject some ethics into the awful case of war, it appears that a much better understanding of how war is actually conducted and of the history of war is seriously needed.
As for the Iraq war, my ethical questions about it revolve around boundaries of responsibility. Hussein was a primary threat to his neighbors, so we should have let his neighbors take care of him. Iraq is a member of the Arab League, and Egypt had an army fully capable of defeating Iraq’s army. After all, we have given the Egyptian military almost $2 billion annually since 1978. Syria has been well-armed by the Russians for decades. Turkey has one of the best militaries in the Middle East. Had the US stuck to its legit sphere of responsibility, it would have allowed the Arab League, along with Iran and Turkey to handle Iraq. If those countries had no problem with Hussein, we should have left him alone.

Nelson April 15, 2008 at 11:38 am

This is the way it works. If you go to war and lose, the war was unjust. If you win then the war there will be plenty of time to come up with justifications. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be.

fundamentalist April 15, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Nelson, There’s a lot of truth in that.

fusgerm April 15, 2008 at 8:47 pm

I like Fundamentalist’s review of the review. The book looks like a dreary read from the excerpts here.

The evils of war are so great that restricting it to cases where the justification for lethal violence is obvious and overwhelming…

But I cannot imagine of any war involving America where the president would NOT make such claims.

I would rather reread Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, which embeds a philosphy of war in a ripping yarn.

I’m not so sure that Any historian of warfare will tell you that until the Protestant Reformation, which changed warfare in Europe, kings paid their armies by letting them pillage and rape.

That’s certainly true of the barbarians who devoured the Roman Empire, but throughout the Middle Ages war in Europe was a fairly gentlemanly affair in which private property was respected while kings overthrew one another.

Here for example is Bertrand de Jouvenel writing of twelfth century Europe: War in those days was always a small-scale affair – for the simple reason that Power was a small-scale affair and entirely lacked those two essential controls, the conscription of men and the imposition of taxes.

Mises attributed modern war mainly to trade barriers. Prevented from buying scarce resources, nations resort to war to seize them. I was reminded of this by the recent imposition of food export controls:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2008/04/14/ccview114.xml&CMP=ILC-mostviewedbox

Nelson April 16, 2008 at 12:50 am

The demand for unconditional surrender was during WWII wasn’t rooted in ideology. It was rooted in justice, a concept modern moralists seem to be totally unfamiliar with. Japan and Germany had launched wars without good cause and had committed many crimes in the process. Without unconditional surrender, the generals and politicians who responsible for the wars would go unpunished; there would be no justice for their victims.

This is one of the most insightful things I’ve ever read here. Without unconditional surrender (or death) there is no justice. Without justice, there is no lasting peace.

P.M.Lawrence April 16, 2008 at 1:54 am

Fusgerm wrote “…throughout the Middle Ages war in Europe was a fairly gentlemanly affair in which private property was respected while kings overthrew one another”.

No. When an area was rebellious, it was thoroughly pacified by devastation, as in the Wasting of the North after the Norman Conquest. When two powers were in a sort of cold war, not strong enough for a complete war, there was extensive raiding, as in Maine and Touraine (caught up between France and Normandy in the Plantagenet period). And when one side was strong enough not only to fight but to win the battles, the other side holed up in castles and the stronger conducted combined looting and devastation raids (chevauchees and havoc) to try to force them out for fear of losing what they had anyway, as in the Hundred Years War. All these things caused great loss of life and property.

Also, that comment about war in twelfth century Europe is wrong in this respect: war in the thirteenth and even more the fourteenth centuries managed to be a very large scale affair, with feudal hosts, even though the powers involved still “entirely lacked those two essential controls, the conscription of men and the imposition of taxes”. They just had larger feudal units to mobilise since the smaller units had been subordinated better, that’s all. In fact, once more sophistication came along in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, armies decreased in size as they became more professional and needed more cash to keep them operating. French armies at Crecy and Poitiers were larger than they were ever to be again until Napoleon’s time.

fusgerm April 16, 2008 at 7:20 am

P.M.Lawrence:

Thank you for the correction.

newson April 16, 2008 at 6:38 pm

fundamentalist says:
“Japan and Germany had launched wars without good cause…”

with regard to japan, i think the fdr factor is not to be ignored, here’s a snippet for you –

“By Spring 1941 Japan only had enough fuel to the end of the year when we slapped on a literal blockade even of food stuffs. Now Japan was not only facing the collapse of its economy, not only its ability to defend itself but now mass starvation as well. It was impossible to keep acceding to the never-ending stream of demands by the USA eventhough the new militarist PM Tojo himself didn’t want war with the West. Tojo himself pushed the planned attacks back from August to October and finally December. Japan had no choice but to defend itself. It attacked the blockading powers in December 1941, including Pearl Harbor. “

http://www.monarch.net/users/miller/…ersgamble.html

i can’t help wondering what the us would do if faced with the prospect of no gasoline? i think it would be similar to malaysia cutting off singapore’s water (i think a similar prospect was always the sword of damocles over hong kong before the handover).

fundamentalist April 16, 2008 at 7:46 pm

“By Spring 1941 Japan only had enough fuel to the end of the year when we slapped on a literal blockade even of food stuffs.”

While that’s true, Japan launched the war many years before with its invasion of Korea and China. Our oil embargo was a weak attempt to persuade the Japanese to end their rape and pillage of those countries.

newson: “i can’t help wondering what the us would do if faced with the prospect of no gasoline?”

Actually, we faced a similar situation with the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973. In order to resuce their pride from another humiliating defeat by Israel, Arabs invented the fiction that tiny Israel defeated the massive, Soviet-armed and trained militaries with the help of the US. They decided to punish US with an embargo on oil, which sparked huge price increases and threatened US forces in Viet-Nam. We responded with negotiations, and probably some threats, and the Arabs ended the embargo.

P.M.Lawrence April 16, 2008 at 10:57 pm

Korea had nothing to do with it (it had been Japanese since the Russo-Japanese War in 1905), and the war in China was distinct and not inevitably going to merge with the World War; it’s a circular argument to bring it in, merely because it did so when the war in the Pacific began.

newson April 17, 2008 at 2:37 am

to fundamentalist:
the oil embargo of the 70′s was of a different order of magnitude. the us was itself a substantial producer of crude and refined products at that time. while it was a severe price shock, it’s not like the japanese situation where they were no domestic supplies, hence their push for the java oilfields, after pearl harbour. and yes, there were atrocities being committed in china, but on that basis, we invade congo, zimbabwe etc. i think that’s turned out to be the bush camp’s justification for the iraq invasion, but i’m far more comfortable with the jeffersonian, non-interventionist stance. anyway, the jeffersonian position was to trade with all, regardless of their politics. had this been followed, the japanese blockage would have made the risky pacific adventure less appealing.

i believe fdr knew about pearl harbour before it came, and it was part of his plan to bring the people over to his side on active us involvement in the war.

(this said, i’m not a born conspiracy-theory person, i believe 9/11 was completely out of the blue, even though bush & co did exploit the event for their own strategic designs.)

Henry Miller April 17, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Germany had every reason to get into WWII as well. WWI left them owing the rest of Europe (read England and France) a lot of money each year in restitution. There is no way Germany could pay that, so they resported to desperate measures – they turned on the printing presses and drove inflation through the roof.

The treaties that ended WWI can be directly blamed starting WWII. Hitler was just a side note, it didn’t really matter who was in power, WWII was sure to come about just as soon as Germany could raise enough of an army to fight again.

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