Ethics of War

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  • Topic: Laws of war, Peace, Jus ad bellum
  • Pages : 6 (2322 words )
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  • Published : July 1, 2012
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The Ethics of Modern Warfare
Human beings have been fighting each other since prehistoric times, and people have been discussing the rights and wrongs of it for almost as long. The Ethics of War starts by assuming that war is a bad thing, and should be avoided if possible, but it recognises that there can be situations when war may be the lesser evil of several bad choices. War is a bad thing because it involves deliberately killing or injuring people, and this is a fundamental wrong - an abuse of the victims’ human rights. (www.bbc.co.uk) The rationale of ethics in war is to help in making a decision on what is right or wrong, both for individual soldier and the countries involved. War ethics also leads to the establishment of formal laws of war (e.g. The Hague and Geneva conventions), the creating and enforcing of rules of engagement for soldiers, and in the punishment of soldiers and others who commit war crimes.

Currently, the world has seen a quick increase in wars across the world. What was meant to be the first century not scarred by war, quickly turned into a bloodbath in the wake of terrorist attacks in the United States and in Europe. In response to these attacks on civilian populations the United States engaged in two pre-emptive wars on those who harboured terrorists. These wars have now been ongoing for seven years and recently the number of American and other Coalition soldiers fallen on the battlefield has risen to over 4000, and the number of Iraqi civilian casualties has risen to 1,421,933. (Griffis). Recent issues that surround and greatly manipulate the world we live in makes us ask the question. How can these deaths and wars be necessary? The answer to this question is that, even though war is an indisputable evil, there are worse things on this planet than death, and in times of great adversity man has the moral responsibility to use force in the hope of greater good for humanity. The Ethics of War starts by assuming that war is a bad thing, and should be avoided if possible, but it recognises that there can be situations when war may be the lesser evil of several bad choices. (www.bbc.co.uk) It is the dreadful acceptance of war, within certain moral and ethical limitations, can be just, has been required, and will continue to be so as long as humans are able to create a greater evil.

When speaking of just war, there must be certain restrictions and laws that must be met to make it just. First of all, just because a war is just, it should never be considered a good act. It is only acceptable because it is a lesser of the two evils. Furthermore, a war must be conducted in a just way. That is to say, war must be Jus ad bellum, just in cause, and Jus in bello, just in how it is carried out. (www.bbc.co.uk) It is likely that a war that was just in cause was not conducted in a just manner and therefore it became unjust. An example of this is the Iran Iraq war. Both sides thought they were just in going to war, Iran for defending itself and Iraq feared that Iran’s new revolutionary leadership would threaten Iraq’s delicate Sunni Shia balance and would exploit Iraq’s geostrategic vulnerabilities--Iraq’s minimal access to the Persian Gulf, for example. (global securtiy )

Jus ad bellum refers to why the war fought in the first place. There must be certain standards that must be met to make a war just. There are six circumstances that must be met in order for a war to be just. The cause must be just. There has to be a reasonable chance of success. The intent of the war must be good. It must be the very last resort. The means used must be in proportion to the end that the war seeks to achieve. (www.bbc.co.uk)

A war is just if it is against something more horrific than war itself. One of the best examples is the prevention of genocide. If we look at the past, there have been multiple attempts at genocides from Armenia in 1915 to 1923, to the Holocaust in the 1930’s and 1940’s...
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