Rules of Military Engagement
Walzer’s sliding scale of justice in warfare can be described as a way to justify normally prohibited actions. One of Walzers arguments is that violations of just war conduct in war have been justified in some historical circumstances when the moral emergency was high. One example of this is the bombing of Dresden because of the threat of Nazism’s victory would be a moral catastrophe and the British seemed in danger of losing the war. It would end the war sooner than it would otherwise end and, despite the large number of civilian casualties they inflicted, at a lower cost in human life. The British bomber command was justified in destroying Dresden when the moral emergency represented by losing the war is sufficiently high. According to Walzer the scale slides but not all the way “the more justice the more right” The greater the justice of the cause the more rules can be violated for the sake of a cause. Unlimited sliding scale would simply allow the more rules of war to be violated, the greater the moral importance of victory in the war being fought ( Walzer chapter 16).
Walzer's contrast case is Hiroshima. At that point in the war, Japan's navy was essentially non-existent and her ground forces had been beaten back to their home islands. Walzer argued that dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima was not justified in the way that bombing Dresden was because America was in no danger of losing the war at that moment. (I realize that there are lots of reasons why we dropped atomic weapons on Hiroshima, and I think the most compelling ones are utilitarian arguments based on casualties to the Japanese had we invaded their mainland. Here again, the sliding scale is being used to open the way for utilitarian calculations. The Japanese have forfeited their rights, and so they cannot complain about Hiroshima so long as the destruction of the city actually does, or could reasonably be expected to shorten the agony of war. If people...
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