Ethics and Morality in Modern Warfare

Topics: Laws of war, Jus ad bellum, Peace Pages: 6 (2141 words) Published: March 31, 2009
Restricted Warfare:

Ethics and Morality in Modern Warfare.

The Ethics of War

In recent years, the world has seen a sharp rise in wars across the globe. 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 Europe. In response to these attacks on civilian populations the United States engaged in two preemptive wars on those who harbored terrorists. These wars have now been lasting for five years and recently the number of American and other Coalition soldiers fallen on the battlefield has risen to over 4000. These current issues that surround and heavily influence the world we live in makes us ask the question. How can these deaths and these wars be justified? The answer to this question is that, in a greater scope, although war is an undeniable evil, there exist worse things on this earth than death, and in times of great trial man has the moral obligation to use force in the hope of greater harmony for humanity. It is the tragic acceptance that war, within certain moral and ethical boundaries, can be just, has been necessary, and will continue to be so as long as humans are capable of a greater evil.

When speaking of just war, there exist certain boundaries and rules that must be met to make it just. First, in any case, because a war is just, it is never considered a good act. It is only permissible because it is a lesser evil. Moreover, war must be carried out in a just way. That is to say, war must be Jus ad bellum (BBC), just in cause, and Jus in bello (BBC), just in how it is carried out. It is not impossible that a war that was just in cause was not carried out in a proper manner and therefore it became unjust. The best example would be the Balkans where both aggressors and defenders who had the noble cause of defending themselves, committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Both sides appeared in front of the Hague tribunals to be sanctioned for their actions. Jus ad bellum refers to the cause why the war is fought. There exist certain criteria that must be met to make a war just. It must have a just cause. It must be the last resort. There has to be a reasonable chance of success. The means to wage the war must be proportional to the end the nation seeks to achieve. If all these criteria are met, then we may justify war. A war is just if it is against something worse than war itself. One of the best examples is to prevent genocide. If we look into the past century, there have been multiple genocides from Armenia in 1915 to 1923, to the Holocaust in the 1930’s and 1940’s and even more recently, Darfur, Rwanda and Former Yugoslavia. In face of this much greater evil, it is humanity’s moral obligation to come in aid to the targeted population. Failure to do so in the appropriate manner only results in an even greater number of deaths, as was shown in the early years of WWII when ally nations did not intervene to the “ethnic cleansing” of Germany, Austria, Poland and Bohemia. Had the allies declared war, there would have been far fewer dead in Eastern Europe in concentration camps. This is the ultimate proof that protecting innocence and important moral values sometimes requires the will to use force in proportion to the willingness to do evil of the aggressor. War is the final step when all other negotiation has failed and the cause is morally justifiable. This justification leads to the fact that Countries exist to defend their citizens and war is one of those means. Clausewitz famously suggested that war is “the continuation of policy by other means.” The very nature of the United Nations is to dissolve conflict before it turns to war, there exist many means of non violent resolution, and all of these should be tried first before engaging in war. However it should be noted that “last resort” refers to a sequence of time, where war is the final step, it is an...

Cited: Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. Yale University Press. 2003.
Clausewitz, Carl Von. On War. Berlin: Dümmlers Verlag, 2000
Orend, Brian. “War.” Stanford Philosophy. 28 July 2005. 28 March 2008 .
Col. Qiao,Liang, and Col. Wang, Xiangsui. Unrestricted Warfare. New York: Pan American Publishing Company. 2005.
Walzer, M. Arguing About War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.
“Ethics of War.” BBC. 20 Aug. 2006. 28 March 2008 .
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