With the growing conflicts around the world and the latest attack on Yemen by GCC forces, it only makes sense to dedicate this post to war. Are wars ever justifiable? And if so, what are the requirements of a ‘just’ war? Aquinas attempted to answer this question, and in fact came up with three conditions for a war to be justified. I warn you they aren’t great, but at least they show how complex this topic is.
Number one: The war must be authorised by ‘the ruler’ or in other words the government. This involves having a declaration of war before actually beginning the attack.
This point is fine if the ‘ruler’ happens to be a shining beacon of morality and looks like this:
But in reality we all know that most countries are ruled by many ethically ambiguous individuals that can’t be trusted with authorizing anything let alone a war (ahem…America)
Number two- The war must have a just cause.
Well naturally an individual waging a war is hardly going to say ‘I’m a greedy and power hungry old man who’s just looking out for my own interests’. But come on, we all know that that’s the case most of the time. I always laugh at the dramatic rhetoric used by governments for justifying the killing of millions of people; and those flashy war montages that you see all over Arabic TV … Does this stuff really work on people? Like seriously, if I wanted a grand war between Good and Evil, all I need to do is switch my television on and watch some Harry Potter. Because only in fictional stories can you have a black and white war. And while we’re doing a little bit of myth busting here, let me just add one more thing children:
There is no Santa Clause, he was struck down by a US drone many years ago.
Number three- The intention of those waging a war must be good.
No darling, economic and political domination does not fall under the ‘good intentions’ category. But protecting people against unjust aggression does. But this also gets problematic when you realise that you can use that line and then drop a nuclear bomb on a country.
Wait a second… I think that already happened before…
There’s another point that Aquinas also mentions as part of his views on self-defense:
1- Basically, it is permissible to kill a person in self defense as long as you really are doing it to protect yourself, and not use force that is not appropriate for the situation:
You can see where this is going…
Now in no way am I suggesting that I’m a pacifist. But what disturbs me is how easily some people buy into the war propaganda available on the media. It’s strange how we can think twice or three times about buying a piece of clothing, but need a split second to support a war. Supporting a war should never be an easy decision. We’re living during a conflict filled time, and now more than ever, we need to reconsider our views and be hesitant about championing any country’s decision to attack another, no matter what kind of justification is given. Many believed that the atomic bomb dropped on Japan was just or that the invasion of Iraq was just also. It is the job of politicians to make the decisions leading to these sorts of actions look logical, obvious and correct. But it is our job to not always be so foolish and naive.