November 18, 2004
More on Fallujahgate and jus in bello
Ace has an excellent essay on the limits of moral action in war. Without even trying, Ace has put forth one of the deepest insights into why the MSM and left are so up in arms over one incident in a Fallujah mosque. Here's the money quote:
We have a huge disagreement in this country about what is and what is not acceptable in this war. Part of this is all just a proxy fight for the leftists' insistence that war itself is unacceptable under any circumstances; having lost that debate decisively, they attempt to engage in guerilla-rhetorical tactics, simply sniping at each and every event that unfolds, in hopes that the accumulation of the little wounds they inflict will ultimately win the war they really care about-- the war on war itself. [Go read the rest!! ]Jus ad bellum is just war theory that explores when it is moral for to begin or engage in a war. For instance, juss ad bellum theorists generally agree that it's not ok to go to war with another country just because you want its oil. On the other hand it is generally agreed in classic just war theory that its ok to go to war with a neighboring country if the government there harbors outlaws (see Grotius).
Jus in bello explores what is acceptable behavior in a war. For instance, jus in bello theorists generally agree that shooting a woman in the back of the head is not moral action. On the other hand its generally agreed that killing a guy with an RPG pointed at your convoy is ok.
What the modern left has been arguing since the end of WWI is that no war is justified. Thus the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 renounced forever the use of war as an instrument of national policy and the League of Nations was dreamt up as a way for nations to settle their differences peacefully. The UN would later replace the failed League of Nations as a way to end war, but with the proviso that war would be just only when the collective will of the great powers agreed.
WWI and WWII affected the mindset of Europeans in a much different way than it affected Americans. To modern Europeans, Hitler was bad because he had started the war. The war was only just because jus ad bellum had been violated. WWII then was just like any other defensive war, the only type of war the Europeans would ever see as just.
Americans may have had the same initial reaction to why the war was justified, but in hindsight we view Hitler's unjustness very differently. Sure Hitler's aggression made the war just, but there was something different about WWII. It was more just. Why was it more just? It is to jus in bello that we, unconsciencly I admit, rationalize WWII's war. WWII was the good war because of what Nazism did in the war. WWII was the good war not because Hitler or Japan started it. WWII was the good war because of what the Nazis and the Japanese did in the war. It was just because of what the Japanese did in Nanking. It was just because of what the Nazis did in the holocaust.
The average American leftist has more in common with a German because he believes the same thing. War is never justified accept in literal self defense. WWII was just only because it ended war in Europe. With war now over as a fact of life in Europe, the leftists believe that the conditions under which war is justified are so rare that no war could ever really meet their standard for jus ad bellum. All war is now immoral.
The average American, on the other hand is much more willing to accept war's justice if it can end the abuses of a foreign regime. The average American sees the liberating power of war. The average American believes that WWII was good because it liberated Europe from Nazism. The average American believes that WWII was good because it liberated Japan from fascist Imperialism. As long as fascism and its fellowtravellers are alive and well in the world, war will be justified. The average American rejects the notion that all war is immoral. War is moral when it liberates.
This is the basic philosophical difference between America and Europe, and between left and right, over issues of war and peace. The left could care less about the incident in Fallujah. What they care about is ending the war. The incident was just another piece of propaganda for them to use. The war, by definition, was unjust.
Just a few thoughts spawned by Ace. That's all.