PHIL-1250 Logic Paper
5 Dec. 2018
Throughout my life I have heard many theories on the necessity and morality of war, I even spent time in war myself. Looking to argue that it is for the betterment of humankind.
If we follow the rules of war as outlined in the Geneva Convention, if our intentions have moral purpose and the good is greater than the harm, it should be justifiable. Having seen war first hand I feel now, more than ever that war is a necessary evil for the betterment of humanity to prevent further harm to the innocent and defenseless. My thesis is that war which protects the innocent from harm is justified.
P1: Anything which does more good than harm is justified.
P2: War that protects the innocent does more good than harm.
C: Therefore, war that protects the innocent is justified.
Those That Stand Up
Premise one states that anything which does more good than harm is justified. What is justifiable? For me personally I believe that what you feel inside for the better good of all people on this planet is what is justified.
Edmund Burke said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to stand and do nothing.”
There is always going to be bad people who do bad things, so there always has to be good people ready to defend by any means necessary. People that want to control individuals and force people to do things against their will have to be stopped by someone willing to put their life on the line to defend those that are unable to defend themselves.
If war is started to prevent violations of human rights that cause greater harm to the innocent, such as when Nazi Germany sent millions of Jews to concentration camps. Then we should go to war to prevent such crimes against humanity. Because the intention was to prevent the spread of more death and destruction that Hitler and his Nazi army brought upon the world during WW2 to innocent people. The only way that we were able to prevent the widespread atrocities that the Nazi party brought was through war, so it did more good than harm and is justified.
Or looking at modern day war, fought in countries where large groups of men have seized control of the civilian populations, controlling them through power and fear. Then our intervention appears to do more good than harm, since the harm could be greater had we not done anything at all. It takes those with the capacity to commit violence with the intention of good to prevent intentional harm of the innocent.
Lt. Col. Grossman, wrote in his book On Combat that: “If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath—a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.” (Grossman, 2004)
There has to be people willing to stand against those who intend to do harm and inflict pain on others to protect the innocent, doing more good than harm. The innocent would be someone unable to defend themselves from superior power, it takes violence to stop violence.
A sub argument would be, anything that does more good than harm is justified. Using utilitarianism to justify that war does more good than harm for the majority. Utilitarianism is the view that an action is right if it produces greater overall happiness for the majority, than if it were not performed at all.
P1: Anything for the greater benefit of the majority is justified.
P2: Doing more good than harm is for the benefit of the majority.
C: Therefore, anything that does more good than harm is justified.
Benefit the Majority
Premise one states that anything for the greater benefit of the majority is justified, choosing to side with that which benefits the many. Sometimes it is better for the majority to benefit even if it causes harm to the few. People are always going to be in harm’s way one way or another when people are looking to cause harm. However for people who want to intentionally harm the innocent, then going to war would have to be justified in order to stop those individuals.
Premise two states that doing more good than harm is for the benefit of the majority. If the majority benefit in an overall good, but causes harm to a few than it should be justified. Because less harm is good and anything that does more good to the majority means less harm. Harm will come in one form or another and attempting to limit the overall effect of such harm sometimes is good, but it takes harm to prevent harm. Mainly the ending of such harm, such as when wars are fought to prevent people from intentional harm caused by others.
This premises is also the one I think would bring the biggest objection. In the statement ‘anything for the greater benefit of the majority is justified’, anything is vague and who is to determine what the greater benefit is?
“For Walzer, the utilitarian approach is dangerous because of its relative ease in prompting pre-emptive military acts. States may well calculate anticipatory military action in utilitarian terms, but the more successful approach to constructing a war as just is through a moral argument that centres upon a standard of ‘just fear’.” (Taylor, 2017)
Protecting the Innocent
Premise two of my main argument states that war which protects the innocent does more good than harm. Is the intent to prevent the harm or unnecessary suffering of the innocent? Merriam-Webster defines unnecessary as ‘not needed’. Harm should not be inflicted on the innocent or the people who are unable to defend themselves. How else are the innocent going to be protected from harm? There has to be people willing to stand against those who want to do harm, to prevent harm to the innocent.
No person has the right to deprive others of their rights to be secure and safe from unnecessary harm. In the United States military there are guidelines that we follow during war collectively, called the Geneva Convention. “The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war.”
I am a Marine Veteran, having served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Marines are taught, First to do no harm. In Afghanistan we were there to stop the Taliban from controlling the civilian population. They had enslaved the city and forced the locals to grow poppies, which they would turn into heroin, then sell to people here in America and other parts of the world. It is probably one of their main resources for money, and with money comes power.
Our job was to liberate the people of Marjah from the persecution and control of the Taliban regime. 15,000 coalition forces converged on this farm village (that is about the size of Washington D.C.) on February 13, 2010 and we fought to free the people. Going to war to protect the innocent from harm, doing more good than harm.
I remember talking to some of the local children while I was there. As a squad leader it was part of my job to gather intel about the Taliban from the local children in order to locate the Taliban and rid them from the city. The children used to tell me what the Taliban would do to them and to this day it still keeps me up most nights. Knowing the horrible things man seems to be capable of, I feel in my heart that someone has to stand against such men to stop them from harming the innocent.
Counter Argument 1
A counter argument would be that, war causes more harm and therefore cannot be good. Whenever you are at war there will always be innocent bystanders in harm’s way, just trying to live life to the best of their ability, no different than anyone else.
Walzer stated, “More explicitly, ‘to characterise certain acts as threats is to characterize them in a moral way, and in a way that makes a military response morally comprehensible’.” (Taylor, 2017)
A military response is war and individuals are put into harm’s way. Why is their life less important? If war is to do more good than harm, then wouldn’t causing any amount of harm not be good? Those unable to protect themselves from harm and violence such as children, elderly, or most often times women, have to have someone to stand and protect them. But war causes more harm and therefore cannot be good, one life can not be worth more than any other life even, if it is the majority.
Counter Argument 2
Some might object by stating that war can not protect the innocent from harm, that it causes harm to the innocent. But what if we didn’t do anything? Would that really prevent the harm from happening, or would more harm happen? I think that it would allow for more harm to occur, if one person intentionally harms another person then stopping them is for the benefit of the majority.
Preventing more harm is also justifiable, if war is used to prevent further harm of the innocent by eliminating hostile threats, then the majority would benefit because it would stop the further harm from happening. The majority of people want to be free and enjoy liberty. Something we take for granted in America, but something that should be entitled to every human on this planet. If people have liberty, then they can create their own prosperity. That is happiness.
If harm to the innocent can be prevented, it should be our moral obligation to prevent such harm by any means necessary. If that means war, then war should be justified only to protect the innocent. If the good is greater than the harm for the majority and the majority are innocent, then we have to try to protect and prevent future harm. To stand and do nothing would make us no different than those who want to do harm, it takes violence to stop violence.
Men have to be capable of violence to stop violence and the only reason we are safe is because men and women stand ready to defend us against such violence. Protecting the innocent by any means necessary. Doing more good than harm, because, anything that does more good than harm is justified, even if it causes harm. The benefit should be for the majority. From the war I experienced myself, I know that in my heart my intentions were to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. War is something that I will never forget and something that has become a part of me.
Grossman, D., Lt. Col. (2004). On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace. Retrieved September 19, 2018
The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols. (2010, October 29). Retrieved November 8, 2018
Merriam Webster – ‘Unnecessary’. (2018, October 29). Retrieved November 9, 2018
Taylor, I. (2017). Just War Theory and the Military Response to Terrorism. Social Theory and Practice 43(4), pp.717-740. Retrieved 5 Dec. 2018