Can War be Justified?
PHIL-1250 Logic Paper
5 Dec. 2018
Throughout my life I have heard many theories on the necessity of war, or even the morality. Having spent time in war myself, seeking to argue that war can only be justified as the betterment of humankind, if it is only fought to protect the innocent.
Those fighting in war have to follow the “rules of war,” as Western Nations have outlined within the Geneva Convention, if our individual intentions have moral purpose, if the good is greater than any harm; it should then be justifiable.
Having seen war firsthand, 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. Someone has to stand for the women and children to protect them from unnecessary suffering.
My thesis is; “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 then harm is justified.
What is justifiable?
Personally, I believe that what you feel inside to be the better good of all people on this planet is justified, as long that it is morally derived.
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to stand and do nothing.”
There will always be bad people who do bad things, so there always needs to be good people ready to defend innocent people from the bad people seeking to harm them, we as a society must do this by any means necessary. Putting forth the best and most willing to fight, not only for our own country but for those unable to fight for themselves. People who want to control individuals and force people to do things against their will, have to be stopped, by someone willing to defend them against complete barbarians. Honestly, you are unable to reason with these individuals at any rational level. They will consume a beating heart out of a person, right after cutting their head off. Seems pretty unreasonable in my opinion.
If war is started to prevent violations of human rights that cause greater harm to innocent people, such as when Nazi Germany sent millions of Jews to concentration camps, many women and children and the elderly. 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 Civilized World during WW2. Innocent people suffered greatly and surly more would have, had Americans and other allied Nations not stepped in, everyone would have been doomed. The only way that we were able to prevent the widespread atrocities that the Nazi party brought was through direct war, so it did more good than harm and therefore it has to be justified.
Or looking at modern day war, fought in countries where large groups of men have seized control of civilian populations, controlling them through power and fear. It is happening now in Ukraine, I would argue that Afghanistan was different. 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. Russia is not someone we would want to war, because the casualties to the innocent would be millions. I would hope no country is dumb enough to use them but America already has, so therefore would be considered more likely to use them in any armed conflict. Logically speaking that is.
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, always doing more good than harm. The innocent would be someone unable to defend themselves from superior force and those capable of overpowering them, it takes controlled violence to stop extreme violence.
A sub argument would be, anything which does more good then 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, then 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 which 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. Unless the risk of a Nuclear retaliation, we must never enter a conflict against that enemy. This would be the reason we have yet in invade North Korea.
Premise two states that doing more good than harm is for the benefit of the majority. If the majority benefit is an overall good, but causes harm to a few, then it should be justified. Because less harm is always good and anything that does more good to the majority, means less harm to nearly everybody. To bad politicians and governments of other countries do not hold these same sentiments. 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 really 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 centers 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 innocent people not justified?
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 or suffering. In the United States military there are guidelines that are followed during war, collectively called the Geneva Conventions. “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 used to gain 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 we fought to free the people. Going to war in order to protect the innocent from unnecessary suffering, 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 men seem to be capable of, I feel in my heart that someone has to stand against such men, to stop them from harming the innocent through any means necessary.
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 any life less important than another’s?
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 at times, 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, stopping them is for the benefit of the majority. But what if a large group of men are the one’s seeking to cause the harm?
Preventing more harm is also justifiable. If war is used to prevent further harm of the innocent by eliminating hostile threats, obviously the majority would benefit because it would stop the further harm from ever happening. The majority of people want to be free and enjoy liberty, living their life free of government control. Something we often take for granted in The United States, but something that should be entitled to every human on this planet regardless. 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 from occurring. To stand and do nothing would make us no different than those who want to do the harm in the first place. It takes controlled violence, to stop extreme violence. Men and women 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 any intentional violence, which is usually extreme; 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 always and the Few should sacrifice themselves willingly. From the war I experienced myself, I know that in my heart my intentions were to protect those who are unable to protect themselves, I was morally justified always even if the memories haunt me.
War is something that I will never forget, it became 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