[lit-ideas] Re: Just War

  • From: "Mike Geary" <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2006 23:19:48 -0500

Ah, Lawrence, our own loveable war-loving Lawrene, give it up, dude.  Gandhi is 
a greater force in the world  than Alexander the Great. [article of faith]  
Look around you, man. Your old world is rapidly agin'.  Please get out of the 
new if you can't lend a hand for the times they are a changin'.  I think Jesus 
said that.

Mike Geary

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Lawrence Helm 
  To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 10:38 PM
  Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Just War

  Well, Phil, I don't see in what you quote where the US Catholic Bishops say 
that Just wars are evil.  Elshtain writes along similar lines to your Bishops; 
although she doesn't invoke St. Francis if I recall correctly.  That is, she 
places restrictions on how wars should be fought that are more elaborate than 
what you've quoted but not inconsistent with them, except for the portions 
about St. Francis, but that isn't the issue here.  The issue is whether a just 
war is evil.   Francis Cardinal George, O.M.L., Archbishop of Chicago wrote, 
"Jean Bethke Elshtain shows clearly and persuasively how 'just war' teaching 
meets both the imperative of peace and the responsibility a government has to 
defend its people . . . . Just War Against Terror challenges Christian 
theologians and preachers to apply theological discernment more rigorously and 
realistically when they reflect on terrorism, and at the same time faults the 
academy's reaction to counter-terrorism as evasive and simplistic.  Speaking 
vividly and directly to the moral decisions America is making, Elshtain 
provides a service to us all."

  On page 189 Elshtain writes, "The primary moral justification for war is to 
protect the innocent from certain harm.  Augustine, whose early 5th century 
book, The City of God, is a seminal contribution to just war thinking, argues 
(echoing Socrates) that it is better for the Christian as an individual to 
suffer harm rather than to commit it.  But is the morally responsible person 
also required, or even permitted, to make for other innocent persons a 
commitment to non-self-defense?  For Augustine, and for the broader just war 
tradition, the answer is no.  If one has compelling evidence that innocent 
people who are in no position to protect themselves will be grievously harmed 
unless coercive force I used to stop an aggressor, then the moral principle of 
love of neighbor calls us to use of force."

  Elshtain here refers to a "broader just war tradition" so she obviously feels 
she isn't flouting it, and yet she presents arguments I find compelling and I 
suppose you do as well but I suspect you would refrain from using the words 
"moral principle" in her last clause.  Because if there is such a moral 
principle; then it wouldn't be evil to function in accordance with it.


  -----Original Message-----
  From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] 
On Behalf Of Phil Enns
  Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 5:58 PM
  To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Just War

  Lawrence Helm wrote:

  "Phil doesn't say where this "well-established tradition of just war"

  exists ..."

  It has a long and well-documented history within the Christian

  tradition, beginning with Augustine.

  Lawrence continues:

  "but I did read Jean Bethke Elshtain's Just War Against Terror.  On page

  189 she writes, ". . . reason and careful reflection . . . teach us that

  there are times when the first and most important reply to evil is to

  stop it.  There are times when waging war is not only morally permitted,

  but morally necessary, as a response to calamitous acts of violence,

  hatred, and injustice."

  This isn't the tradition.  Here is a more accurate account issued by the

  US Catholic Bishops:


  When Is War Justified?

  The moral theory of the "just-war" or "limited-war" doctrine begins with

  the presumption which binds all Christians: We should do no harm to our

  neighbors. Just-war teaching has evolved as an effort to prevent war.

  Only if war cannot be rationally avoided does the teaching then seek to

  restrict and reduce its horrors. It does this by establishing a set of

  rigorous conditions which must be met if the decision to go to war is to

  be morally permissible. Such a decision, especially today, requires

  extraordinarily strong reasons for overriding the presumption in favor

  of peace and against war. ...

  Just response to aggression must also be discriminate; it must be

  directed against unjust aggressors, not against innocent people caught

  up in a war not of their making. The Council therefore issued its

  memorable declaration: "Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the

  destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their

  population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal

  and unhesitating condemnation."

  Side by side with the just-war theory throughout Christian history has

  been the tradition of nonviolence. One of the great nonviolent figures

  was St. Francis of Assisi.

  While the just-war teaching has clearly been in possession for the past

  1,500 years of Catholic thought, the "new moment" in which we find

  ourselves sees the just-war teaching and nonviolence as distinct but

  interdependent methods of evaluating warfare. They diverge on some

  specific conclusions, but they share a common presumption against the

  use of force as a means of settling disputes. Both find their roots in

  the Christian theological tradition; each contributes to the full moral

  vision we need in pursuit of a human peace. We believe the two

  perspectives support and complement one another, each preserving the

  other from distortion.


  In my opinion, this accurately reflects the Christian tradition of Just

  War, and my own beliefs.  In no way can one claim that under Just War

  theory, war is ever 'morally necessary'.  It may be permitted, but it is

  never moral and never necessary.


  Phil Enns

  Toronto, ON

Other related posts: