The attack of Afghanistan and Iraq by the United States has elicited interest among the scholars, academicians and policy leaders. The issue at hand is the ethics surrounding wars. Religious groups have also added their voices especially representing the major ones such as Christians and Muslims. This however is not the first time that the justification of a war or any war for that matter is arising. It is a question that has been on the public debate for centuries, in the same breath, the conventions of war have also been in the public court.
The issue of just war has always been on bedrock of the skeptics that question the morality or justifications of any war. The views on a Just War are divergent and conflicting a times but most are in agreement that there is a need for a broad framework of legal and ethical considerations to govern the conduct of warfare (Benson, R. ,2006,19). The just war theory is simply a set of guidelines on military conduct, as held by policymakers and human rights activists. Seeking to govern the conduct of war to conform to the political, social and religious popular expectations.
The history of the just war theory and its initial conceptualization dates back to the days of Cicero and saint Thomas Aquinas. This theory has over time sought to clarify on the question of acceptable force during war, the right to enter the war in the first place and how to treat those that violate the rules of the conventional war. It also covers the restrictions and the restraints to be put into place while governing a war. This theory also has its root in the bible along the lines of divine justice.
It is trying to conform wars to legal and moral confines in line with the societal expectations (Little, David, 1999,36). Modern View In the contemporary world, rules of engagement and these said broad guidelines have been enshrined in the international and violators face the wrath of the international court as espoused in the Geneva conventions. There is a certain criterion that is used in the bid to provide justification for going into any war. The most basic one is that there should be a legitimate concern or cause that is justifiable.
The Catholic Church in a conference held in the United States in the early 1990s posited that war or force is justifiable if only it seeks to correct an injustice against the public, an injustice that may have led to grave violation of the tenets of human rights. A traditionally held notion is that a war is justifiable if it is aimed at punishing wrong doers or repossessing property (Johnson, James Turner 1999, 44). A further justification for war is the need to correct an injustice. This is within the comparative justice framework.
It is possible that injustices may be committed by both sides but one side remains aggrieved that it received a bigger portion than it meted out. Correcting such an imbalance, some scholars have said, is an enough ground for war. Others however do not agree with this. Brain Orend, a renowned theorist on just war claims that to use comparative justice to initiate war is to provide grounds for abuse (Benson, Richard, 2006, 24). The Criterion of the Just War Theory Just war theory also recognizes the role played by proper authorities like the police or at the international level the UN Security Council to wage war against certain elements.
Only the proper authorities that are accountable to the public and that fall within the precincts of checks and balances should have a right of going into war (David R. M, Padre E. C, 2007,13). A just war is that which has an intention that can stand in the moral court, such an intention should be right and the war should only be limited to that. A war with an aim of gaming materially is not justifiable. A just war should also have a likelihood of success. It is wrong to wage a war whose success is far from known. Such war should only be waged as a last solution where peaceful means have failed.
The law of macro proportionality posits that the amount of harm inflicted in the course of waging a war should be proportional to the benefits. If the benefits are skewed then that is not a just war. The just war theory according to the various theorists is not limited to the justification for the war before it begins; it further extends to the war itself and the conduct of the combatants. The key ideal in this is that warfare should be limited to the combatants only. Incidences of civilian bombings are not a characteristic of just war, the same case for acts of terrorism especially directed towards innocent civilians.
The principle of proportionality posits that the force applied against the enemy should be proportional to the grievances held against such an enemy. A war cannot be said to be just if collateral damage exceeds the expected limit of such a war. The force applied should also be aimed at only defeating the enemy combatants and not in any way directed to the non-combatants. Truce should be used at the minimal level possible and in measured proportions possible only to give the military a proportional advantage.
A third criterion for a just war has been attributed to the likes of Brian Orend, this relates to the conduct of the military after the war has been concluded. These scholars posit that a ceasefire should be called if one of the parties is willing to negotiate and surrender. This should be occasioned by the acceptance of one party to agree on compensation and trials for any crime committed during the war. Revenge is also not allowable in case of ceasefire. Any trials of the ills committed should be limited to the combatants and not to the civilians.
Also any form of compensation should be commensurate to the violations and costs. The just war tradition has been dictated by the nature of the enemies involved, this does not mean that the enemies have been bound in any way by the conventions, in fact they have been rarely applicable where the enemies do not need each other. Explicit rule of war come into play when the enemies feel that mutual annihilation is perilous to their interests (Michael W. B. , John W. L, Harry, 2007,23). Religious Views Religious views have also come into play when it comes to the development of the just war traditions.
All the major religions have at one moment in time considered the issue of war and whether or not it was in line with the religious teachings. Christian, Muslims, Hindu and are the major religions that have had their views analyzed over time. St. Augustine introduced the concept in the 4th century. Much of the development of the just war theory was seen in the medieval times, it is only of late that interest from religious leaders was aroused toward the mid of the last century especially after the bombing of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This created a renewed curiosity in the religious circles to understand this theory and perhaps operationalize it. Much of the Christianity views of the just war emanates from the Old Testament Jesus in the new testament has not talked of any justification of the war, instead in the book of Matthews he said that Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God. Just war does not draw inspiration from the New Testament as there are limited instances when Jesus encouraged violence. This was when he whipped traders out of the temple.
His position is that Christians are expected to be peaceful, he warned people against the Moses’ law “eye for an eye. ” This is a contradiction that has baffled scholars especially those studying Just War. Jesus however was categorical that laws were to be obeyed, he talked of giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to Him. On the contrary, the Old Testament has a number of incidences where war has been demonstrated a lot especially as Israel fights with the enemies of the God of Abraham. To Islam, Just War is regarded to as the ‘Jihad’ or the Holy War.
The history of Jihad dates back to the days when merchants revolted against the spread of Islam in Mecca. The Quran has provided an inspiration to the just war theory. It says that the believers should fight for Allah’s cause when attacked. The holy book also says that the force used in carrying out such a mission should be limited. War is also justifiable to mete out judgment or to guard against transgression Jihad is clearly spelt out in the Quran, as a tradition of war; it does not thrive on scholarly materials but rather on religious texts.
(Donner, 1998, 31) This however does not mean as is a misconstrued notion in most western scholars that Islam is all about wars. What the Quran does is it is more categorical in its statements than other holy books. The Quran provides clear guidelines on the war tradition and the morality of war. A hadith in the Quran says that believers should “not desire an encounter with the enemy; but when you encounter them, be firm. “(Peters, 1996, 12) Judaism view of war is a bit complicated as the war traditions have categorized war in two. There is the obligatory war that was perceived as to be against all Canaanites in the old days.
This type of war is no longer there as the held opinion is that there are no Canaanites around. This was a war that followed no known morals as it targeted the whole populace be it the children and women. The other type of war is what some scholars refer to as the milhemet reshut. There is a wide held notion amongst the Jews that there is always an enemy out there with an intention of annihilating the Jewish community. These enemies are referred to as the Amelikites. Although this notion may not be predominant, it is still held by some people as a tradition for war.
Another held tradition is the Rodef law. Rodef law is applied when one entity wants to prevent another from killing another one. The Jewish traditions on just war are broad and vary depending on the context (Reuven Kimelman, 1992, 54). Of the three mentioned religious war traditions, Islam is the most specific one and is the one that continues to draw much scholarly interest. Apart from the pronouncements made by the church leaders, Christianity is not categorical on just war; opinion is divided on whether war is justifiable or whether to follow the pacifists’ path.
Paul Ramsey wrote extensively in the 1960s about the just war traditions. Though a protestant theologian, he was convinced of the essence of war amongst nations to enforce some issues, this was a radical shift from the pacifists who advocate for shunning the war on the grounds of its destructive nature. By the use of reasonable force in the war, it is possible to enforce justice (Drinian, R. F. & Kuo, T. , 1993,47). The rules on Jihad tend to lean towards the just war theory. Issues such as self defense and provocation are enough conditions for war.
The bible on the other hand appears to have confusing insights, the teachings of Jesus Christ especially the Beatitudes are against any incidence of aggression. The Quran on the other hand is clear on what a Muslim should do and what he should not do. There are numerous texts on morality of war as well as the justification than in the bible. The bible tends to lean towards pacification while the Quran is specific on the circumstances that warrant a war. Moralists View As mentioned before, moralists are opposed to any kind of war.
The just war doctrine is seen as immoral and that should not have a place in the modern world. This is a school of thought that views the just war theory as a form of license to violence. A lot of hostilities and conflicts have been entered into using the war theory as a justification. Utilitarians may claim that as long as the common good has been established and necessitates a war, all means hence should be employed to achieve the common good. The moralists don’t find an enough reason to engage in any war and instead they feel that efforts should be geared towards establishing proper conflict resolution mechanism.
Consequentialists on the other hand are convinced that there are some benefits in the end that are gained in a war. It is not clear to which side Christians support but an analysis of the New Testament would reveal that Christianity shuns any form of aggression. Most Christians are pacifists believing that it is the role of Christians to spread peace among both believer and non-believers. It is only under extreme cases that Christians conform to the just war doctrine, and that is when peaceful means have been exhausted. Human Rights and Modern Warfare It has been noted that wars form fertile grounds for human rights abuse.
In times of war anarchy reigns and injustices are meted out against the civilians and the prisoners of war are mistreated. This has become a major issue as most human rights organizations are flexing up muscles and are ready to publicize any violations of human rights in times of crisis. A meeting held in Moscow in 2006 under the auspices of the G8 Forum took note of the fact that as the war on terrorism escalates; human rights abuse especially by the state will also intensify. The United States government at the moment is being criticized for its latest record on human rights especially in its counter terrorism efforts.
Grave concerns have arisen of the injustices meted out against the suspects during investigations, a practice that falls short of the fair treatment stipulations. The UN Security Council has over time reiterated the necessity behind ensuring human rights are upheld as stated in the law. The use of torture has been largely criticized (Best, Geoffrey, 1994, 33). The United States since it commenced the fight against terrorism has received a fair deal of criticism especially regarding its treatment of the terror suspects in Guantanamo bay and the impunity with which some U. S forces have been carrying out its duties.
This is just an exemplification of how basic human rights violations are common during wars. Once a conflict erupts, injustices against the weak commence; issues such as torture and senseless killing are the norm. These are not only carried out by the insurgents but also by the state itself. This happens despite there being a legal framework within which armed groups are supposed to operate (Dinstein, Y. and Mala T. , 1996, 28). The international humanitarian law emanated from the need to address the eruption of these injustices, creating a broad framework within which the conduct of armed forces should operate.
The laws put the combatants under an obligation of excluding the civilians in their mission; the same is to be extended to the wounded and the incapacitated combatants. The laws to uphold human rights in the modern warfare are fully in operation in times of war and peace. Countries are supposed to offer protection to the citizenry. Recent trends have indicated willingness of the international organization to institute court trials for the crimes committed during the war. This is in the bid to ensure that human rights are not violated (Roht-Arriaza, Naomi, 1995, 18).
The major question that has arisen in the recent debates is one whether the human rights laws are applicable in times of war. This is an issue that is complicated and faced with a few challenges especially in cases where the state is fighting outside its territory. Controversy rages over whether a state can be held liable for abuse of human rights outside its territory. Human rights activists in the world are demanding that states be held accountable for the atrocities committed against non-combatants.
This has been occasioned by the efforts by some developed nations to apply selective justice and double standards when it comes to human rights abuse. The United Nations rules are clear on human rights and efforts have been doubled to increase monitoring and publication of such violations. However not all perpetrators have been made accountable, in fact the number of those brought to the book is grim compared to the violations (Bassiouni, M. Cherif, 1992, 39). Conflicts in the world are as a result of various issues facing the international community.
These may range from economic resources, and religious among others. These conflicts no matter the cause always end up recording huge fatalities amongst the civilians. Accusation of violation of human rights is thrown towards all corners. For example the Iraq security forces have been accused of killing civilians, the United States and the United Kingdom have also been pointed an accusing finger at. A number of countries in Africa have experienced years of armed conflicts that have witnessed gross violation of human rights in mostly women and children.
International organizations such as Amnesty International have been advocating for the address of impunity exhibited during wars, including the issue of child soldiers especially in Africa. The international criminal court has been a major accomplishment in the fight against human rights abuse during armed conflicts. It was established in 2002 with a primary purpose of meting justice to the perpetrators of war crimes and genocides. Already since it was established, it has had a number of cases although not at a pace that most in the world would wish to see.
Its point of focus has been in Africa where warrants of arrests for atrocities committed have been issued. As mentioned above, human rights are applicable even in times of war and conflicts. However it is difficult to enforce laws on human rights due to the lack of universality in their applications. The various conventions have been able to come up with rules that are geared towards upholding human rights, these rules have almost received universality, but still a lot depends on the individual states. The Geneva Conventions are used as the basic guidelines on human rights in the modern welfare.
The first way this is done is through differentiating combatants from civilians. The combatants are expected to be in military uniforms, hence making the civilians easily identifiable protected. The conventions also have a variety of rules in regard to the prisoners of war. They are not to be subjected to torture or be made human shields. They should also be removed from the conflict zones and should not be subjected to punishment for participating in the war. Conclusion It is apparent that efforts have been made to regulate the conduct of combatants in times of war.
Human rights are expected to be respected at all times and the violators tried for their crimes. The development of war traditions has also governed the acts of war; clearly issuing guidelines on what is to be considered a just war, these guidelines have been built over time. Religious groups have also played a role in the development of these traditions. Islam and jihad form a strong reference point to scholars interested in the just war doctrine. Christianity views on the issue are a bit sketchy and have proven to be confusing due to the divergent views presented by the Old and the New Testament.
However it is clear that the world has come far and stipulations have been put in place to govern the conduct of war with an intention of curbing its occurrence as well as minimize the number of civilian casualties.
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