PM5111: Concerning Just war theory

Just war theory originates with Augustine; it is an attempt to determine whether a war is morally permissible or not.

As an approach to the ethics of warfare, it can be contrasted with pacifism - the belief war is never justified, whatever the reasons - and at the other extreme is militarism, which sees war as the primary purpose for the state's existence. As such, it represents the golden mean between the two extremes.

There are two aspects: jus ad bellum (whether it is permissible to start a war in a particular case) and jus in bello (what tactics are permissible once war has begun).

Maratreanism rejects both the extremes of pacifism and of militarism.

Maratreanism believes in holy war (Maratrean jihad), and in dying for the sake of the Cause (martyrdom), however it has certain requirements:

  • the war must be fought for a righteous cause
  • the war must not be launched hypocritically (like the United States does, attacking one country - e.g. Iraq - for its crimes, yet supporting other countries - e.g. Saudi Arabia - whose crimes are far worse.)
  • the war must have a reasonable chance of success
  • the war must have a reasonable number of fighters willing to fight it
  • the war must be fought using only moral means (no war crimes, crimes against humanity, attacking civilians, use of nuclear weapons, etc.)

It is immoral to start a war, even for a good cause, which is unlikely to succeed by moral means. If the war is unlikely to succeed, then it cannot justify the suffering it will cause. It need not be certain to succeed, just reasonably likely. It does not even need to be more likely than not -- just not overly unlikely. A war which has a 1 in 10 chance of success, even though it is a longshot, is not by this criteria overly unlikely to succeed. But a war which had a 1 in 1000 chance of success, that would be overly unlikely, and hence morally unjustifiable, even if the cause was good.

The likelihood of success is linked to the morality of means. When people fight hopeless wars, they tend to be tempted to immoral means -- such as indiscriminate attacks on civilians -- things which a small number of people can carry out. If they had more resources, they could engage in more targeted actions, which would be less likely to be immoral. So, for a moral war, it is important to have a sufficient number of fighters supporting it. With less than that, they will too easily be tempted to turn to immoral methods such as indiscriminate attacks on civilians, which would render the war immoral, however moral the cause.

Based on the above criteria, we can make two conclusions:

  • there are no holy wars in the world today, and are unlikely to be any in the near future - but certainly we can expect them to arise over the coming centuries and millenia, thus we must prepare for them
  • we should hold to pacifism in practice

One major difference between a Maratrean armed force, and a non-Maratrean one, is a Maratrean armed force does not compel its members to fight when they do not wish to. All military operations require a majority vote of each unit for participation; anyone who votes against participation is free to withdraw without legal penalty. This is very different from the immoral armed forces used by the powers of this world, who demand their members put their lives on the line whenever the hierarchy demands, and who punish (e.g. with imprisonment) those who refuse to do so in any particular case. Each person must retain for themselves the independent moral judgement to decide if a particular circumstance is worthy of fighting, considering the risk of harm to one's family and friends (who will be harmed by one's death), and the risk of killing non-combatants. The armed forces of this world represent an abdication of moral judgement.

At the Nuremberg Trials was condemned the attitude of "just following orders, sir" among the Nazis; yet this very same attitude is indoctrinated into soldiers in armies around the world today. They are told they don't have to follow illegal orders, yet if they refuse to follow an order which they believe is illegal, and the powers that be don't agree the order is illegal, then they will be punished for it. Thus, they end up following orders which they believe to be illegal, or have doubts about the legality of, since doing whatever they are told to do is the safer option.

It is discouraged for a Maratrean to join a non-Maratrean army, due to their gravely immoral nature, however it may be permissible to gain experience in these matters, which one may then in turn bestow upon others outside it, and thus serve the Cause.