Ethics of warfare | By Zafar Aziz Chaudhry


Ethics of warfare

THE fundamental question of warfare is: Is it ever morally right to kill fellow human beings at a massive scale?

The pacifists who dislike war have concluded that war cannot bring peace, because violent methods cannot create non-violent results.

The devastation caused by World War-II is the turning point of world history. It almost affected all countries of the world.

The causalities were so horrible that nearly 50 to 55 million people died due to war, while 20 to 25 million died from war-related diseases and famine.

A huge number of people were rendered homeless. Today the wars are much smaller in size.

After 1945 the so-called wars are fought within the same country with different names like Guerrilla, brushfire uprisings and insurgencies, etc.

These so-called human conflicts are much smaller in size and scope than WW-II. These conflicts are common in Algeria, Angola, Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq and often prolong into months and years, and gradually from developing countries, such smaller wars present threat to spread into the developed world.

In this nuclear age, one is shuddered to think what would happen if the US and Russia are engaged in a full-scale nuclear war.

It is believed that five billion people would die due to the obliteration of global food and atomic radiation.

Most ancient philosophers like Aristotle viewed war as an activity, that if it is done for the ultimate good, it would be in harmony with the universe.

It is Aristotle’s concern about the ultimate good that allowed him to begin to outline a system of ethics for total war.

Plato argues that it is inherently difficult, if not impossible, to achieve true virtue in the affairs of war.

Thus he too indirectly criticized the pursuit of war.The character of war is changing fast and the ethics needs to keep pace with that change.

But the fundamental ethical issues have not changed. War is still regarded as inherently unethical.

To be justified, significant ethical reasons are required and the idea of ‘Just War’ emerges out as a result to find some kind of justification for war.

According to St.Thomas Aquinas, three requirements must be met. Firstly, the war must be waged upon the command of a rightful sovereign.

Secondly, the war needs to be waged for a just cause, on account of some wrong committed by the attacked party.

Thirdly, warriors must have the right intent, namely to promote good and to avoid evil. Thus following his example, most other writers and philosophers approved the ‘just cause theory’ of war.

Einstein also despised war and militarism, but justified it when it is “fight for peace. ” If by pacifism it is meant that the use of force is never justifiable, then the concept of ‘just war’ which is inherent in the concept of pacifism will not avail.

Thus pacifism as used by these sages does include the theory of ‘just war. ’ Bertrand Russell views World War-I as essentially irrational, futile and egotistical.

He writes that it is ‘trivial, for all its vastness. No great principle is at stake, no great human purpose is involved on either side’. For writing this he was also sent to jail.

In 1943, Russell was an advocate of “relative political pacifism”—he held that war was always a great evil, but in some particularly extreme circumstances (such as when Adolf Hitler threatened to take over Europe) it might be a lesser of multiple evils.

Armed conflicts such as the Spanish Civil War, World War-II and the Cold War were judged according to the norms (as established in Aquinas’ just war theory) by philosophers of that time.

War is a state of conflict between different societies or countries. The general cause of war is the difference of opinions on some vital issue(-s).

Although in some cases, a war might help attain the peace but peace always comes at a price, which is a loss of life and property.

The World War-I and II have already caused huge irrecoverable damage. These wars have proved that wars cause major suffering and in fact, the only reason that World War-I ended was that most of the countries involved were exhausted and fed up, and begged their leaders for a ceasefire to be called.

Wars would be endless if it was not for humanity’s own limits. In this generation, where nuclear weapons and bio weapons have been invented, another war would lead to total annihilation of the country or maybe the world too.

Most of the countries are in possession of these weapons of mass destruction. Hence, the war in this generation does not bring peace but in turn, causes more violence and despair.

In this background, it appears certain that war will never be able to bring true, long-lasting peace.

Nations will be hit emotionally and economically. So violence is not the way to create peace. War is neither a solution or option to bring peace.

Of all the thorny issues a time would come when history will testify that the final settlement of the Kashmir conflict will undoubtedly bring peace and security not only to the disputed region but also to the whole of South Asia – home to one-fifth of the human race.

This would be the only just and fair solution when right of self-determination to the Kashmiris in accordance with the resolution of the UN is carried out to which Indian Prime minister Nehru pledged on the floor of UN are carried out.

This is subject to restoration of normalizing of relations between Pakistan and India. The Government of India played two mischiefs to thwart plebiscite in Kashmir.

One, it rescinded the Domicile law, which was enacted in 2020 simply to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir.

Secondly, it enforced Article 370 of the Constitution to deprive the autonomous status of J&K.

Until these changes are undone, which is least likely, the people of Kashmir will face repression and genocide.

—The writer is former member of Provincial Civil Service and author of three books, based in Islamabad.