Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ethics and War: The Syrian Question



The US being thoughtful via Just War Theory is like a functional alcoholic using the 12-Step process. Its addiction to war makes it almost impossible to consider the "12" other strategies that make more sense. Before you know it, it will head to the store (consumer militarism) and open the bottle.

Some thoughtfulness from a few who are able to see the forest and trees is provided today in the Washington Post. Here are some excerpts from The Ethics of a Syrian Military Intervention:The Experts Respond.

The just war tradition is based on a series of arguments to be tested before using force against another population. Legitimate and competent authorities must logically argue that the use of force will end or limit the suffering of a people and these forceful actions are the last options after all diplomatic, social, political, and economic measures have been exhausted. (Stanley Hauerwas)

My problem is that I don’t see why this kind of chemical attack matters so mightily when 100,000 civilians have been killed in Syria already. It seems to me that you’ve had massive attacks on civilians — with the world standing aside — that should have been the reason for intervention. But there’s also a question of proportionality and success, and I think that there are good reasons to think you might make things worse by a military attack. (Rev. Drew Christiansen)

From a moral perspective, it appears that observers see killing civilians with chemical weapons as somehow different from killing civilians with conventional weapons. I don’t know why there would be any distinction. Egyptians who are killed are just as dead as the Syrians who were killed, and though it appears that dying of a chemical weapons attack is an awful experience, frankly bleeding to death from a gunshot wound to your chest or stepping on a mine that blows off your leg is equally awful. So anyone who makes an argument that there’s a moral obligation to act has to address that question: Why here and not there? (Andrew J. Bacevich)

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