Archives for posts with tag: terrorism

You know how murder is wrong, and how every single religion declares that it is wrong, and how every moral philosophy uses it as their go-to for extreme thought experiments to showcase how their theories would hold up under the most dire circumstances (would it be okay to lie to prevent a murder, for example)? Of course you do. “Murder is wrong” is quite possibly the least controversial statement. Well, it turns out that people have been killing each other en masse for thousands of years in the form of war, and everyone generally seems to be okay with that, despite how uncontroversial being against killing is.

Why do people go to war? Well, people start wars almost exclusively to attain a greater degree of power, but since they can’t use that as an excuse, they need to justify it in other ways. People who start wars don’t typically fight them, so they need to convince those who do that killing and dying to enrich the already powerful is the right thing to do. Enter the Just War theory, to relieve people from the hypocrisy of condemning killing but supporting a war.

Just War theory was developed during the Roman Empire, and then revitalized during the Crusades. Christians were beginning to suspect that massacring Muslims might go against God’s very specific decree to not kill, and so the thinkers of the day had to come up with ways to justify how an ideology based almost entirely on love and forgiveness could slaughter people by the hundreds of thousands.

What makes a war just? Regaining what was stolen or repelling an attack from the enemy are typically perceived as the conditions for a just war, though there are some stipulations on top of these. For example, if someone steals your watch, you are not justified in murdering that person, since to be just there requires a degree of proportionality. It should also be the last resort, since there can often be other means to regain stolen property or repel an attack.

Beyond the intention of the war, there needs to be the right kind of authority at the head of it. A private individual cannot exact vigilante justice, for example, whereas the leader of a nation can. It is assumed that a private individual can go to a higher authority to arbitrate justice, whereas there is no higher authority than a King. War becomes the negotiating tactic of rulers to settle their differences. Peasants are under moral obligation to their lords, and so are obligated in turn to kill for them. They become morally excused due to that hierarchy, and the legitimacy of murder comes from the rank of the King.

Of course, during the Crusades, there was a higher authority than the King, and that authority was God. The Pope, being the representative of God on Earth, dutifully fulfilled that authoritative role and decided to use that authority to, as was already discussed, slaughter a bunch of Jews and Muslims. These apostate religions constituted an attack on the Christian faith by their very existence, and so war against them was inherently justified. Hm, non-Christian religions that by their very existence are a threat to the properly civilized, thus legitimizing violence against those religions as a moral duty, hmmmmmm. I’m struggling to find a modern parallel.

Anyway, Thomas Aquinas decided that there were three foundations of a Just War: proper authority, as already discussed, proper reasoning, as the common good must be at its foundation, and proper intention. Aquinas’s theory of intention created the Doctrine of Double Effect. This doctrine allows that if our intentions are noble, then the consequences of that action cannot be tied to it. For example, if during a war a munitions factory is bombed and civilians die in the blast, the death of those civilians is acceptable since the intention was not for them to die. Eggs and omelettes metaphors apply.

This brings up criticisms of proportionality, for if our intention is noble but the consequences are catastrophic, then is it truly a just act of violence? Can we bomb an entire city to kill one terrorist? This begets a debate between deontological ethics and consequentalism, but we can try to understand Aquinas from his contemporary predicament: actions had inherent moral value during the Middle Ages, so finding a way to justify murder was his goal, consequences of that justification be damned.

Understanding Just War theory is imperative. During the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, instigating a war of aggression was seen to be the greatest offense. To quote the tribunal, “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” All the bad things that happen in war are the result of there being a war in the first place, so starting a war for the heck of it is appropriately labeled as being “The Worst.” So if someone says that the war in Iraq was a war of aggression, that means that all the consequences from that war, like say the rise of ISIS, are at the feet of those who started it.

Critics even say that soldiers participating in an unjust war are culpable, denying the previous justification to celebrate soldiers of every stripe, regardless of how many atrocities they commit. An example is given of a burglar entering someone’s home, and the homeowner getting into a fight with them. If the homeowner kills the burglar, it is self-defense, but if the burglar kills the homeowner, it is murder. If the burglar was ordered to enter the home, does that mitigate or multiply the responsibility for the actions they commit while inside of it? If someone asks you to do something and threatens you if you don’t do it, violence committed against a third party while following through with that order is still burdened on you. Being bullied does not justify murdering someone uninvolved in that bullying.

Wars are no longer fought at the behest of God… generally. However, they are still sold to the public under the guise of defending civilization so as to demonize the enemy who is using the same justification for their own aggression. The greatest military in the history of the world with the wealthiest populace is apparently under huge threat from militarily insignificant countries like Vietnam, Panama, El Salvador, and of course Afghanistan and Iraq. This laughable narrative is crucial since a threat must exist for self-defense to be feasible, as we all must avoid being labeled “The Worst.”

Is the West engaging in a Just War in the Middle East? Of course not. It invalidates every principle. There are higher authorities, the United Nations and the International Criminal Courts, which could be used to arbitrate justice between nations which were ignored. The Middle East does not possess property of the West that the West is entitled to use violence to reacquire. I suppose if you believe the Crusading myth about existential threats against civilization itself from small groups of individuals with hand-me-down guns and MacGyvered explosives, then sure, but then you’re also a fucking moron. Looks like we got to my thinly-veiled modern parallel after all!

The more intriguing question would be, are terrorists engaging in a Just War with the West? The higher authorities have been shown to be ineffective in keeping back the aggressors. Land and resources are being stolen out from under them. Violence and threats are being instigated against them pretty much at random, so self-defense could also be argued.

Here is where I believe Just War theory falls apart. In order for terrorism to be justified based on its qualifications which do by all accounts fall under the purview of Just War, the West would need to be a unity that could be attacked, but it’s not. The West is not The West, it is a collection of diverse people, opinions, and actions. #NotAllWesterners. Blowing up an Ariana Grande concert is not an attack on “The West,” it is an attack on children dancing to their favourite singer. Terrorism cannot be justified because it is not an attack on those who are responsible for their tragic situation, because those people commit their deeds with the bravery of being out of range.

Were German soldiers representative of a Nazi unity during World War 2? Possibly. It is often said that soldiers have more in common with each other than they do with those who are giving them the order to kill one another. Arguably the resistance in France could be justified, but what about the firebombing of Dresden? Or the atomic drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? When both sides act viciously and amorally against one another, can we call it a Just War? The complexity of even “The Best” of wars are such that making a justification for the whole is impossible.

Being that no war can truly and completely fall under the definition Just, there cannot truly and completely be a Just War. War becomes just as reprehensible as murder. Murder, as established, is wrong. Maybe let’s not do it so much.

Post-script: A lot of my non-referenced information came from here: https://historyofphilosophy.net/just-war

Conservative Government Reacts to Influx of Buddhist Terrorism

http://www.kymonews.com/news/national/conservative-government-reacts-to-influx-of-buddhist-terrorism/article5633562/

As more and more extremist Buddhists rain terror down on Rohingya Muslims in Burma, the Canadian government has issued statements condemning the violence.

“Terrorism could begin in a basement, a temple, or somewhere else,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a press conference last Thursday.”We are in the process of introducing plans to make a lack of serenity mandatory while participating in the citizenship ceremony. Enlightenment is not congruent with Canadian interests and values. If you are one with the universe, you are not one with Canada.”

Locals are becoming uneasy, fearing their neighbour could be a Buddhist terrorist waiting to strike. Resident Laura Walker was interviewed, and told KYMO News of her concerns. “What’s stopping a Buddhist from walking into an airport, and self-immolating themselves on a plane? Anyone willing to sacrifice their own life for their radical idealism has been brainwashed by their religious leaders, and is a threat to us all. Eliminating the public display of serenity is not enough to fight back against those Saffron-Robers, we need stricter airport security measures to keep these extremists from hurting innocent civilians! It even says in their holy text that they want to bring nirvana to all of humanity. I looked up what nirvana means, and it means extinction!”

While some claim that Buddhism is a religion of peace, the debate rages on about how far Canadians should allow the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Charter to accommodate a religion shown to commit terrible violence against an oppressed Muslim minority.