Archives for posts with tag: War

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

Sometimes I like to peruse opinions that don’t align with my own. For example, I recently searched on Breitbart to see how ardent Trump supporters viewed his glaring and impeachable conflicts of interest. The comments mostly centered on the Clinton Foundation, and how if Hilary did it then it must be okay(?). I guess they forgot that they were chanting to lock her up just a few months ago. It was adorable. However, there is the odd occasion where oppositional opinions can make solid points. It was one such video from a Men’s Rights Activist on Youtube that brought together a lot of issues I have been mulling over into one cohesive package that really stuck out to me. It was the idea of the disposable male.

Men make up 95% of all victims of police shootings. For a point of reference, according to the US Department of Justice, 86% of all sexual assault victims are women. Black Lives Matter should in theory partner with MRAs to address police shootings, but somehow I don’t think they will. MRAs would have to admit that fighting for social equity makes them quite literally “Social Justice Warriors,” and BLM would have to admit that victimhood lies beyond their narrowly-defined spectrum. In any case, as far as gendered crime is concerned, this would seem to be a significant issue. However, in reality, it’s not a significant issue and mostly gets ignored. Men dying is essentially inconsequential.

Think of how we describe war. There are many tragedies in war, and when our side loses someone, it is described as the death of a soldier, or a loss of our troops. When tragedy befalls others, its victims are women and children. Despite their majority presence in war (men make up 98% of military deaths in the US), men seemingly do not exist in conflict. At best, soldiers are defined as boys or our sons, hoping to infantilize them to the point where sympathy becomes possible. Emily Cousens in my first hyperlink there describes the impact of intersectionality within masculinity, as men of colour become more hidden in the language of war casualties. We will at least hear about terrorist attacks in Brussels or Paris, whereas the ones in Arab countries are harder to find… unless of course an inordinate number of women and children are killed.

The expectation for men to be soldiers, with all that implies, carries over back home. Canadian men make up 72% of homicide victims and 87% of homicide accused. Men make up the majority of non-sexual victims of violent crime, and though my source doesn’t specify, I can reasonably assume the perpetrators are mostly male as well. These “bad” soldiers must be dealt with, and so men make up 85% of those suffering under the criminal justice system. Given that they were bred to be disposable in the first place, it is downright encouraged to discard them when they prove to be defective. Or rather, the wrong kind of effective since we’re essentially teaching boys to become this type of man in the first place.

There is more than just the obvious examples of crime and war statistics. In the US, men make up 92% of fatal workplace injuries while in Canada it’s 95%. Even in the workplace, it is just assumed that men ought to die for their employer. Men take up 73.6% of beds in homeless shelters in Canada, the very personification of being discarded. Even absurdities like having to be the one in a relationship to kill the spider or to investigate the weird noise at night shows that when faced with a threatening situation, the man is the one who has got to face it and bear any and all consequences from that encounter. Women typically seek a powerful partner to ensure as best as possible that when he is inevitably forced into a disposable situation, he comes back, but he is still expected to enter that situation.

How does one construct a disposable man? The best way to do so would be to deaden his connection to other people; the less attachment he has to others, the more he is willing to give up. bell hooks goes so far to describe the socializing of men as criminally neglectful, as the world rejects the boy’s emotional advances until he learns to avoid expressing them at all. Platonic human touch, one of the most powerful ways of expressing human connection, is forbidden to men which causes intense psychological damage. Since connecting to others is gradually beaten out of them, male friendships tend to decline as they age, completing their isolation.

Men must put on a mask of invincibility because that is the only way they can be respected as men. They must be seen to be able to survive their disposability. This means avoiding treatment for physical and mental well-being, avoiding help of any kind, even when it is clearly needed. It means acting reckless to prove they can endure any danger. However, feeling disposable and isolated means that a chip in the facade can throw men into a chasm of vulnerability. Vulnerable men join the discarded, and men in this pit make up the majority of drug addicts and suicides. Why seek help when you are inherently worthless? Why be vulnerable when depression is a weakness of character? Instead we must be pretend immortality.

The video that ultimately sparked this article advocated abolishing feminism in order to redress these issues, but fortunately this is where we part ways. Men’s rights have been fought for long before third-wave feminism was even around to be abolished: unions to improve working conditions, prison reform to rehumanize our discarded, or the anti-war effort to stop sending men to their pointless deaths. All of these could be considered examples of a Men’s Rights movement because they all promote the well-being of men against a system that treats them as worthless cogs and cannon fodder.

I think we need to look at abolishing feminism too. Not as a serious solution since identifying problems in masculinity does not negate any of the problems in femininity, but why people would even suggest that in the first place. I think part of it comes from feminism’s cry for equality, even though that is clearly a bad idea. Do women want to give up their friendships and spend more time in jail? Somehow I doubt it. It shows the picking and choosing of privileges, leading some to believe that women are gaining at a cost to men. This is why I argue that feminism isn’t about equality but about abolishing gender roles. Unfortunately, not everyone is me, so a lot of men who feel isolated and disposable are insulted by women who refuse to acknowledge and occasionally even deny that damaging and dangerous issues could even exist for men. They then become alienated from progressive gender movements, and become radicalized into your typical MRA misogynist.

We must love boys even as they grow into men, and allow them to love us in return. We must allow the mask behind which men hide to come off. We must abandon the oppressor and oppressed binary that clouds how we perceive men’s problems. We must allow our men to be who they are, whoever they choose to be.

Post-Script: I have seen several criticisms that since men are the ones predominantly perpetrating violence against other men, then the conversation must be discarded since only homogeneous collectives can be responsible for oppression, and the social whole is blameless: whites oppress black, men oppress women, and so on. This  mentality would interpret my blog as suggesting that if two men get into a fight, only the one who loses was disposable. The entire premise of being disposable is what started the fight in the first place, and victory is irrelevant. Soldiers don’t stop being soldiers if they manage to come back from the war. That’s not how it works. Social forces drive disposability, and we are all a part of that machine.

Consider the high rate of black-on-black crime that right-wing propagandists like to spout off on. They’re really the only ones talking about it, and they use it as evidence for the inherently violent nature of black people, since, you know, racism. However, the Disposable Male theory predicts this, since intersecting race with masculinity would create hyper-disposability in this population, which, when internalized, would lead to increased violent behaviour.