Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Indecency of War

Let's take another look at the position that principle developed in the previous post is true: principle W for "war" because it is the essence of war from which this principle is derived.

There is in war a requirement to do what is indecent. The side that is justified in waging war is not only sometimes justified in but sometimes justified only in doing indecent acts of violence. This is what magnifies the horrors of war into something grotesque. Where morality requires acts of indecent violence it is grotesque.

Since a society has a right to repel the unjust attacks it receives from another, it has a right to do violence which causes casualties amongst enemy innocents whenever this violence is necessary to its defense. The horror of war is that this principle is too obvious to require argument. The morals of war sanction indecency, for it is indecent to incinerate enemy children, yet morality allows it.

But the matter is even worse. There is no morally relevant difference between the strategic killing of enemy innocents and the death of enemy innocents via collateral damage, as in the case of the bombing of a military base unavoidably killing nearby enemy civilians. The justification for the latter - call it collateral killing of innocents - is that it is necessary to defending oneself against the enemy's military. But sometimes this justification subsists remains in the case of the former (the strategic killing of innocents.) And if it be replied that the strategic killing is indecent, it may be pointed out that collateral killing is no less indecent, as the intentional incineration of thousands of innocent non-combatants is indecent in any case.

While the principle that a society sometimes has a right to do acts of violence to enemy innocents doesn't require argument, arguments may be found. I mentioned one in the previous post: the argument from the falsity of pacifism, as it were. The idea is that any war will be such that the deaths of enemy innocents will be inextricably woven into the chain of events known as "defending oneself against that enemy." Therefore, if self-defense is permissible and this is not empty talk, inflicting death upon enemy innocents is permissible. There is another argument, but let's leave that for another post.