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Ken MacLeod on the doctrine of just war:

Nothing has done more to corrupt humanity than the attempt to civilise warfare. Just War Theory is an utter perversion of the moral sense, a doctrine of literally mediaeval barbarism, invented by clerics to regulate wars between Christian kings. Its finest moral discrimination to date is that it’s legitimate to kill a munitions worker on his way to work, but a crime to kill him on his way home. It tells us that to aim a bomb at an enemy soldier and kill a hundred civilians is – if the necessity is there – legitimate collateral damage, but to deliberately aim one bullet at one enemy civilian is murder. In its pedantic, casuistic jesuitry it still stinks of the cringing, quibbling fusspots who invented it, and retains too its usefulness to a useless and barbaric ruling class. It does nothing whatsoever to restrain their behaviour. Its only function is to befuddle those who oppose, protest and fight them. It justifies every horrific, predictable consequence of imperialist assault as an unintended consequence, and condemns every horrific, predictable consequence of resistance to that assault as an intended consequence. Their violence against civilians is mass murder, ours is collateral damage.

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 20, 2006 at 8:46 pm

Posted in distraction, war

2 Responses

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  1. There is no place for comments there, so I’ll post here.

    I’m no expert, but my impression is that just war theory (inside and outside the church) is still evolving, and that it includes a concept of proportionality.

    Plus, there’s no denying that the world would be a better place if world leaders (*cough* George Bush) actually paid attention to it, no?


    July 25, 2006 at 6:10 pm

  2. Hi Jared,

    I’m not a fan of “just war” theory, as far as I understand it. For one thing, I have a sense that just about anything that merits the name “war” is most likely going to be unjust. Whether there’s any room for violence at all, harder for me to say.

    A concept of proportionality? Perhaps, when there is proportionality in the world at large. But until then, I doubt that it is possible.

    (I also have a personal reason – but one that is linked, deeply, to the other reasons – for not entertaining the concept of just war. In the months before 9/11, my wife submitted a piece on women in Afghanistan to a relatively prominent once-leftist journal that just happens to be edited by, ahem, an important theorist of the just war. She’d written something small for them previously – just getting started in her writing career. The piece came back as acceptable in its depiction of the problem, but short on solutions. “Are you arguing for military intervention? If not, why not? What do you propose to do, short of that?” It seems someone wanted a bit of fireworks at the end of the piece… Which, no, wasn’t what my wife was arguing for…

    So she chucked the piece and moved on. But the entire exchange took on an eerily prescient light once the show got started after 9/11… There were lots of folks, thinkers, politicians, pundits, who were itching for an opportunity to get busy in the middle east, to take the side of justice and get the bombs dropping, it seems.

    Anyway, thanks for your comment. It’s just that when you see war, as I do, as, at the most basic level, not so much a means of enforcing order and peace between nations, but rather a tool cynically used by those in power against / at the expense of those who aren’t, it’s hard to imagine a “just war” theory that would be acceptable.


    July 25, 2006 at 11:24 pm

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