[Vision2020] War Ethics!

thansen@moscow.com thansen@moscow.com
Mon, 10 Mar 2003 21:52:51 GMT

I agree 100%.  War never proves who is right, only who is left.

Take care,

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

> Dear Ms. Rwiza and Visionaries,
> War is the LAST alternative to aggression and international harm.
> Jonathan Glover is correct.
> Take a good look at this past Sunday New York Times editorial page and
> op-ed page. The lead editorial said it well: now is not the time nor is
> Iraq the place for the United States to become the aggressor and almost
> singular enforcer of disarmament. Jimmy Carter and Tom Friedman both
> wrote movingly and morally about the need for another way other than
> bombing, killing and abandonment of diplomacy.
> I look at my students who are planning for commissioning in the military
> in the next few months and the thought of placing them anywhere near
> harm's way before we have done all we can through diplomacy and
> international law makes me weep. 
> I remember my friend, May Al-Jibouri, from graduate school at WSU in the
> late 1970s and know that she and her family are back in Iraq. The
> thought of May's children and grandchildren (probably now) in harm's way
> makes me weep.
> We who are against war with Iraq on the Bush Administration's terms
> value our precious military men and women and our precious peace
> activists who are willing to continue the dialogue about a just war.
> Shalom,
> Linda Pall
>   ----- Original Message ----- 
>   From: katetegeilwe rwiza 
>   To: vision2020@moscow.com 
>   Sent: Monday, March 10, 2003 9:57 AM
>   Subject: [Vision2020] War Ethics!
>   By Jonathan Glover.
>   Wednesday February 5, 2003
>   The Guardian 
>   I have spent the past few years discussing medical ethics with
> students who are often doctors or nurses. Their work involves them in
> life-and-death decisions. Our discussions have reminded me of what many
> of us experience when we are close to someone in acute medical crisis.
> When a parent is dying slowly in distress or indignity, or when a baby
> is born with such severe disabilities that life may be a burden, the
> family and the medical team agonizes over whether to c! ontinue life
> support. No one finds such a decision easy or reaches it lightly. What
> is at stake is too serious for anyone to rush the discussion. 
>   It is hard not to be struck by the contrast between these painful
> deliberations and the hasty way people think about a war in which
> thousands will be killed. The people killed in an attack on Iraq will
> not be so different from those in hospital whose lives we treat so
> seriously. Some will be old; many will be babies and children. To think
> of just one five-year-old Iraqi girl, who may die in this war, as we
> would think of that same girl in a medical crisis is to see the enormous
> burden of proof on those who would justify killing her. Decisions for
> war seem less agonizing than the decision to let a girl in hospital die.
> But only because ano! nymity and distance numb the moral imagination. 
>   Questions about wa r are not so different from other life-and-death
> decisions. War kills many people, but each person has a life no more to
> be lightly destroyed than that of a child in hospital. This moral
> seriousness of killing is reflected in the ethics of war. If a war is to
> be justified, at least two conditions have to be met. The war has to
> prevent horrors worse than it will cause. And, as a means of prevention,
> it has to be the last resort. Killing people should not be considered
> until all alternative means have been tried - and have failed. 
>   Those supporting the proposed war on Iraq have claimed that it will
> avert the greater horror of terrorist use of biological or nuclear
> weapons. But this raises questions not properly answered. It is not yet
> clear whether Iraq even has these weapons, or whether their having them
> would be more of a threat than possession by other countries with
> equally horrible regimes, such as North Korea. No good evidence has been
> produced of any link to terrorist groups. Above all, there is no
> evidence of any serious exploration by the American or British
> governments of any means less terrible than war. Is it impossible to
> devise some combination of diplomacy and continuing inspection to deal
> with any possible threat? Is killing Iraqis really the only means left
> to us? 
>   The weak answers given to these questions by the two governments
> proposing war explain why the! y have persuaded so few people in the
> rest of Europe, or even in this country. It is heartening how few are
> persuaded by claims about intelligence too secret to reveal, or by the
> attempts to hurry us into war by leaders who say their patience is
> exhausted. We would never agree to remove the baby's life support on the
> basis of medical information too confidential for the doctor to tell us.
> Still less would we accept this because the doctor's patience has run
> out. It really does seem that this time many of us are thinking about
> war with something like the same seriousness. 
>   There is an extra dimension to the decision about this particular war.
> The choice made this time may be one of the most important decisions
> about war ever made. This is partly because of the great risks of even a
> "successful" war. The defeat even of Saddam Hussein's cruel dictatorship
> may contribute to long-term enmity and c! onflict between the west and
> the Islamic world. In what is widely thought in the Islamic world to be
> both an unjustified war and an attack on Islam, an American victory may
> be seen as an Islamic humiliation to be avenged. This war may do for our
> century what 1914 did for the 20th century. And there is an ominous
> sense of our leaders, as in 1914, being dwarfed by the scale of events
> and sleepwalking into decisions with implications far more serious than
> they understand. 
>   The other reason for the special seriousness of the decision about
> this war has to do with the dangerous post-September 11 world we live
> in. That day showed how much damage a low-tech terrorist attack can do
> to even the most heavily armed country. The US was like a bull, able to
> defeat any other bull it locked horns ! with, but suddenly unable to
> defend itself against a swarm of bees. Al l countries are vulnerable to
> such attacks. Combining this thought with the proliferation of
> biological weapons, and possibly of portable nuclear weapons, suggests a
> very frightening world. 
>   This dangerous world is often seen as part of the argument in support
> of the war. If we don't act now, won't the problem, as Tony Blair said,
> "come back to haunt future generations"? But further thought may raise
> doubts about whether the dangerous world of terrorism and proliferation
> really counts for the war rather than against it. 
>   The frightening world we live in is like the "state of nature"
> described by Thomas Hobbes. What made life in the state of nature
> "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" was the strength of the
> reasons people had to fight each other. There was no ruler to keep the
> peace. So everyone knew the strong would attack the weak for their
> possessions. But the instability was worse than this. My fear of attack
> by you gives me a reason for a pre-emptive strike ! against you before
> you get strong enough to start. But my reason for a pre-emptive strike
> against you in turn gives you a reason for a pre-emptive strike against
> me. And so the spiral of fear and violence goes on. Hobbes thought the
> only solution was the creation of Leviathan, a ruler with absolute
> power. Such a ruler could impose a peace otherwise unobtainable. The
> dangers of tyranny and injustice are outweighed by the dangers of a
> world where no one has power to impose peace. 
>   Our present international world seems alarmingly like the Hobbesian
> state of nature. Nations (and perhaps at least as frighteningly, small
> groups such as al-Qaida) have many motives for attack and our protection
> is flimsy. The pure Hobbesian solution to this would be a social
> contract between all such states and groups, giving all power to one to
> act as absolute ruler. This is unlikely to happen. But there is a
> naturally evolving equivalent. Sometimes one dominant power emerges, and
> imposes Pax R! omana or Pax Britannicus or, in our time, Pax Americana.
> The Hobbesian suggestion is that, as the way out of the law of the
> jungle, we should welcome the emergence of a superpower that dominates
> the world. 
>   In his book, Perpetual Peace, Immanuel Kant saw that the Hobbesian
> solution was not the best possible. The Hobbesian ruler has no moral
> authority. His only claim to impose peace is his strength. Conflict is
> not eliminated, but suppressed by sheer strength. If the ruler grows
> weak, the conflict will surface again. 
>   This applies to the international world. A superpower with an empire
> may suppress conflict. But, as Pax Romana and Pax Britannicus remind us,
> empires fall as well as rise. Such a peace is unlikely to last for ever.
> And empires act at least partly out of self-interest, so the imposed
> arrangements may not be just. Palestinians, for instance, may be unhappy
> to entrust their future to Pax Americana. But absolutely central is the
> lack of moral authority of anything imposed by force. To put it crudely,
> no one appointed the ! US, or the US and Britain, or NATO, to be world
> policeman. 
>   Kant's solution was a world federation of nation-states. They would
> agree to give the federation a monopoly of the use of force. This use of
> force would have a moral authority derived from its impartiality and
> from its being set up by agreement. In the present world, the Kantian
> solution might be a proper UN police force, with adequate access to
> funds an! d to force of overwhelming strength. There would have to be
> agreed cri teria for its intervention, together with a court to
> interpret those criteria and to authorize intervention. There are many
> problems with this solution. But something like it is the only way of
> policing the global village with impartiality and authority. It is the
> only hope of permanently bringing to an end the cycle of violence. 
>   A central decision of our time is between these two ways of trying to
> keep the peace in the global village. In a Hobbesian village, violence
> is quelled by a posse rounded up from the strongest villagers. It is a
> Texas cowboy village, or Sicilian village with mafia gangs. In a Kantian
> village, there is a strong police force, backed up by the authority of
> law and the courts. The Kantian village may seem utopian. But there are
> reasons for thinking it is not impossible. In the f! irst half of the
> 20th century, Europe gave the world colonialism, genocide and two world
> wars. Then it would have seemed utopian to think of the present European
> Union. Through pressure of experiencing the alternative, a federation
> did come about. With luck, Kant's proposal may come about because we see
> the importance of not experiencing what is likely to be a really
> terrible alternative. 
>   For all its inadequacies, the UN is the embryonic form of the rule of
> law in the world. This is another reason why the proposed war could be
> so disastrous. Every time Bush or Blair say they will not be bound by a
> Security Council veto, without knowing it they are Hobbesians. Never
> mind moral authority: we, the powerful, will decide what happens. If we
> want to make a pre-emptive strike, we will do so. And we will listen to
> the UN provided! it says what we tell it to say. 
>   Some of us fear the instability o f a world of unauthorized
> pre-emptive strikes. We hope our precarious situation may nudge world
> leaders further towards the rule of law, towards giving more authority
> and power to the UN. The alternative is terrifying. This gives an extra
> dimension of menace to the attitude of the American and British
> governments to this crisis. The erosion of the world's attempt at
> international authority is something to add to the cruelty and killing
> of this lawless war we are being asked to support. 
>   · Jonathan Glover is director of the Centre of Medical Law and
> Ethics at King's College, London, and author of Humanity: A Moral
> History of the 20th Century.
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