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Last Updated: 02/24/2014
Just War
Alex Powell

Dedicated to my lama - He who shares a similar name with a person who historically distinguished himself on the battlefields of the Tibetan plateau.

Unless we have dismissed the possibility of war as a valid proposition advocates of peace will have no answer to those advocates of war who suggest constant readiness, aggressive interrogation, pre-emptive strikes, who justify collateral damage, mass casualties, an arms race, nuclear weapons and the like as valid propositions also. Unless we willingly create the non-possibility of a valid war (a war that achieves the result of its aim, security) its advocates will always question our own knowing against wars associated chicanery with the counterpoint “anything can happen, we must be ready” and therefore be ever-ready to justify war. We must dispose of the notion of war via destroying the notion Just War as all variations of war fall between the two, Just War and Unjust War, if we rid ourselves of these two every variation in between that relies on them is removed also.

Just War –VS- a Just War is not a valid proposition because if the aim is justice on both sides, there can be no justification therefore no validity to fight against justice and be just. There can be no validity to fight a war against the just (agents of justice), as without them justification and therefore justice (the object of the just) could not be designated just and therefore not sustainable as a qualification of war on either side.

But in the formulation Just War –VS- Unjust War, how can one side be considered Just when it requires their opponent to be Unjust but have no way to justify it other than believing they are Just? This would mean they are confused not necessarily morally wrong in the absence of a clear (so that all sides can see and understand) statement on the respective Justness of each sides position on the conflict from the all -mighty. Even the Just have no other way of justifying themselves other than by believing themselves Just. So how can it be considered Just to fight against the confused? How can security be achieved (the aim of war) in a just way (Just War) by destroying the confused?

In this way the idea of a Just War is clearly shown to be not valid. And, if the notion of a Just War is shown to be not valid, this only has to be done once, because whenever the notion of a Just War is raised it will be rid of its validity and thus the dialectics of political intrigue, religious factionalism, ideological posturing, mission shifts etc., associated with the rightness of war cannot be considered relevant through lacking validity by being associated with a non-valid argument, Just War; even though others may present very emotive, very convincing or very convoluted arguments to support the dialectic on both sides.

This way we get closer to the truly Just Act and away from Just War. Conversely if you accept the validity of a Just War reasons must be put forward for why such is valid every time the notion of a Just War is raised and you are compelled to become involved in these arguments. If you do not accept the validity of a Just War the reasons put forward for it via political intrigue and the like cannot be issues for you.

True, it is simplistic to consider War as one act, it must be considered critically from many angles. This is especially true if a conclusively Just Act is what you are trying to establish. However this proves to be the Achilles heel of the Just War idea, as doesn’t this idea try to distil War into one act, a Just one? While if we do not accept the validity of Just War then we are forced to consider War and its particular instances from many angles as a default position in the dialectics of war is not an option for us. Therefore it is shown that compulsion cannot support a Just Act because compulsion by definition cannot intend to do something and only by intending to do something can one be considered Just or Unjust. As agents of War are compelled to engage in the act, the idea of a Just War and therefore any War is not valid through not achieving the result of its aim, security, as one is only secure when one is not compelled to act. If we are compelled to act, how can we be secure?

[Editor’s note: I posed the following questions to the author, and he has graciously answered.]

(1) Why should we assume that the aim of war is security, rather than, say, victory?

We should address the most difficult to reach audience in the broadest most general of terms. To successfully attack the entrenched concepts that support this extremely entrenched idea, this gambit does deliberately bait with technical issues like “validity”. Why? To show we are not awed in the slightest. If here is not the right place to call a bluff, where can a bluff be called at all? So by security we can mean integrity by validity we can mean viability utterly regardless of the feelings of those hiding under their desks who might object to the use of these particulars in this particular context. We assume they know who they are at least. I can be contacted via email below if there any technical queries.

What does a term like victory mean anyway? In a certain persons hands victory means something and this is shared by some on the same side while for others elsewhere it might mean something else. The point is that this idea of Just War has absolutely no integrity, no validity and therefore absolutely no viability YET people can think it does, share this idea and use it. To what (other) extent have technicalities been proven in this field anyway? If we have disproved Just War itself why and how should we separately disprove its offspring, the subsequent idea of victory through a Just War? Remember the centrepiece is that it isn't necessarily just to destroy the confused. If you believe in Just War you must hold this.

(2) War rarely falls into a 2 sided confrontation anymore – does the same logic apply when many different individuals, groups, and states engage in war for many different reasons?

We shouldn't allow ourselves to be too dazzled by force of numbers nor awed by the sincerest arguments as they screw the bayonet to the end of the rifle. Believing your view or a view has integrity or not is not the same as it actually having integrity or not no matter how strong the belief in it. Why should this logical principle recede into the background each time a party in a disputation wants to draw attention to their own argument just at the very moment it should come to the fore? Because there are objective measures of integrity, it is not just to destroy the confused and, this is true no matter how confused or confusing to each other any number of parties in a disputation may be to each other (see below).

(3) What about the criteria for a just war that others have suggested? For example, Aquinas argued that a just war would be fought with the goal of peace in mind, by proper authorities, and for the good of the people over private gain – and I can also imagine an argument that a war in pure self-defence could be just, such as the attempt of Tibetans to defend themselves from Chinese invasion. Do you think these arguments should be proven false?

It is proved that Just war is not viable, not valid, not existent in reality. Do I personally believe that in some cases violence is justified? I do personally but I am not convinced totally by the argument. On a scale where height is desirable and lowness is undesirable is it desirable to go toward lowness from a height if it leads to more height? The answer is yes only if height and lowness are relative to each other. If height and lowness are not relative then “lowering oneself” is not the same thing as conceding height.

Alex Powell is a researcher living in Wales. Has previous work on memory recognized by The Royal College Psychiatry with major implications for neuroscience and theories of mind. Has written: Diversifying market forces drive global economic interdependence, not Globalization. Currently working in web development with a focus on engineering applications for right livelihood organisations. Contact