David Rodin & Henry Shue, eds.

How do we judge what a soldier does in a war, both morally and legally? How does that soldier measure herself or himself? For the ends of military and political leaders who wage wars, it is convenient to propagate a simple answer, that the morally and legally correct thing for a soldier to do is to follow orders, and that this will produce the best outcome for each soldier’s nation. Each soldier is thus expected to submit to the authority of others as to important matters about killing, and although the nation waging war, and those carrying out its campaigns and strategies and tactics, may be seeking ends that are questionable, or even demonstrably vile, any soldier who has followed orders, and acted within the “rules of war,” is said to be honorable. Though the inconsistencies and tragic results of this threadbare ethical construct have been painfully clear worldwide for many lifetimes, it still is defended by the most powerful interests, of every religion and ideology and culture. The leaders of all of those groups may despise each other, but they are unified and unyielding in their efforts to perpetuate this doctrine.

The eleven brilliant essays in this book tease out every factor of what is at stake. No author aligns with the other ten, but there are no manipulative cynics; all are serious and thorough. The matter is so complicated that the book is not written for young recruits and draftees. Although there is no eighteen year old recruit or draftee who could fully appreciate the moral and legal jungle into which he or she is being thrust, as a soldier, amongst them they will be faced with all of the terrible choices, and doubts, and possibilities that a moral agent, with both rights and responsibilities, will come up against as a soldier in a war. Not every situation, every dilemma, can be covered in a book, but the coverage of issues and points of view in this book is impressive.

Every time a war begins, and especially those wars with well-organized armies backed by nation-states, justifications (some of them in public forums) are offered about whether the undertaking is good, or legal, or practical. These factors are all argued out by generals, and politicians, and diplomats, and warmongers and peaceniks. These are the issues about the correctness and practicality of a nation, as a nation, waging war. This book is about the right and wrong and practicality of what each soldier does, an issue that is distinct, but broadly and deeply overlapping. Any one of the publicly political actors participating in decisions about war who has not seriously considered all of the dynamic ethical and legal and practical concerns for each individual soldier that are raised in this book cannot be considered to be offering wise input. 

Each essay goes to about 25 pages, densely argued. Each author is well prepared as to the practical implications, in terms of both justice and human misery, of every ethical challenge a soldier faces. No author says that any soldier has the time or opportunity to think through all of these matters. For that reason, leaders and citizens and lawmakers must study these matters deeply, and all of us must work to make discussion of these matters broadly practiced. The leaders are the ones legitimizing war, and the soldiers are always being chewed up by it. There are military and political who will not be interested in this material. Driven by ambition and competitive tribalism, they will be very interested in war, but not in its ethical complexities. Those who read this book will be in a much better position thereafter to act as a counterweight to that group.

These authors reveal every twist and turn of how war, the massive institutionalization of killing, places every individual soldier, and even those of us who fund war, in the pincers of painfully contorting ethical conundrums. They can’t and don’t offer answers to each problem, but they do offer many concrete ways for us to think about how to progress, internationally, nationally, and personally. Every chapter, and nearly every sentence, is rich in analysis and possibility. Ethics and legality are approached from many perspectives; at every point, the moral nitpicking of the peacenik scold is constantly made to confront whatever doubt and purportedly practical concern can be raised by those who believe that armies are necessary and that war-making can be justified. Soldiers are trapped by this confrontation between morality and practicality, and thrown into the meat grinder of war. They and we must engage in constant open discussion of these ethical problems.

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 KIlling in war

Jeff McMahan

War is a social disease, a show of mass insanity that one would perceive as absurd, were it not so uncomfortably common. It is a disease we should eradicate. The project to rid ourselves of this disease is a long-term project. It has come forward substantially over centuries, and will probably take generations yet. McMahan’s work gives us important traction forward.

This book is moral philosophy, but McMahan is a practical realist. He rejects the brutal cynicism of a Hobbesian position that moral restraint cannot be applied in war. Nevertheless, he fully understands our tortuous path to find a way out of the problems we have of armies and nations and wars. Improving human behavior in this realm will require careful thought, and McMahan is diligent. I have been aware of his work for years, and his earliest publication that I use is “The Limits of National Partiality,” his chapter in The Morality of Nationalism, McKim and McMahan, eds. I have returned to it many times to try to understand how we are all, in our own way, nationalists, and what there is to do about it. I will be coming back to Killing in War for years also.

In this book, about war, McMahan is focused on analysis and moral evaluation of the behavior of individual soldiers in war. He is asking, “During war, when should killing be permitted?” He thoroughly lines out each practical concern a soldier faces, focusing on how the individual should act. He is a very organized philosopher, and sets up a clear system for studying, in detail, what is just and moral, within the constraints of what is practical and effective, for a soldier. The fields of what is moral, and what is legal, are necessarily separate matters; McMahan is knowledgeable in both fields, having spent decades studying and lecturing and writing about ethics in war.

The task that McMahan has set for himself is to deconstruct a set of concepts that have, up until now, been the standard model for understanding the moral responsibilities of a soldier during war. According to that standard model, it does not matter which side a soldier is fighting on; her/his moral responsibilities are the same. According to this model, even if it is overwhelmingly obvious that one side in a war is aggressive in clearly wrong ways, and the other side is clearly justifiably defending itself, the ethical rules for the soldiers on both sides should be exactly the same. For example, the Filipino soldiers resisting the brutal invasion and occupation of the Japanese would be expected to toe the line to the same permissions and restrictions that the Japanese soldiers would be expected to follow. Each soldier that followed those rules would be considered to be acting morally. McMahan singles out a specific author, Michael Walzer, whose work represents this tradition. He elaborates a withering critique of Walzer, and proposes that it is time to take apart the fundamentally illogical structure of the “tidy set of rules” that governments and armies and politicians and international bodies have so comfortably used to allow soldiers to rationalize their behavior in war.

The book is too painstakingly thorough to be comfortably summarized. For example, McMahan reviews and appreciates all of Walzer’s reasoning, both practical and moral, prior to setting out his critique of that paradigm. The issues are complex; the individual soldier will often face moral ambivalence. However, there is one key point of disagreement between Walzer and McMahan that powerfully exemplifies McMahan’s understanding of how we must mature, as societies and individuals, to begin to cure the disease of war at the cellular level. Walzer’s claim has been that the moral status of a soldier is unrelated to the issue of whether her/his side in a war is the just side or the unjust side. McMahan disagrees strongly, and argues convincingly that soldiers fighting for the unjust side in a war must be held to task for this.

In international treaties, it is recognized that the only just wars are those that are fought in self-defense. A country defending itself against an unjust invader is, generally, in the right. McMahan recognizes that there is seldom complete clarity, but says that most of the time it is quite clear which side is “just.” The Iraqis were wrong and the Kuwaitis were right. McMahan is not a traditional pacifist. He treats self-defense against an unjust aggressor as a complete justification for killing someone, if necessary to save one’s own life.

It is this very argument that McMahan brings to the individual level of the soldier. He is not at all insensitive to the plight of soldiers, from the draftee to the dupe. He understands the publicly impractical and individually grave consequences that will arise from labeling individual soldiers as blameworthy or liable for what they have done if they are fighting for an unjust cause. He covers all angles of every moral and legal defense, and the unconvincing and/or partial excuses that can be raised to rationalize the killing that is done by soldiers that are fighting for an unjust cause. Among other themes, he cycles constantly back to: 1. the practical problems, after a war, of prosecuting hundreds of thousands of soldiers, 2. the effects of war propaganda and youth on the ignorance of soldiers, and the resulting limitation in what they can know, 3. the duress and threats that the soldiers’ own governments put them under, (which still do not relieve these soldiers from all responsibility for unjust killing), 4. a moral grading of the types of threats that a soldier can face, and an ongoing discussion of proportional response (e.g., it is not moral to obliterate an entire village because there was a bullet fired from one of the houses), 5. the special case of child soldiers, 6. the issue of who is a combatant and who is not, and 7. justifications of “lesser evils.” He carefully dissects and deploys terms such as innocence, liability, culpability, permissibility, diminished responsibility, collateral damage, and civilian target.

This review is only giving the reader a light overview of McMahan’s thoughtful organization and presentation of the moral elements involved in the dilemmas soldiers face in war. It is everyone’s job to disseminate these ideas to the public, and especially to soldiers and the young people who are considering becoming soldiers.

McMahan is well aware that the world is not yet ready to start regularly prosecuting masses of unjust soldiers, or even soldiers who fight in an immoral way for the just side in a war, in criminal proceedings. He knows that we do not yet have the institutional framework for these undertakings. We can’t even yet make institutionally authoritative judgments about the just and unjust side in most wars. Our efforts at this time are best put into trying to prevent wars, and especially unjust wars, wherein no self-defense is at play. If we were to begin prosecuting individual soldiers at this time, there is an understandable likelihood that the only result would be a sad “Victor’s Justice.” Yet McMahan has successfully revealed the weaknesses in Walzer’s structures, and shown us a plausible way to work toward the prevention of unjust wars. If the availability of more ethical and historical information about the individual responsibility and culpability of soldiers fighting unjust wars were distributed widely, in combination with mechanisms, however lightly applied, putting blame where it belongs, on people who kill unjustly, many young people would be deterred from killing unjustly, or even being soldiers for governments that conduct unjust wars. A government that fears that it has the full support of its population and military for unjust wars might not risk the challenge to its authority.

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David Rodin

This book is a rich contribution to moral philosophy about war. The author extensively addresses practical, ethical concerns about what can be done so that nations develop confidence in rules or habits that address and resolve conflict with a minimum of mass killing.

Rodin is from New Zealand, is a Senior Research Fellow at Oxford and is on the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. He is conversant with all present strains of argument in Just War Theory and Revisionist Just War Theory. He is one of a group of moral philosophers who write, teach, consult (even on occasion for some military organizations), and even propose elements of regulations and laws which can improve upon the inconsistent and hypocritical ethical reasonings that nations presently employ. He has regularly lectured officers in the UK military on ethics issues, and also has given lectures in US and other western military settings.

Rodin says that most moral, legal, and political / rhetorical justifications that are offered to justify wars call upon the notion of national defense. Arguments for ‘national defense’ often state or imply that it is analogous to personal self-defense. The purpose of this awkward but well-researched book is to demonstrate that this very old and widely employed analogy is fatally flawed. He says that for the world to develop conflict resolution methods that do not sink into the unpredictable and costly horrors of war, we should move to other ways of thinking about how to justify military action.

The book has two main sections. The first half investigates our present understanding of the ‘right’ of personal self-defense. The second half investigates the issue of whether what we know about the ‘right’ of personal self-defense can be applied to moral and practical decisions about ‘national defense’. His extensive investigation comes to say that equating national defense with self defense has ethically and legally practical flaws we cannot correct.

In the half of the book on personal self-defense, Rodin outlines clear moral norms about which which most people and cultures can agree. In working from this locus of ‘clear moral norms,’ he often leans on distinguishing between ‘central cases’ – situations in which rights and duties are clear, and ‘marginal cases’ – the more unusual circumstances where important principles clash and moral dilemmas arise. He does admit that his perspective is a western perspective, and thus can’t be expected to represent the points of view of all cultures. Working from the western tradition of moral philosophy, he first works to establish what a ‘right’ is, and seeks where it overlaps or is identical with a power, or a liberty, or an immunity. Further, he shows these ‘rights’ to be related to ‘duties,’ and especially one’s duty to not be an unjust aggressor.

With these concepts in place, Rodin outlines the limits that society puts on self-defense. Importantly, he notes that in personal self-defense, the ‘right’ that a victim has to fight back can only be directed toward a specific ‘unjust’ aggressor. Further, both law and morality recognize three conditions of limitation to be considered in judging the correctness of a response: (1) Is it necessary, i.e., without this response, will the victim suffer further harm? (2) Is the danger imminent; must the aggression (however it is defined) be repelled immediately? (3) Is the response proportionate? For example, is it wrong to shoot someone because they threw an egg at you? Interestingly, he points out that in British society, it is usually not considered correct to kill someone who is taking your property, but in the US system it often is.

Since this is a book about war, the key elements of this discussion of personal self-defense center on the issue of when a victim has the ‘right to kill’ an unjust aggressor. Rodin convincingly lays out why it is impossible to exhaustively list the exclusive criteria that definitively give someone a ‘license to kill,’ and avoids any absolutist position that it is always wrong to kill; from his point of view, sometimes people can and must kill. The question is: when is it justified (and sometimes when is it ‘excused’, though not ‘justified’)? The stakes are high. A human life has been taken, and the person who has done the killing is profoundly changed.

This last factor, of the effect, even on a person who is justified in striking back and killing someone else, in self-defense, is substantial and important. Rodin does bring this up, though he doesn’t dwell on it, perhaps not enough. This is fundamentally important. Rodin clearly states that as individuals and nations we can and must act according to basic norms of what is just; that is, we must hold ourselves to these norms, and hold one another to them. In taking this stance, he is arguing from the position that moral agency is possible, that not everything is predetermined by outside forces that act upon us or by ‘human nature.’ He treats seriously ‘the realm of moral personality’ (p. 95), and intends that consideration of this realm be applied to individuals and nations. Though he does not reject out of hand all consequentialist arguments (e.g., ‘lesser evil’ arguments) for how we should judge self-defense and national defense, he always returns his focus to actors (both individuals and nations) who have both duties and rights, and should be evaluated by themselves and others according to how they fulfill their duties and limit their own claims to where they do have rights. Rodin thinks that this is the way forward in international affairs, and that consequentialist arguments, for example the argument that an armed conflict should be avoided, to save lives, even though one group might have to submit to injustices, often fail. As the author of this review, I have continued to go back to his reasoning and examples on this issue. I remain unconvinced that he has given consequentialism its due. In decisions about whether or not wars are ‘just’ or ‘legitimate’, the lives of masses of young and relatively manipulable soldiers are at stake. The consequences, the sheer numbers of deaths and the extent of the suffering, should always have a primary, powerful voice in all corridors of power, where decisions about wars are made. The powerful are making the decisions, and many of the pawns may be slaughtered. In democracies, these consequentialist arguments must be presented to the entire society, to the general public, in the clearest and most digestible way, on the most available stage, where every citizen sees and hears it.

The second half of the book is about national ‘self-defense’. Here, sometimes awkwardly, Rodin mixes moral / legal issues of what is ‘just’ with practical questions about where, and by whom, this will be judged. When any nation engages in war activities, at present ‘national defense’ is the strongest and most accepted justification, world-wide. It is conceived of as a ‘right’ that nations possess, and this ‘right’ is often claimed in the United Nations. In commenting on the practical impact that our concept of the moral/legal rules that nations should be guided by, Rodin gives full credit to the importance of the UN. He does not dwell on its limitations, but instead recognizes it as our most widely accepted international forum for resolution of international conflict (among its many other functions). (Beyond ‘national defense,’ the Charter of the UN allows for use of force in some other very limited circumstances, for example, to enforce ‘international law’.) National self-defense is recognized in the charter to be such a strong justification as to not need UN authorization. The years since WWII have seen enormous development in international treaty law, and arguments and justifications for military action now have been elaborated to include defense against economic aggression, protection of citizens abroad, pre-emptive attacks and preventive attacks. The arguments in international forums, as well as the public rhetoric directed to domestic audiences, have addressed the same factors that are used in legitimizing use of violence in personal self-defense: necessity, imminence of threat, and proportionality of the response. Thus, nations argue for the ‘right’ of ‘self-defense,’ and even in some cases seem to have achieved an internationally accepted legitimacy in making this claim. For example, the claim of “national self-defense” provides what has proven to be solid moral ground for justifying military action by nations facing the threat of being turned into colonies, or parts of an empire. Further, small neighbors of great powers may believably employ this justification.

Yet, Rodin looks further to see more broadly how this has gone – having nations base their moral reasonings in ‘self-defense.’ He finds that it has gone poorly, and the arguments have rung hollow. Rodin examines what a nation is, in distinction to what a person is, in order to see where the self-defense analogy holds up and where it doesn’t. He constantly references (though sometimes discards, or leaves in limbo) the arguments of Locke (e.g., that we may kill the thief, since we don’t want to fall under his unscrupulous power), and of Hobbes (e.g., that the moral authority of the thrust to ‘security’ must reign uppermost in justifications for what the state does.) Usefully, he investigates what it is that the state may be said to be ‘defending’, whether it is (1) the collective well-being of the very lives of the nation’s citizens (a limited claim, except in cases of genocide); (2) the sovereignty of the nation’s government to make decisions within national borders (a protean, complex concept, difficult to evaluate, especially in the case of nations who treat their own inhabitants poorly. [Probably the most important evaluation of the value of a nation’s sovereignty is that which is made by the inhabitants of that land. CS]); (3) the value that inhabitants of a nation place upon their common life, the community, the culture, and the order (even non-democratic and oppressive order) that any specific nation has, even temporarily, established within its boundaries. (Rodin shows the limitations of this reasoning by (a) pointing out the overwhelming discontinuities, now and throughout history, between cultures and national borders, some of which even result in civil wars that cannot be justified by the ‘defense of national borders’ argument, and (b) noting that it is not worthwhile to preserve all cultural / political communities, e.g., those that are themselves aggressive and interventionist.)

All philosophers who study the morality of war make a strong distinction between the moral reasoning that must be made about committing a nation to war (jus ad bellum) and the morals of how to conduct war (jus in bello). Although both sections of the question are addressed throughout the book, Rodin is mainly investigating how we should judge decisions about declaring war (jus ad bellum). The moral reasoning in these two fields of ethical decision making are separable, but linked. He does spend time on the ‘jus in bello’ section, and shows why it is important to continue to note how the behavior of nations (in deciding to go to war) and the behavior of soldiers (in deciding how to act in war) are linked.

Many powerful institutions, from government to church, have supported the idea that individual soldiers are excused for whatever they do during war, but this paradigm, which excuses the individual soldier for fighting on the unjust side of a war, has become more and more threadbare. It originated in the medieval chivalric code, wherein the warriors regulated themselves, and two foes on a battlefield could hold themselves up to be great and noble men. Futher, warriors could consider themselves legally, and morally, justified, or at least excused, for how they behaved in war by simply saying, “I was following orders,” a position supported by the most powerful ethical figures of earlier times, from Augustine (died AD 430) to Aquinas (died 1274). Governments and philosophers claimed absolute authority, granted by god, to conduct war. Even if what their country was doing was obviously wrong, soldiers were authoritatively absolved of guilt. Change has come, and is coming, but slowly.

One element of corrosion in the moral authority of the sovereign state to declare war arises with legitimized dissent in the ranks. In the last 500 years, for example with the writing of Francisco de Vitoria, a Catholic moral philosopher who advised the Spanish royalty about the conquest of the Americas, and even sometimes effectively advocated for indigenous rights, explicit principles and practices that were right and wrong about how to conduct war began to be articulated. Soon after Vitoria, the Dutch philosopher Grotius developed Protestant reasoning in the same field; he is even sometimes considered the father of international relations. Throughout the 20th century, the rules have been negotiated, codified, and elaborated such as with the League of Nations, Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter, and a great deal of treaty law. The US Dept. of Defense has even recently published its Law of War Manual – 1,204 pages. Thus neither soldiers nor citizens are as ill-informed or manipulable as they once were, and citizens of nations that have legitimate democratic norms and a free press are less likely to grant broad, unquestioning authority to a government that intends to speak with one voice. Yet soldiers and citizens are driven forward in confusing, contradictory ways; there is a dilemma that clouds peaceful international relations: politicians may perceive that they have been elected to serve the interests of their constituents, and may even support aggressive military actions, those that do damage in another country for example, by rationalizing that they are helping their own citizens/voters. These politicians may even do this when a majority of their own constituents oppose such action. The main problem is that these politicians clearly do not perceive themselves as having official responsibility for any element of the well-being of foreigners, or the interests of other nations. Given the constant drumbeat of nationalist sentiment that they must toe the line to, it is hard to conceive of how matters could be otherwise.

(Another factor of common belief that is changing: though some nations still maintain elaborate, well-funded propaganda campaigns to celebrate every soldier as a ‘hero’ who ‘served’, others are more sanguine. Both the ancient and recent history of many societies lends to the common wisdom that, in a thoughtful and wise society, the role of soldiers in general, in all parts of the society, must be constantly and thoroughly critiqued. Any professional military person who posits herself/himself to be promoted to step out of her/his soldier role to gain political power should be watched with an eagle eye. CS)

Second, since few governments ostensibly claim divine authority now, those leaders who want to conduct war must do so through some legitimized authority, sometimes with the trappings of democracy, other times directed by clearly dictatorial regimes such as China or Saudi Arabia. Yet, according to Rodin, if these authorities are completely sovereign, and do not have to answer to any higher authority, there is no presently sufficient rule of law – countries simply attack other countries as they will, with no one country more “in the right” than the other. Rodin rejects that this Hobbesian sort of end-state of international relations is acceptable.

Rodin concludes that if we depend on the structure in which the sovereign authority of individual nations is to be depended on to reduce the frequency of wars, or ameliorate their damage, we will continue to be unsuccessful. However, there is a way forward. We now have 75 years of experience in which individual nations make their case, and are called out, in very imperfect international forums such as the UN Security Council or the World Court. This has been a good start; we have much experience with real cases, involving issues such as pre-emption, defense of borders, humanitarian intervention, the age-old struggle for resources, terrorism, and ethnic cleansing. International forums were involved in the oversight of the end of colonialism in the late 40s and 50s, and now most nations would be ashamed to militarily conquer a foreign land in order to dominate their resources; even though multi-national corporations gained control of Iraq’s oil after 2003, the US suffered damage to its reputation for its aggressiveness in that war.

Rodin’s main arguments against an over-dependence on calling on the necessity of ‘national self-defense’ to justify military action are these: (1) history and context often clouds the contrast as to which of the opponents is the unjust aggressor and which is the innocent victim; (2) when the entire relationship between two nations is deeply influenced by mutual mistrust, ungoverned competition instead of collaboration, and preparation for conflict, both will be concerned with balance of power / comparative strength. Any move by one party to alter the balance may be perceived by the other as evidence of the single decisive moment of unlawful aggression that triggers a war. Opposing nations that have fallen into this pattern often stupidly engage in rounds of brinksmanship that can stumble into catastrophe; (3) a justification based on ‘national self-defense’ is completely inapplicable in some situations that the international community at times considers a foreign military intervention to be justifiable, e.g., where there is a humanitarian crisis or a campaign of genocide. In these cases, accepting a military intervention flies in the face of the sort of rigid respect for national sovereignty that ‘national self-defense’ calls upon us to honor; (4) finally, Rodin has provided many examples of where the idea of ‘national self-defense’ has come to be twisted so badly out of shape as to be unrecognizably warped and vague – anticipatory attacks, interventions in foreign internal/civil wars, and reprisals (though this idea, as deserved punishment, interests him.) [This book was written in 2002; I would be interested in Rodin’s comments now on the adequacy/applicability of the moral justification of using ‘national self-defense’ to legitimize assassinations. CS]

Rodin has now provided extensive moral reasoning and practical evidence to support his thesis that progress in reducing wars and their effects cannot be made either by exclusively depending on the concept of ‘national defense’, nor within a world where national governments retain absolute sovereignty. A future he outlines as effective, practical, and doable involves individual nations surrendering a minimal slice of their sovereignty, over the judgment of both the legality of going to war and the ethics of the conduct of war. He fully recognizes the flaws of (1) the UN, (2) other international institutions in which power is shared among nations, and (3) the web of bilateral and multilateral treaties, all of which emit, in one fashion or another, regulations and judgements (often with concrete, though limited impact) about the behavior of nations in the military sphere. Rodin doesn’t fool himself into thinking that any of the international institutions, e.g., the UN, is truly impartial, but states with clarity that UN-authorized wars are perceived to have far more legitimacy, world-wide, than other wars.

Rodin posits that only in a model in which nations explicitly surrender a limited though crucial slice of their sovereignty to a ‘universal punisher’ will we advance in creating legitimate international law of war. He comments that, in an broad range of societal institutions, “justice is often defined in opposition to the partisan,” and that it is, “always (my italics, CS) unjust for a participant in a dispute to administer or determine justice.” (p. 176) Otherwise, authority will always be deeply doubted, and considered illegitimate, often for decades or centuries. Punishment will smell of revenge. (In reference to how most cultures perceive the relationship between justice and impartiality, Rodin carves out one special case, wherein many cultures recognize an authority that parents have over children – although the parents are clearly interested parties in intra-familiar disputes, they retain legitimate authority to enforce punishments. Rodin comments that, in the present chaotic arrangement of international law, certain nations, with the power to exercise hegemony over others, often arrogate this power to themselves.)

Rodin would not walk blindly into universal government. He recognizes the dangers, and cites Kant’s objections. Yet, he points to the further maturing of international bodies, such at the World Court or the UN, as the functional route that can best lead to reduction in the chaotic horrors of war. He considers this in one way to be a simple extension of Hobbesian contract theory. Just as Hobbes conceives that individuals have surrendered liberty (to be aggressive) to the sovereign so that the sovereign will impose order amongst contending individuals, Rodin proposes that nations must surrender limited liberties, or rights, to an impartial authority. He considers this to be a ‘law enforcement’ model of judging and managing international conflict. He does not expect the world to be able to construct this model quickly, but concludes with pointing out that if we are going to continue to pursue a moral course, internationally, we must openly recognize that as we fight, we must not assume we are right, or just.

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A History of Anti-war Movements in America

Ted Gottfried

This is a quick, very readable history of about 50 different peace movements and organizations in the U.S. from 1775-2003. It was written for teens, but I read it in 2-3 days as 70-year-old and learned plenty. Each group is put into its historical-political context, so that any potential peace activist gets concrete examples of the standard obstacles they will face, and the odd, even uncomfortable coalitions they may occasionally work with. Peace work is political, and politics is messy.

There have been many distinct reasons to oppose wars that the US has waged. Some efforts have had measures of success; others have been bulldozed. Some wars were never fought, and the peace activists have good reason to count their work as key. The reader is introduced to important religious strains of peace work: Quakers, Unitarians, Mennonites, Catholics, Buddhists, and Muslims, as well as those who were motivated by the obvious, secular fact that war causes suffering. Much of the book is organized around specific events, such as the violent expulsion of Native Americans, the very controversial War of 1812, the 1848 war to steal one-half of Mexico, the US Civil War, the 1898-1902 war to conquer the Philippines, WW I, WW II, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq wars. Many other military actions, wars, and invasions are skipped over, and the generalizations are made quickly. The book is not preachy, and the telling is straightforward, but an adult will find many of the summaries too quickly drawn.

It is well-spiced with photos and drawings, and key historical peace activists are brought to life. Some had a lifelong commitment to the work, others opposed one specific war, or did this work in tandem with some other social justice movement such as the abolition of slavery or women’s suffrage; some had economic motives, such as the maintenance of trade. Many faced harsh criticism, since they crossed cultural boundaries and refused to despise those of another race or language or nationality, e.g., the Quakers were called traitors because they wouldn’t participate in the attacks on Native Americans.

The earliest enduring peace organizations in the U.S., such as the Massachusetts Peace Society and the American Peace Society, were founded and maintained by powerful figures such as William Ladd, and joined by well-known figures such as William Lloyd Garrison, the famous abolitionist. The APS, and similar institutions, opposed the war hawks who intended for the U.S. to seize all of North America by military conquest.

A key section of the book deals with the Civil War and the anti-war forces in the North, both northerners who weren’t so opposed to slavery, and the Irish who didn’t want to be drafted. Southern anti-war activists, and especially South Carolina’s William Holding, are mentioned prominently.

After the awful blood-letting of the Civil War, new groups arose, such as the Universal Peace Union, and the American Peace Society was re-energized. At the end of the 1890s, the U.S. came late to the party of those imperial powers that grabbed colonies, and the peace movement tried to stop, and then ameliorated the bloodshed of the Philippine- American War. Many famous Americans, such as William Jennings Bryan, William James, Andrew Carnegie, and ex-president Grover Cleveland energized a powerful thrust to peace, but lost out to Teddy Roosevelt and the Republicans.

Massive peace activism continued before WW I, propelled by many interests, such as international socialism, which argued that workers shouldn’t be killing workers to please bosses and war profiteers. The key socialist leader was Eugene V. Debs. Another massive push came from women who were also driving the suffrage movement to victory.

Even Eleanor Roosevelt was prominent in the Emergency Peace Campaign that tried to forestall war in the late 1930s. The period between the world wars saw both left-leaning and right leaning peace movements in the U.S., some of them isolationists, others having links to Germany, many being socialists and linked to labor unions.

After WW II, one of the strongest themes was the anti-nuclear movement, struggling to ban the bomb. The book does not cover the war in Korea. Finally, in its sections dealing with the events of the last sixty years, overview is of the opposition to the Vietnam War and the Iraq invasions. Key organizations, issues, and leaders are named.

There is much to be learned about strategies, tactics, coalitions, achievements, failures, and backlash. Every page of this book invites the reader to learn more and get involved. The publisher, Lerner, puts out thousands of titles for young people. The quality and usefulness of this one speaks well for them.

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