Sunday, April 6, 2008
When is War Just?
In the 21st century, wars between nations are decreasing while wars between nations and non-nations (ethnic groups, rebels, etc.) are proliferating. As a result, the old model of Just War Theory needs to be revised to accommodate this change in cultural climate. Nicholas Fotion attempts such a revision in his new work, “War & Ethics: A New Just War Theory.” Fotion begins his critique by presenting a general theory of war as understood between nations, “Just War Theory – Regular”:
Before the war begins a nation must have:
currently under attack
been attacked recently
about to be attacked (preemptive strike on identifiable enemy w/knowledge of strike)
protecting an ally currently under attack
protecting an ally that has been attacked recently
to stop a humanitarian disaster
negotiations must have been enacted
Likelihood of Success
a reasonable assessment of victory
overall cost benefit of going to war – gain must outweigh loss
in relation to Just Cause – intentions must not be imperialistic
war must have support of ruling government
During the war a nation must continue to assess:
specific cost benefit of individual battles – gain must outweigh loss
must target legitimate military targets (not innocent citizens)
Since war is increasingly fought between nations and non-nations groups, Fotion proposes separate criteria for nations and non-nations engaged in war. He calls his theory “Just War – Irregular.”
According to Fotion, nations need not apply last resort because non-nations usually have no centralized authority with whom a nation may negotiate. In addition, since non-nations use secrecy as a tactic in warfare, nations are not held strictly to the discrimination principle - targeting only military targets.
On the other hand, non-nations need not apply a likelihood of success because no rebel group could ever satisfy the principle. Hence, no non-nation could ever be justified in going to war. In addition, non-nations do not have to satisfy legitimate authority due to their loose organizational structure.
The most controversial claim Fotion makes is that a nation may attack a non-nation group that has not necessarily been clearly identified and may not even have been responsible for some not-so-recent attacks on it. In addition to giving general criteria (non-nation group has powerful weapons, is collecting more, gaining new recruits, has plans for a future attack, then it can be attacked.), Fotion states that the variation of these attacks require a case-by-case analysis.
Fotion believes these twin theories provide a new Just War Theory that helps us analyze war in the 21st Century. A war between Russia and the United States would follow “Just War Theory – Regular” while a war between Japan and the Taliban would follow “Just War Theory – Irregular.” Do you think Fotion’s new theory is correct? Is it just? Is it unfairly applied to nations? To non-nations?