Thursday, August 14, 2008

Just War


You ask whether we have always measured up to the “Just War” principle. “Just War” is not my principle. When war is upon us the question of who started it and whether it is “Just” becomes moot. Here they come, grab your gun: that’s war. Sometimes you can figure out who started it, who had right on their side, but sometimes not. A couple of years ago I read the fine history, Dreadnaught, by Robert Massie. Massie’s ostensible emphasis was the sea-war, especially the Dreadnaught arms-race, but he covers the motives that led up to the WWI in considerable detail. There were political mistakes, poor planning, misunderstandings, jealousies, egos and then much of the world was at war. The war was real. We had a stake in it. Whether it was just is moot.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt roused us to war. We could have avoided that war if we had conceded China to Japan, but we weren’t willing to do so. There was some confusion at the beginning, but the war, given our two positions, was inevitable. Letting Japan do whatever they liked in the Far East would have been unjust. Japan and Fascist Germany both advocated a system of government that was inimical to Liberal-Democracy. It was inevitable that they clash with the Liberal-Democratic nations. Neville Chamberlain hoped to keep Britain out of the war by appeasing Hitler, but the only thing that would have appeased Hitler was for Britain to join him. I don’t see how the term “Justice” informs World War Two. Why worry about whether fighting against Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany was Just. Some people (ee cummings and Robert Lowell, for example), chose not to fight in that war. They were wrong.)

Our side favored Liberal Democracy. Their side wanted to conquer the world for Japan and the Third Reich. Were we “just” in fighting against Japan and Germany? That question isn’t very useful. It is not only too simplistic but the wrong sort of simplicity. The right sort would be to realize that Hitler’s ambitions and our freedom could not both exist in the long run. He was coming after us sooner or later. Besides, it wouldn’t have been just if we abandoned out allies -- I’ll accept “just” in that sense.

I mentioned the Cold War strategy of Acheson and Truman in a previous note. Hoards of people, especially leftist people opposed our Cold War efforts, but there too was the issue of which of two systems would predominate in the world, Communism or Liberal-Democracy. Was it “Just” that we survived and not the Communists? Again, I don’t think “justice” is the right term to strive after. Communism and Liberal-Democracy were mutually exclusive. Wars both hot and cold occurred from the time of Truman until 1989 when Communist Russia gave it up. Liberal-Democracy won. Was it just that we won? Beats me, but I’m glad we did. I much prefer living in a Liberal-Democracy than in the Communist societies I’ve read about.

And now we are engaged in another war, testing whether Liberal-Democracy will survive or be replaced by Islamism. These also are mutually exclusive systems of government. They are inimical to each other, and they are at war. Left over lefties try to cram a round Islamism into a square Marxist hole, but it won’t fit and only confuses them. They mourn the loss of Communist Russia by hating the Liberal-Democratic victors. They would like to see the victorious U.S. taken down a peg. Our eyes were blackened when the World Trade Center was destroyed. “Well, good for the Islamists,” the Lefties thought. “Let’s hope they hit Uncle Sam again,” Well, I’m quite sure they will try, and I’m quite sure the Leftists will continue to oppose us, but will there be enough people with enough fortitude to fight and defeat the Islamists. I believe there will be. Pacifism is not yet a categorical imperative.

In former days, the Leftists who are now supporting our enemies, or who oppose us while we try to fight our enemies, would be called traitors, but those former days were the days when we believed in absolutes. Now we are a pluralistic nation; so it’s okay to have traitors. It’s just not okay to call them traitors. Which means that we have to fight our enemies with one of our hands tied behind us, but not to worry, we are better fighters than they are and can defeat them handily with just one hand. . .


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