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An introduction to the life and literature by michael walzer

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References and Further Reading 1. Introduction Historically, the just war tradition--a set of mutually agreed rules of combat—may be said to commonly evolve between two culturally similar enemies. That is, when an array of values are shared between two warring peoples, we often find that they implicitly or explicitly agree upon limits to their warfare. It is only when the enemy is seen to be a people, sharing a moral identity with whom one will do business in the following peace, that tacit or explicit rules are formed for how wars should be fought and who they should involve and what kind of relations should apply in the aftermath of war.

In part, the motivation for forming or agreeing to certain conventions, can be seen as mutually benefiting—preferable, for instance, to the deployment of any underhand tactics or weapons that may provoke an indefinite series of vengeance acts, or the kinds of action that have proved to be detrimental to the political or moral interests to both sides in the past. Regardless of the conventions that have historically formed, it has been the concern of the majority of just war theorists that the lack of rules to war or any asymmetrical morality between belligerents should be denounced, and that the rules of war should apply to all equally.

That is, just war theory should be universal, binding on all and capable in turn of appraising the actions of all parties over and above any historically formed conventions. The just war tradition is indeed as old as warfare itself.

Early records of collective fighting indicate that some moral considerations were used by warriors to limit the outbreak or to rein in the potential devastation of warfare.

  • Translation and commentary by M;
  • Michael walzer on war and in his introduction to this new edition, walzer specifically addresses the moral by examining the life and work of eleven;
  • You tell me this man may perhaps ruin hundreds, but then again he may create a new world in which millions will be rich and happy;
  • Yet throughout history modified life styles have evolved for such communities that make for the possibility of at least coping and even some flourishing;
  • Third, there is the question whether dirty hands are necessitated only or primarily by politics;
  • This tends to collapse the distinction since what is justified needs no excuse and the unjustifiable is sometimes excusable.

They may have involved consideration of women and children or the treatment of prisoners enslaving them rather than killing them, or ransoming or exchanging them.

Commonly, the earlier traditions invoked considerations of honor: Robinson 2006 notes that honor conventions are also contextually slippery, giving way to pragmatic or military interest when required. The just war theory also has a long history.

  1. It is certainly true that compromise is a pervasive feature of political life, but compromise is hardly unique to politics, nor is it necessarily a pressure for immoral conduct.
  2. Toleration, Morality and Rationality, in J. Similarly, is it right that an army should demand reparations in advance rather than leave them undisclosed and thereby risk the uncertainty of punishment creating a backlash from the defeated, who may not wish to be so subjected?
  3. For this part of the journey, I have to thank the professors of Leuven, especially the professors of the Faculty of Theology.
  4. Since a compromise is a sort of bargain where parties sacrifice some good objectives in order to gain others, it raises a question about how far such deals can go, and this brings us into dirty hands territory.
  5. And in so doing, I hope to give the author his due respect. We will argue that on the one hand Walzer's prophetic criticism is a plausible paradigm for modern social critics, but on the other it is not entirely prophetic.

Parts of the Bible hint at ethical behavior in war and concepts of just cause, typically announcing the justice of war by divine intervention; the Greeks may have paid lip service to the gods, but, as with the Romans, practical and political issues tended to overwhelm any fledgling legal conventions: Augustine provided comments on the morality of war from the Christian perspective railing against the love of violence that war can engender as did several Arabic commentators in the intellectual flourishing from the 9th to 12th centuries, but the most systematic exposition in the Western tradition and one that still attracts attention was outlined by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century.

In the Summa Theologicae, Aquinas presents the general outline of what becomes the traditional just war theory as discussed in modern universities. He discusses not only the justification of war but also the kinds of activity that are permissible for a Christian in war see below. Aquinas's thoughts become the model for later Scholastics and Jurists to expand and to gradually to universalize beyond Christendom — notably, for instance, in relations with the peoples of America following European incursions into the continent.

The most important of these writers are: In the twentieth century, just war theory has undergone a revival mainly in response to the invention of nuclear weaponry and American involvement in the Vietnam war.

Conference proceedings are regularly published, offering readers a breadth of issues that the topic stirs: What has been of great interest is that in the headline wars of the past decade, the dynamic interplay of the rules and conventions of warfare not only remain intact on the battlefield but their role and hence their explication have been awarded a higher level of scrutiny and debate.

In the political circles, justification of war still requires even in the most critical analysis a superficial acknowledgement of justification. But, arguably, such an introduction to the life and literature by michael walzer do remain atrocities by virtue of the just war conventions that some things in war are deemed to be inexcusable, regardless of the righteousness of the cause or the noise and fog of battle.

Yet increasingly, the rule of law - the need to hold violators and transgressors responsible for their actions in war and therefore after the battle - is making headway onto the battlefield. In chivalrous times, the Christian crusader could seek priestly absolution for atrocities committed in war, a stance supported by Augustine for example; today, the law courts are seemingly less forgiving: Nonetheless, the idealism of those who seek the imposition of law and responsibility on the battlefield cf.

The Political Theory License:

Geoffrey Robertson's Crimes Against Humanityoften runs ahead of the traditions and customs, or plain state interests, that demean or weaken the justum bellum that may exist between warring factions.

And in some cases, no just war conventions and hence no potential for legal acknowledgement of malfeasance, exist at all; in such cases, the ethic of war is considered, or is implicitly held to be, beyond the norms of peaceful ethics and therefore deserving a separate moral realm where "fair is foul and foul is fair" Shakespeare, Macbeth I. In such examples e. The continued brutality of war in the face of conventions and courts of international law lead some to maintain that the application of morality to war is a nonstarter: But there are those of a more skeptical persuasion who do not believe that morality can or should exist in war: But as there are several ethical viewpoints, there are also several common reasons laid against the need or the possibility of morality in war.

Generally, consequentialists and act utilitarians may claim that if military victory is sought then all methods should be employed to ensure it is gained at a minimum of expense and time. However, intrinsicists who claim that there are certain acts that are good or bad in themselves may also decree that no morality can exist in the state of war: Alternatively, intrinsicists may claim that possessing a just cause the argument from righteousness is a sufficient condition for pursuing whatever means are necessary to gain a victory or to punish an enemy.

A different skeptical argument, one advanced by Michael Walzer, is that the invention of nuclear weapons alters war so much that our notions of morality—and hence just war theories—become redundant.

Michael Walzer: Objectivity and Social Meaning

However, against Walzer, it can be reasonably argued that although such weapons change the nature of warfare for example, the timing, range, and potential devastation they do not dissolve the need to consider their use within a moral framework: Whilst skeptical positions may be derived from consequentialist and intrinsicist positions, they need not be. Consequentialists can argue that there are long-term benefits to having a war convention. For example, by fighting cleanly, both sides can be sure that the war does not escalate, thus reducing the probability of creating an incessant war of counter-revenges.

Intrinsicists, on the other hand, can argue that certain spheres of life ought never to be targeted in war; for example, hospitals and densely populated suburbs. The inherent problem with both ethical models is that they become either vague or restrictive when it comes to war.

Consequentialism is an open-ended model, highly vulnerable to pressing military or political needs to adhere to any code of conduct in war: Against these two ethical positions, just war theory offers a series of principles that aim to retain a plausible moral framework for war.

From the just war justum bellum tradition, theorists distinguish between the rules that govern the justice of war jus ad bellum from those that govern just and fair conduct in war jus In bello and the responsibility and accountability of warring parties after the war jus post bellum.

  • In fact, there is a strong strand of this political exceptionism inherent in the dirty hands story;
  • Terry, Fiona, 2002, Condemned to Repeat:

The three aspects are by no means mutually exclusive, but they offer a set of moral guidelines for waging war that are neither unrestricted nor too restrictive. The problem for ethics involves expounding the guidelines in particular wars or situations. One can immediately detect that the principles are not wholly intrinsicist nor consequentialist—they invoke the concerns of both models.

See a Problem?

Whilst this provides just war theory with the advantage of flexibility, the lack of a strict ethical framework means that the principles themselves are open to broad interpretations.

Examining each in turn draws attention to the relevant problems. Possessing just cause is the first and arguably the most important condition of jus ad bellum. Most theorists hold that initiating acts of aggression is unjust and gives a group a just cause to defend itself. But unless "aggression" is defined, this proscription is rather open-ended. The onus is then on the just war theorist to provide a consistent and sound account of what is meant by just cause.

Whilst not going into the reasons why the other explanations do not offer a useful condition of just cause, the consensus is that an initiation of physical force is wrong and may justly be resisted. Self-defense against physical aggression, therefore, is putatively the only sufficient reason for just cause. Nonetheless, the principle of self-defense can be extrapolated to anticipate probable acts of aggression, as well as in assisting others against an oppressive government or from another external threat interventionism.

Therefore, it is commonly held that aggressive war is only permissible if its purpose is to retaliate against a wrong already committed for example, to pursue and punish an aggressoror to pre-empt an anticipated attack.

Arguing About War

In recent years, the argument for preemption has gained supporters in the West: By acting decisively against a probable aggressor, a powerful message is sent that a nation will defend itself with armed force; thus preemption may provide a deterrent and a more peaceful world. Unfortunately, false flag operations tend to be quite common. Realists may defend them on grounds of a higher necessity but such moves are likely to fail as being smoke screens for political rather than moral interests.

War should always be a last resort. This connects intimately with presenting a just cause — all other forms of solution must have been attempted prior to the declaration of war. The resulting damage that war wrecks tends to be very high for most economies and so theorists have advised that war should not be lightly accepted: Yet the just war theorist wishes to underline the need to attempt all other solutions but also to tie the justice of the war to the other principles of jus ad bellum too.

The notion of proper authority seems to be resolved for most of an introduction to the life and literature by michael walzer theorists, who claim it obviously resides in the sovereign power of the state. But the concept of sovereignty raises a plethora of issues to consider here. If a government is just, i. A historical example can elucidate the problem: What allegiance did the people of France under its rule owe to its precepts and rules? A Hobbesian rendition of almost absolute allegiance to the state entails that resistance is wrong so long as the state is not tyrannical and imposes war when it should be the guardian of peace ; whereas a Lockean or instrumentalist conception of the state entails that a poorly accountable, inept, or corrupt regime possesses no sovereignty, and the right of declaring war to defend themselves against the government or from a foreign power is wholly justifiable.

The notion of proper authority therefore requires thinking about what is meant by sovereignty, what is meant by the state, and what is the proper relationship between a people and its government. The possession of right intention is ostensibly less problematic. The general thrust of the concept being that a nation waging a just war should be doing so for the cause of justice and not for reasons of self-interest or aggrandizement.

Putatively, a just war cannot be considered to be just if reasons of national interest are paramount or overwhelm the pretext of fighting aggression. According to Kant, possessing good intent constitutes the only condition of moral activity, regardless of the consequences envisioned or caused, and regardless, or even in spite, of any self interest in the action the agent may have.

The extreme intrinsicism of Kant can be criticized on various grounds, the most pertinent here being the value of self-interest itself.

The Problem of Dirty Hands

Acting with proper intent requires us to think about what is proper and it is not certain that not acting in self interest is necessarily the proper thing to an introduction to the life and literature by michael walzer. On the one hand, if the only method to secure a general peace some thing usually held to be good in itself is to annex a belligerent neighbor's territory, political aggrandizement becomes intimately connected with the proper intention of maintaining the peace for all or the majority.

On the other hand, a nation may possess just cause to defend an oppressed group, and may rightly argue that the proper intention is to secure their freedom, yet such a war may justly be deemed too expensive or too difficult to wage; i. On that account, the realist may counter that national interest is paramount: The issue of intention raises the concern of practicalities as well as consequences, both of which should be considered before declaring war.

The next principle is that of reasonable success. This is another necessary condition for waging just war, but again is insufficient by itself. Given just cause and right intention, the just war theory asserts that there must be a reasonable probability of success. The principle of reasonable success is consequentialist in that the costs and benefits of a campaign must be calculated. However, the concept of weighing benefits poses moral as well as practical problems as evinced in the following questions.

Should one not go to the aid of a people or declare war if there is no conceivable chance of success? Is it right to comply with aggression because the costs of not complying are too prohibitive? Would it be right to crush a weak enemy because it would be marginally costless?

Is it not sometimes morally necessary to stand up to a bullying larger force, as the Finns did when Russia invaded in 1940, for the sake of national self-esteem or simple interests of defending land? Historically, many nations have overcome the probability of defeat: Winston Churchill offered the British nation some of the finest of war's rhetoric when it was threatened with defeat and invasion by Nazi Germany in 1940.

Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. However, the thrust of the reasonable success principle emphasizes that human life and economic resources should not be wasted in what would obviously be an uneven match. For a nation threatened by invasion, other forms of retaliation or defense may be available, such as civil disobedience, or even forming alliances with other small nations to equalize the odds.

The final guide of jus ad bellum is that the desired end should be proportional to the means used.