A Conversation for St Thomas Aquinas' Conditions for a Just War

Justified war?

Post 1

Jonathan Miller

How could there be any justification for war? If we are commanded by laws not to kill why should anyone in any circumstance be allowed to be above this law?

Justified war?

Post 2

Researcher 168963

If someone else went above the law would you try and stop them or stand aside and let them kill innocent people?

Justified war?

Post 3


Given the outcome of war, I don't think anything can 100% justify it. After all, not all casualties are "guilty" or "evil", just as not all soldiers may really want to neither fight or kill.
Some wise person once told me, that war does not decide who's right; war decides who's left!


Justified war?

Post 4

There is only one thing worse than being Gosho, and that is not being Gosho

This is a real hard one to find any sort of agreement on. Take Tibet for instance. The Dalai Lama has always argued against any kind of violence against the Chinese invaders, and has done so from the comparative comfort of another country. Meanwhile, Tibetans left in their own country are subject to the most appalling abuse. Tibetan culture is being wiped off the face of the earth. They want to fight back.
The Dalai Lama's faith stops him from eating meat, because eating meat means that a creature has to be killed, and yet he will eat meat on occasions, if for instance he is unwell and needs certain nutrition, as long (I believe) as the animal was not killed by a Buddhist. That justifies his eating meat in his own conscience. So why won't his conscience allow his people to do something about the invasion of their own country and the destruction of their own culture? I can't answer that.

Justified war?

Post 5


Hi Goshoo. E. i. Lirb.

The whole problem with war, is that nothing justifies it. Said before, true, but it's the closest thing to an answer, I can come to think of.

You see, the Tibetan situation seems horrid and definitely within the justification of war - or fighting back. But if the buddhist belief is not to wage war - i.e. not to kill people - then it is difficult to argue who's right. Obviously not the Chinese, but if nobody wants to kill anybody, not even the invading Chinese, then what can be done?
In, say, Afghanistan, there is a will to fight. Loads of will in fact. One could argue, that they are too willing to fight, as they've been doing so for 28 years. And yet, that's also not as simple as that. Our media have been buzzing with possible explanations to the Afghan problems for the last two months, but it's still not easy to grasp exactly what drives the Afghans. A crave for freedom? Surely. But what do they want to do with it? And are they willing to fight on to decide? Some things indicated just that. And to be honest, the primary reason that anybody in the Western world cares, is because of Osama bin Laden and the terrorist attacks, leading to an American-and-allies attack on Afghanistan.

War is, sadly, never simple to understand.

And I agree with you, neither is the lack of war - sometimes.


P.S. St. Thomas Aquinas had some good ideas, but I doubt he ever imagined anything like modern warfare - nuclear bombs, superpowers, anthrax et.c.

Justified war?

Post 6

There is only one thing worse than being Gosho, and that is not being Gosho

I'm tempted to put forward the idea that anyone who wages war (or any kind of violence) against another forfeits their right to be treated with non-violence, and that the person fighting back will be immune from any divine retribution or karma. The problem is that violence very rarely stops right there. There's often going to be the James Cagney scenario - "You killed my brother" (did he ever actually say that btw? Or is it another one of those apocryphal sayings, like "Beam me up Scotty"?). Violence breeds violence.
I have a friend whose son is in a class with a little girl who thinks it's ok to whack other kids around the face with a book. He says that it's ok to for her to do it, and if she does it to his son he should do the same to her. Sooner or later she'll learn that if you hurt someone else you'll get hurt right back and you'll stop doing it. That's anarchy as far as I can tell. Another friend who also has a child in that class says that if she does it to his daughter he's going to go over to her house and give his father "An ass-whupping of biblical proportions, just to see how he likes it, and then maybe he'll make her stop doing it". Violence breeds more violence, because people always want revenge and retribution, but they only ever see it from their standpoint.
Take September 11th for instance. The American people want retribution for what happened in NYC and Washington, so we have a war going on in Afghanistan right now. But most Americans see September 11th as an unwarranted and unsolicited attack on their country, whereas the people who perpetrated the attack, and their supporters, see it as their own retribution for what America has done in their country and to their people.
Two years ago I moved from London to Texas. Revenge and retribution is a very high priority here, to the extent that you are allowed to carry hidden weapons (with the right permit), you are allowed to use deadly force to defend your life or your property, and any politician who tries to abolish the death penalty here is signing his or her own political death warrant. I work in a used cd store, so we're always seeing people who want to sell their cd's. Some people don't like the offer we make because they don't realise that we already have 300 copies of Hootie and the Blowfish and we don't need any more, and some people don't like the offer we make because we know that the cd's they've brought are stolen, and we're lowballing them to dissuade them from coming in by not making it worth their while. In both cases there's always the thought at the back of our mind that one of them might come back later with a gun, or might put a stone through our window in the middle of the night.
It would be great if you could be sure that fighting back against anyone who wages war or violence upon you would end right there, but real life just isn't like that. There'll always be consequences.

Justified war?

Post 7


Now I am not a particularly religious person, but one quote suddenly springs to my mind: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (as quoted from the King James V Bible)
Hey, if only those who had not done drong, could be allowed to do so, wars would be a thing of the past within a jiffy!

But as you said, revenge is the fuel of many skirmishes. Sadly, we all bear grudges to other people.

A friend of mine once told me, that in his oppinion, we all know somebody about whom we feel so bad, that if that person was to fall off a cliff and hang by his or her fingertips, and nobody else was around to see anything, we would be hard pushed to help in stead of just turning away and wait for the inevitable.
That made me consider if I know such a person, whom I would be able to ignore pleas for help from. Back then, I realised that I did in fact know of such a person. Today I am no longer as certain, but back then, it came to me that I was not as good a person as I thought I was.
Today, to be honest, I can't think of a single person whom I would deny help in such a situation. But the allegory made me think a lot about humans and hatred. I guess we all have it in us.

BTW - My father always encouraged me to knock the living daylight out of anybody annoying me at school too. Sadly for him, I was incapable of it and thus, my classmates beat the living daylight out of me instead. Kids can be so...

Conflicts spawn conflicts. Be it a dispute about religion, a playground disagreement or a lack of coastal harbours to an aggressive (powerful) nation. We accept that bad means are sometimes becessary to obtain good goals. But are we right about that?


P.S. When typing that above about not knowing anybody I would leave in deadly peril, I had to ask myself if I was entirely truthful. Imagine it was Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein? Hmmm...

Justified war?

Post 8

The Omniscient One

I have a question. Is any war completely justified? From humanity's first armed conflict all the war to today's current War on Terrorism, is any war totally unavoidable? Not in my opinion. The reason that there have been so many wars in the history of mankind is that people are basically evil. I do not dispute the fact that humanity is capable of good and selfless acts, we are far more likely to stab our neighbor in the back than to help him.

The vast majority of reasons that people give for going to war are absurd, to put it lightly. Religion and territory seem to be the two most common ones.

Why do people fight each other over religion? It doesn't matter that both gods preach "peace and goodwill", all that matters is blowing all of the "infidels" into kingdom come. If that is not enough, even if you believe and the same god as someone else but he or she worships just a little bit differently, you have free rein to torture, imprison, or even kill him or her to prove that your way is the only way to salvation. Pathetic, isn't it?

Did you know that the entire population of the earth can fit into an area the size of Massacheusetts? It's true. If everyone on the planet stood shoulder to shoulder, we could all fit into a state with an area of only 21, 398 sq. km. So why is territory such a problem then? There is obviously more than enough land for everyone. So why all the fuss?

In the end, it seems that the only way to prevent future wars is to get rid of humans. Any other method is due to failure, however, I hope for all of our sakes that I am wrong, otherwise, humanity is due to a premature extinction.

Justified war?

Post 9


Perhaps we would not be so sadly missed by our planet...

Anyhow, I feel that religion is more often just used as an excuse to cover for territorial demands. There are no (longer) such a thing as religious wars - it usually adds up to either territory or varieties on power.

But mankind is also capable of good, yes? Ergo we are not, by nessecity, evil. Or good?

I'll ponder this and try to get back on it.

Justified war?

Post 10


The problem with "justifying" a war stems from the fact that all wars are avoidable, if everybody simply refuses to take up arms. But, when it comes to justifying ones participation in a war, things change. One cannot avoid a war that is thrust upon them; one can only choose to either capitulate or respond.

If war in self-defense is not justified, then it follows that none are; but I submit that self-defense is a normal, natural, and necessary reaction to armed aggression.

Turning the other cheek can be personally satisfying if one is personally wronged. You can feel really good being the 'good' person who lets it stop there. But, armed conflict, by a determined aggressor, doesn't stop at wronging one person. It threatens a people's very right to life, and their way of life.

Justified war?

Post 11


You're right- But if a person chooses to capitulate, what may happen to others (of importance)? And if he or she chooses to respond, the same question can be asked.
In the words of good old DA; whatever by happening causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen! (From HHGTTG V)
We, and our world, are shaped by our actions and inactions.

How come, when most of us are so clever as to realize this, that there are so many wars? Hmmm...

Justified war?

Post 12


Good Question!

You are familiar, I am sure, with the theory that guns don't kill people, people kill people? They sure seem to be able to kill without guns when they want to.

Similarly, people don't start wars, governments do. They are invariably about perceived limited resources, regardless of any claims regarding rights, or religion, or political philosophy.

It always comes down to somebody laying claim to something that someone else has got, even if it is just peace of mind.

Justified war?

Post 13


I can not add much to that, only confirm that it is so.

Ward oes not determine who's right, war determines who's left!


Justified war?

Post 14


Exactly. And as our good friend Voltaire once said:

"It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets."

Justified war?

Post 15

Hilarious Joke

There are some really great quotes coming out of this conversation. A different theme, said by some guy:
"War is nothing without a solider to fight it."

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