Saturday, July 29, 2006

jus ad bellum and jus in bello

From Norm's blog,
If you think that in war anything goes, then this post is not for you. Likewise, if you think war is never justified in any circumstances, you should stop reading now. Or if you're one of those who think that any military action undertaken by Israel is indefensible, whether because Israel itself is an illegitimate entity or for some other reason, what follows won't engage you. Or if you think that any military action supported by the US - or by the current US administration - is indefensible, same deal.

I operate with assumptions that contradict these several standpoints: in particular, I think war is sometimes justified (when it may be called just), and that in war there are both just methods of fighting and unjust ones. I operate, that is, in terms of the well-known distinction within just war doctrine between jus ad bellum and jus in bello. We need to know whether a resort to military force has just cause. That is one kind of question. But we also need to consider whether any given military action observes the laws of war, the rules laid down concerning what may be done in warfare and what may not.
I think most Americans forget the criteria of just methods of fighting; although the Defense Department takes it very seriously. HT: Unitarian Universalists in the Military.

Norm ends the post with criteria for evaluationg the good faith of Israel's critics.
Here's something else we should be clear about, however. While some of the condemnation voiced by critics of the Israeli campaign is in good faith, much of it is not. How can you tell? This is how.

(1) Do the critics of Israel condemn Hizbollah for themselves putting civilians at risk in the areas in which they operate, attempting 'to shield military objectives from attacks' by the way they locate these military objectives?

(2) Do these critics allow that some of the civilian casualties caused by Israel in Lebanon are inevitable, and fall within the laws of war, precisely because of this policy of Hizbollah, which bears responsibility for them? Do they charge Hizbollah with war crimes?

(3) Do these critics allow that some of the damage to infrastructure is permissible within the laws of war, where the piece of infrastructure in question is a legitimate military target?

(4) Do these critics condemn Hizbollah for targeting Israeli civilians?

(5) Are they anguished by the deaths of Israelis, as they are by the deaths of Lebanese?

If the answer to these questions is no, their criticism is not in good faith. It betokens a hostility to Israel and its people, a hostility preceding rather than following from Israel's actions. There's a lot of that about.

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