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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The (Im)moral Case Against the War

Michael Totten has an interesting post titled The (Im)moral Case Against the War. which takes issue with The Moral Case Against the War written by Paul Savoy in the Nation. Mr Savoy writes:

Viewed in the light of our own moral ideals, as embodied in our constitutional tradition, the right to life is so fundamental that killing the innocent to advance the cause of freedom of electoral choice or any other purpose, however worthy, must be regarded as wrong.

Mr Totten disagrees:

In other words, freedom is not worth fighting for. Our constitutional tradition does not “embody” that notion at all.

You can’t have a war without killing the innocent. It just isn’t possible. We can do our very best to minimize that damage, but still it can never be zero. That, in fact, is Mr. Savoy’s unstated point. Since innocents always die in war, he explicitly states freedom is not worth fighting for under any circumstances because the death of some innocents is morally worse than slavery for everybody.

This is dubious enough in and of itself. The United States would not exist as a country if Mr. Savoy’s “morality” were the prevailing view at the time of the American Revolution. Nor would the slaves have been freed from the shackles of the Confederacy.

Mr Savoy does agree that there are times when war is justified:

There is one exception to the prohibition against taking innocent human life, recognized by both our own principles of criminal jurisprudence and international rules of warfare. Deadly force may be used in self-defense even when innocent people will be killed in the combat required to defeat the aggressor. Although international rules of warfare prohibit the purposeful targeting of civilians, even in a defensive war, the law makes an exception for the incidental or "collateral" killing of the innocent because civilian casualties are frequently unavoidable in mounting an effective military operation against the enemy.

Both articles are worth a read to get a deeper understanding of the current divide.