Friday, October 14, 2011

War’s Tarnished Glory

An interesting comment was left on the previous post discussing Ron Paul’s foreign policy. For those who didn’t see it, here it is:
Having read The Savage Wars of Peace, my take on the small-scale wars is thoroughly different. I seem to recall the author pointing out that while, yes, the wars did promote freedom, they were never ideological wars intended to do so. They were simply wars fought to defend or promote American interests. One cannot say the pacification of the Philippines, for example, was intended as the spread of freedom. Rather, it was the spread of America. For the most part, such military action rarely included full-scale occupation. We bloodied countries noses, got what we wanted (like securing a molasses at a reasonable rate) then left.

I think that when we started to claim moral justification for our wars, we took any justification away. I say we should involve ourselves militarily in other places, but for our country, not for our ideas.

When we made it plain that we fought for economic reasons, we didn’t claim our lifestyle was superior, so no one took it personally.
This is an excellent point. Whatever happened to wars waged unashamedly in the nation’s self-interest?

WWI and WWII happened, and showed the western powers that the consequences of their self-interested wars could be devastating worldwide. As a response, the UN Charter was drafted:
  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
There is no room for wars promoting self-interest here. Furthermore:
The Nürnberg Tribunal condemned a war of aggression in the strongest terms: “To initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” It held individuals accountable for “crimes against peace”, defined as the “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing....” When the United Nations General Assembly unanimously affirmed the Nürnberg principles in 1946, it affirmed the principle of individual accountability for such crimes.

It thus appears that wars waged to promote a nation’s interests, rather than waged for a defensive or moral purpose, are frowned upon (if not outright prohibited) by international law.

Now of course, that could lead to either fewer wars where one side has a clear moral upper hand. Or, it could simply lead to everyone attempting to justify promoting their interests under the guise of some moral superiority.

Which has actually happened?
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