Have you ever heard war ethics? I mean really? You are going to war and yet you still have to think about what is the most ethical thing to do. But actually, this has existed for centuries. Back in college, when I had to choose an elective, I was very interested in this topic. I thought that it would discuss Pacifists views and our professor will only teach us that it is bad to go to war; that it was unethical to go to war. But I was very surprised upon taking the course that there are really ethical decisions and actions before starting a war, during an on-going war and even after the rain of bullets stop.
I do not think I am an absolute pacifist because I am confrontational as a person. I think perhaps I am a conditional pacifist wherein I believe that there are some situations when war is inevitable and not waging war would only translate to more damage and deaths. The ethics of war however was a whole lot of rules and regulations and it totally makes sense and at the same it does not make sense for me. War is not ethical for me in any way since there will be deliberate killings and death will be inevitable. There will surely be destruction and extreme aggression. The word war even came from the Old High German language word “Werran”, which means to cause confusion. So what is ethical about it?
First things first, war must be the last resort, meaning every possible non- violent way should be exhausted before waging war. A society should always value lives at risk when going to war so they can first use diplomacy or economic sanctions. But what if war is really necessary? Like what happened in World War II when the Nazi rounded Jews and had a killing spree; there was human rights violation. In that case, I think the war declared against the Germans was ethical. Was it worth the sacrifice? I would like to think so. I could only imagine if Hitler’s reign and principles continued until modern times, who would he be killing next? There is an argument that it would be morally right to go to war sooner than later because there would be more damage if the situation is not dealt with as soon as possible.
Next I remember are the war crimes. Again, this does not make sense to me. Killing is a crime and yet going to war is the biggest crimes but within that crime, there are still war crimes. The horrific events have always been the nature of war.
Violations of the laws or customs of war are:
- Atrocities or offences against persons or property, constituting violations of the laws or customs of war
- murder, ill treatment or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose of the civilian population in occupied territory
- murder or ill treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas
- killing of hostages
- torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments
- plunder of public or private property
- wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages
- devastation not justified by military necessity
But these war crimes are only punishable once war ends and the justice will lie on the victor of the war. If the Nazi won the World War II, who will be punished? Who will be sanctioned? The Allied forces would be the one to suffer. What Winston Churchill said comes to my mind “History is written by the victors”. Would it be fair for the victors to judge those who lost the war? I am unsure.
I would like to close my trail of thought with St. Augustine’s statement, “We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace.”