War is a puzzling subject for philosophers for centuries and it isn’t hard to say otherwise. If you ever had come across an investigation for murder, the first question is always “what was the motive?” the science of criminology seems to get puzzled when we include the dilemmas of morality and motives to the crime. A crime is always outlined by the authenticity and the leverage of the motive, and how a particular act can be murderous as well as heroic. This argument gives rise to another important question- Can a crime be pardoned if the motive is morally good? If it is morally wrong to kill people with no-fault that too on a massive scale, why are soldiers considered heroes? And if it is morally right, then can murder be pardoned? Is there ever, any morally justified reason for killing someone?
There are times when wars could be acceptable as well as statutory.
Throughout human history, war has been an integral part of our life. Sometimes a war is waged for survival and sometimes to protect self-interests. However, there are also times when war is waged to extend personal interests. There is a general presumption that laws should be congruent with morality, as the dos and don’ts of law go synonymous with the dos and don’ts of morality. But in practice, these things do not go hand in hand. If we consider some of the greatest wars in history, for example, the events of World War 2- be it pearl harbor, Nanking, Hiroshima, or even the German invasion of Poland, it is quite visible that the single interest of an individual or perhaps a party deliberately or recklessly killed if not hundreds but thousands of innocent people whose lives could be spared if more humane methods could be used to intervene.
While in the modern world, there are no wars of self-defense. Self-defense is premised on the idea that the state is a subject analogous to the individual human being, but this idea does not include the moral dilemmas of killing someone, be it for the greater good! War today inevitably means deliberately killing innocents and to overcome these presumptions you’d have to show the long-run benefits of war. Now some wars do show long benefits like a war for democracy while amidst that freedom the screams of innocents killed in the process would echo throughout the constitution. This analogy is misleading especially in context with the dos of morality.
Predicting the consequences of war is difficult, extremely difficult. In practice, none can predict the outcome or consequences of a war which was well depicted in the recent feud between Russia and Ukraine. Many would agree that the war is wrong regardless of the motive or consequences. But when this idea shifts towards the people who participate in it- soldiers, we suddenly tilt it by saying that a soldier doesn’t do wrong simply by fighting in a war, even if the war is an unjust one. People may condemn war, but they don’t think that the soldiers who fought there did something wrong. Why is that?
Well, this could be supportive if a soldier is fighting to defend their state or what we call self-protection- but what about the ones fighting on the other side? If a soldier’s war is not justified, then it means he is using lethal violence against not just a fellow soldier but a person which is to any extent morally wrong. But again, a soldier’s duty is to fight or to defend state interests, and he must be carrying out his duty. Now, there is something very problematic about this idea.
It raises profound questions about the way we configure our soldiers. When is it permissible to fight or when can war be justified? The morality conflict could be solved with the principle of proportionality. This could prove helpful in avoiding genocide or enslavement but again these ethics could not alternate bloodshed. Ethics plays a very important, yet futile role in something that could reward some and be terrible for the rest. Yes, there is a time when wars should be used as the last resort of any whatsoever conflict, as an absolute last resort to any situation. But should it be taken off the table? To solve this puzzle once and for all, all the nations should possibly go unilaterally disarm, but the question is- Are we ready to do that?
No, we aren’t ready to do that, at least not at present. With growing terrorism to spread tyranny based on ideological or religious beliefs- there should be soldiers and wars to defend that. Until the world witnesses more peace, morality can only be leveraged by doing what is less evil.