War is a perplexing human activity that, over time, mankind has become executive masters of. We’ve developed into efficient killing machines by producing weapons of mass destruction, murdering millions of people in a matter of a few decades. As the number of fatalities has risen over the years, I question myself: For what cause? Nothing is static; everything is evolving and after all these years of evolution, warfare, and onslaught, I have concluded that it is nearly impossible to alter the avarice that’s so instinctively inherent to human beings. War is a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country, and peace is a state or period in which there is no war. As one initiates war, one suppresses peace. Therefore, rules and principles of war were established - Jus ad bellumbeing an example - to justify and control the declaration of and the engagement in war. This is an international law, but my view is that war can only be justified in case property, values, and/or freedom without intervention are seriously jeopardized. Murder cannot be morally justified, but it can be pragmatically justified if it’s out of self-defense.
Obviously, war should be avoided at all cost, unless absolutely necessary. Certain situations demand a military response when all non-violent options are exhausted. Still, these responses should be executed in a way whereby innocent lives are spared wherever possible. Defense of one’s property and way of life is the only just cause to engage in war, but even the use of defensive force has limitations. A person has the right to kill when that person reasonably believes that it’s to prevent great bodily harm and/or death. Montesquieu, a French lawyer, political philosopher and author of Spirit in Laws, states, “[Nations] have a right to wage war for their own preservation” (133), and therefore they have the right to kill just like individuals do. According to the principle of proportionality, “violence used in the war must be proportional to the attack suffered” (Jus ad bellum). For example, if one country invades and seizes another’s territory, the other has the right to retrieve it. But if the second country invades and annexes the first country, it would be disproportionate and thus not a just war anymore - fought for the defense of property - but rather just a war - fought for the proliferation of property.
As we try to conceptualize just causes for war, we should also consider unjust causes for war. In order to do this, we focus on the main drivers behind war: religion and expansion drift of countries and its leaders. Both of these are empirically direct causes for the jeopardization of another’s values, freedom and property. Let’s take the conflict with ISIS for example. ISIS is driven by religious motives; they want to enforce their conservative Islamic views on the world, attacking the values and freedom of others; so far they’ve murdered approximately 30,000 people. The Korean conflict is another example. The division of North Korea and South Korea occurred at the end of WWII and to this day tension still resides between the two. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who reportedly had 70 people executed and is driven by expansionary motives, wants “the reunification of Korea, without foreign interference” (BBC). So they began developing nuclear weapons, threatening the freedom and property of other nations. These are examples of extremism and when dealing with extremism - both religious and political - a careful approach will not always be adequate. Certain elements need to be eradicated purely because these by themselves are a threat to one’s values, property, and freedom, and ultimately to world peace.
There will always be inevitable series of conflicts that’ll lead to disquietude in the world. Nowadays, disputes are mostly local and aimed at controlling escalation rather than on expansion drift or proselytism, but there are various methods to go about dealing with these. For example, “[Kropp] proposes that […] the ministers and generals of the two countries […] can have it out among themselves. Whoever survives, his country wins. That would be [...] more just than [...] the wrong people [doing] the fighting” (Remarque 41). As Thomas C. Foster explains in How to Read Literature like a Professor, “It’s all political” (115). Yet, a certain fear for others and consequences of conflicts - how sad it sounds - is still one of the better deterrents. This should, however, not escalate to things like an arms race - as we’ve seen in the past during the Cold War - but it can create some form of stability. And as the author of Fight ClubChuck Palahniuk wrote, “Only after disaster can we be resurrected” (46).
Is widespread and long term peace humanly possible? Yes. Remarque remarks in All Quiet on the Western Front that “quietness is so unattainable for us now” (121) and to a certain extent he’s right. But since WWII there has been a general worldwide “agreement” that such a war should never happen again. And it hasn’t! Most conflicts are generated by extremist behavior and we are seeing that the world is united in the vow to eliminate such extremism, and to protect the values, property, and freedom of others. For example, the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussel; landmarks over the world lit up in the color of the countries’ flags to express sympathy and support. What’s important in maintaining long term peace is a balance of power; there’s not a single party that is absolutely dominant and could exercise control unilaterally. But as I see it, the opposite of war is not peace. It’s love, and all human beings are a manifestation of it. If we can “reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions” (Fight Club) and put aside our differences, just imagine what our world would look like. “ We [would be] satisfied and at peace” (Remarque 1).
Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines. New York: Quill, 2003. Print. Remarque, Erich Maria.All Quiet on the Western Front.Trans. Arthur Wesley Wheen. New York: Ballantine, 1982. Print. Palahniuk, Chuck. Introduction. Fight Club. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996. N. pag. Print. Montesquieu, Charles De Secondat. The Spirit of Laws. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2002. Print. "What Does North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un Really Want?" Http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-31001251. N.p., n.d. Web. “Jus ad bellum” Https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_ad_bellum#Principles_of_jus_ad_bellum. N.p., n.d. Web Fight Club. By Chuck Palahniuk. 1999. Web.