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November 14, 2016 / Congau

War Is Never Just

War can never be just, because it will always be out of proportion.

There has never been a war that follows this simple pattern of justice envisioned by just war theoreticians: An evil aggressor attacks innocent people who then fight back in rightful self-defense.

The aggressor is never purely an aggressor. He always has at least some legitimate grievances which he feels needs to be rectified and might be interpreted as self-defense.

The defender is never purely a defender. As he fights back he will necessarily go beyond the simple action of clear self-defense. An individual person who gets attacked can ward off the attacker as a direct reflexive reaction, but it is never obvious how a state should react. When the enemies step over the border, they are not simply thrown back. Elaborate strategies will have to be employed and counterattacks may be directed at places far from the original trouble spot. Then the defender becomes an attacker and the justice of his cause is blurred.

Who started it, one may ask, and potentially we could go back to the dawn of time to search for an answer. Who fired the first shot? Or who fired the first shot that went beyond self-defense? You can choose to trace the chain of events from wherever you like and there will always be some justice to your claim.

Then how can a war ever be just? Even if everyone would agree who was the original aggressor (which would never happen), the “just” war that was to be waged as a response would necessarily contain elements of aggression and thereby provide the enemy with a “just” reason for retaliation etc.

Whenever there is peace, a “just” war has been abandoned.

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