Originally posted March 24, 2018
Here is an excerpt:
There’s a broader sense of moral confusion about the conduct of America’s wars. In Iraq, what started as a war of choice came to resemble much more a war of necessity. Can a war that started unjustly ever become righteous? Or does the stain permanently taint anything that comes after it?
The answers to these questions come from the school of philosophy called “just war” theory, which tries to explain whether and when war is permissible, and under what circumstances. It offers two big ways to think about the justice of war. One is whether it’s appropriate to go to war in the first place. Take North Korea, for example. Is there a cause worth killing thousands—millions—of North and South Korean civilians over? Invoking “national security” isn’t enough to make a war just. Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons pose an obvious threat to South Korea, Japan, and the United States. But that alone doesn’t make war an acceptable choice, given the lives at stake. The ethics of war require the public to assess how certain it is that innocents will be killed if the military doesn’t act (Will Kim really use his nukes offensively?), whether there’s any way to remove the threat without violence (Has diplomacy been exhausted?), and whether the scale of the deaths that would come from intervention is truly in line with the danger war is meant to avert (If the peninsula has to be burned down to be saved, is it really worth it?)—among other considerations.
The other questions to ask are about the nature of the combat. Are soldiers taking care to target only North Korea’s military? Once the decision has been made that Kim’s nuclear weapons pose an imminent threat, hypothetically, that still wouldn’t make it acceptable to firebomb Pyongyang to turn the population against him. Similarly, American forces could not, say, blow up a bus full of children just because one of Kim’s generals was trying to escape on it.
The article is here.