War, Morality, and the Military Profession

By Malham M. Wakin | Go to book overview

Introduction to Part 2

Malham M. Wakin

The selections in Part 1 of this text generally provide a normative view of the military profession; given the importance of the function the profession of arms fulfills for its society, we are told by the authors what our military leadership ought to be like and are reminded of the critical ethical issues associated with the carrying out of the military function. That function has been variously characterized as involving the management of violence or the containment of violence in the defense or preservation of a way of life. However else the military function might be described, it seems clear that the profession derives whatever positive or noble attributes it may have from its dedication to providing for its nation's security—its defensive role is most frequently viewed as morally sound. As we turn to considerations of war itself, we may note immediately that those who seek to provide moral justification for the use of war as an instrument of national policy find their task easiest when they restrict the category of just wars to those that are strictly defensive.

Several of the selections in Part 2 analyze the morally justifiable purposes of war. The pacifist obviously argues that even wars that are strictly fought in defense of ones home territory against aggressive invasion are not morally permissible (see Stanley Hauerwas, Chapter 19). Others (Taylor, Anscombe, Wasserstrom) consider the possibility that defense against active attack is not the only moral justification for engaging in war. Robert Tucker, in summarizing the public statements of U.S. spokespersons during the middle portion of this century, suggests that the general "American" position has been that the just war is the war fought either in self-defense or in collective defense against an armed attack." 1 Each of these views carries with

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