War, Morality, and the Military Profession

By Malham M. Wakin | Go to book overview

sanitized war in Vietnam that would result from a scrupulous adherence to the laws of war will increase still further our tolerance for and acceptance of the horror, the slaughter, and the brutality that is the essence of twentieth century war. There is something genuinely odious about a code of behavior that says: if there is a conflict between the attainment of an important military objective and one or more of the prohibitions of the laws of war, it is the prohibitions that quite properly are to give way. And there is something dangerous about a point of view that accepts such a system and directs us to concentrate our energies and our respect upon its enforcement. The corrosive effect of living in a world in which we embrace such a code and insist upon its value seems to me appreciably more dangerous than the effect of a refusal to accord a position of primacy to the sometimes bizarre, often morally incoherent laws of war.

The answer is not, of course, to throw out the laws of war with a view toward inculcating in us all the belief that in war anything goes. But neither is it an acceptable answer to take as given the nature of modern war and modern weapons and to conform, as best one can, the laws of war to their requirements. This, it seems to me, is the fatal flaw in the conception of the laws of war with which I have been concerned. The beginning of a morally defensible position is surely to be found in a different conception of the laws of war, a conception sufficiently ambitious that it refuses to regard as immutable the character of contemporary warfare and weaponry, and that requires instead, that war itself change so as to conform to the demands of morality.


Notes
1.
For my purpose I treat the laws of war and war crimes as identical phenomena. I recognize that for other purposes and in other contexts this would be a mistake. See, e.g., Richard Falk, Gabriel Kolko, and Robert Lifton , eds., Crimes of War ( New York, 1971), p. 33.
2.
The Charter of the International Military Tribunal, Article Six (b).
3.
Telford Taylor, Nuremberg and Vietnam:An American Tragedy ( New York, 1970), p. 20.
4.
Georg Schwarzenberger, The Legality of Nuclear Weapons ( London, 1958), p. 44.
5.
Taylor, p. 36. There is an ambiguity in this quotation that should be noted. Taylor may not mean that the laws of war permit an exception in this kind of case. He may mean only that the law is uncertain, that he knows of no court decision which authoritatively declares this to be either a war crime or a permitted exception. It is sufficient for my purposes if he means the weaker claim, that it is an open question.

-407-

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War, Morality, and the Military Profession
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • About the Book and Editor v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the First Edition xi
  • Preface to the Second Edition xiii
  • Part 1 Ethics and the Military Profession 1
  • Introduction to Part 1 3
  • Notes 8
  • 1: The World of Epictetus: Reflections on Survival and Leadership 10
  • 2: Officership as a Profession 23
  • Notes 33
  • 3: The Military Mind: Conservative Realism of the Professional Military Ethic 35
  • Notes 52
  • 4: The Future of the Military Profession 57
  • Notes 78
  • 5: Society and the Soldier: 1914-18 80
  • Notes 89
  • 6: Today and Tomorrow 90
  • Notes 102
  • 7: The Military in the Service of the State 104
  • Notes 120
  • 8: The Professions Under Siege 121
  • 9: The Shame of the Professions 134
  • 10: Duty, Honor, Country: Practice and Precept 140
  • Notes 155
  • 11: Conflicting Loyalties and the American Military Ethic 157
  • Notes 169
  • 12: Loyalty, Honor, and the Modern Military 171
  • Notes 178
  • 13: Integrity 180
  • 14: The Ethics of Leadership I 181
  • Notes 198
  • 15: The Ethics of Leadership II 200
  • Part 2 War and Morality 217
  • Introduction to Part 2 219
  • Notes 225
  • 16: Just and Unjust Wars 226
  • Notes 237
  • 17: The Just War and Non-Violence Positions 239
  • Notes 254
  • 18: Just-War Theories: The Bases, Interrelations, Priorities, and Functions of Their Criteria 256
  • Notes 272
  • 19: Pacifism: Some Philosophical Considerations 277
  • 20: War and Murder 284
  • Notes 296
  • 21: War and Massacre 297
  • Notes 314
  • 22: On the Morality of War: A Preliminary Inquiry 317
  • Notes 338
  • 23: The Killing of the Innocent 341
  • Notes 359
  • 24: War Crimes 365
  • Notes 378
  • 25: Superior Orders and Reprisals 380
  • Notes 389
  • 26: The Laws of War 391
  • Notes 407
  • Selected Bibliography 409
  • 27: On the Morality of Chemical/Biological War 410
  • Notes 422
  • 28: Supreme Emergency 425
  • Notes 442
  • 29: Some Paradoxes of Deterrence 444
  • Notes 460
  • 30: On Nuclear War and Nuclear Deterrence 463
  • Notes 483
  • 31: Moral Clarity in the Nuclear Age 487
  • Notes 497
  • 32: On Nuclear Morality 499
  • Notes 508
  • 33: The Moral Case for the Strategic Defense Initiative 509
  • Notes 515
  • The Contributors 517
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