An Encyclopedia of War and Ethics

An Encyclopedia of War and Ethics

An Encyclopedia of War and Ethics

An Encyclopedia of War and Ethics

Synopsis

This is the first encyclopedia that critically surveys the ethics of warmaking from a variety of perspectives. Noted experts raise basic questions about what is "just" in war, describe the views of historic and contemporary thinkers on ethical matters, survey practices at different periods, and discuss key issues. The over 250 entries arranged in alphabetical order cover efforts to curb the havoc of war from medieval to modern times, from accidental war to Zagreb Resolution, different religious perspectives, genocide, UN peacekeeping, and much more. Sources for further reading accompany the entries, and internal cross-references and an index make this major reference easily accessible for students and teachers in military, peace, and world affairs studies.

Excerpt

War is an ethical problem because it obligates us to do abroad what would be illegal and immoral at home, namely, to kill strangers, persons whom we have never met and who have personally done us no harm; to hold innocent men, women, and children hostage for putative crimes they did not commit; to lay waste to their environment and plunder their national treasures; and to do all of this in the name of economic, political, and ideological agendas. It was believed at least as far back as Cicero that moral limits existed as to what could be justified in war, and for the past two millennia thinkers have sought for these limits. This search has presupposed two interrelated inviolate premises: killing is prima facie wrong because human beings have a right to life, and the nationstate must be preserved at all costs.

The havoc of war has been encapsulated in myths of national security, evil empires, and crusade language so firmly that opponents rarely see what they are doing when they make war on the innocent by laying siege to civilian centers or napalming villages from the air. Ordinarily, human life is considered an inalienable right. War inverts this elementary right of victims. Persons about to be slain should not be required to prove why this ought not to be done; citizens in cities should not be required to prove why they ought not to be bombed from the air, any more than the inmates of extermination camps should need to justify their survival to the operators of those camps. It is the assassins, the bombardiers, the gas chamber operators who must explain their acts. The judges at Nuremberg saw this clearly. The failure of victims to give a persuasive justification for their survival did not imply that the death camps could continue. Although the Nuremberg judges affirmed that Nazism was unworthy, they left unclear whether the Nazi extermination program could have been justified in the name of democracy. In part, this ambiguity followed from the court's determination that the death camps were militarily unnecessary; it was not clear what the court's conclusion would have been if the camps had been found militarily necessary.

Writers of such documents as the Bhagavad Gita, the Qur'an, and the Old . . .

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