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Application of Theory Towards Ethical Implementation of Military Force

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As I am heading off this summer to be trained as a Chaplain in the U.S. Navy, and I consider myself to be just shy of a pacifist, I am highly interested in questions of military ethics. I deal very often with both inward and outward doubts about the possible hypocrisies involved in becoming a piece of the infrastructure of a machine whose actions I may often disagree with. In the end I have my reasons as to why I'm still going through with it and I will have to deal with the specific dilemmas as they come. What I will be able to take from this class, I think, is a well structured rubric as to when I personally feel military intervention is allowable, if not absolutely necessary. How this will help me I'm not sure, except to say that being able to explain and understand my position clearly, while working in a community that is predominantly hawkish and right-wing, might allow me to retain my sanity and stay useful to my parishioners and clients.

My thinking is primarily a synthesis of Hans Jonas and G.E.M. Anscombe, but it has been influenced by nearly every author we have considered. Obviously I have in my life been influenced on the subject by a great many sources not covered in this class, for the purposes of this paper, I will consider only a handful of outside sources. Writing this paper as a seminarian, I will be unapologetic about my Christian perspective, but will illustrate my clear agreement with Juergen Habermas that we must, as individuals and governments seek to resolve conflicts in the logos, outside of our religious perspectives .

My personal distaste for violence, and therefore the use of military force comes as much from a sense of pragmatism as ethical forbearance. Nothing creates enmity like violence; this robs both the aggressor and victim of quality of life. From that point on, the aggressor has to concern themselves with fending off the repercussions of the act, while the victim either loses their life in total or their quality of life is diminished both in whatever physical capacity the aggressor has rendered, but in that they now have a credible fear of and anger toward the aggressor. In cases where the victim loses their life, the victim's associates become victims by extension (which may occur even if the victim survives), in addition, society may have responsive measures built in to try to provide for "Justice" which takes up society's resources making everyone in the system whose resources have been pooled (via taxation) into this response partners in the victimization. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has the most eloquent and descriptive explanation of this phenomenon I have heard:

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that."

Dr. King illustrates both the moral problems with employing violence and the pragmatic drawbacks. When an individual is faced with a situation that can seemingly be positively resolved with violence, the individual has two choices that may solve for them the pragmatics, the first is forbearance, forgiveness, cooperation, and even pacifism, the avoidance of violence, this is the option that Dr. King promotes. The other option of course, is to commit violence. Dr. King's model is apt, especially so when the context from which one operates places them as a representative of a group from which acts of violence committed by or against an individual cannot help but trigger an unmanageable cycle of violence. It does not consider that violence can theoretically be applied in a way that does not trigger a "descending spiral". The trick is that you have to completely annihilate your opponents ability to do you harm, when you do this you will surely victimize your opponent. Who started it is irrelevant to the model and as I stated before, there will be victims by extension. Whether through further acts of violence or by non-violence you have to deal with them, while, it can be assumed, defending against acts of violence to yourself. The outcomes of this fall into two categories: either you are successful and you annihilate your enemies while either talking your way into the good graces of, or further annihilating all, secondary victims, or you fail and are visited by the compounded repercussions of the reactions (most likely violent) of all non-neutralized victims of your violence.

For an individual it seems pretty obvious that the headaches involved in any act of violence, physical or otherwise, make it an unattractive choice. Compounded with my Christian ethos I find it is not a difficult thing to avoiding harming others and, in my upper-middle-class academic western world, I find it both simple and expedient to forgive the small violence that is done to me.

So it is with my all-or-nothing perspective on violence that I approach the subject of military violence. The difference from personal choice to forbear and group choice lies, for me, in leadership and responsibility. I agree with the idea presented by St. Augustine that leaders have an obligation to protect and defend their charges, and therefore must have the power to wage war when necessary In much the same way as I have often considered that the use of deadly force to defend one's life, while not clearly moral, can be justified if the person who saves their own life is responsible for others (such as the case of a parent of young children) or to protect others from the same aggressor. I would note that the violence-cycle headaches are by no means mitigated by these factors. Theologically I find this position supported by scripture in Jesus' response to the tax collectors . While escaping a rhetorical trap that had been set for him, Jesus also illustrates the responsibilities that are laid upon leaders of state, while reminding the Pharisees in double intended that in the end all things belong to God. G.E.M. Anscombe also addresses this, I would disagree that the life of a soldier or a ruler is by nature unjust, vicious or simply, a bad life . I would say that the life of a soldier is likely to put one in the position to be ordered to do things that are unjust and be under obligation to do them. Being a leader of state puts one in the exceedingly precarious position of having the power, and sometimes the responsibility to order what would be a grievous crime if committed by an individual, and then the possibility

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