Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Just War and Virtue

Neil over on Catholic Sensiblity quotes an article by Daniel Bell in Christian Century. This quote struck me as so interesting, I'm going to reproduce most of it, though I encourage you to go to Catholic Sensibility and read the comments, which are thoughful in the extreme:

This criterion is commonly reduced to a disavowal of revenge and a desire for peace. But just war as Christian discipleship involves a thicker account of intent, revolving around issues of character. First, right intent is a matter of a "just peace." As Augustine noted long ago, everyone desires peace; wars are always fought for peace--for a peace that better suits the aggressor. It is not sufficient, then, merely to be for peace. One must intend a peace that is truly just, and not merely self-serving.

Second, right intent entails that even in warfare we love our enemy. Anger is permitted, but not hatred. Indeed, in waging war, the right intent is not to destroy the enemy but to bring the benefits of a just peace to the enemy.

Third, right intent entails what can be called "complete justice." Intentionality is not always an easy thing to discern; for this reason character and consistency are relevant to evaluating intent. Thus, evaluating intent with regard to war might entail asking: Is this a people who characteristically and consistently seek justice? Is justice only selectively enforced? Is it carried out to completion? Complete justice entails looking forward (to how justice will be implemented) and backward (bringing the past before the bar of justice): Accordingly, this criterion may involve confessing one's own complicity in past injustice as one confronts present injustice. Likewise, intent understood in terms of complete justice provides space for consideration of "exit strategies" and how the victor deals with the defeated after the shooting stops.

It's a gloss on Aquinas' criteria for just war, and it's interesting in that it deals with war in the context of positive action rather than necessary evil. Historically, this is, of course, how the Church has dealt with questions of just war. While war undoubtedly does involve accompanying evils, neither war itself nor actions within the context of war are traditionally interpreted in the context of "war is hell, so we might as well do X" but rather "what is the right and just action in this situation?" After all, our Church has, historically, contained religious order dedicated to the protection of Christendom via just war.

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