12 September 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is war necessary?

Dear Friends,

May I once again thank Ceit for chairing the meet last Sunday at short
notice. I am reliably informed that the meeting was a major success. I
must find out more about Ceit's techniques! And also a big thank you for
your get well messages. I think I'm ok now.

This Sunday we are discussing <Is war necessary?> Just over a year ago
we discussed <Can we live without wars?> so I am enclosing the few
paragraphs I wrote at the time unedited.

Hope to see you Sunday and take care.



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Can we live without wars?

Unless stated otherwise, war is usually associated with weapons,
killing, soldiers, invasions, civilian casualties and every thing else
that one needs to have a good old fashioned war. Some times it is stated
otherwise, so we get cod war, cold war, drugs war and price war. War is

Traditionally, the meaning of war centred on the meaning of: actual,
intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities.
Of course the second world war was indeed a war under these criteria. A
gang fight is not a war.

The main arguments against war have been: the just war, realism and
pacifism. The just war position is to accept a moral justification for a
war usually based on self defence. On this argument, going to war is not
justified but self defence is. Pacifism, accepts that there are moral
principles that apply to wars but nevertheless war is always wrong.
Realism, as one would expect, argues that morality has nothing to do
with war. It is all about power and cunning. In a way realism might be
as palatable as cold steel, but it does exploit a weakness in morality.
In a way realism is saying, Okay, wars might be wrong, but morality has
never stopped a war, now, has it?

On the above definition, 'armed' seems to be the decisive concept to
have a war. Using this criteria today, European countries, it can be
said, are not at war. But once we remove 'armed' from the definition we
end up with something quite different. For example, economic conflict
looks like a good candidate for possible war.

Let's go back a step or two. Looking back in time, armed conflict has
been around since well into pre-history. It is true that the concept of
'political' takes a rather new meaning, but this is a difference of
substance not form. A family or a tribe may be regarded as a political
community for our purposes.

We can therefore safely say that so far we were unable to live without
wars. And since a war is a war, no matter how justified it is or how
much we wish it away, it is a reasonable move to look at the causes and
effects of wars.

I'm sure that each war had its own circumstances to get started, but
without checking the history books wars seem to fall into one of the
following categories: power, economics or security. Have you noticed
something? These are also the three main categories for conflict in an
individual's life.

Let us look at the effects of war. Death, distraction, curtailment of
freedom, refugees and fear to mention just a few ideas. Have you noticed
something? If we remove 'armed' from our classical definition of war we
can say: death by inequality of the distribution of resources;
destruction by pollution and toxic waste; curtailment of freedom by
financial emasculation, economic migration and fear through social and
financial instability.

It seems clear to me that there is more to war than just arms and
killing people. What's not clear to me is whether anyone cares enough to
stop wars.

Take care


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from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is war necessary?

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