Christian Just War Theory

From a comment on a comic:

“Martin Luther explains that God and government are not constrained by the commandment not to kill, but that God has delegated his authority in punishing evildoers to the government. The prohibition of killing is forbidden to the individual in his relation to anyone else, and not to the government.”

My reply:

The Christian Just War Theory or Doctrine was produced and expanded upon by Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius and others. (I never came across Martin Luther as a proponent of war.) Between them they did a good job of saying “That there God geezer, yeah, didn’t say ‘not kill’, he said ‘not murder’, right? And it can’t be murder if it’s not illegal, can it? And how can it be illegal if the King or Pope said to do the killing? So it’s not murder and God’s perfectly fine with it. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Another argument is that killing non-believers who refuse to convert is doing them a favour by saving their souls. That was the excuse in Africa and other places where exploring and conquering was going on.

A third was that provided you are careful in your killing, then that’s reasonable. So kill people nicely and proportionately, and even Jesus would be OK with that. This argument is used by politicians today.

So, despite Holy Scripture from God, and prophets and the Son of God saying not to kill people, it is fine if a rich or powerful person tells some poor person to kill another person, because the rich and powerful said so. They know better than God, Jesus, Moses and that lot what God wants.

You’ll find the same pro-killing arguments in the Jewish and Moslem Just War arguments too.

What would happen if we stayed home today?

What would happen if we stayed home today?

If the armourers stayed home and played with their boys.
If the snipers stayed home and helped the girls with their toys.

If the airmen stayed home and steam-cleaned their cars.
While sailors wrote letters to their Mas and their Pas.

If the soldiers stayed in barracks and polished their boots
And officers sewed medals on their Remembrance Day suits.

If the generals stayed abed with their mistresses
And the admirals spent the day just playing Battleships.

And the politicians stayed home and counted their bribes
And not spreading hate, so everyone survives.

While military planners daydream of their secretaries
There’s no-one needed to cut new graves in cemeteries.

And orphans stayed home and counted lost lives.
And we just stayed home and loved our husbands and wives.

What if we all just stayed home today?
Would the world end?
Or the pain go away?

Understanding International Relations Theory

I’ve just completed and passed a 12 week course “Understanding International Relations Theory” on Coursera run by the HSE University, Moscow.  It was written four years ago, so well before the invasion of Ukraine. It has been on my To Do list since I completed my Masters in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies, essentially an international relations course, but I wanted the perspective of a Russian university on the subject.  I got round to doing it when I did because a small number of people were saying the invasion of Ukraine was inevitable and were predicting the nation of its escalation of not addressed.   I also felt it was predictable and based on Russia feeling unheard in its objections to Eastward NATO expansion, not being heard on the world stage beyond its power of veto at the UN and its objections to how regime change was being conducted by the West.

Anyway, the theory is just the same: Realist, Liberalist and Marxist paradigms of interpreting international relations, with their modern neo- versions to accommodate their failings, and the special theories like Democratic Peace Theory, Regime Theory and the delightfully named Liberal Transnationalism or Complex Interdependence Theory.  Also, the critical theories of Constructivism, Postmodernism and Feminism. As expected, it starts with the Peloponnesian Wars, goes through the philosophers like Hobbes and Locke and the Westphalian view of state sovereignty, the League of Nations, the Great War, WW2, the United Nations, the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and almost up to the present day.  All as expected.

But the interesting bit was toward the end: the analysis of Russian foreign policy.  It is entirely a Realist policy, so very different from how the West operates.  And using the Realist paradigm of a desire to balance power, of great powers operating in a ‘concert of nations’ and Russia expecting to be the most influential state in its region, the behaviour of Russia was indeed entirely predictable.

While many were saying Putin is mad, that he intends to invade and conquer Europe, that it is all to do with internal Russian politics, had got it wrong.  The invasion of Ukraine is – like most violence at any scale – all about humiliation.  Russia resents being treated as insignificant on the world stage, resents the encroachment by NATO and the EU into its sphere of influence, resents not being involved in decision-making about world issues such as the Arab Spring (hence its involvement in propping up the Syrian regime to show that it can) and that it was not defeated and eliminated when the Soviet Union collapsed.  Russia wants to be seen as what it sees itself as and has been for centuries: one of the great powers in the Eurasian zone.

All conflicts end with communication.  And communication starts with listening.  We need to stop treating Russia as a defeated opponent or an enemy to be crushed by an ongoing unofficial Cold War and try listening.

Nuclear weapons threat, end of German pacifism, NATO expansion and the arms race and censorship

I went to bed reminded of living as a child of the bomb, not expecting to reach adulthood because of the permanent threat of nuclear war and obliteration.  No point working for the school exams or planning a future, because there would not be one.  And now there are news stories looking breathlessly at nuclear escalation as an exciting prospect.

This is why we should have got rid of nuclear weapons by now.  We are still living in fear of total destruction which is supposedly there to protect us.

So the post WW2 constitutional attitude of Germany being a peaceful nation in Europe is over.  It feels like we’ve gone back 90 or more years in European peaceful negotiation and concepts.  Once again a militarised Germany in the centre of Europe, throwing its weight about.  And providing the arms for a war in another country: great way to get back into the game, Germany, by supporting a proxy war.  Start out at a low level, why don’t you?

And Germany has committed to providing 2% to NATO, so NATO’s budget goes up as a result of Russia’s actions.  Well done NATO for coming out the winner in this.  The most powerful state in the world with a national flag, national anthem, guaranteed budget paid by taxpayers elsewhere and with no democratically elected leaders.  Amazing.

Lots of countries are promising to send weapons of various sorts.  Russia is on the outskirts of Kiev.   By the time they have been found, ready to be boxed up, it will all be over.  But the contracts and orders with the arms manufacturers will still go ahead.  It is just throwing money at the arms industry that will have no effect.  What are they going to do with them when they are ready for shipment in a couple of months – send them to the Russians occupying Ukraine?  “Oh, these are items in the stores!”.  They have to be gathered up, boxed up, transport arranged, receipt arranged, training booked, maintenance arranged, documentation provided … it won’t happen.

And the censorship has begun.  During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan I found it very interesting watching the mainstream news and listening to the BBC World Service, Voice of America and Radio Moscow and comparing the different versions of events.  By tracking what each was saying about the front moving back and forth in my school atlas, and keeping track of the losses and gains reported on each side, I was able to work out which was utter bobbins and which seemed reasonably accurate, albeit with some spin.  The Voice of America was utter bonkers fiction; the others were generally aligned.  Fake news and lies in the media are not a new thing.  Censorship in the West is.

What an unpleasant weekend.  How quickly politicians will re-instate a Cold War and military escalation when given the opportunity, rather than trying to sort their problems out.

Welcome to living with fear.

Lanchester’s Laws

While playing an online multi-player wargame, someone attacked 10 units with 19 units of the same type.  How many attackers survived?  Contrary to what some might assume, it was not nine units.  They were equally matched and 16 units survived of the attacking force.

This is a very simplified version of reality, but essentially there are, initially, nearly twice as many attackers as defenders shooting, so a defender will be killed in half the time of an attacker.  Then the ratio of attackers to defenders is even greater: 19 to 9.  Now the likelihood of a defender being killed before an attacker is even greater than before.  Eventually, only a few defenders are being outnumbered 4:1 or 5:1 and so they are eliminated very quickly, with few if any losses to the attackers.

This is described in Lanchester’s Laws which say that when you have people shooting at one another at range, and each can fire on any other opponent (as opposed to one-on-one melee combat), the effectiveness of the forces are in proportion to the squares of their numbers meaning the attrition over time is far greater for the lesser force.  That is, the smaller force, will lose members faster and faster and the greater force lose them slower and slower.

One can imagine how ten people shooting at two people may manage to shoot both before any of the ten are themselves shot, contrary to what is usually represented in Wild West and action movies.

As examples, assuming a 1% chance of killing with any given shot, a battle between 100 attackers and 50 defenders will – statistically – end in victory after 55 rounds with 86 attackers surviving.  Some more analysis:

Attackers Defenders %likelihood Rounds Survivors
100 99 1% 265 13
100 90 1% 148 43
100 50 1% 55 86
100 14 1% 15 98
100 10 1% 11 99
100 99 50% 5 6
100 90 50% 3 28
100 50 50% 2 65
100 10 50% 1 95
100 99 90% 2 2
100 90 90% 2 19
100 50 90% 1 55
100 10 90% 1 91

The lower the likelihood of killing with one shot, the greater the Lanchester Law effect: the larger number of attackers will whittle away the defenders before the defenders can respond in a significant way.  At the other extreme, 100% likelihood of killing in one shot, it resembles melee combat and the number of survivors is simply the number of attackers minus the number of defenders.

What is the point of this?

  1. When playing tabletop wargaming, always attack with overwhelming numbers to maximise enemy losses while minimising your own.
  2. The Generals of the Great War were indeed incompetent buffoons, believing attrition would win them the war, by sending in wave after wave of small numbers of their own troops in short lines on the front to be massacred.

The second point is particularly so since the infantry were walking into defensive machine gun fire, where the likelihood of killing per unit of time was far greater than for the attackers.  Attacking in that way maximised the losses for the attacker.  And this would have been apparent for any player of wargames or mathematically minded person at the front.  The defence for the the donkeys running the war was that they knew no better – then they were idiots.

The Prussians had been playing wargames as a military training tool for over a century by the time of the Great War.

Why do I as a pacifist play wargames?  Partly recreation, partly research.  It helps one to understand the true horror of mechanised, organised, warfare.

Johnny Mercer MP approves of and promotes killing over values

Johnny Mercer MP has posted on his Tweet feed:

The application of violence to defeat the enemies of the nation has become worryingly unpopular.  Nothing wrong with fighting (yes killing) for values/what you believe in.

I was under the impression the current War on Terror was specifically trying to stop people doing just that.

And he is concerned that violence is becoming less popular.

To the point where he publicly writes there is nothing wrong with killing people.

What hope is there when people vote for people like him?

“Let Us Begin”, John Denver

In June 1986 John Denver released the album One World which has the track Let Us Begin, an anti-war song, which had been released as a single.  On this day of that year, 30th July 1986, his record label, RCA, pulled the single.  RCA had been acquired by General Electric, a major arms manufacturer, and they did not like this song with its lyrics of feeding the war machine but not babies.  Thus the powerful, who get rich from making killing devices, get to silence the pacifists to protect their profits.

A video John produced to go with the song, with a short introduction from him, is here on YouTube.

The lyrics.

This is simply the best piece of work that I’ve done in my career.

John Denver, 10th December 1987

Source: www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=10947# amongst others.

Punishing people of conscience

Governments say we are not allowed to kill people.

Then the government of Country A decides it wants some people killed in Country B to achieve regime change / combat terror / deal with a drugs problem / whatever.  The nation is merely an intangible social construct with no means to do anything meaning it requires people to do its work.  So the government orders its people to kill some people in Country B.  But some people who agree with the government that killing is wrong refuse to go and they get punished by their government, sometimes by killing them.

So the government is run by people in power who say killing is wrong and these people in power are ordering its citizens to kill other people – meaning the people in power have the power of life and death over the citizens of other countries and also the power to decide when killing is illegal or killing is a good thing and in the national interests.

Meanwhile the government and people of Country B who also say killing is wrong, including their own citizens being killed by another country.  So the people in power in Country B respond by telling their people to go and kill people from Country A.

So now both countries’ citizens – whose governments claim they are there to represent, protect and nurture their people – are killing one another on the orders of the people in power.

But the citizens of both countries are not allowed to kill anyone when they want to, merely when they are told to.

And yet those who stick to the original principle of killing being wrong are themselves made to suffer harm because they won’t participate in the killing.

This does not make any sense.

Bias regarding fear of war allowing wars to happen

As creatures, we are very poor at assessing risk.  This knowledge was reinforced by what I learned in the Open University module DD210 Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary.  I suspect that is one of the reasons we allow wars to happen.

On the same theme The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters by Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther may be a relevant and useful read.  It looks as though they consider why we allow things to happen.  They highlight six behaviours:

  1. Amnesia bias: only focussing on recent experience so we forget the experience of past wars.
  2. Optimism bias: we are optimistic by nature and although know wars happen, believe wars will not happen to us.
  3. Single action bias: it is enough to make one small act of protest thinking that will be enough to protect us.
  4. Myopia: only considering the short term, that war won’t happen soon so it will never happen.
  5. Inertia: it is too hard to face the problem and tackle it, when it might not even happen, thereby allowing it to happen.
  6. Herding: doing what we perceive everyone else to do, which is nothing, so nobody does anything.

But that list does not tell us what to do about them; perhaps the rest of their book does.

Principles of Just-War Theory

Lynn Roulstone at the Open University raised the questionsWhat do we think to Aquinas’s Just War theory?  Is it ever possible to have such a thing?” and provided a link to a short explanation of the seven principles of Just-War Theory.

I wasn’t particularly impressed by them and this was my response:

1. Last Resort
Sartre, Ghandi and Jesus said a violent response need not be the final resort.  Deciding not to use violence is also an available option.  It was certainly the best way for your civilisation to survive an invasion by the Roman empire, the Mongol hordes or many other invading forces who purpose was to subjugate.

2. Legitimate Authority
We have a representative democracy so if Tony Bliar decides to start a war despite dodgy evidence and 3 million people protesting, he is perfectly entitled.  If Obama declares war on Mexico tomorrow, he has legal, personal, absolute authority to do so under USA law.

3. Just Cause
Righting a wrong done to A committed by B by killing C is as logical as bombing for peace.  It just results in tit-for-tat feuds that need never end.

4. Probability of Success
If it is wrong to fight in case you lose – and there is always the possibility of unexpectedly losing – then one should not fight.  Conversely, if one has such overwhelming power that victory is inevitable, there must be diplomatic alternatives to using overwhelming violence.

5. Right Intention
A hollow argument.  The victor is always right, after the event.  Also, if the intention of war is to re-establish peace, then the best outcome is genocide of one’s enemies and destruction of their culture since that best guarantees peace.

6. Proportionality
The minimum amount of force absolutely necessary is often the assassination of one person or one dynastic line.  However, international conventions have long, long agreed that targeted execution of the leaders of sovereign states is against the rules.  Killing millions of the people who happen to live in the same country is OK though.

7. Civilian Casualties
The concept of total war (which is thousands of years old) means that the economy and production ability of the enemy are part of the war machine and valid targets.  Bombing dams to flood valleys is fine.  Armaments factories employ civilians as do the mines and refineries that serve them.  There is no point continuously killing their soldiers if they just keep breeding and equipping more – one must raze their cities, salt their fields, sabotage their infrastructure and starve the population into defeat.  The civilian capacity to raise armies must be destroyed.  The alternative is to not use total war, but then you lose to someone who is.

I do not see how there can be a just war.  Expedient, yes, but just, no.