“Asymmetric warfare” and ethics

by Chris Bertram on July 10, 2006

Steven Poole, our guest-blogger from last week, has this to say about “asymmetric warfare”:

Asymmetric warfare’ is the term employed by the US military for fighting people who don’t line up properly to be shot at: on the one side you have battalions of American infantry, marines, tanks and aircraft; and on the other you have terrorists, or guerrillas, or militants, or insurgents. [Read the whole thing , as they say. cb]

Of course the reason people don’t line up to be shot at, wearing proper uniforms, distinguishing themselves from the civilian population, and so on, is that it would be suicidal so to do. And here lies a real difficulty for conventional just war theory. If recourse to war is sometimes just—and just war theory says it is—but it may only be justly fought within the jus in bello restrictions, then it looks as if an important means to pursue justice is open to the strong alone and not to the weak. Faced with a professional army equipped with powerful weaponry, people who want to fight back have no chance unless they melt into the civilian population and adopt unconventional tactics. If those tactics are morally impermissible because of the risks they impose on non-combatants, then it looks as if armed resistance to severe injustice perpetrated by the well-equipped and powerful is also prohibited. And that looks crazy.

Needless to say this is a problem that is simply ignored by the many blogs that drone on incessantly about jus in bello violations by the weak (and, in the face of those violations, parrot the synthetic moral outrage of the spokespeople for strong states). On the other side, though, it hardly seems to be satisfactory to say that non-conventional forces should be subject to weakened jus in bello restrictions, since the restrictions are there to protect those who have immunity from attack and whose immunity is not removed or diminished by the fact that one side or the other are militarily disadvantaged. So I was interested to read a recent paper by David Rodin, “The Ethics of Asymmetric War” in The Ethics of War (eds Sorabji and Rodin). Rodin proposes to address the problem by strengthening the jus in bello constraints on the strong. In particular he suggests that they be restrained from attacking “grey area” targets (targets that have potentially military uses by serve important civilian functions, such as TV stations, and power plants), that before an attack is authorised they be required to establish with a far higher degree of certainty than at present that a proposed target is indeed legitimate, and, third, that they be made to take “exceptionally rigourous” steps to ensure that civilians are not exposed to collateral harm and also to ensure that the environment in which those civilian live is not damaged and degraded.

Needless to say, if such norms were imposed on coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, on Israeli forces in Palestine or on Russian forces in Chechnya, their operational ability would be severely restricted. But that seems a better response to the asymmetry problem than exempting the weak from the jus in bello requirements would be.

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{ 133 comments }

1

Davis X. Machina 07.10.06 at 11:21 am

By coincidence was just reading Tim Pat Coogan’s Michael Collins: The Man Who Made Ireland, where many of these same issues arose in the 1917-1921 war of independence. Policemen, e.g. were human dual-used targets — at once keepers of the civil peace, and agents of the occupying power.

It was especially problematic for some of the Catholics in the IRA & Volunteers, who had to square their participation in a very dirty war with the jus in bello traditions of the Church.

2

Marc Mulholland 07.10.06 at 11:28 am

Who says that the tactics of “melt[ing] into the civilian population and adopt[ing] unconventional tactics … are morally impermissible because of the risks they impose on non-combatants”? This is standard guerilla strategy, and need not pose greater risk to non-combantants than does two-sided conventional war. As a rule, indeed, conventional war imposes a higher non-combatant death-toll.

There’s nothing that makes the tactics of unconventional war more problematic morally than conventional military doctrine. What is out of bounds is a specfic campaign directed against non-combatants, reasonably defined. This applies with equal force to both sides of the asymmetrical war equation.

Guerilla tactics as such are only problematic, assuming the justness of the cause, if (a) the enemy cannot be politically defeated short of its physical power being destroyed, something beyong any guerilla force, and (b) the enemy is prepared to wage retaliatory violence against non-combatants sympathetic to the insurgency.

3

P O'Neill 07.10.06 at 11:29 am

I’m aware that there’s limited utility to posting the latest insanity from the nuttier opinion outposts but since these people are connected, it’s worth nothing the latest wisdom from Ralph Peters, via Powerline, on how to deal with this problem

This morning, Ralph Peters says out loud what many have been thinking about “our prisoner problem” in the wake of Hamdan, Abu Ghraib, etc.:

Violent Islamist extremists must be killed on the battlefield. Only in the rarest cases should they be taken prisoner. Few have serious intelligence value. And, once captured, there’s no way to dispose of them.

4

vadim 07.10.06 at 11:37 am

There’s nothing that makes the tactics of unconventional war more problematic morally than conventional military doctrine.

So we toss the Hague and Geneva ‘rules of war?’

5

Chris Bertram 07.10.06 at 11:38 am

Thanks Marc. Here’s what Rodin says (rightly or wrongly) specifically in answer to the point you’ve just made (#2):

bq. Many of the so-called “alternative operational conceptions” use and subvert the principle of non-combatant immunity in more subtle ways. These tactics include guerilla war, in which the fighters hide themselves in the civilian population … and often disguise themselves as civilians during attacks. They also include deliberately co-locating military forces and installations with civilian communities, and using civilians as human shields. In each of these cases, combatants illegitimatately use non-combatants to hide behind, hoping either to gain for themselves the moral protection accorded to the non-combatants, or to cause their enemy to kill non-combatants, and thereby gain a public relations or “moral” victory. Indeed it would not be an exaggeration to say that such tactics operationalise the moral dispositions of the enemy by using the reluctance of the enemy to target civilians as a source of strategic advantage. In doing so, they implicitly expose non-combatants to risk by making it difficult for the enemy to both fight effectively and to respect the principle of non-combatant immunity. Although these tactics do not themselves directly target non-combatants, they fail to give them due care and protection, as demanded by the various legal war conventions and by the principles of just war theory. (p. 158)

6

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 11:45 am

If those tactics are morally impermissible because of the risks they impose on non-combatants ….

Or so we hear from the forces who shell whole neighborhoods in retaliation for a single mortar round (fired at a military target). This is the military “standard” of conduct of the nations who bombed civilian targets as a matter of policy in WWII.

It’s a kind of black humor.

It is no wonder that these “standards” fail to persuade cooperation: they are clearly meant for domestic consumption alone, as a way of demonizing an enemy.

Predictable.
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7

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 11:49 am

Right on cue!

Sop to phony “political correctness” victim-posturing:
This morning, Ralph Peters says out loud what many have been thinking …

followed hotly by entitlement to eliminationism that begs the questions of “who” and “where” and “why”:
Violent Islamist extremists must be killed on the battlefield.

All to be done/risked by someone who’s actually enlisted, i.e., not the writer nor the regurgitator. Thus we manufacture specious rationalizations for mass murder by people so unfortunate as to have to work for a living.
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8

Chris Bertram 07.10.06 at 11:51 am

gmt: I understand your frustration, and share your disgust at the hypocrisy. But I think we do better to hold the strong to the standards they profess (and to seek to strengthen those standards) rather than promoting “anything goes”. Victor Hanson Davis, Powerline and Ralph Peters are rather keen on “anything goes” iirc.

9

Chris Bertram 07.10.06 at 11:54 am

… or maybe I misunderstand your point (given your 2nd comment)?

10

Patrick S. O'Donnell 07.10.06 at 11:59 am

This is a very important topic, certainly one ripe for re-examination. For some recent attempts to look at some of the issues here with legal and ethical lens cognizant of the perspective of the weaker party in ‘asymmetrical warfare,’ please see the following:

Honderich, Ted. Terrorism for Humanity: Inquiries in Political Philosophy. London: Pluto Press, revised ed., 2002.

Honderich, Ted. After the Terror. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003.

Saul, Ben. ‘Two Justifications for Terrorism: A Moral Legal Response,’ Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) Report, January 10th, 2006. Available: http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/3022

Saul, Ben. Defining ‘Terrorism’ in International Law. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Wilkins, Burleigh Taylor. Terrorism and Collective Responsibility. London: Routledge, 1992.

11

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 12:00 pm

chris: first post aimed at the actors, second post at the authors of the comments brought to this thread by p. o’niell.

We should hold strong to these standards in order to lessen the impact of war by restricting it to its participants. Eventually, we may see these standards applied to real life.

However, we shouldn’t fool ourselves that a) these are our actual and historical practices, and b) that the people who would dearly love to kill you and/or me can’t tell shit from shinola. You know better, I know better, and I’m guessing they know better, which is why guerillas fail to be shamed. It’s not just that they aren’t suicidal, as you have pointed out. They also fail to be completely stupid. They will not submit to a jus in bello construction that comes from an enemy whose own history shows that construction to be a joke.
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12

ed_finnerty 07.10.06 at 12:07 pm

Or we could just resort to a kind of star trek war where computers determine casualties and the ‘dead’ report to execution centers – it’s about as realistic.

Or we could just stop stupid invasions which any rational person knew beforehand was doomed to end up in the stupid sectarian war it has become.

Rules for insurgents – sure – quis custodiat etc.

13

Slocum 07.10.06 at 12:10 pm

The ethical problem with the guerrillas in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the occupied territories is not that they refuse to wear uniforms and line up to be shot, but that they direct their guerrilla tactics not exclusively (or even primarily) against opposing forces but rather against civilian ‘soft targets’.

This is especially appalling in Iraq where these soft targets have included civilians whose jobs are held to be important to the functioning of society (physicians and university professors but also…garbage collectors).

There is also a problem (see in Iraq) in holding the stronger force exclusively responsible for all death and destruction (on both sides) in that it creates a strong incentive for the weaker force to generate as much mayhem, death, and destruction as possible. If every terrorist atrocity is pinned on Bush (however satisfying that might be), does it not create a perverse incentive for more of the same?

14

vadim 07.10.06 at 12:17 pm

the ethical problem with guerrilla movements arises when they lack a clear command structure, making a negotiated peace impossible. why I imagine “chain of command” is required of all resistance movements by the Hague and Geneva conventions.

15

rd 07.10.06 at 12:19 pm

Slocum is correct. Assymetric warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan means not just “melting” into the civilian population but indiscriminate murder of the civilian population as a way to undermine the authority of elected governments. Rules that limit
attacks on “weak” groups have to be weighed against the death and injury the groups will inflict on the civilian population if left unchecked.

16

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 12:19 pm

There is also a problem (see in Iraq) in holding the stronger force exclusively responsible …

I see that ed_finnerty’s call for a fictional approach to the war was very quickly answered.
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17

Nell 07.10.06 at 12:20 pm

Marc: Guerrilla tactics problematic if “the enemy is prepared to wage retaliatory violence against non-combatants sympathetic to the insurgency.”

In my experience, they (“they” including the U.S. government and military among others) always are.

I very much appreciate this post, and Marc’s and other comments. I spent the second half of the ’90s wrestling with the questions raised during the previous fifteen years’ accompaniment of people fighting an asymmetrical war against a U.S. client government.

That wrestling made me abandon my previous support for armed struggle, and pushed me into pacifism, for moral and pragmatic reasons. The attacks of September 11 reinforced that conviction, just as they pushed many people here in the opposite direction.

18

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.10.06 at 12:22 pm

“On the other side, though, it hardly seems to be satisfactory to say that non-conventional forces should be subject to weakened jus in bello restrictions, since the restrictions are there to protect those who have immunity from attack and whose immunity is not removed or diminished by the fact that one side or the other are militarily disadvantaged.”

This certainly seems right, but the proposed solution seems crazy.

“Rodin proposes to address the problem by strengthening the jus in bello constraints on the strong. In particular he suggests that they be restrained from attacking “grey area” targets (targets that have potentially military uses by serve important civilian functions, such as TV stations, and power plants), that before an attack is authorised they be required to establish with a far higher degree of certainty than at present that a proposed target is indeed legitimate, and, third, that they be made to take “exceptionally rigourous” steps to ensure that civilians are not exposed to collateral harm and also to ensure that the environment in which those civilian live is not damaged and degraded.”

Think of the incentives. Current guerilla combatants already put civilians in danger by disguising themselves as civilians and hiding among them under the current rules. If we go to the exceptionally rigorous standards proposed they have even less reason to do otherwise and marginally interested civilians would have even less reason to root them out of civilian areas. You recognize that this would severely hurt the operational ability. What you do not recognize is what that means–the wars would go on forever. Under any realistic standard, ongoing war is going to be hell on civilians. If you prolong the war indefinitely it is going to be hellish indefinitely. That isn’t necessarily a better outcome.

19

JR 07.10.06 at 12:24 pm

Every American child learns to celebrate the valiant outnumbered militia, the Minutemen, who hid behind trees and fences and fired at the Redcoats marching in formation toward the illegal weapons caches at Lexington and Concord. If you go to Concord today you will see the Daniel Chester French statue of the Minuteman- out of uniform. The heroic poem of the Revolution, Emerson’s Concord Hymn, tells us of the little bridge over the Concord River:

“Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.”

Farmers, not soldiers.

20

Marc Mulholland 07.10.06 at 12:25 pm

I’d agree with Slocum that the very least of the ethical problems with Iraqi Insurgents or Islamist terrorists is their refusal ro wear recognisable uniform and launch their munitions from outside residential areas.

Just War theory seems to rule out insurgent war of any kind in the absence of ligitimate authority, which an occupying force is unlikely to allow to function or even express itself. David Rodin doesn’t do much better, as his rather ‘milk-and-water’ constraints on conventional force projection are unlikely to tilt the balance of purely military advantage in an asymmetrical war. The point of guerrilla war is that it is always an exercise in the ‘propaganda of the deed’, never an attempt to destroy the technical war-making capacity of the enemy.

Perhaps, therefore, guerrilla ethics is better thought of within the paradigm of the ‘right to revolution’. What do the various theorists define as ethical for the revolutionary, assuming such a right exists?

21

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 12:32 pm

jr: Americans also learned to celebrate and glorify their criminals, from outlaws to gangsters, so long as they weren’t black.

There are no standards, only preferences.
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22

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 12:43 pm

Perhaps, therefore, guerrilla ethics is better thought of within the paradigm of the ‘right to revolution’.

The political dimensions of the war in Iraq are being ignored here. Since this is an ethical consideration of tactics, that’s understandable, but allow me to get off-topic here:
– First, the transformation of warfare worldwide is not terror but rather the ubiquity of urbanization and the AK-47. Enfranchisement (in strict, if ironic, Maoist terms) is more common than ever before in physical constellations too dense to dismiss.
– Second, the actual political landscape has been so obscured by propaganda of all kinds that it’s difficult to consider without appearing to take sides, at which point you will be asked by an acolyte of one sect or another to repeat SOME common line of polemic, that you may be more easily filed under friend or foe. The paradigm of futility must be reserved at all costs.

But the invasion was at least partially justified on political grounds (associated with such keywords as ‘freedom’ and ‘flowers’), has been recontextualized on specious political grounds (‘elections’ that have not produced the promised dynamic), and was enforced on a reluctant American on very old political grounds (i.e., cold war models of consent-manufacture) so any tactical consideration of the political landscape will be attacked from all sides.

Futility is preferrable since failure is polemically useful to everyone involved. A solution would require that the participants in failure go and get real jobs. Bo-ring!
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23

ed_finnerty 07.10.06 at 12:44 pm

slocum

I would argue that the aggressor actor is responsible for all casualties if they initiate a war of choice based on knowingly false premises.

I realise that this just moves the ball to an arguement over what constitutes a valid war of choice. I would apply the sceptic test of extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Generally, this situation is avoided pragmatically on the assumption that no sane person (country) would willingly get involved in a quagmire. Sometimes the assumptions fail and we are left with a mess that defies logical resolution

oh well….

24

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 12:44 pm

Preserved, not reserved, although the original formulation has amusing possibilities.
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25

abb1 07.10.06 at 12:51 pm

I would argue that the aggressor actor is responsible for all casualties if they initiate a war of choice based on knowingly false premises.

I agree.

Oldie But Goodie: Worst Crime of All, by Justice Robert H. Jackson.

Sounds kinda ironic these days:

They [Europeans] are less obsessed than Americans with ambition to reform the world and have less confidence in their ability to do so. Hence, there is more disposition to accent future wars as natural and to be expected. With this philosophy as a major premise there is much to be said, for the series of attempts, expressed in various international conventions, to make the conduct of war as humane as possible.

The outlook of most Americans, on the other hand, is not defeatist but challenging. It refuses to concede that war is either natural or inevitable. It believes that war can and should be outlawed because it is the worst crime of all, leading to and encompassing all the others. On the basis of this American philosophy it is insufficient to make criminal what are merely extreme means of waging war. If war is legally permitted at all, it must be for the purpose of winning. If the alternative is total victory or total defeat, and surely there is no longer a middle ground, it is delusive to expect a nation to use all means of battle except those which make the difference between victory and defeat.

The real crime is planning and making war, not merely in failing to be chivalrous in its conduct, and the efforts of civilization should be directed toward its complete outlawry. …

26

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 12:53 pm

Well, ed, the mess didn’t defy the logical reasoning of the military and intelligence professionals, but the operative managerial theory of the present hegemon is that those who know what they’re doing must work for a living, which means they are to be (at best) pitied.

You cannot possibly expect this generation of business/political (since they are supposed to be blissfully synonymous) leaders to listen to their subordinates!

… can you?

I remain convinced that the acumen exists to carry this enterprise off successfully, whatever we may think of its rightness or wrongness. It’s not that our Republic has fallen into the hands of imperialists, it’s that the Empire has fallen into the hands of dilettantes. A model accommodating all the political valances and vectors (weighted for demographic and martial mass), properly roundpegged into a square whole [sic] by subtraction both military and surgical, was and is possible. Bloodymindedness is not in shortsupply (I submit myself as a specimen), but rather ability is in short supply in a “civilization” that stigmatizes ability in favor of otium.

Americans only play at empire any more. They don’t seem to want to do the work of actually maintaining one.

Apologies for going off-topic.
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27

asg 07.10.06 at 1:01 pm

Going back to the original post, perhaps my terminology is out of date, but it seems to me what Poole is describing is irregular warfare, not asymmetric warfare. The difference is that irregular forces have loose or broken chains of command, don’t wear uniforms, etc., but do things that can be responded to in kind (“symmetrically”). Asymmetric warfare involves the commission of acts that can’t be responded to in kind.

So, a force that does not use uniforms and has no chain of command, but only strikes at military targets and does not use tactics such as suicide bombing, is employing irregular but not asymmetric warfare.

This distinction does entail that the definition of asymmetric warfare depends on the force doing the defining. Suicide bombing is an instance of asymmetric warfare for the U.S., since the current U.S. armed forces will never send troops into battle wearing bomb jackets. But it would not be asymmetric for some other force willing to countenance such tactics. On the other side, the Pearl Harbor attack was not an act of irregular warfare, since those who carried it out wore uniforms, flew their flag, etc., but was asymmetric because the rules of war at the time made it impossible to countenance a surprise attack of that nature (one could argue that by the end of the war those rules had changed). So the two are independent.

This distinction may seem pedantic but I think it is important not to conflate the two when considering the morality of guerrilla warfare and the tactics guerrillas have available to them. For example, a commenter above mentioned the practice of guerrillas of blending into the population, with the consequent increased risk to civilians. With the irregular/asymmetric distinction in mind, this is an irregular tactic, but not asymmetric unless the invading power maintains a clear, sharp distinction between its civilians and its military employees even on its home soil.

28

asg 07.10.06 at 1:06 pm

As an addendum, it follows from the distinction between asymmetric and irregular warfare that the U.S. is engaging in regular but asymmetric warfare against the jihadists in Iraq, since they cannot respond in kind to many of the tactics we use (such as high altitude bombing).

29

ed_finnerty 07.10.06 at 1:13 pm

gmt

the problem they had with listening to their subordinates is that there subordinates were telling them not to do what they had already decided to do.

therefore, they found new subordinates.

It is certainly possible that a result different and less bloody than what we got was obtainable, but I would argue that a result that a different result that was less bloody was not politically saleable as there were only two non-chaotic outcomes available.

1. replace Saddam with a different Sunni strongman, or

2. defacto partition with the south allied with Iran (which is what they got anyways)

these two possible acceptable outcomes were obvious to anyone going in – in fact, Jack Straw asked who the new Sunni Strongman was going to be in the DSM.

30

brooksfoe 07.10.06 at 1:19 pm

Are we at the point here where nonviolent resistance is just getting laughed out of the room by the left, as well as the right?

Oh, but it’s INCREDIBLY hard to organize…

Which of course demands that the cause it serves have the overwhelming assent of the populace, and that its leaders be authentically representative. Neither condition is met by the insurgents in Iraq.

That more popular Islamist parties, such as Hamas, have failed to employ nonviolent resistance tactics seems to be a grand failure of ideology and imagination.

31

ed_finnerty 07.10.06 at 1:21 pm

of course, on the practical side, “The War for Bushs Mandate” was objectively a success.

32

brooksfoe 07.10.06 at 1:22 pm

Or, arguably, nonviolent resistance is no longer effective because of more effective police tactics (channeling crowd flows, tear gas, tasers) and a media that now sets the bar of violence higher (it’s not considered an injustice worthy of TV coverage unless there are dead children on the pavement, and even then…)

But the argument should at least be made.

33

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 1:31 pm

ed_finnerty, we agree on the “what,” but I was adding the “why.” Entitled executive syndrome always means demanding to be confirmed in one’s previously established preferences. The chief producer has absorbed the consumer ethic, and is therefore always right.

I will not pay a lot for this muffler.
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34

paul 07.10.06 at 1:36 pm

I suppose it bears mentioning that, in my American history classes, the use of unconventional tactics (ie, not lining up to be shot, hiding behind hedgerows) and non-existent uniforms were cited as examples of defensible tactics. Now when these same tactics are used by natives to resist an occupation, it’s a violation of the Rules of War. 

35

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 1:40 pm

Are we at the point here where nonviolent resistance is just getting laughed out of the room by the left, as well as the right?

Nonviolent resistance is only effective against regimes that predicate their legitimacy at least partially on the notion of being civilized and humane. The nonviolent resistor is only effective because, by threatening to expose the fiction of civilization with his own injuries, the legitimacy of that regime is threatened. That regime must then choose between admitting the actual basis of its power (monopoly of coercive violence) or knuckling under to the demands of the bleeding man.

It’s a sort of extortion. One holds one’s self hostage, under threat of the extortee’s violence.

None of the various sides in Iraq would be threatened by non-violence because none of their constituents wholly buy in to the notion that they are civilized or humane. The neo-caliphate types idealize a time of extreme violence, the tribes depend on violence to demonstrate their power, the sects are caught in tit for tat (effectively the same dynamic as the tribes), and only a tiny minority of American citizens (and even fewer of the citizens of the Coalition of the [formerly] Willing) buy in to the notion that the invasion was civilized or humane in intention or effect.

Therefore, no one is “laughing” anything off. Non-violence is dynamically irrelevant to this context.
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36

Slocum 07.10.06 at 1:42 pm

I would argue that the aggressor actor is responsible for all casualties if they initiate a war of choice based on knowingly false premises.

The problem with that is that once such a war is underway, that position creates a political incentive for the insurgency to kill civilians (whose deaths will all be, by this logic, the responsibility of the stronger force).

This is reasonable if the concern is with the behavior of the combatants rather than the fate of the civilians–but then if that describes the moral landscape, why bother objecting to the war in the first place?

37

Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 1:51 pm

The problem with that {i.e., the notion “that the aggressor actor is responsible for all casualties if they initiate a war of choice”] is that once such a war is underway, that position creates a political incentive for the insurgency to kill civilians (whose deaths will all be, by this logic, the responsibility of the stronger force).

Emphasis mine.

Slocum, you have assumed that the aggressor is always the non-insurgent force. If the insurgents are the aggressor then how are civilian casualties someone else’s fault? This does not follow at all.
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38

Adam Kotsko 07.10.06 at 1:51 pm

Schmitt’s “Theory of the Partisan” is interesting in this connection.

39

Chris Bertram 07.10.06 at 1:54 pm

I think the red herring of holding one side “exclusively responsible” was introduced by you Slocum. Responsibility isn’t zero sum. Besides, if you want to have an argument _specifically_ about the rights and wrongs of the Iraqi “insurgency” as opposed to the principles that ought to hold when irregulars face conventional armies, please have that argument elswhere. (Of course using Iraq as an _example_ , or Palestine, or Vietnam, is perfectly ok).

40

brooksfoe 07.10.06 at 1:59 pm

None of the various sides in Iraq would be threatened by non-violence because none of their constituents wholly buy in to the notion that they are civilized or humane.

This is not true of the perpetually nascent Iraqi central government. Nor is it true of some of the bigger mainstream Shiite factions, like SCIRI. They would (and do) have serious trouble with being seen to employ deadly violence against noncombatants and crowds. Of course, another difficulty in organizing nonviolent resistance is that the presence of other violent groups affords the regime an excuse for violent repression against nonviolent groups. (“We heard shooting coming from the crowd,” “terrorists had infiltrated the crowd,” whatever.) But what I’m trying to say is that the lack of “civilization” of most groups in Iraq, the inevitability of “asymmetric” (guerrilla, terrorist) violence, and the absence of nonviolent resistance are three different ways to describe the same thing — and all of them point to Iraqi insurgents not being able to claim much political legitimacy.

I do not understand the impulse to grant greater legitimacy to insurgent militias that appear to be nothing more than death squads bent on ethnic cleansing. The invasion of Iraq was stupid and negligent mainly because of the tremendous risk that it would lead to ethnic strife, chaos, murder and rapine. It does not follow that those who carry out the murder and rapine are wise or responsible, and I do not see a reason to amend the laws of war to afford them greater protection. If ever there were a revolutionary struggle that deserved no sympathy whatever from anyone who values human rights, the Iraqi insurgency is it.

41

Jake McGuire 07.10.06 at 2:00 pm

it looks as if an important means to pursue justice is open to the strong alone and not to the weak.

Isn’t this in some sense what it means to be strong and what it means to be weak?

Anyway, I have the sense that while one goal of those devising “rules of warfare” was to limit the strong, the only way the strong were convinced to go along was to craft the rules such that they applied more or less equally to all.

The law in all it’s majesty forbids both rich and poor from stealing bread and sleeping under bridges, but just because you don’t have to rob a liquor store if you’re rich, doesn’t mean it’s unjust to forbid it to the poor.

(btw – I don’t think Pearl Harbor was particularly objectionable. Military targets are military targets, surprise or no. I do think that it lead to the decision to settle for nothing less than unconditional surrender and hence the atomic bombings, but even on the scale of bad things that happened in WW2, it’s just not that high up on the list.)

42

ed_finnerty 07.10.06 at 2:06 pm

slocum

exactly, thats why you shouldn’t get involved in land wars in asia. Seriously, this situation was both predictable and the likely outcome and on that basis the aggressor is responsible. Were it a consensus beforehand that a violent and widespread insurgency not likely than the ethical question would be more open.

43

abb1 07.10.06 at 2:10 pm

I do not understand the impulse to grant greater legitimacy to insurgent militias that appear to be nothing more than death squads bent on ethnic cleansing.

Death squads bent on ethnic cleansing don’t seem to have anything at all to do with the topic of asymmetric warfare.

There is nothing asymmetric about an ethnic militia fighting another ethnic militia of approximately equal strength.

Here we see the failure to define what exactly the words “Iraqi insurgency” mean in this context.

44

Jake McGuire 07.10.06 at 2:15 pm

Oh, and I don’t think that asymmetrical warfare is particularly, or even at all, unethical. Hide in the hedgerows? That’s ok. Plant an IED an blow up a HMMWV when it drives by? Sneaky, but not immoral. But taking advantage of the protection provided to civilians by siting your anti-aircraft gun in a mosque, or coercing people in to driving car bombs up to the checkpoint so that the soldiers manning it will be more likely to fire at the next non-bomb car seems to be at a different and morally wrong level.

It’s the difference between a football player falling over when he feels a light touch on his back, and falling over and then rolling around on the ground grasping his knee and screaming in pain. One is part of the game, the other is just wrong.

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Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 2:15 pm

CB: I recognized slocum’s victim pose and while I will not help him hijack the thread and crash it into Bush’s critics I would point out that the reason why assigning blame like that can have any polemic utility bears directly on your question, as I understand it.

For instance, the Sorabji and Rodin example you introduced:

before an attack is authorised they be required to establish with a far higher degree of certainty than at present that a proposed target is indeed legitimate, and, third, that they be made to take “exceptionally rigourous” steps to ensure that civilians are not exposed to collateral harm and also to ensure that the environment in which those civilian live is not damaged and degraded

This is nearer the suggested British model for the occupation and contrasts with the US model for insurgency suppression that has so enraged and shocked British professionals in the theater (several articles over the last three years, don’t feel like looking them up). Why is this an issue? Because blame will be asessed, the only question is to whom. If you have goals beyond killing a few insurgents then you will take the entire population into account. They are the lay of the land.

As you commonsensically observe, “operational ability would be severely restricted,” but that’s like saying that the flanking maneuver that won the first Gulf War used lots of gasoline. So what? If your objective is to undercut political support for opponents of the order you are trying to install, this is operational ability well spent.

Decades more experience in occupational operations by British forces explains why this was already doctrine in Basra and laughed at everywhere else. The political nature of on occupation/insurgency necessitates that an occupier who wished to be successful will hold himself to a higher standard. The operational difference isn’t just in scale and tactics of forces, it’s also different in objectives.

As it is, we seem trapped between an effort that understands this and a mode more familiar to Mesopotamian history (which would involve near total massacre). Our supposed goals are incompatible with the need to smash and to revenge fallen comrades by killing Hadjis. THAT is the operative asymmetry and it lies between the occupiers’ ears.
.

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Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 2:17 pm

This is not true of the perpetually nascent Iraqi central government.

I like your sarcasm! It is also not true of my cat, who has nearly as much influence outside the Green Zone. Of course, cats have never been impressed by non-violent resistance, only bored by it.
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Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 2:21 pm

I do not understand the impulse to grant greater legitimacy to insurgent militias that appear to be nothing more than death squads bent on ethnic cleansing.

I do not understand the amnesty granted to certain dictators, aside from the fact that it’s the only way to get them to leave their victim nations. The legitimacy of those death squads lies in the fact that they are effective, and therefore relevant. Until there is a consensus mode for political action that does not involve violence (Bush tried to conjure one by merely holding elections, which is like building a steeple in midair), lethality is the measure of political significance, regardless of its symmetry or regularity.
.

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abb1 07.10.06 at 2:24 pm

…but just because you don’t have to rob a liquor store if you’re rich, doesn’t mean it’s unjust to forbid it to the poor.

Btw, this doesn’t seem to be a very strong metaphor, not as uncontroversial as you think; ask Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

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Grand Moff Texan 07.10.06 at 2:28 pm

Death squads bent on ethnic cleansing don’t seem to have anything at all to do with the topic of asymmetric warfare.

Exactly, because their violence is directed at non-combatants, not different combatants. There’s nothing asymmetrical, bwoc, in getting drunk on banana-beer each morning and heeding the radio’s call to butcher more Tutsis. Asymmetrical would be wading into the Congo to stop it.

In Iraq, there are several tiers of violence.
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Dan Kervick 07.10.06 at 2:36 pm

Difficulties such as the ones mentioned here are among those that lead me to think that, in the end, the ultimate moral decisions about the use of violence must be addressed within the more flexible and sensitive consequentialist framework, rather than the legalistic check lists and vague principles of just war theory. But I accept the importance of articulating such principles, and attempting to back them up with international compacts and sanctions, as a way of imposing some order and moral checks into the global situation.

Discussions of this topic often seem to presume that it should be part of the ethics of war that each side has a “sporting chance” to win – or at least each side with a just cause has such a chance. They complain about the traditional restrictions because those restrictions sometimes seem to prohibit the side with the just cause from acting, or acting decisively to secure victory, and thus grant victory to the unjust side. But I don’t see why we should accept the sporting chance principle. From a consequentialist point of view, there will always be moral restrictions on the use of violence that go beyond the supposed justice of a cause – and these restrictions impact both the powerful and the weak.

If a stronger power unjustly invades your city and says, “hand over your government or we will lay waste to your city, and murder your people”, and they clearly mean it; and you have no means of resisting that will not produce a fate for your city that is worse than the consequences of submission, then I would think you are morally bound to submit. You are alos bound to submit if your only effective means of submission would require causing a much greater injustice than the injustice that will be inflicted on your people by the conquest.

On the other hand, suppose the more powerful state has the just cause – say a defense against some periodic acts of aggression or piracy or raids – but cannot redress the problem through violence without bringing about some situation that is worse than continuing to endure the periodic aggression, then the powerful state must forbear.

In its way, just war theory already gets at these issues with some of its traditional criteria. Besides the justice of the cause, there are issues of proportionality, of reasonable chance of success and of balance between means and ends that are supposed to be taken into account.

One particularly pernicious group of philosophical beliefs that undermine the disposition toward responsible behavior, and lead to a lot of lousy moral thinking in public life, are those connected with “agent causation” and other like views of human action. If you believe most human actions are quasi-miraculous products of “free will”, or that they are caused by “the agent himself” – understood in such a way that this is incompatible with those actions being caused by prior events external to the agent – then you are going to believe that nothing anyone else does is properly speaking a causal consequence of your own actions. This sort of thinking is the routine indulgence of the public official, who frequently argues that because some other agent down the causal line is responsible for some calamity, through his own free will, then the official is not responsible for the eventual upshot of those actions that a more naturalistic perspective would suggest had contributed causally to the production of that calamity.

If you know that some community contains large numbers of people disposed to vengeful violence and fanaticism; and you know that the main preventative cause of that violence is inhibition by a governing authority; and you thus know that the violent destruction of the governing authority is likely to lead to an outpouring of violence and chaos; and you go ahead and destroy the governing authority anyway; then you are morally responsible for the violence that is liberated from the threats and intimidation that were inhibiting it. It is no excuse to say, “I didn’t cause the violence – the evildoers did.”

This is not to say that you could never be morally justified in toppling a government and unleashing anarchy in this way. You may have strong assurance of accomplishing some great good or preventing some great evil, and the additional evil you unleash as a byproduct may be proportional in light of the ultimate end. Similarly, you may be justified in destroying a certain dam and killing hundreds of people in order to relieve the pressure on a bigger dam downstream, and thus saving thousands of lives.

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MattXIV 07.10.06 at 2:39 pm

“Faced with a professional army equipped with powerful weaponry, people who want to fight back have no chance unless they melt into the civilian population and adopt unconventional tactics. If those tactics are morally impermissible because of the risks they impose on non-combatants, then it looks as if armed resistance to severe injustice perpetrated by the well-equipped and powerful is also prohibited. And that looks crazy.”

Is it really that crazy that armed resistance against more powerful foe is suicidal unless the rules dramatically favor the underdog? The relative strength of the forces doesn’t say anything about jus ad bellum issues, where we presumably would want to tilt the outcome to the side which is justified in fighting, but it matters much more in jus in bello since prohibitions on certain tactics have widely disparate impacts based on the size and composition of the force in question.

Both sides will presumably be convinced that they have sound justifications for fighting, and will accordingly view jus in bello restrictions that hinder them as at least partially unjust, since they pervent them from achieving a just goal. The incentives to adhere to jus in bello restrictions are strongest when they are neutral with respect to the outcome. Thus, a restriction that does not directly protect non-combatants may be necessary to protect them by balancing a restriction that does protect non-combatants. Since the victorious force will presumably end up with political control afterwards, restrictions on the force that is likely to be victorious are voluntarily enforced, and such enforcement cannot be expected if the force would be risking defeat by it. Jus in bello restrictions are best viewed as negotiated agreements with the overall objective of preventing harm that is unnecessary to the resolution of the conflict, and accordingly should it be expected that the overall set of restrictions are neutral regarding changing the likelyhood of a force’s victory and do result in those protections, but that not every particular restriction directly serves that end and individual restrictions may have an uneven impact.

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Dan Kervick 07.10.06 at 2:41 pm

You are alos bound to submit if your only effective means of submission would require causing a much greater injustice than the injustice that will be inflicted on your people by the conquest.

Correction: that should have said “You are also bound to submit if your only effective means of resistance would require causing a much greater injustice than the injustice that will be inflicted on your people by the conquest.

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Uncle Kvetch 07.10.06 at 2:42 pm

GMT: This is nearer the suggested British model for the occupation and contrasts with the US model for insurgency suppression that has so enraged and shocked British professionals in the theater (several articles over the last three years, don’t feel like looking them up).

This is as good a place to start as any.

A sampling:

Few Afghans see any difference between ISAF activities and America’s Operation Enduring Freedom. The result is that even in the mosques of Kabul, mullahs have started preaching that ISAF are “infidels here to destroy Islam”.

Against such a backdrop, it seems hopelessly naive for the British to hope that locals in Helmand will differentiate between them and the Americans. At every meeting I attended, para commanders started off by telling local elders, “we’re British, not Americans”, an odd comment for such close allies.

At a shura or traditional meeting in Gereshk, elders complained about soldiers bursting into their women’s quarters.

“It’s not us, we’ve had endless cultural training about this,” said Major Paul Blair, the local British commander. “But of course they don’t see the difference.”

“You don’t even differentiate between Pashtuns and Tajiks, let alone different Pashtun tribes,” replied a local teacher. “Why should we?”

Back at the camp after this discussion we found that a convoy of Americans had arrived. They were laughing about running over some goats on the way in. “Now I’m going to have to make another phone call to the district chief to sort it out,” grumbled Blair.

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Omri 07.10.06 at 3:06 pm

Any moron can score a crate of AK-47s and start up yet another “Front for National Liberation,” and as a matter of fact, many do. Rules of war that enhance the advantage of professional armies over paramilitary gangs are very much a Good Thing.

Rules of war that are tilted in favor of the underdog are a bad thing because among other problems, they prolong war.

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abb1 07.10.06 at 3:12 pm

Dan Kervick,
you first say:
…[if] you have no means of resisting that will not produce a fate for your city that is worse than the consequences of submission, then I would think you are morally bound to submit

and then later:
…This is not to say that you could never be morally justified in toppling a government and unleashing anarchy in this way. You may have strong assurance of accomplishing some great good or preventing some great evil…

Don’t you think that there could be a good case for hopeless desperate resistance as well? Isn’t this kind of a situation, in fact, easier to imagine? The “better to die standing, than live on your knees” kinda thing – certainy there is some logic in it, right?

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Steven Poole 07.10.06 at 3:13 pm

asg, “asymmetric warfare” is not usually defined strictly as acts that can’t be responded to in kind. If it were, we would hear people speak of Hiroshima as asymmetric warfare. Here, for example, “asymmetric warfare” is defined as including “normal” counterinsurgency warfare:

A simple theoretical construct underlies the theory and practice of counterinsurgency warfare. It is the essence of what today’s theorists and strategists term asymmetric warfare: although an asymmetric distribution of resources and abilities actually favors counterinsurgent forces, they are often inappropriately wielded. The conflict is asymmetric because there is a “disproportion of strength between the opponents at the outset, and from the difference in essence between their assets and liabilities.”

Btw Ted Honderich, mentioned elsewhere on this thread, is bracingly sceptical of the whole jus ad/in bello tradition.

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asg 07.10.06 at 3:25 pm

Steven, good quote. I would argue that “the difference in essence between their assets and liabilities” more or less captures the idea that asymmetry depends on the ability of both sides to respond to one another in kind. Certainly by the definition in the quote you give, Hiroshima *was* asymmetric warfare (or the culmination of an asymmetric conflict, since there was a vast disproportion of strength between Imperial Japan and the U.S. in 1941).

Of course, WWII was not a low-intensity conflict, and the paper you link seems (I didn’t read it in its entirety) to be talking exclusively about low-intensity conflicts (although he does not define that term — indeed he approvingly quotes someone saying that “all combat is intense.”).

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Dan Kervick 07.10.06 at 3:31 pm

abb1: I suppose I would accept that some individual or group of people could permissibly decide to die in futile resistance rather than submit. It is up to those individuals themselves to evaluate which fates they would experience as worse than death, and to act accordingly.

But I was thinking of more typical cases in which a political or military leadership makes a decision for a whole country, and the “death preferable to submission” approach is emphatically not at all how most people in that country would value those two different alternative life prospects. My guess is that most people, when faced with the prospect of struggling through under foreign control would far prefer the sub-optimal life under foreign control, for both themselves and their loved ones, to an early death by artillery shell (or by poisoned Kool-Aid.) And the responsibility of the leadership is to do right by their people, given the actual preferences of those people, not to project their own preferences onto them.

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Jake McGuire 07.10.06 at 3:37 pm

[i]Don’t you think that there could be a good case for hopeless desperate resistance as well? Isn’t this kind of a situation, in fact, easier to imagine? The “better to die standing, than live on your knees” kinda thing – certainy there is some logic in it, right?[/i]

Sure. But if you’re going to die hopelessly and gloriously, surely it’s better to do so attacking the enemy than blowing up your neighbor who insulted two years ago because he’s cooperating with the occupiers by not breaking the law.

Or something.

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abb1 07.10.06 at 3:45 pm

My guess is that most people, when faced with the prospect of struggling through under foreign control would far prefer the sub-optimal life under foreign control, for both themselves and their loved ones, to an early death by artillery shell (or by poisoned Kool-Aid.)

Dunno, dunno. Kinda depends on the level of zealotry

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abb1 07.10.06 at 3:52 pm

But Jake, you’re again mixing together resistance with sectarian violence with score settling. I haven’t seen any evidence that those who massacred 4 dozen Sunnis in Baghdad yesterday meant it as an act of resistance to the US occupation. I suspect they might actually like the occupation at the moment.

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Steven Poole 07.10.06 at 4:01 pm

asg, I agree that Hiroshima was asymmetric, by any sensible definition of that word. I just meant to point out that what you distinguish as “irregular” warfare is covered by the modern military usage of the term “asymmetric”. Which is logical, too, on your own definition, since not many guerrillas/insurgents have tanks or aircraft carriers.

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asg 07.10.06 at 4:16 pm

Steven, I think we agree. The point of the distinction is just to clarify some of the issues. It’s clear that the Geneva Conventions protect people engaging in asymmetric tactics under my definition, but they explicitly do not protect irregular forces. Subsuming one term into the other might have the effect of obscuring this.

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Jake McGuire 07.10.06 at 4:24 pm

I think that “resistance” is very frequently used as a veneer over sectarian score-settling, and that extremely asymmetric warfare tends to blur the distinction even more, because in an insurgent setting, the more powerful side has an interest in keeping public order.

“If we follow the ‘laws of war’, we’ll lose, so we should be released from them” sounds morally attractive in some sense, but if it’s going to lead to petty score-settling, is it really?

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Chris Bertram 07.10.06 at 4:24 pm

The jus ad/in bellum tradition has at least this going for it: that it can provide people with some action guiding principles and that those principles can be common knowledge between antagonists. That’s not a reason to fetishize it, of course, but I’d want to resist the idea that we should replace it with some kind of direct consequentialist calculation both of when it is right to go to war and what it is ok to do in the course of war.

Two main reasons:

(1) The consequences of war are highly unpredictable. If you start a war, then things tend to get away from you pretty fast.

(2) People, especially people convinced of the rightness of their cause (i.e. just about everyone involved in extreme violence) are very prone to self-deception and wishful thinking when they make cost-benefit calculations.

(None of this amounts to an argument against consequentialism as an underpinning for morality (including of the jus in/ad bellum principles))

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David Sucher 07.10.06 at 4:25 pm

Maybe someone can explain why ‘Hiroshima’ was an example of assymetric warfare?

Thanks.

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Chris Bertram 07.10.06 at 4:27 pm

… and (3) — in case it wasn’t obvious — the people in (2) will often do some horrendous things after they’ve convinced themselves of their consequentialist calculations.

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asg 07.10.06 at 4:37 pm

#67: Because the Japanese couldn’t respond in kind.

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Elliot Reed 07.10.06 at 4:43 pm

Chris, why do you think it is necessarily a problem for just war theory if “an important means to pursue justice is open to the strong alone and not to the weak”?

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Brett Bellmore 07.10.06 at 4:44 pm

Strikes me that the utility of non-violent resistance is limited to cases where both,

A. The side it’s used against has moral scruples.

and,

B. The side utilizing it isn’t obviously in the wrong.

Whatever your views of the war in Iraq, it’s clear that both of these criteria are not simultaniously met. In fact, it’s the rare conflict where they are both met, and so non-violent resistance is far from the norm. Ghandi’s resistance to the British was, in fact, an exceptional case.

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Jake McGuire 07.10.06 at 4:48 pm

#69 – I think that makes “asymmetric warfare” so broad of a term as to be useless. The Japanese couldn’t respond in kind to the SAC bombing from Tinian, they couldn’t respond in kind to the large battle groups the US Navy put together at the end of the war, they couldn’t respond in kind to the massive submarine anti-shipping efforts.

What was the last war that was not asymmetric?

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David Sucher 07.10.06 at 4:59 pm

#72 makes sense to me as #69 seems to make any conflict in which one side is losing an assymetric one. Was WW in April 1945 in the European theater an assymetric conflict? Germany couldn’t respond “in kind” at that point.

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perianwyr 07.10.06 at 5:01 pm

Montesquieu observed in his “Persian Letters” through the person of Usbek, a Persian traveler to Europe, that the English idea of treason was that it was a crime committed by a weaker party against a stronger one.

This reasoning seems to persist. A stronger party is logically incapable of violating the laws of war- only a weaker one.

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DC 07.10.06 at 6:02 pm

Regarding the very first comment of this thread, I think it’s interesting to note that during the Irish War of Independence (1919-21) the IRA targeted the Royal Irish Constabulary – which operated outside Dublin and was both armed and a “political” police force – but not the Dublin Metropolitan Police – which was unarmed, unpolitical and became the model for the police force of the independent state.

At least some form of taboo about not killing unarmed men appears to have remained.

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jimp1947 07.10.06 at 6:14 pm

OK, all you philosophers of war. Consider what we would do were the U.S. invaded by an outside enemy. Pretty much the same thing the Iraqi’s are doing, right? You confuse the tactics of war versus those of occupation. A war is to achieve a (limited) objective. An occupation is to achieve a political (unlimited) objective. Wars can be won, occupations cannot (so far).

All this blather about “asymetrical warfare” is cover for what used to be refered to as colonialism. I think it still is.

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Brett Bellmore 07.10.06 at 6:55 pm

“Pretty much the same thing the Iraqi’s are doing, right?”

You mean, killing my fellow Americans as they went innocently about their business, in order to replace the democracy they were building with a totalitarian society with my ethnic group on top? Sure, sounds plausible…

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Jake McGuire 07.10.06 at 6:58 pm

By “the same thing the Iraqis are doing” do you mean that the residents of rural South Carolina would start killing black people again to avenge The War Of Northern Aggression? Or do you mean we’d set a bunch of IEDs and blow up various supply convoys? Or do you mean we’d drive cars full of explosives at checkpoints?

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Asteele 07.10.06 at 7:11 pm

http://www.brookings.edu/fp/saban/iraq/index.pdf

As page 27 in the report shows, the vast majority of attacks by the insurgency are directed at coalition forces. The idea that the insurgency is responsible for the majority of the civilian deaths in iraq, instead of the coalition forces, or the goverment backed militas that operate in the country, is in no way true. I find the inordinate amount of fretting by pro-war types about the civilian casulties caused by the insurgency versus the time spent on the much larger numbers caused by the people their fighting to be telling.

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Cala 07.10.06 at 8:12 pm

Chris Bertram,
My just war theory is exceedingly rusty, but as I learned it, while guerilla warfare is generally unjust, as it is likely to lead to retaliations on innocent civilians, exemptions are made for small populations with no viable alternative means of waging war and if it’s likely that without any resistance, the population will be wiped out.

Asymmetry thus becomes an important factor. If the U.S. were fighting the UK, guerilla attacks on the civilian populations would be out of line; both of us have the means to oppose each other without resorting to those tactics. U.S. declares war on Togo? Guerilla fighting is probably okay.

Even with that, though, targeting civilians is out-of-bounds.

So I suspect the people tossing about the jus in bellum (bello?) distinction don’t quite understand it, but I also suspect that there’s already accepted exemptions for little guys fighting big guys.

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Ian Whitchurch 07.10.06 at 8:37 pm

Brett,

The phrase ‘Bloody Kansas’ doesnt mean much to you, does it ?

Ian Whitchurch

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Aidan Maconachy 07.10.06 at 9:44 pm

The term “asymmetric warfare” is a bit of a misnomer. In many instances, it’s not warfare proper, even in an unconventional sense (if we are inferring anything approximating combat). How exactly is bombing a mosque and killing unemployed youth, “warfare” with the occupiers. It’s an effort to destabilize and generate a climate of terror yes – but then even thugs attempt to generate similar conditions in their hoods.

The opposition offered to a standing army is certainly a form of resistance, but the tactics frequently involve soft targets and intimidation of neighborhoods rather than any kind of head-on warfare with the occupying army. Head on exchanges between provisional IRA gunmen and British infantry in N.Ireland were the exception rather than the rule. Provo snipers generally got off a few hasty shots before scarpering.

While the moral justification for insurrection may be clear, I still don’t think that grants insurgents the right to behave like babarians. It was precisely the grotesque atrocities directed against Muslims that led to the eventual betrayal and assassination of al Zarqawi. Bombing kids who are receiving candies from marines and targeting worshippers en route to mosque can only be regarded as “warfare” by people completely bereft of any humanitarian constraint, or even a rudimentary grasp of military ethics.

By the same token American atrocities directed at civilians are even more objectionable, given the immense power of the U.S. military and the legal/moral problems attending its occupation of Iraq in the first place.

The only way to slow the increasing incidence of such war crimes is to put together an international force with clout, capable of policing warzones. Given the track record of the U.N., it won’t be any time soon.

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Christopher Ball 07.10.06 at 11:15 pm

It seems to me that the two of Rodin’s criteria for jus in bello have already been met by coalition forces in Iraq. The US is not shelling TV stations or power plants (grey area targets) and does try to ensure that targets are legitimate, e.g., the US did not strike every house they thought Zarqawi might have been in but only ones that he probably was in based on real-time intelligence. But they still killed two or three non-combatants in the Zarqawi airstrike. If Zarqawi was hiding, instead, in a hospital basement, both a just war theorist and a consequentialist would have grounds for rejecting an airstrike to kill Zarqawi.

The real rub is the demand to be “exceptionally rigorous” in protecting civilians. A damaged house where mortars fired from last week would likely be a legitimate target after today’s mortar strike (it is a known site of hostile action). But is shelling it without knowing whether a family has taken refuge there in the past week violate the “exceptionally rigorous” standard? Was attacking Zarqawi’s not-so-safe house a violation of the “exceptionally rigorous” standard because civilians were probably present? Without knowing what counts as “exceptional rigor” the Rodin test does not help very much.

The core issue seems to be the relative invulnerability of guerrillas who don’t “fight fair” (as opposed to the vulnerability of those who would) and the relative vulnerability of regular forces that take exceptional rigour to avoid civilian deaths v. the invulnerability of those who do not.

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abb1 07.11.06 at 1:21 am

I wouldn’t base too much on the example of Zarqawi as there’s seem to be a lot of evidence now that the whole Zarqawi thing was managed by the US, at least to some extent. You don’t really know who and why targeted kids receiving candies and so on.

84

Roy Belmont 07.11.06 at 1:23 am

Christopher Ball:
The core issue is honor and the attempt to legislate and enforce it on those who have none, or who have only a rudimentary sense of what it might entail.
Dan Kervick says:
“…and you have no means of resisting that will not produce a fate for your city that is worse than the consequences of submission, then I would think you are morally bound to submit.”
and again:
“My guess is that most people, when faced with the prospect of struggling through under foreign control would far prefer the sub-optimal life under foreign control.”
The state motto of New Hampshire is, as far as I know, still “Live Free or Die”.
Obviously this was the work of a minority amongst the minority of early Americans resident in that rigorous region, but it must surely represent the sentiments of at least a few hundred then, and even now.
It’s more than questionable that these nuanced and principled feelings are in any way constant in the human race. In fact a little thought and some rudimentary knowledge of biology leads to the spooky prospect of those who would be true to that motto being selected out of the population by attrition, provided they’re all confronted at some point with the choice – to live free, or to die.
Aidan Maconachy says:
Bombing kids who are receiving candies from marines and targeting worshippers en route to mosque can only be regarded as “warfare” by people completely bereft of any humanitarian constraint, or even a rudimentary grasp of military ethics.
which betrays a particular degree of muddled thought in regard to bombing and its consequences generally.
To right this I’d like to suggest a distinction be made between “vertical” and “horizontal” bombing.
With “vertical” being the de facto ethical, humanely constrained version.

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Harald Korneliussen 07.11.06 at 2:20 am

“[…] it looks as if an important means to pursue justice is open to the strong alone and not to the weak.”

This is a problem with violence in general, not just warfare. It’s not more effective in just hands than in unjust, quite the opposite. Which is why relying on violence to achieve justice is pointless and immoral.

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abb1 07.11.06 at 2:48 am

“My guess is that most people, when faced with the prospect of struggling through under foreign control would far prefer the sub-optimal life under foreign control.”

I thought about this last night and it appears to me that there is no ethical dilemma with resistance/insurgency, because insurgency is a plug-and-play thing, automatically configured. Resistance/insurgency requires support of the local population or else it’ll be immediately defeated.

IOW, the strength of resistance is a clear indication of what most people prefer, that’s all there is to it.

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Martin Wisse 07.11.06 at 3:24 am

Slocum says:

The ethical problem with the guerrillas in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the occupied territories is not that they refuse to wear uniforms and line up to be shot, but that they direct their guerrilla tactics not exclusively (or even primarily) against opposing forces but rather against civilian ‘soft targets’.

Not true, as the US’ own GAO reveals.

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Chris Bertram 07.11.06 at 3:38 am

A couple of further thoughts about all this:

(1) I think there’s something right (or something troubling at any rate) about the point that Marc makes near the top of the thread. Whatever the jib rules might say, many of us are going to think of the kind of activities that were typical of partisans in WW2 as entirely legitimate in those circumstances. That goes against Rodin’s view that the jib criteria shouldn’t be relaxed for irregulars. I just throw it in as a data point.

(2) jib makes a fundamental distinction between combatants and non-combatants, but that may be hard to sustain in some circumstances. Where there is genuine national resistance — “the people armed” — then, from the pov of the irregulars, the status of non-combatant just ought not to be available to anyone who isn’t either a small infant or senile. One difficulty here is that there are far more cases where it is claimed that there is a national popular resistance than where there actually is. (Karma Nabulsi’s book Traditions of War is pretty good on all this.)

(3) I linked to, and wrote about, Rodin’s article because it struck me as an interesting attempt to grapple with some of the issues, issues on which I do not myself have answers I’m 100% happy with. Commenters should take my attitude to his piece as one of tentative friendliness rather than outright endorsement.

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abb1 07.11.06 at 5:10 am

Uri Avnery writes about one instance of asymmetric warfare and ethics involved.

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soru 07.11.06 at 5:44 am

I think the phrase that is needed is _asymmetric justice_.

The jus ad/in bellum tradition is an example of _symmetric justice_, in that it treats both sides equally. It is analogous to the legal system of Saga-era Iceland, where a necessary condition of any idea of a law of murder was that it be acceptable to someone who had just raided and burnt the farm of their neighbour. They might be persuaded to pay weregeld, they were not going to hang themselves.

On the other hand, if you have a King, which Iceland didn’t, then his agents can legally ask you to drop your weapons, and not vice versa. That’s asymmetric, and that is the basis of everything normally referred to as law.

At the end of the day, if you see someone on trial for murder, they are on trial because they had fewer guns and gunmen than the authorities. Saying that situation is unfair, because it represents an imbalance of power between the weak and the strong, is making an argument based on the principles of symmetric justice in an asymmetric situation.

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Stuart 07.11.06 at 6:01 am

In fact a little thought and some rudimentary knowledge of biology leads to the spooky prospect of those who would be true to that motto being selected out of the population by attrition, provided they’re all confronted at some point with the choice – to live free, or to die.

It would seem likely that selection would be towards those that say such things loudly (decreasing the chances of them being attacked, like say the effect of a puffer fish making itself look more dangerous to potential attackers), but not actually follow through (i.e. fight against vastly superior odds and therefore most likely get killed).

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James Wimberley 07.11.06 at 6:26 am

i want to challenge the conventional wisdom (eg Brett in 71) that non-violent resistance is only effective against a civilised adversary like the British Raj.

The great bulk of the activity of resistance movements in Western Europe in WW II against uncivilised German occupiers was non-violent: sending intelligence, hiding Jews, helping aircrew escape, printing underground newspapers, sabotaging war production. In some cases this was just operational calculation: German policy was to shoot many random hostages for every German soldier killed, an effective deterrent. The Czech resistance went ahead with the assssination of Heydrich, knowing there would be savage reprisals, as an exception, because he was talented as well as evil. There are several cases of principled non-violent resistance, by Patriarch Simeon of Bulgaria and the French villagers of Le Cambon, inspired by the Schweitzerian pastor André Trocmé.
Is there any tradition in Islam of non-violent resistance, as there is – albeit only by a faithful remnant – in Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism? If so, why not?

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soru 07.11.06 at 6:42 am

Sistani used something very like non-violent methods on Sadr in najaf, with his people’s march. That had a large degree of success: I would say it was fundamental in establishing the underlying basis for the elections and the current government.

I don’t know to what extent he was referencing an existing Islamic tradition versus making stuff up.

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abb1 07.11.06 at 7:13 am

The methods mentioned above – espionage, sabotage, and non-collaboration – don’t strike me as necessarily having anything to do with religious traditions.

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glenn 07.11.06 at 8:27 am

Not to bet too much into semantics, but this isn’t a war at all. Bush has orchestrated a mugging. That’s it. And like anyone who’s been mugged, the victim(s) will do whatever it takes to stay alive, including guerilla warfare and murders of soft targets to destroy the credibility of the new government.

Really and honestly, this was largely very predictable.

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Barry 07.11.06 at 8:38 am

Slocum says:

“The ethical problem with the guerrillas in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the occupied territories is not that they refuse to wear uniforms and line up to be shot, but that they direct their guerrilla tactics not exclusively (or even primarily) against opposing forces but rather against civilian ‘soft targets’.”

Martin Wisse: “Not true, as the US’ own GAO reveals.”

Wow. I didn’t realize that, Martin; thanks for the link.

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Grand Moff Texan 07.11.06 at 8:52 am

The great bulk of the activity of resistance movements in Western Europe in WW II against uncivilised German occupiers was non-violent ….

The examples you provide show that you and I are not talking about the same thing.
.

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Grand Moff Texan 07.11.06 at 8:53 am

Ooops, I meant that you’re talking about phenomena that weren’t part of our “non-violent” category, part of a discussion that included #71, which I now see wasn’t me.
.

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zdenek 07.11.06 at 9:35 am

Chris’s problem regarding assymetrical warfare is a bit artificial . JIB does not rule out unconventional tactics such as not wearing of uniforms or melting into civilian population so it does *not* rule out 2nd WW partisan activity and it does not rule ANC action in South Africa in 70s and 80s.( true there was a case or two of targetting civilians in Cape Town but the ANC leadership quickly put a stop to it .)

JIB does rule out deliberate targetting of non combatants , mistreatment of POWs and it prohibits using of ‘evil means ‘ such as genocide or mass rape. But it is not clear how restricting this sort of combat, the weak are disadvantaged ( people have no chance unless they rape and torture ? this is absurd surely ) . What is the problem once this is spelled out ?

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Chris Bertram 07.11.06 at 9:46 am

Zdenek, I don’t pretend to be an expert on what jib does and doesn’t allow. David Rodin, whose article I was drawing on, is. (See, e.g. his book _War and Self-Defense_ ). I quote his view on this precise point _in extenso_ at comment #5 above.

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cw 07.11.06 at 10:56 am

This is a very ineresting thread. I think this issue is confusing because we are trying to create ethics and rules for a situation that 1. is unethical (and illegal) by our civilian standards, and 2. is subject to all kinds of improvisation. It is ungovernable.

i think an interesting tack to take would be to look at warfare as if it were a dynamic system and see how it self-regulates and why.

For instance, you can do a lot of evil in small countries (Rawanda, Cambodia, the Sundan) the large powers are not interested in. This is possible, I think, because it would cost too much, both in terms of domestic politics and actual resources to the large powers to do anything about it. But, on the other hand, evil acts commited by a large power or commited in a area the large powers have interest in is immediately noticed and pressure of various types is brought to bear. The former yugoslavia is a good example of this.

I know these are obvious points, but these are off the top of the head examples of war regulation that is not based in codified ethics or rules, but rather collective instincts and self-interest.

If you could really figure this stuff out, then you might be abel to find ways to leverage your understanding to more effective war regulation

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asg 07.11.06 at 1:33 pm

#72 and #73 both make good points. Maybe there’s a necessary component of willingness as well as ability in order to render a tactic asymmetric.

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Tom H. 07.11.06 at 1:46 pm

I’m as fond as anybody of bring up the irregular/asymmetric nature of the American Revolution – minutemen out of uniform, not fighting in the same manner as European professional soldiers (early in the war – there’s a lot of history swept under the rug), and lots of civil war/neighbor-against-neighbor/farm burning/cross-border raiding with Canada.

But it’s worth remembering also British rules of engagement. As I understand it, any civilian found with any of the accoutrements of a rifleman – rifle, powder horn, loading block, or in some cases just hunting clothes – could be summarily hung as a murderer.

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Jake McGuire 07.11.06 at 2:29 pm

Indeed, I recall from reading my history-of-the-commando books as a teenager that there was much concern over being caught, because if you were running around dressed as a German soldier, you’d be “shot as a spy” even if you surrendered. So there was an understanding that guerrilla tactics had a price in terms of “acceptable” treatment by the enemy which had to be considered.

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xmath 07.11.06 at 10:27 pm

There is something odd about this concern:

“people who want to fight back have no chance unless they melt into the civilian population and adopt unconventional tactics. If those tactics are morally impermissible because of the risks they impose on non-combatants, then it looks as if armed resistance to severe injustice perpetrated by the well-equipped and powerful is also prohibited.”

My perusal of this thread suggests that zdenek comes closest to identifying it. In short, Chris seems to assume that there can be or is such a thing as the “justice” of a side in a conflict, which somehow exists prior to and independently of the tactics that side uses in the conflict. To wit, side A is (we somehow measure) “just”, in some ideal, Platonic sense, and side B “unjust”, and now that we’ve made that a priori intrinsic calculation, the problem that worries Chris (and, I realize, many on the left) is how to work out rules that can get side A to win.

But, question: if (as we are assuming) side A must use immoral means to win, and is prepared and willing to do so, in what meaningful sense is side A the “just” side? Is being “just” an intrinsic, permanent state? Surely not. Surely if Chris identifies some group in some conflict that he deems “just”, by whatever reasoning, and then that group announces “By the way we just want everyone to know, we’ve thought about it and figured out that our only chance of winning is to kidnap all the toddlers we can find and torture them and then wring their necks” – surely Chris reserves the right to change his mind about the “justice” of that side?

But how can he? We’ve already decided they’re the “just” side. The other side got labeled “unjust” and therefore, the neck-wringers must be allowed to win one way or another. In the name of “justice”. The supposed moral dilemma being, “But if the just side isn’t allowed to be immoral, they might not win, and then justice will not prevail.” That’s not a moral dilemma at all, it’s an absurdity. The mentality seems to be that Who Wins is the most important factor in morality and justice, rather than What Happens. This is a mentality for folks who are, themselves, power-hungry (if only vicariously).

In reality, there is no such thing as the intrinsic “justness” of a party to a conflict that exists prior to and independently of the actions taken by that party. If your primary concern is that a party to a conflict (because you deem them “just” or for whatever other reason) must be made to win by any means, then your concern is something other than justice.

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vadim 07.12.06 at 12:09 am

Not true, as the US’ own GAO reveals.

The GAO doesn’t distinguish between attacks likely to cause mass casualties and those likely to kill only one or two soldiers. A sniping attempt targeting a single marine and 1 truck bombing targeting hundreds of civilians each count as one incident to the GAO. The civilian body count attributable to Iraq’s insurgencies numbers in the tens of thousands (versus

107

Lunatic 07.12.06 at 12:54 am

If recourse to war is sometimes just—and just war theory says it is—but it may only be justly fought within the jus in bello restrictions, then it looks as if an important means to pursue justice is open to the strong alone and not to the weak.

Well, yes. This is an explicit part of Just War theory, though, not something implicit that has to be reasoned out.

The Probability of Success criterion for the jus ad bellum portion of Just War theory says arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success. If it’s futile to fight a war under jus in bello restrictions, you aren’t eligible to engage in a Just War at all, but must pursue justice by other means.

One can respond by saying Just War theory is unjust, because it discriminates based on power. Its advocates will reply that it’s merely the nature of reality; sometimes the real world is such that war to correct an injustice can only make things worse, and so war must be prohibited. At that point it becomes a philosophical debate over the nature of morality, and everybody can futilely rehash the last five centuries (at least) of moral philosophy without coming to a consensus.

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Chris Bertram 07.12.06 at 2:13 am

xmath (and others). It seems pretty much obvious to me that one can sometimes make statements about the justness of a cause that are independent of judgements about the means used to pursue it. Just think about it for 5 seconds: Nazi occupier/forces battling to restore national independence and democracy. Are their _aims_ just? Yes. Can their aims be achieved by using means permitted by jib?: separate and further question….

lunatic: I don’t see that merely repeating “JWT says X”, where the problem is precisely that JWT says X, advances the discussion.

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abb1 07.12.06 at 2:35 am

To wit, side A is (we somehow measure) “just”, in some ideal, Platonic sense, and side B “unjust”

Xmath, side A may very well be unjust and immoral and hideous, yet this side may be fighting for a just cause – self-defense, for example.

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zdenek 07.12.06 at 4:03 am

re# 109 — Chris is right : what constitutes just/unjust resort to war is a different question from whether you are fighting fairly ( these two things come apart ).
So we should be able to ask are the jib rules fair and I take it that is Chris question. But the question cannot be ‘ is it justified from my jihadist point of view ‘ but rather should involve reciprocity ( asked from behind the veil of ignorance or somehting like that )i.e. the jib rules should be endorsable by anyone who is effected by them.
But now there seems to be a problem similar to the problem Rawls is faced with in his discusion of the intolerant ( toleration of the intolerant sec 35 ToJ ):

” some political parties in democratic states hold doctrines that commit them to suppress the constitutional liberties whenever they have power.” ( do such parties have a right to complain when their intolerance is not tolerated ? ).

Dont we face the same problem when we try to include a perspective ( reciprocity requirement ) that is dedicated to dismantling the entire moral framework that permits the very raising of the question of justice ? Does justice require that such perspective is included in order to see whether jib is justified ?

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Chris Bertram 07.12.06 at 4:53 am

Well they do and they don’t come apart.

The justice of the cause comes apart from the justice of the means by which it is pursued. So you can pursue a just cause by unjust means and an unjust one using only methods permitted by jib. But critics are quite right to say that jab includes the requirement that recourse to war is only just if it can be fought with a reasonable prospect of success under conditions of compliance with jib. Which is where our problem started, since that restriction favours an the strong-with-an-unjust cause over the weak with a just one.

Reciprocity … up to a point. Clearly there is something wrong about a Jihadi complaining that he is not treated according to the laws of war if rejects those constraints on his own conduct. But the fact that one side is reckless (or worse) wrt the rights of non-combatants shouldn’t permit the other side to indulge themselves in similar fashion. Rodin discusses this point in relation to the law outlawing reprisals. I don’t think that any sensible person doubts that the US in Iraq and the IDF in Palestine have been (to put things at best) reckless towards non-combatants, a recklessness that is in no way excused by the impermissible actions on the other side.

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abb1 07.12.06 at 5:56 am

UN GA resolution 2649:

The General Assembly

1. Affirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples under colonial and alien domination recognized as being entitled to the right of self-determination to restore to themselves that right by any means at their disposal;

…by any means at their disposal“. This seem to indicate that in 1970 a majority of the GA members felt that no jib rules should apply at least to this particular kind of struggle.

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vadim 07.12.06 at 8:03 am

“…by any means at their disposal“. This seem to indicate that in 1970 a majority of the GA members felt that no jib rules should apply at least to this particular kind of struggle.

Six words in a GA statement exempt “liberation movements” from Geneva and Hague convention rules of war? What if nuclear weapons are at their disposal?

Resistance/insurgency requires support of the local population or else it’ll be immediately defeated.

The Khmer Rouge persisted for 20-odd years after the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. FARC is deeply unpopular in Colombia yet has persisted for over 40 years.

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abb1 07.12.06 at 8:54 am

What if nuclear weapons are at their disposal?

Well, most of the GA members are former colonies. They feel very strongly about colonialism. They want to emphasise that colonialism is absolutely unacceptable.

And yes, if I understand it correctly, they feel that a nation that embarks on a colonial enterprise does not deserve any sympathy or recourse; and the national liberation movements are exempt from any liability. A special case, why not.

The FARC is a different animal, but how do you know that it’s deeply unpopular?

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vadim 07.12.06 at 9:23 am

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1998304.stm

” In national surveys the FARC never poll more than 5% of public support”

A special case, why not.

Because the use of nuclear weapons is vastly more inhumane, indiscriminate and lethal than any colonial administration in history. The use of nuclear weapons hasn’t been authorised by UN 2649 any more than the abandonment of Geneva/Hague rules of war.

And because “national liberation movements” can be seen in just about any civil war (as unfalsifiable a premise as ‘colonialism’) Alien domination is in the eye of the beholder, as any ZOG-hating redneck will attest.

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xmath 07.12.06 at 9:59 am

I don’t agree they fully “come apart” (the justness of a “cause”, and the means), was my point. They are intertwined. Assuming that they “come apart” can lead you to some pretty daft conclusions.

I suppose Chris you’re right that one can “sometimes make statements about” the justness of a cause independently of the means, but if you think about it that doesn’t contradict what I’m saying. What I don’t agree about is that such statements will hold for all means. There is no “cause” so just that it remains just regardless of the means its proponents employ, in other words.

In your Nazi-occupier example, I am supposed to imagine the possibility that they have an “aim” that’s just (restore national independence/democracy) but that it cannot be achieved by moral means (please don’t force me to write “jib”). If they have an aim that cannot be achieved by moral means, in what sense is the aim “just”? Is my point. You still seem to be operating from some Platonic, ether-bound conception of “justice”, and it still seems to boil down to “who wins?”. Which is wrong.

abb1 says:

“side A may very well be unjust and immoral and hideous, yet this side may be fighting for a just cause – self-defense, for example.”

Ok, in which case let’s hope side A succeeds – as long as they confine their actions to those that are actually necessary to self-defense (bombing marketplaces? Um, no). In which case there is nothing to talk about. Self-defense is moral.

The issue raised in the post is implicitly considering cases where the supposedly “just” side A takes immoral actions not merely for self-defense, but “because they need to take those actions to win” (and they’re the “just” side). In such cases I dispute the original diagnosis of “just”, and wonder where in the heck it comes from.

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abb1 07.12.06 at 10:00 am

Because the use of nuclear weapons is vastly more inhumane, indiscriminate and lethal than any colonial administration in history.

They just don’t want any colonial administrations any more, lethal or non-lethal. They want to emphasise it and create strong incentive against colonialism. It doesn’t mean they want anyone to be nuked.

And I don’t think they are talking about civil wars or any internal conflicts here.

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Chris Bertram 07.12.06 at 10:06 am

You still seem to be operating from some Platonic, ether-bound conception of “justice”,

Maybe so. Never did have much time for Thrasymachus.

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Steven Poole 07.12.06 at 10:26 am

You still seem to be operating from some Platonic, ether-bound conception of “justice”

Well, to the extend that “just-war theory” aspires to be normative, it must operate with some such elevated and/or vague conception. It can’t be, in the view of a “just-war theorist”, that justice is simply what is in accordance with the law, since he or she will presumably disagree in many cases with the statutes as they are currently written.

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zdenek 07.12.06 at 10:51 am

No Steven the required normativity can come from the sort of agreement people behind the ‘veil of ignorance’ would reach ; nothing Platonic about this or problematically elevated about this .

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zdenek 07.12.06 at 11:02 am

sorry I forgot to mention another non platonic option : reflective equilibrium which aims at coherence between moral and non moral beliefs and invoves revision and correction until an equilibrium is reached ; again this can provide the required justification without questionable metaphysics.

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zdenek 07.12.06 at 11:11 am

sorry forgot to add that you can say lets see what principles would be chosen by suitably ignrant parties and then add the reflective equilibrium constraint and say that whatever would be chosen has to also jive with this additional constraint. In otherwords ala Rawls you combine the two approaches …

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Chris Bertram 07.12.06 at 11:22 am

this can provide the required justification without questionable metaphysics.

If you believe that then I have some funds in a Nigerian bank account that you can have a share of, just so long as you wire me $10000 in advance to cover my expenses.

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abb1 07.12.06 at 11:22 am

Xmath, OK, here’s my unnecessary offensive metaphor:

Suppose the NY Mob is extremely powerful compare to the NJ Mob: many more much better trained enforcers, overwhelmingly superior weapons, etc.

So, on the annual Mob-USA conference in Vegas, the NY Boss declares: we are taking over NJ territory. In the next few weeks we’re coming to NJ with our guns blazing and we’ll kill the NJ Boss and all his capos.

And the NJ Boss says: we’ll fight to the last man.

The Executive Committee deliberates and then the senior consiglieri announces: due to a significant asymmetry of the impending war and considering the just cause of the NJ organization, these will be the new rules of the conflict: NY organization can’t mow down or blow up more than 2 innocent bystanders for each enemy killed, while the NJ organization is allowed up to 8.

That’s the idea being discussed here.

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zdenek 07.12.06 at 11:32 am

re 124– coherence for moral beliefs but corespondence for claims like ‘ I have just deposited $10000 into an account A ‘ .

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Jake 07.12.06 at 11:33 am

If that GA resolution were passed today, it would have been done so explicitly in the context of the Israel/Palestine conflict, not in terms of colonialism or China/Tibet or any number of African conflicts. I don’t know enough history to know if that was the case in 1970.

And that is actually an amazingly good and not offensive at all analogy, abb1.

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zdenek 07.13.06 at 8:06 am

Chris/Steven criticism of jwt/jib : because Chris is complaining about the weak being disadvantaged by jib and Steven is anxious about lack of justification for these rules their position reminds me of Hard & Negri view which says that these rules promote ideology of the ruling elite and not much more. So no wonder the jib rules are biased or without moral justification.
I think this is silly ( if this is indeed their view ) because jwt can be effectively used to criticise US war in Vietnam and in Iraq. Ie. it can be shown that US has not met the jwt requrements ( Walzer )and so it cannot be just a set of principles designed to rationalize the hegemon’s foreign policy.

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Z 07.13.06 at 8:58 am

If you believe that then I have some funds…
I oddly find myself agreeing with Zdenek. It seems to me that there are no particular difficulties in devising a normative moral theory without any reference to metaphysics, and it doesn’t seem very hard to me to apply this theory to practical cases either. I assume that Chris’ answer was mocking this claim, but I find it very reasonnable.

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Chris Bertram 07.13.06 at 9:35 am

It seems to me that there are no particular difficulties in devising a normative moral theory without any reference to metaphysics,

Not the issue ….

Of course we can make all kinds of normative claims without even thinking about the metaphysics, and we can get pretty systematic about it too. If that was all zdenek meant then I shouldn’t have mocked him. But I took him to be claiming that RE provides a general grounding for normativity as such. It doesn’t, since it (effectively if not officially) presupposes that we find some judgements compelling and doesn’t begin to explain wherein their compellingness lies.

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zdenek 07.13.06 at 9:56 am

Criticism Chris is making is slightely off the topic which is whether one needs Platonic type commitment to try to explain normativity and *not* that such non platonic ( constructivist approach both in Kant and Rawls ) approach is without problems ; of course there are problems with this approach but that is another matter.

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zdenek 07.13.06 at 11:17 am

before I forget Chris in his #130 is confusing two seperate questions :

1) what grounds normativity ?

is different from

2) what grounds specific moral judgements or specific moral theory ?

The first question is not the one we have been looking at and has nothing to do with reflective equilibrium. Offering an acount of normativity is a problem whether normativity can be naturalised ( at least in modern philosophy ). RE on the other hand comes in in narrow form when we try to justify specific moral judgements and in a broad form when we try to offer justification for a specific moral theory.

Now its possible to see that to say as Chris does that RE ” doesnt explain where the compellingness( of moral judgements comes from) is a red herring ( a muddle actually ) because this is an issue involving ( in modern philosophy anyway ) naturalizing of morality where what underwrites such a project is Darwinism ( Alan Gibbard’s project in his work is an example ).
PS this is a good undergraduate stuff so Chris supprises me.

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Chris Bertram 07.13.06 at 11:44 am

I’m glad to hear those naturalistic projects have been so successful, zdenek. (Or maybe I’m less easily convinced that you are.)

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jet 07.13.06 at 2:07 pm

So it is simple. A weak party can’t use immoral warfare until they have attempted non-violent resistance. But non-violent resistance only works if the weak party is obviously in the right.

So it looks like the Palestinians have no right to their immoral warfare and probably won’t find non-violent resistance that useful.

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