A Just War?

Soil covered of blood. Dead bodies scattered everywhere. Destroyed buildings. Gun fires in the distance. Wailing ambulance. Weeping families. 

War brings many dreadful effects to humanity and society. Despite the negative impacts brought by wars, the world is not unanimous in its opinion of it. There are those who oppose war while another side believes that war is justifiable and for the good of mankind. Benjamin Franklin believed that “there has never been a good war or a bad peace.” In this sense, can we say that war can be tolerated if it resulted to peace?

St. Augustine believed that there is such thing as a “just war.” For him, war can be considered as a just action when its aim is to attain peace. He justified that it “is the wrong-doing of the opposing party which compels the wise man to wage just wars.” Augustine also believed that wars are part of God’s will. According to him, “God’s providence constantly uses war to correct and chasten the corrupt morals of mankind as it also uses such afflictions to train men in a righteous and laudable way of life, removing to a better state those whose life is approved, or else keeping them in this world for further service.” In this context, Augustine supposed that war is God’s way of controlling and disciplining mankind. Moreover, he used the punishment he had experienced during his childhood as an example of showing how cruelty experienced by people can lead to good results.

However, ethically speaking, nothing good can sprout from a negative method. As opposed to what Niccolo Machiavelli promoted, the end can never justify the means. When one is talking about ethics, it is not the results that are considered but the method which led to that certain outcome. Stealing for example even if done for a good intention would still be condemned. Any positive intention would be devoid of goodness once it is achieved through a negative method.

Peace can never be truly attained from war or any other destructive process. Many religions follow this in their teachings. In the Roman Catholic, for instance, turning the other cheek is advocated. Even Socrates followed this belief which is manifested through his statement, “Never return evil for evil or injustice for injustice.” A wise man then would not wage into wars and most especially would not try to make wars justifiable. “An eye for an eye only makes the world blind,” as what Mahatma Gandhi expressed.

Contrary to St. Augustine's statement, war is not God’s way of controlling mankind. No matter what the goal or result of war is, it can never make God happy. God has given mankind free will. The truth is, it is man who uses war as a control mechanism. Man employs war as an instrument in the attainment of his desire to dominate.

War cannot make men happy too. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “I cannot believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.” In short, war is not a win-win solution but the exact opposite. There are no winners in any war. All sides lose because they sacrifice a lot of things by waging war with other states such as resources, time, infrastructures, economic stability, and the lives of individuals. It is not only through war that peace and order can be attained. There are a lot of alternatives that can lead to peace that do not involve death and destruction. If St. Augustine was right in saying that all aspire to have peace then it would be easy to attain peace through compromise and agreement.

War is in conflict with several orders of God. “Thou shall not kill.” The Ten Commandments is very clear. God did not give any exception that would excuse anyone from killing another person. Life is a gift that individuals enjoy. No one has the right to take away life from somebody else.

Killing is man’s way of letting his barbaric nature to emerge. It is allowing the beast within to freedom and devour the soul. I cannot imagine how people are able to celebrate and rejoice victory in wars despite the fact that thousands of lives had been killed. God ordered his people to love their neighbors as they love themselves. I am sure that waging war and fighting against each other were not the images God had in mind when He told us to love one another. Instead of dealing with our differences, be it in religion, race, or ideology, we must focus on our similarities and from there derive unity and cooperation that can save mankind millions of lives and resources.

At present, Libya is struggling in a civil war that deeply tore its state. The rebels were able to achieve victory as they were able to send Muammar Gaddafi into hiding. They fought against Gaddafi’s oppressive regime because they can no longer endure being puppets of his iron hands. After the relative success of the Libyan rebels who are now considered as the legitimate government in Libya can we really say that they succeeded? They were able to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi but at what expense? Their families, friends, and countrymen sacrificed their lives and they sold their souls the moment they allowed blood be shed in the Libyan soil. No aspiration is worthy of sacrificing lives. The Libyan rebels or the NTC fighters have no difference with Gaddafi and his loyalists. They wanted to end an oppressive regime and they did it the Gaddafi way.

At the end of the day, war is war. It leads to terrible outcomes. It is wrong to think that peace is actually attained through war. An oppressive regime might be defeated but along with it is the corruption of one’s soul.

The soul which makes humanity humane is lost in war. What will man become without his soul? It is the only thing that can save him from the bitterness of his nature. When a person kills someone, it does not matter which side he is on. As how Ernest Hemingway put it, “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” The thought of allowing life to end in one’s hands will haunt one forever. War with one’s conscience, especially when there is guilt, is a war where one cannot victor over.

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