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Analysis of Just and Unjust Wars

According to Walzer, Just War Theories deal with the justification of how and why wars are fought. All human affairs and history in the end have been traced to tension between two opposing sides seeking freedom while others seek security. These justifications are either theoretical or historical and are concerned with ethically justifying the wars and the form of warfare waged. Just war tradition looks at historical body of rules or agreements observed to have been applied to war over different ages. These theories also attempt to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable use of the armed forces. These theories seek to conceive on how lasting peace can be established by trying to contain the use of arms and assumption of more humane ways of solving problems.

Over the years, several parties, such as the philosophers, the Catholic Church, and the conventions have given their views, perceptions, and stand as far as the concept of just wars is concerned.  Walzer has been openly noted to advance the prospect of peace as a means of personal security. He views just war as an unnecessary evil which could only be taken on to in case of aggression by one’s neighbors as a defense mechanism to their territorial integrity and political independence.

The Concept of Preventive Wars and Preemptive Attacks

Preventive wars are wars that are launched to destroy potential threat by the enemy even when the attack by the enemy is neither imminent nor known to be planned. These wars are based on the belief that the enemy wants to attack and, thus, striking first would be better, and they prefer to fight sooner rather than later. Such aggression is declared illegal by the United Nations Security Council charter which expressly declares that the initiation of armed conflict whereby one takes the initiative to break peace when no armed attack has yet occurred is illegal. Unjust wars can be classified under this category of preventive wars as the reasons of venturing into these wars are illegitimate and are associated with stigma (Robert, Delahunty & Yoo 68).

Preemptive strikes are wars launched in anticipation of immediate enemy aggression. It is a war that is commenced to defeat or repel a perceived inevitable offence against the state or invasion. It is aimed at gaining strategic advantage on an impending war before it materializes. Walzer’s writing can be described as leftist in that it’s viewed to portray the unsustainable. What he proposes is peace, and he portrays it as the incontestable. His views are representative of the views of a broader movement which also includes the Catholic Church, which aims to fundamentally alter the just wars tradition in a way that disfigures it dramatically. Their theory seems to alter its initial intention, which is to protect freedom, and narrows it to serving security (Robert, Delahunty & Yoo 5). However, Walzer provides that attack and imminent threat to the state political and territorial sovereignty was the only reason of going into war, thus justifying preemptive and preventive wars to a certain extent.

He, however, expressly warns that it is a crime to commit aggression whereby this includes preventive attacks, which is the primary justification of just wars even in history. He condems the culture of war saying that war is a bad thing and thus he raises a legalist paradigm of six points that governs aggression. Walzer views the world as an international society comrising of independent states which are bound by laws that establish the rights of its members and their territorial integrity and political sovereignty; if these laws are violated, he justifies the going into war with the aggressor. He, therefore, emphasizes the respect of states’ sovereign rights which would promote international peace.

According to Walzer (12-15), in his paradigm to govern aggression, he warns that what constitutes aggression is the use of force or imminent threat to use force by one state against the territorial political sovereignty of others, which he views as a criminal act. This justifies two kinds of responses which are: the war of law enforcement and that of the self-defense by the victim. It also justifies intervention of the international society and thus, this view justifies preemptive attacks by the victim. The concept also justifies the waging of preventive wars by the international community to curb future aggression by the same state against any other state. An example of this is the continued involvement of the American government in the Iraq wars. This can be viewed as a preventive war, whereby they claimed that Saddam Hussein was almost able to manufacture a nuclear weapon, thus posing a threat to the international community.

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Walzer justifies preemptive wars saying that they can be undertaken where there is an intention to injure and there is the notion of military preparations that increases the need to act immediately because of the high risk involved (Walzer 40-43). An example of a justified preemptive war is the war waged by the Americans against Iraq after the September 11th attack. It aimed at preventing Iraq form developing chemical and nuclear weapons or the formation of biological warfare technology against the Americans and other states. The Americans’ reasons for war can be viewed as legitimate, according to the United Nations Security Council charter and other international agreements, as it was a war of self-defense. They advanced reasons, such as that the nature and magnitude of the threat involved the likelihood of the threat to be realized and the exhaustion of other alternative means in order to combat the aggression by the use of force.  They also weighed their reason for attack against the terms and stipulations of the United Nations Security Council charter and other international agreements which gave them the go ahead to wage the preemptive war against the Iraqis.

Walzer justifies wars saying that the moral reality of war is not fixed by the activities of soldiers on the ground but rather the opinions of mankind. In part, war is fixed by the activities of activists, publicists, and philosophers among others. However, he points out that even in war, all of us desire to act or seem to act morally, which can ably justify our participation without defying ethics. He, therefore, advocates for the act of justice in war which may be waged either for preemptive or preventive reasons which he terms as jus in belle. Justice in war concerns the means by which the war is waged whose standards change over time due to evolution of new political systems, development in technology, and the prevalence of mass destruction weapons. He emphasizes that there should be justice in war in order to avoid civilian casualties. He further proposes that just as there is a difference in waging war against a democracy as it is to a dictatorship, the older rules should provide a framework on which to form new ones (Walzer 204-216). 

Walzer provides that military force can be used by states in the face of threat. This view justifies wars since he says that they do so to protect territorial integrity or political independence. He further provides that states can be invaded and thus, wars justly taken on to assist secessionist movements, to balance the prior interventions of other powers, and also to rescue people threatened by massacres. This calls for the participation of the victim in self-defense, thus taking onto preemptive wars. However, it also justifies the participation of the international community in protecting the freedom and rights of the threatened people in the attacked state who form part of the larger international community, thus encouraging them to venture into preventive wars in the face of such occurrences.

He further says that the defense of rights is enough reason to fight. In the face of abuse of human right within a state or amongst states, wars are inevitable as there is always the aggressor and the aggressed that are fighting to achieve towards different goals. In such situations, not only is the victim involved in war but also the larger international community is forced to intervene and this could lead to both preemptive and preventive wars. However, Walzer does not expressly advocate for war as he warns that commercial, expansionist, conquest, and preventive among other types of wars raise and accelerate aggression, thereby justifying forceful resistance.

Walzer further advances that war is always unjust, except in situations where the combatants are fighting to defend themselves after an attack. In fact, he says that defense for right is the only justifiable reason for fighting (Walzer 16-25). He elevates peace to be all in all that ends all. However, his view of peace is highly contested by other scholars who view his legalist paradigm theory as one that replaces moral concern to create a just world with an effort to create a secure society.

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His view thereby trades the freedoms of citizens of other nations for security, for example, the morality of his theory is questioned when it advocates for leaving killers like Saddam Hussein alone and the citizens of his country at his mercy. Walzer views the essence of morality as unexceptionable and thus provides us with guidance on how to act. He asserts that morality exists outside our own particular circumstances, thus he emphasizes that an international society governed by morality is more peaceful. He asserts that we should endeavor to conserve the true time tested traditional morality despite the aggression that we encounter everyday, thus tempting us to abandon it.

In conclusion, the difference between preemptive and preventive wars is only a matter of timing that creates implications on whether an act is justified or not. Traditionally, preemptive wars were seen as a mater of necessity which was based on evidence of imminent attack against which action was justified. Preventive wars were seen as acts of choice derived from a calculus of power rather than the conventions and practices of the international law. Policy-makers that wage wars even when they are not provoked justify it as a means of preventing the rise of an adversary, which is better than waiting until the rise of an inevitable war and when the balance of power has been shifted. Walzer’s peace proposal is ideal but impractical due to the prevalence of aggressors within the international community (Robert, Delahunty & Yoo 102-107).

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