Custom Use of Force essay paper sample
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Use of force is a common feature in human relations that involves one party imposing their will on another party through coercion that ranges within a continuum of steps of increasing severity which could begin with the non physical psychological and economic, escalating up to physical bodily intervention, then the same with non-lethal weaponry to ultimately lethal force. Each category may contain subcategories, for instance, the final category in the above, lethal force would include the use of weaponry of varying degrees of destructiveness ranging from say a bayonet to a large yield thermonuclear weapon.
Some distinguish between the use of ‘power’ and the ‘use of force’. Depending on the context both may be considered power. On the other hand both could be considered force. For instance, empowerment is the capability of achieving your goals. This could encompass the mundane every day tools we use to go about our daily life. Cars empower us to go places. A ladder empowers us to climb up a tree to pick its fruit and so forth. If the ladder is unsuitable for its prescribed purpose then we ‘force’ the issue by jamming it against the bark of the tree to enable us to use the ladder without slipping.
Psychological ‘force’ may also be called ‘power’ rather like the use of military power. Deploying military power isn’t actually doing anything other than using applied psychology. In the 19th Century, gun boat diplomacy was a useful strategy to enforce ones will on a recalcitrant enemy, rival or upstart colonial entity that insisted on being stubborn. Sometimes the ploy didn’t work, resulting in the breakdown of military power into military force. Usually the more rational victims of gunboat diplomacy would back down in the face of this display of military power because they were intimidated. There is an argument amongst some academics as to whether military power actually constitutes military force or not. Professor John Garnet and Lawrence Freedman argued that military force is the breakdown of military
power, that the best way to use military power is not to use it. In the case of the use of military power, if you use it to coerce an opponent into doing your will, then we can argue that this is defacto a ‘use of force’ even though no shots were fired.
It may be useful to highlight or at least attempt to examine in some way the different categories of ‘use of force’ as it may appear to us in our lives. The phenomenon exists in all aspects of human affairs and is particularly widespread in economics. Shopping is an example. It could be argued that as consumers we are reluctant to part with our hard earned money. Enter the supermarket: we need food and provisions in order to exist and so it seems, the supermarket uses force, its economic power, to extract our money from us against our will because we need food in exchange. Money is of course power, and power can achieve ones. It is this recognition that spawns resentment by people without money against those with money. History demonstrates many examples of so called ‘class conflict’ predating Marxist ideology through to the modern tedious liberal centrist left whining about a perceived lack of fairness in society. All it boils down to is that Peter has money. He can enforce his will on Paul who can’t because Paul is poor. In many respects the ethics of achieving a fairer society has its roots in the more base instincts of envy, hypocrisy and greed. ‘He has the power to enforce his will. I do not, although given half a chance; I would do the same thing’!
A projection of economic power extends upwards from the level of individuals, households and corporations into the world of international politics. Economic sanctions are a familiar term. Even now, the Western Powers are clamouring for sanctions to be imposed on Syria. If it isn’t Syria it will be Iran. If not Iran then some other pariah state considered a threat to regional or even global stability. Economic power is not usually considered force, but according to our ‘use of force’ continuum, maybe it is.
So far, we’ve only touched on ethical conduct as a concept in this discussion but in truth, the use of force can only be considered against the background of ethics, just as ethics are vital in all aspects of human behaviour and endeavour. Put simply, it is ok for good guys to use force to make the bad guys change their behaviour, but not the other way around.
Yes, there are bad guys. There are the Hitlers, Pol Pots, Osama bin Ladens and Basher Assads of this world who need to be confronted and defeated with force - because usually, tea, cake and a pat on the back gets ignored. Some bad guys are nearer home, on our street. A bad guy may be a narco thug gang member who can only be stopped by the police using lethal force. A less violent criminal could be arrested without the use of a revolver. Sometimes a criminal’s freedom to harass society can be stopped by just the timely appearance of a cop. Either way, for a civilised society to function, varying degrees of use of force are required in order to maintain law, order and civilisation as we know it.
In international politics there are also moral imperatives for the use of force in a great many situations. Not all decisions of course to use military power were correct, but that is very often as in the case of say Vietnam, with the benefit of hindsight.
Few at the time would have argued that the use of force against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was unjustified. True, there were conscientious objectors and pacifists within the Allied nations at the time. One clergyman stationed under the nose of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris at Bomber Command Head Quarters at High Wycombe actually delivered a sermon during the period of the bomber offensive entitled ‘The Ethics of Bombing, or the Bombing of Ethics!’ Presumably the clergyman had not yet learned of the death camps in Poland. Whilst history has vindicated the Western Allies use of force against an enemy of unprecedented evil, it is still possible as our clergyman demonstrated, for moral confusion to blur the distinction between justified and unjustified use of force.
To make the distinction just that much more confusing is the question of not ‘should use of force’ be permitted but how should it be used. Again, in the Second World War, as an example, the way the Soviet Union prosecuted its fight against the Nazi invaders on the Eastern Front provides a glaring example of a just war fought with ruthless disregard for the lives of friendly troops and citizens alike. Whilst no one would deny the correctness in using force to drive back the fascist aggressors, Stalin and his regime for instance paid scant regard for Soviet citizens who were prevented from being evacuated from various battle fronts. Little regard also was given for the lives of ill equipped Red Army infantry sent out on foot to oppose well equipped German panzer divisions backed with heavy artillery. Millions in dozens of engagements were needlessly mown down by machine guns or crushed by tanks simply because trying to swamp the enemy’s heavy armour with wave after wave of expendable foot soldiers was a legitimate military tactic. Soviet commanders like Zhukov spoke in callous euphemistic language of ‘broken pencils’ when referring to such wasteful causalities under their command. Clearly the use of force when used for the right objectives has to be tempered with humanity.
We have seen then how ‘use of force’ can be applied in practice on different levels throughout the wide sphere of human activity. To make genuine sense of it all however, we need to find a deeper meaning. Let us turn to philosophy to attempt to glean what this meaning could be. There is a Jewish Talmudical dictum of antiquity that states that a ‘blind person, a sick person and a poor person are considered like dead men’. In English this means that the single most important difference between living people and dead people is freewill. The ability of a person to choose to do what he or she likes makes us different to a corpse that has the absolute zero of free will. Conversely the ability to choose to do anything in any aspect of our lives is paramount to human nature and living. When we can’t choose, we feel the pain. The freedom of a blind person, a sick person and a poor person to choose is greatly diminished because of their respective plights and could in some cases starts to resemble death to some extent. A blind person cannot choose to drive a car or enjoy the sight of a blue sky. Poor people cannot live where they would like, nor can they eat the food they would prefer. A sick person may not have the physical capacity to live a normal life and so on.
When a power such as an enemy state, a terrorist organisation or even one’s own government denies the people the ability to make choices in order to influence them, to coerce them into doing something they don’t want to do, this is called ‘use of force’. It strikes at the very heart of our human soul and explains why people do many things in response that could include taking part in violent civil disobedience directed against say an oppressive regime, to the mobilisation of service personnel willing to lay down their lives in a conflict.
The above may come to explain at least in part why there is so much turmoil in the world today, particularly in the Middle East. The American ideology of ‘Freedom’ may not be too far short of the mark after all.