Monday, September 25, 2006

Dr. Germain Grisez on Aggressive or So-Called "Preventive War."

"St. Thomas, following St. Augustine, does not think only defensive war can be just. The two doctors indicate that nations can rightly wage war in order to punish outlaw nations, just as they rightly use their police power within their jurisdiction to bring criminals to justice (see S.t., 2-2, q. 40, a.1). If that view were correct, just wars, rather than always countering an enemy’s unjust use of force, sometimes would attempt to achieve retributive justice. For example, a superpower might rightly make war on a small power to punish it for attacking and annexing its even smaller neighbor, despite the fact that the neighbor, ruled by an oppressive regime, deserved no might wonder whether Pius XII’s statements that only defensive war can be just express a judgment contingent on contemporary problems or, instead, propose a doctrine solidly grounded in Christian tradition. At least three considerations support the latter view.

First, contemporary problems were a factor, but traditional principles also were in play. In obvious respects, modern war is very different from any war Augustine and Thomas could have imagined. By the end of the nineteenth century - well before atomic, bacteriological, and chemical weapons became available - modern technology and industry had greatly increased war’s carnage and devastation. The intertwining of industry with military power, together with the new weapons and new strategies for using them - climaxing in the terror bombing of World War II and the subsequent development of nuclear deterrence strategies and systems - somewhat blurred the line between combatants and noncombatants, made discrimination increasingly difficult, and made it more and more likely that virtually any aggressive war would be or become indiscriminate. Thus, the idea of using military power to rectify injustices no longer seemed plausible, and the analogy between military power and domestic police power no longer seemed valid.

Increasingly, too, combatants were no longer professionals but citizens forced to fight, sometimes at gunpoint, so that it more and more was the case that aggressive war punished most severely those who had little or no responsibility for the policies and actions of the political and military leaders of a nation considered outlaw. These modern developments called for a fresh application of traditional principles, drastically limiting the situations in which military action could be morally justified. Indeed, many people began to say, with reason, that war had changed its very nature, and the magisterium shared this view. John XXIII teaches: ‘In this age which boasts of its atomic power, it no longer makes sense to maintain that war is a fit instrument with which to repair the violation of justice.’ (Pacem in terris, AAS 55 (1963) 291, PE, 270.127).

Noting John’s point, Vatican II, explains how ‘the horror and perversity of war are immensely magnified by the addition of scientific weapons,’ and draws the conclusion: ‘All these considerations compel us to undertake an evaluation of war with an entirely new attitude’ (Gaudium et Spes, 80).

Second, there is another way, less obvious but more profound, in which nondefensive war in modern times differs in nature from what Augustine and Thomas had in mind. Because in their days there was, at least in theory, a supreme, worldwide authority - the Roman emperor, the pope - to whom every other human ruler was subject, they could think about nondefensive war on the analogy of law enforcement within a nation. However, the development of the modern state robs this idea of whatever plausibility it may have had in earlier times. In a world of independent states, each jealous of its sovereignty and none recognizing any legitimate authority higher than its own, war is something like the self-help measures to which individuals and families resort in the absence of public authority capable of maintaining law and order. In such a situation, however, any self-help beyond that strictly necessary for self-defense provokes reprisals and endless feuds. Those involved may not always be subjectively guilty of vengefulness and murder, but objectively their feuding is wrong. In the absence of public authority, their real duty is, not to do their best to do justice without it, but to establish the commonly recognized authority they obviously need. The same thing plainly is true of the modern world, and, beginning with Leo XIII, the popes have come, step by step, to this conclusion*.

Thus, aggressive war must be excluded as unjust, not only because such war no longer can be carried on justly but because in principle it is not the right way to deal with international injustice and pursue world peace**. Modern history, if not the whole of history, makes it clear that aggressive war not only leads to endless and total strife but is a side-effect of the nations’ collective evasion of their common responsibility to establish real world community."

* Pope Leo XIII, in Nostis errorem, having pointed out the futility of the arms race, adds significantly: "And so there should be sought for peace foundations both firmer and more in keeping with nature: because, while it is allowed consistently with nature to defend one’s right by force and arms, nature does not allow that force be an efficient cause of right. For peace consists in the tranquility of order, and so, like the concord of private persons, that of rulers is grounded above all in justice and charity."

** Thus, Pius XII explains his sharp distinction between the absolute condemnation of aggressive war and his qualified approval of defensive war in the context of his articulation of the concept of Christian peace: see Christmas Message (24 Dec 1948), AAS 41, (1949) 11-13.


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