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  • Reverend James Squire

Just War Clause

I have not heard the phrase used or written, Just War Clause, which is the foundation for all that constitutes unethical or ethical behavior that leads to combat. The Just War clause is part of Natural Law where there must be a justification between “Thou shall not kill.” and “having to go war.” It contains several criteria for a war to be justified. I will focus on just three of those as this relates to whether war with another country is ethical.

First, the war must be fought out of self-defense. It can’t be ethical if it is initiated by another country in their self-interest. Clearly Putin’s declaring a “special military” initiative is not “special” but a war that is unethical. The counter argument would be that any effort to stop the Russian invasion would be sanctioned and encouraged as an ethical action.

Second, the war must be fought in a conventional fashion. Usually this means that the war should be fought in the same way that two teams compete on a level playing field of resources. The Russians war against Ukraine does not possess this “fairness” piece as the Russians have a massive force in the ready and now in the invasion. Notice that Putin completely refrains from using the word, invasion. Unconventional warfare also refers to such issues as germ warfare or, in the case of World War 1, the use of mustard gas. So far there has not been evidence of the Russians employing such tactics although they seem to have a renewed interest in the nuclear plant at Chernobyl that melted down years ago which has left that area still contaminated.

Third, Proportionality refers to the fact that the quality of the peace needs to be superior to what would have happened if no war would have been fought.

From an ethical standpoint, when you go to war, you should be able to envision what the end result of the war would look like. I can’t imagine that things will ever be the same in terms of “safety” for the world in general and for Europe in particular. To use an oft quoted phrase, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” What could that peace possibly look like? I, for one, do not know!

There is a not -so- subtle message in the recent events that have been orchestrated by one man.

There is one thing that we forget at the risk of our own peril. One man can make decisions that brings down death and horror to others. We now add Putin to the list that contains Trump (deaths caused by inaction when not addressing the pandemic), and Hitler. All three depend on peoples’ belief that surely no one could be so callous and cause so much despair in the hearts of humankind. This recent witness of one man’s lack of humanity is much more that autocracy vs. democracy. It is the good looking at the evil that is in the hearts of the few.

The Business Insider notes that, “Russian President Vladimir Putin made a brazen declaration when announcing an unprovoked military assault on Ukraine. In addition to calling on Ukrainian forces to lay down their weapons and warning other countries from interfering, Putin said he was acting to prevent a genocide against Russian-speakers and aiming for the demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine. The Russian president’s claim that he’s working toward the de-Nazification of Ukraine is also nonsense because Zelensky, who was democratically elected to office in 2019 following a free and fair election, is Jewish.”

There are two words that have also not been written or spoken that need to be part of the response to Putin which could shake him to his very foundation. They are two words that brought the discipline of bioethics into existence as a result of the Nuremberg Trial of Nazi leaders. Those two words are war criminal. If guilty the punishment is a lengthy prison sentence or death.

Putin was moving into an ethical area where he lacked awareness when he mentioned a derivation of the word Nazi in the goal of the de-Nazification of Ukraine. That word could/should come back to haunt him.

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