Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jus In Bello

By now you’ve probably heard the uproar over Michael Moore’s “snipers are cowards” comment regarding the movie “America Sniper”. Some other Hollywood types and left-leaners have questioned the story’s glorification of Chris Kyle, THE American Sniper. He was from Texas, he killed the bad guys, he believed in God and he was not always politically correct. I’ll take that kind of guy on my team any day.

I get it that there are at least two sides to every story. When one looks at the photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombs were dropped, one must ask “Was this really necessary?”. Could we have defeated the Nazi’s without fire-bombing Dresden? Did Sherman have to burn most of Georgia and South Carolina near the end of the Civil War. Why are innocent people killed in war and why do we choose to call it collateral damage? Robert E. Lee penned these words in a letter to his wife:
"What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.”

“Just War Theory” (jus bellum iustum) postulates that war, while very terrible, is not always the worst option. There may be responsibilities so important, atrocities which can be prevented or outcomes so undesirable they justify war (Quinlen/Guthrie, “The Just War Tradition”). “Jus In Bello” (right conduct in war) is a key part of Just War Theory. Military necessity is a key principle when it comes to “right conduct in war”. Essentially, it says that an attack or action must be intended to help in the military defeat of the enemy; it must be an attack on a military objective, and the harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. This principle is meant to limit excessive and unnecessary death and destruction.

I will grant that one might fairly debate the military necessity of dropping the big ones on Japan or fire-bombing Dresden. (I would come down firmly on the side of those being the right calls by the way.) But I don’t see much room even for debate on the use of snipers. This would seem to clearly fall well within the bounds of military necessity. And those bounds become even broader when fighting an enemy whose “Jus In Bello” is based on “Holy” War Theory. For it would appear that to some of our enemies, all is fair and just in their “Holy” War.

I cannot understand why some of our fellow Americans, even some of our leaders, are so critical of those who fight and shed blood and die for us. I think it’s because sometimes those heroes must also kill for us. And killing is a dirty business. That’s part of the job we send them out to do. It’s a terrible thing to take another human life. But sometimes it’s necessary and justified. And, in my opinion it’s more than OK, in fact it’s our duty and responsibility, to respect and honor those who fight our wars.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Thousand Million Questions

The New Year is still “new” but for me it’s already starting to feel like something more than just new. 2015 is starting to feel like one of those “defining moment” years: 1929, 1941, 1963, 1968, 1984, 2001, 2008. I think 2015 might just end up on that list. It is shaping up to be a year of questions that will challenge us. But it will be the answers that define us. And that’s where this year could be something special.

My 2015 predictions are already off to a rocky start with oil prices falling below my $50 prediction only a few days after I went out on that limb. So I hesitate to make more predictions, but the big questions are out there and many are likely to be answered this year. Those “big questions” include:

_1 How will the civilized world deal with radical Islam? It would appear that perhaps we’ve finally reached the point of “enough is enough”. But what does that mean and how does it translate into action? We’ve run out of time. 2015 is the year of decision.

_2 What is the future of Obamacare? Supreme Court decisions may answer that question. If the Affordable Care Act goes back to the drawing board, it is likely dead. Then what?

_3 What happens with Immigration Reform? The status quo is unsustainable. So something is likely to pass this year. It’s another one of those “we’ve run out of time” issues.

_4 What directions are to be taken by our two major political parties? Both realize that they have to move back toward the center. They cannot wait until 2016 to make those moves. 2016 may end up being the year that goes down in the history books as one of “moderation” in politics, but the seeds will be planted in 2015.

_5 What will be the final answer on Gay Marriage? The Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases on this issue. Instead of silence, they will speak. I said that I am hesitant to make further predictions, but I predict that they will rule against those states who have banned gay marriage. Conservatives will scream, but conservative politicians will be glad that this one is finally settled.

_6 Where will energy prices go? This is a huge question. In the short-run, cheaper energy helps our economy. But in the long-run if prices are so low that foreign producers regain market share and domestic production capacity goes into decline; the balance of power shifts further to those who control our energy supply.

_7 Will we invest in our future? Infrastructure and education in this country are broken. It’s probably a reach to think that both areas will be addressed in 2015, but we really are running out of time here. I think there is bi-partisan support for doing something on infrastructure. And the Obama administration’s proposal to offer “free” community college education opportunities is worthy of discussion and is likely to receive a lot of support from business and industry.

Certainly there are a thousand, million other questions and some of them are near the top of the list. Global warming, race relations, the Federal deficit, the tax code, whether or not college athletes in major sports should be paid and is it really “all about that bass”? And, no doubt, something will happened that elevates some other question to the top of the list of potential game changers. However it turns out, 2015 is likely to be one of those unforgettable years.

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door?
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war.

It's where we stop and look around us
There is nothing that we need.
In a world of persecution
That is burning in its greed.

-“Question”, Moody Blues song, lyrics by Justin Hayward.