Is any war 'Just'?

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Unread postby Kayzr » Tue Sep 11, 2007 11:25 pm

I think that World War 2 qualifies as a just war (against fascism and militarism).
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Unread postby Liu Yuante » Wed Sep 12, 2007 1:49 am

I'd say I have to agree. Even though, before the war and even during it, the U.S. didn't seem to give a damn about the prison camps and genocide taking place, a war that halts activities like these, as horrible as it is, is warranted. Freeing Europe from Hitler was worthwhile, despite the fact that the means to achieve the end was war.

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Unread postby Kayzr » Wed Sep 12, 2007 2:53 am

Although in the case of WW2, the Western Allies had to side with a monster that was just as bad (or worse) than Hitler: Stalin. Hitler was the more pressing problem because, unlike "Uncle Joe," he didn't have any compunctions against a "smash and grab" sort of mentality in Central and Eastern Europe; Hitler wanted it all, whereas the Soviets just wanted secure barrier in Eastern Europe against the Western powers.

I believe that the existence of the Nazi death camps was well-known (to FDR and Churchill), just as the existence of the Soviet gulags was well-known, just as the mass murder of Chinese by the Japanese in East Asia was well-known (Nanking). People might decry the internment of Japanese in the U.S., but the Americans didn't kill these people!

So, it was a moral obligation to fight against Hitler and his allies; Stalin was, to me, worse than Hitler, but it was expedient to ally with him for the Western allies (much to the dislike of men like Patton, who wanted to taken on the Soviets, using SS troops (!!!), after Berlin fell).
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Re: Is any war 'Just'?

Unread postby FoxWithWings » Tue Dec 09, 2014 5:38 am

Hitler was the dragon the USA had to slay then and there. Stalin was the dragon that helped slay the original dragon.

A just war? No, wars are either unnecessary or necessary. Nothing more than that.
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Re: Is any war 'Just'?

Unread postby bodidley » Fri Dec 19, 2014 11:44 am

In the case a of World War II, it was not necessary for the United States to intervene in Europe, purely from the standpoint of an existential threat to the US. There is no way either Germany or Japan could have possible gained the material strength to successfully invade the U.S. (but Bo! The Axis attacked first! Not really, the U.S. was deeply involved in the war long before Pearl Harbor. There were even American pilots killing Japanese troops in China. Even within Europe, while Germany started the war in Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany).

The question is, was defeating the Axis right and was it beneficial? Stopping the mass murder and the insane ideology of the Axis powers is a fairly obvious moral positive. While the Axis did not pose an immediate existential threat to the U.S., they could have posed a long term threat in terms of control of trade, resources population etc to the point where they would. But realistically, the Axis powers were never close to winning the war. In every country they occupied they were dealing with robust partisan movements with which they could not cope and they were stretched to the limit on the fronts where they were engaged with conventional forces. The U.S. did not need to intervene in World War II to prevent Germany from taking over the globe. That outcome was highly unlikely. The peace probably would have looked totally different from the total defeat of the Axis which took place, and the conditions in which international politics functioned would be totally different, perhaps even leading to a worse and catastrophic third world war. Or not. That may be beyond the point of plausible speculation, since there are so many possibilities and factors to consider.

Was the war justly waged? Absolutely not. The Allies, the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union, all participated in war crimes on a massive scale, both officially and unofficially. The strategic bombing campaigns deliberately targeted civilians and were punctuated by famous, horrendous and pointless acts of murder like the firestorm of Dresden, the fire bombing of Tokyo, and finally the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On a smaller scale, American troops killed enemies attempting to surrender in both theaters of operation, but particularly in the Pacific. The tiny numbers of Japanese soldiers taken alive was not just a result of Japan's cultural disdain for the concept of surrender but also the intense hatred and mistrust of American troops toward their enemy. Looting was endemic in American military culture during the war, including cases of trophy hunting, cases where poorly supplied and unpaid troops needed to steal food to survive, but also cases of wanton pillaging.

Was the war competently executed? Not even close. British military doctrine and organization never really managed to cope with the Wehrmacht and the list of military catastrophes suffered by commonwealth troops throughout the war is so long that it eclipses all the major defeats by British troops since the formation of the Union in 1707, and perhaps even military disasters suffered by England going back to the middle ages. America entered the war unprepared, and there were many actions in which commanders sent troops to the slaughter merely to satisfy their egos. The system of replacements in both the Army and Marine Corps meant that fresh troops where sent into action with little training and without any community with the units they were meant to reinforce. In the Army in particular, where units were engaged for much longer periods than the Marine Corps, entire divisions were wiped out and replaced, so that some divisions sustained 300% casualty rates. They were also cases in which American troops starved, froze or both due to poor supply, or were inadequately supplied with weapons.

So what's the point of all this? It's to say that war is complicated, messy and brutal. It's completely foolish to call World War II a good war, it was the worst war. But I'm still glad the United States intervened. The world would be a very different, and probably much worse place if it had not.

Compare WWII to other wars. I never supported the invasion of Iraq, but at the same time, the justifications that made U.S. intervention in WWII a moral struggle could also be applied to Iraq. The issue is whether or not getting involved in a war is going to be practical and successful, and if the outcomes are really going to be what you expect them to be. In comparison to World War II, the war in Iraq wasn't so messy or expensive, but it's also seen as a failure, in part because it's still going on in a new incarnation. But I'm an optimist for Iraq's long term peace and prosperity, and I'm certain, even in the face of so much uncertainty of what could happen in the future, that the forces which were causing so much violence and chaos in 2006 will not succeed in gaining control of the country or inciting the massive genocide towards which the country was headed at that time. In 30 years, we will have a very different perspective of the course of events, but only if we pay attention and if we're really interested in learning from them.
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Re: Is any war 'Just'?

Unread postby James » Mon Dec 29, 2014 9:43 pm

bodidley wrote:In the case a of World War II, it was not necessary for the United States to intervene in Europe, purely from the standpoint of an existential threat to the US. There is no way either Germany or Japan could have possible gained the material strength to successfully invade the U.S. (but Bo! The Axis attacked first! Not really, the U.S. was deeply involved in the war long before Pearl Harbor. There were even American pilots killing Japanese troops in China. Even within Europe, while Germany started the war in Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany).

I don't see how this can be correct. Even if you dismiss Pearl Harbor, prior US involvement, and allied interests, you're still looking at unified forces progressively conquering neighboring lands, which in turn, over time, can lend to greater strength and strategic advantage. Add to the formula the atrocities which were being committed and an established opposition to the United States and you've got a profound threat to the United States.

bodidley wrote:The question is, was defeating the Axis right and was it beneficial? Stopping the mass murder and the insane ideology of the Axis powers is a fairly obvious moral positive. While the Axis did not pose an immediate existential threat to the U.S., they could have posed a long term threat in terms of control of trade, resources population etc to the point where they would. But realistically, the Axis powers were never close to winning the war. In every country they occupied they were dealing with robust partisan movements with which they could not cope and they were stretched to the limit on the fronts where they were engaged with conventional forces. The U.S. did not need to intervene in World War II to prevent Germany from taking over the globe. That outcome was highly unlikely. The peace probably would have looked totally different from the total defeat of the Axis which took place, and the conditions in which international politics functioned would be totally different, perhaps even leading to a worse and catastrophic third world war. Or not. That may be beyond the point of plausible speculation, since there are so many possibilities and factors to consider.

It may be true that the Axis would not have succeeded even without U.S. involvement, but I'm not certain that it is a given (just inclined to believe it) and even if it were not the case, it opens up possibilities for delayed occupation, atrocity committed in greater amounts, a less conclusive resolution to the war, or other wildcards like development of nuclear weapons on a different timeline or narrative.

bodidley wrote:Was the war justly waged? Absolutely not. The Allies, the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union, all participated in war crimes on a massive scale, both officially and unofficially. The strategic bombing campaigns deliberately targeted civilians and were punctuated by famous, horrendous and pointless acts of murder like the firestorm of Dresden, the fire bombing of Tokyo, and finally the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On a smaller scale, American troops killed enemies attempting to surrender in both theaters of operation, but particularly in the Pacific. The tiny numbers of Japanese soldiers taken alive was not just a result of Japan's cultural disdain for the concept of surrender but also the intense hatred and mistrust of American troops toward their enemy. Looting was endemic in American military culture during the war, including cases of trophy hunting, cases where poorly supplied and unpaid troops needed to steal food to survive, but also cases of wanton pillaging.

I disagree at this point with your conclusion that the war was not just. Atrocities committed and the fact that Axis was the aggressor is reason enough, I would have thought. But I'm also disagreeing with some of your other reasoning here. That said, yes, atrocities were committed by both sides. I think the destruction of civilians and those horrible firebombing serve as particular examples, but would you go so far as to say they had no material impact on what was already a truly horrific war? They had a significant material impact, as did the nuclear weapons used in the end. There is much to be disgusted with wherever you look in these wars, but I think it is very dangerous for honest discussion to imply by saying, 'atrocities were committed by both sides' that it somehow washes out. I see that as false equivalency.

bodidley wrote:Was the war competently executed? Not even close. British military doctrine and organization never really managed to cope with the Wehrmacht and the list of military catastrophes suffered by commonwealth troops throughout the war is so long that it eclipses all the major defeats by British troops since the formation of the Union in 1707, and perhaps even military disasters suffered by England going back to the middle ages. America entered the war unprepared, and there were many actions in which commanders sent troops to the slaughter merely to satisfy their egos. The system of replacements in both the Army and Marine Corps meant that fresh troops where sent into action with little training and without any community with the units they were meant to reinforce. In the Army in particular, where units were engaged for much longer periods than the Marine Corps, entire divisions were wiped out and replaced, so that some divisions sustained 300% casualty rates. They were also cases in which American troops starved, froze or both due to poor supply, or were inadequately supplied with weapons.

There's a fine balance between recognizing the very real losses of Allied forces and attributing those deaths to 'commanders [sending] troops to the slaughter merely to satisfy their egos'.

bodidley wrote:So what's the point of all this? It's to say that war is complicated, messy and brutal. It's completely foolish to call World War II a good war, it was the worst war. But I'm still glad the United States intervened. The world would be a very different, and probably much worse place if it had not.

Agreed.

bodidley wrote:Compare WWII to other wars. I never supported the invasion of Iraq, but at the same time, the justifications that made U.S. intervention in WWII a moral struggle could also be applied to Iraq.

It can't, though. Not honestly. They're not the same thing at all.

And that's part of the reason why you rarely see someone trying to make such an association.
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Re: Is any war 'Just'?

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Wed Dec 31, 2014 1:54 am

In American history, the closest things we've had to just wars were the Civil War and WWII. Sadly, in the first one my paternal-line ancestors fought for the wrong side.

bodidley wrote:In the case a of World War II, it was not necessary for the United States to intervene in Europe, purely from the standpoint of an existential threat to the US. There is no way either Germany or Japan could have possible gained the material strength to successfully invade the U.S. (but Bo! The Axis attacked first! Not really, the U.S. was deeply involved in the war long before Pearl Harbor. There were even American pilots killing Japanese troops in China. Even within Europe, while Germany started the war in Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany).


James wrote:I don't see how this can be correct. Even if you dismiss Pearl Harbor, prior US involvement, and allied interests, you're still looking at unified forces progressively conquering neighboring lands, which in turn, over time, can lend to greater strength and strategic advantage. Add to the formula the atrocities which were being committed and an established opposition to the United States and you've got a profound threat to the United States.


I agree with James on this one. Bodidley, American volunteers for Jiang Jieshi in China, as in the war against Franco in Spain, were not there at the orders of our government or flying our flag. There's a huge difference there. There was no provocation for Pearl Harbour - there, as at Port-Arthur 50 years before, the Japanese used a surprise attack to launch offensives aimed not at defending themselves, but for taking islands and territories belonging to their rivals. Our involvement in the European theatre of the war prior to Pearl Harbour was entirely logistical - FDR didn't want to commit troops to Europe even after the war began.

James wrote:It may be true that the Axis would not have succeeded even without U.S. involvement, but I'm not certain that it is a given (just inclined to believe it) and even if it were not the case, it opens up possibilities for delayed occupation, atrocity committed in greater amounts, a less conclusive resolution to the war, or other wildcards like development of nuclear weapons on a different timeline or narrative.


I'm not a fan of 'what-if' counterfactual histories outside fiction - they're kind of pointless and never definitively answer any historical questions. I don't think we're competent to say what might have happened without our involvement, and I'm even tempted to say the outcome might not have been that different if we'd just kept providing logistics to the British and to the Russians.

But as it was, we were attacked by Japan, and our involvement in the war was, as it turned out, inevitable.

James wrote:That said, yes, atrocities were committed by both sides. I think the destruction of civilians and those horrible firebombing serve as particular examples, but would you go so far as to say they had no material impact on what was already a truly horrific war? They had a significant material impact, as did the nuclear weapons used in the end. There is much to be disgusted with wherever you look in these wars, but I think it is very dangerous for honest discussion to imply by saying, 'atrocities were committed by both sides' that it somehow washes out. I see that as false equivalency.


The use of nuclear weapons was reprehensible for other reasons besides the casualties they produced, though. And it was uniquely reprehensible. It was done over the objections of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project (notably Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein), it was done with callous disregard of civilian life, and it wasn't even done to bring the war to an end more quickly - in the final analysis it was done only to scare the Soviets.

That having been said, though, it's really hard to compete in the Atrocity Olympics with a nation like Nazi Germany which killed 11 million people over the space of six years. Or with a nation like Imperial Japan which killed 300,000 people in Nanjing over the space of six weeks. I agree with you, James, there's no comparison there.

bodidley wrote:America entered the war unprepared, and there were many actions in which commanders sent troops to the slaughter merely to satisfy their egos. The system of replacements in both the Army and Marine Corps meant that fresh troops where sent into action with little training and without any community with the units they were meant to reinforce.


James wrote:There's a fine balance between recognizing the very real losses of Allied forces and attributing those deaths to 'commanders [sending] troops to the slaughter merely to satisfy their egos'.


That strikes me as a better summation of the conduct of the First World War than the Second, bo. Yes, there were some incredibly wasteful strategies in terms of human lives in the Second World War. But many of the best battlefield commanders took the lessons of the Great War very much to heart - amongst them one General Dwight Eisenhower. He did his best to minimise the casualties amongst his own troops, and personally visited every division under his command, and even prepared to take personal responsibility should D-Day have failed. He even managed to rein in Patton - a remarkable feat in and of itself.

Yes, Patton and MacArthur both were preening egotists. But let's not lump them in with somebody like Eisenhower, who took full responsibility for every decision he made.

James wrote:It can't, though. Not honestly. They're not the same thing at all.

And that's part of the reason why you rarely see someone trying to make such an association.


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Re: Is any war 'Just'?

Unread postby James » Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:03 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:I'm not a fan of 'what-if' counterfactual histories outside fiction - they're kind of pointless and never definitively answer any historical questions. I don't think we're competent to say what might have happened without our involvement, and I'm even tempted to say the outcome might not have been that different if we'd just kept providing logistics to the British and to the Russians.

But as it was, we were attacked by Japan, and our involvement in the war was, as it turned out, inevitable.

Agreed.

WeiWenDi wrote:The use of nuclear weapons was reprehensible for other reasons besides the casualties they produced, though. And it was uniquely reprehensible. It was done over the objections of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project (notably Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein), it was done with callous disregard of civilian life, and it wasn't even done to bring the war to an end more quickly - in the final analysis it was done only to scare the Soviets.

That having been said, though, it's really hard to compete in the Atrocity Olympics with a nation like Nazi Germany which killed 11 million people over the space of six years. Or with a nation like Imperial Japan which killed 300,000 people in Nanjing over the space of six weeks. I agree with you, James, there's no comparison there.

Mostly I agree here. I'm skeptical of a claim that it was done only to scare the Soviets (reference for reading?) as that disagrees with everything I've read and what seems like more probable reasoning. If anything it serves as one of multiple goals. In any case, I wouldn't rank it the greatest atrocity of WWII (to any extent represented by 'uniquely reprehensible, though literally, yes, it was 'uniquely reprehensible''). The firebombings were far more destructive in terms of innocent life, and I'd personally rank foremost genocidal practices ahead of that. The Manhattan Project was also not the only effort making research progress, though any speculation there would require knowledge of what allied forces actually knew or suspected about opposed research. I know it is odd to lend any defense to something so atrocious, but I think it is also important to keep in context how different warfare was during WWII as compared today with more advanced technology—the extent to which civilian life and general loss of life was involved then vs. today. The extent to which international human rights have matured (even if they've got plenty of room to continue growing). Or even the extent to which civilians not only in Japan but the United States as well were involved in logistically supporting their country's military machine.

That said, agreed completely about those on the Manhattan Project. If indeed 'agreed' can be used as a label here. Their positions on this subject are well recorded history.

I would also add that this event should serve as a very real reminder why nuclear weapons should never be used again, and stockpiles scaled back/destroyed. Adding to the fact that nuclear weapons today are far more destructive than those used during WWII, as would be the potential consequences to life across the globe.

WeiWenDi wrote:That strikes me as a better summation of the conduct of the First World War than the Second, bo. Yes, there were some incredibly wasteful strategies in terms of human lives in the Second World War. But many of the best battlefield commanders took the lessons of the Great War very much to heart - amongst them one General Dwight Eisenhower. He did his best to minimise the casualties amongst his own troops, and personally visited every division under his command, and even prepared to take personal responsibility should D-Day have failed. He even managed to rein in Patton - a remarkable feat in and of itself.

Yes, Patton and MacArthur both were preening egotists. But let's not lump them in with somebody like Eisenhower, who took full responsibility for every decision he made.

Agreed.

James wrote:Can I get an 'amen' on that? :D

Yes, sir, you certainly may.
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Re: Is any war 'Just'?

Unread postby DreamGoddessLindsey » Thu Jan 08, 2015 12:21 am

Yes, there are just wars. It's just a rare thing.

The last completely just war the United States participated in was World War II.

As for the nukes, I agree that they were horrible, but they were a necessary evil at the time. You do not get into a land war in Japan. You simply don't. The further casualties on both sides would likely have been in the millions had the nukes not been used, though I think one would have sufficed.

To this day we would probably still lose or badly win a land war in Japan.
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Re: Is any war 'Just'?

Unread postby bodidley » Tue Sep 01, 2015 2:01 am

WeiWenDi wrote:American volunteers for Jiang Jieshi in China, as in the war against Franco in Spain, were not there at the orders of our government or flying our flag. There's a huge difference there. There was no provocation for Pearl Harbour


WeiWenDi wrote:That strikes me as a better summation of the conduct of the First World War than the Second, bo. Yes, there were some incredibly wasteful strategies in terms of human lives in the Second World War. But many of the best battlefield commanders took the lessons of the Great War very much to heart - amongst them one General Dwight Eisenhower. He did his best to minimise the casualties amongst his own troops, and personally visited every division under his command, and even prepared to take personal responsibility should D-Day have failed. He even managed to rein in Patton - a remarkable feat in and of itself.


I'm going to challenge your version of history here. The American pilots volunteering in China were organized and aided by the U.S. government, they weren't just an enthusiastic group of independent foreign volunteers. The U.S. was also embargoing Japan and sending materiel to both the U.K. and China. It wasn't a coincidence that the size of the Army was rapidly increased in the years leading up to U.S. participation in the war.

On the topic of U.S. casualties, are you aware that many U.S. divisions had a greater than 100% casualty rate? That is largely because of bureaucratic leadership grinding away the original cadres that made up the units in pointless and poorly supported offensives and replacing them with untrained troops fresh from the states. I don't see Eisenhower as having taken particular steps to minimize casualties, either. He was a great politician but he wasn't considered much of a general by his peers. The cliche depiction of Patton as bloodthirsty is also inaccurate. Eisenhower never came close to tears in a public speech talking about his fallen comrades, as Patton did. If anything, Eisenhower got many men killed endorsing failed operations while keeping Patton from carrying out more decisive maneuvers.

I think that the reasons people see the struggle in World War II as just and the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan as unjust are social rather than logical. People are far removed from the horrors of World War II and so it's easy to ignore our own atrocities during the war. The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan were conducted with remarkable discipline against enemies equally as repugnant as the Nazis, but they threatened people's enjoyment of their apathy.
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