PHILOMADRID

PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Monday, August 07, 2006

Can we live without wars?

Can we live without wars?



Unless stated otherwise, war is usually associated with weapons, killing, soldiers, invasions, civilian casualties and every thing else that one needs to have a good old fashioned war. Some times it is stated otherwise, so we get cod war, cold war, drugs war and price war. War is conflict.


Traditionally, the meaning of war centred on the meaning of: actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities. Of course the second world war was indeed a war under these criteria. A gang fight is not a war.


The main arguments against war have been: the just war, realism and pacifism. The just war position is to accept a moral justification for a war usually based on self defence. On this argument, going to war is not justified but self defence is. Pacifism, accepts that there are moral principles that apply to wars but nevertheless war is always wrong. Realism, as one would expect, argues that morality has nothing to do with war. It is all about power and cunning. In a way realism might be as palatable as cold steel, but it does exploit a weakness in morality. In a way realism is saying, Okay, wars might be wrong, but morality has never stopped a war, now, has it?


On the above definition, 'armed' seems to be the decisive concept to have a war. Using this criteria today, European countries, it can be said, are not at war. But once we remove 'armed' from the definition we end up with something quite different. For example, economic conflict looks like a good candidate for possible war.


Let's go back a step or two. Looking back in time, armed conflict has been around since well into pre-history. It is true that the concept of 'political' takes a rather new meaning, but this is a difference of substance not form. A family or a tribe may be regarded as a political community for our purposes.


We can therefore safely say that so far we were unable to live without wars. And since a war is a war, no matter how justified it is or how much we wish it away, it is a reasonable move to look at the causes and effects of wars.


I'm sure that each war had its own circumstances to get started, but without checking the history books wars seem to fall into one of the following categories: power, economics or security. Have you noticed something? These are also the three main categories for conflict in an individual's life.


Let us look at the effects of war. Death, distraction, curtailment of freedom, refugees and fear to mention just a few ideas. Have you noticed something? If we remove 'armed' from our classical definition of war we can say: death by inequality of the distribution of resources; destruction by pollution and toxic waste; curtailment of freedom by financial emasculation, economic migration and fear through social and financial instability.


It seems clear to me that there is more to war than just arms and killing people. What's not clear to me is whether anyone cares enough to stop wars.



Take care


Lawrence


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