ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Ethics Of War

Updated on August 9, 2012

When we get into criticizing war, we need to ask ourselves a question: was a war that occurred between two countries justified as a method of solving tensions between them. Ethics is a science that primarily questions morals of people and all other sensible creatures, but that science might not be able to solve the question of war. Ethics can only solve the role of an individual in war, is that individual responsible for its outbreak and further development.

We should know that politics is always directed towards the possibility of war. Every diplomatic step has the possibility to lead to war, and that’s why every step needs to have a sort of “backup” or coverage. As your credit card has coverage on your bank account, as every currency has its coverage in the international economy, that’s how every diplomatic step has coverage in population and weapons which can be applied to bring diplomatic decisions to a desired goal. Politics treats war just like a threat by force treats force itself. The one who threats by force (eg. a state) needs to be able to use that force even contrary to the will of the carrier of the force (population, people). So, state can use its authority to apply general mobilization and drag all able men from their workplaces to battlefield – that is an example of using force despite the will of the force carrier. People are force carriers, and the head of the state is just a little pile of meat, bones and excrement – but he has the authority, and such are people (politicians) around him. If all generals of an army gathered together, they wouldn’t have enough power to resist another army or either to their own people if people refused to get mobilized. It is the same with college or high school professors – altogether they could just extinguish the candles and close the inn if there aren’t any students to attend their classes. Their power rests on number and quality of students, just like the power of a ruler rests on its people and that’s why they need to keep masses of people on a tight leash so that a ruler would need just a single hand movement to mobilize them because they are, in one part too frightened by ruler’s authority, in the other part they cultivate a collective spirit which is against individual’s refusal to go to war, and partly people are inspired by nationalism. If somebody refused to serve in the army or to go to war, people would mock him, make fun of him, ostracize or imprison him. Like it is some big deal to be able to kill somebody. Anybody can kill, you don’t need to be very intelligent to kill somebody – even an idiot can do it. There is an interesting story of Gautama Buddha: Buddha was walking on a mountain path and some bandit jumped out of the bush and threatened to kill him. Buddha said that “I have nothing against it, but you wouldn’t accomplish much.” The bandit was puzzled, so Buddha told him to tweak that little branch from a nearby tree. So the bandit tweaked it. Buddha then said: “Now put it back on a tree and make it grow again.” The bandit understood the message immediately: it is very easy to kill, as it is easy to tweak a branch. But to fix things, or to give a new life to somebody, that is not that easy. But we are used to fixing things by killing each other, and that way we are acting like idiots and are not accomplishing anything.

I have always wondered what is that single thing that a man needs to have in his head to be able to WILLINGLY go to war, and my friend answered that only stupidity is needed. Then I started wondering why are there so many intelligent people who proudly and positively sing about war (in general) and heroic deeds of war. Here I think of a music genre called black metal. People who engage in that music are surely intelligent and individualistic, and they are affirmative about war. But for them, “war” is just a metaphor for personal war, and that is an example of “moral war” which is primarily against exploitative society, against people who let themselves be exploited, against those of weak spirit. There is no, should we say, any physical contact in that war. When metal music in general sings about war as a conflict it almost always concentrates primarily on the feelings of an individual on a battlefield, on his misery, and questions like “how did it come to this?” and “what will happen next?”, or on his pride because he spilled his own or others’ blood, on euphoria that followed him through the fight, personal hate that he released, on that fact that in the battlefield he felt alive for the first time. Those examples tell us that battle and war can be presented as glamorous because they evoke such feelings as euphoria, glory, pride, catharsis, the feeling of being alive. But it can be done so in poetry and other arts. On the battlefield, things are different. Concerning artistic depiction of war, ancient philosopher Plato offered us his observation. For him, work of art is a depiction of somebody else’s picture of reality, or phantasmagoria. The artist first had to see something with his own eyes, or feel with his senses, but all senses are deceptive. After that, the artist understood that what he saw, but he understood it in his own way, that picture in his head might be distorted by some former experiences. Then, he tries to transport the picture in his head on the paper, and no matter how hard he tried, people will not be able to perfectly understand that which he wanted to say. People are able to contact the artist only through his works, but nobody knows what is happening deep inside him.

Let us assume that some talented poet has been in a war, that he knows how it is like and then he wrote poems to describe it. Those who read that poems could think: yes, that is war, and it is great, I can’t wait to be there myself, to be a hero, so the skies will sing my name. Of course, the reader is cheated, he dreams of a beautiful death and a beautiful battle, but if he ever came to a front, the first sword would cut him before he even started pulling out his sword.

Many people think that war is justified if it is done out of retaliation, or some injustice is involved, but if war should become the only road to justice, then justice would be very inconvenient! It is said that war is the mover of human kind, that it serves a purpose of creating a “new” justice. But if we find justification of war in retaliation then it couldn’t be said that it is used to create new, but rather to keep the old justice, to bring the old condition back again. But neither that is true, since all territories that have suffered war are never the same, many people got killed there, both civilians and soldiers, those territories can never be the same as before the wind of war passed through them. That cannot be called “the new justice”, either.

War cannot have a meaning because winning the war has no sense. War doesn’t enrich national culture as you might think, it just nulls it. National culture is the qualitative determination of people, and militant consciousness – the one that supports war – doesn’t look on people as nations but rather as big groups of human flesh ready to wear uniform. Those most conservative nationalists, the ones that provoke wars, don’t really appreciate their nation as much as they like to talk about it. They don’t appreciate it for it’s culture, traditions, and social features. No, they see their nation as an impersonal force that is ready to stand against the other impersonal force, and justification for that they find in the claim that the other force is “more impersonal”. In my country, for example, there have even been claims that our neighbor nation, the Croats, is a “cloned nation”. That might seem funny to everybody, but there are people who really believe in that!

National costumes are a fine symbol for impersonality of war. In peaceful times, national costumes of every nation are very colorful but in war time, soldiers of all nations wear the same color uniform. The very word uni-form speaks for itself: it is a suit that everybody wears.

Ethics and other branches of philosophy cannot find justification for war. That justification can only be found by religion, because religion sees some higher values in war, it sees something which is not fathomable to us common people. Religion has the same stance towards war as it has for pain. Pain purges, but the infliction of pain is condemned.

We have always seen war as the ultimate way of solving conflict. Maybe it is. And it will be forever. As long as humans are being learned to behave aggressively towards life, war will be inevitable. You might now say that religion justifies war because it causes wars to happen, and has caused them throghout history. And you might be right, but I rather think that the impact of religion on wars is not direct. I think that none of them really wanted to cause conflicts, they were just doing the things that seemed best for themselves – and they were not conscious enough to evaluate what could come out of their deeds.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)