On War and Morality

On War and Morality

Robert L. Holmes
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 324
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv63f
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    On War and Morality
    Book Description:

    The threat to the survival of humankind posed by nuclear weapons has been a frightening and essential focus of public debate for the last four decades and must continue to be so if we are to avoid destroying ourselves and the natural world around us. One unfortunate result of preoccupation with the nuclear threat, however, has been a new kind of "respectability" accorded to conventional war. In this radical and cogent argument for pacifism, Robert Holmes asserts that all war--not just nuclear war--has become morally impermissible in the modern world. Addressing a wide audience of informed and concerned readers, he raises dramatic questions about the concepts of "political realism" and nuclear deterrence, makes a number of persuasive suggestions for nonviolent alternatives to war, and presents a rich panorama of thinking about war from St. Augustine to Reinhold Niebuhr and Herman Kahn.

    Holmes's positions are compellingly presented and will provoke discussion both among convinced pacifists and among those whom he calls "militarists." "Militarists," we realize after reading this book, include the majority of us who live a friendly and peaceful personal life while supporting a system which, if Holmes is correct, guarantees war and risks eventual human extinction.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6014-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-18)

    The paradox of contemporary civilization is that beyond a certain point the individual’s security begins to vary inversely with the power embodied in the systems meant to ensure that security. Not only can the increasingly powerful domestic security apparatus of the state at any time be turned against him—a potentiality kept from fruition chiefly by chance, circumstance, and, where they exist, by the fragile safeguards of democracy—but, even more importantly, the capacity for destruction which states have acquired through their efforts to outdo one another in the pursuit of security through armaments effectively deprives all of the security...

  5. ONE VIOLENCE AND THE PERSPECTIVE OF MORALITY
    (pp. 19-49)

    “The characteristic feature of all ethics,” Simone de Beauvoir once wrote, “is to consider human life as a game that can be won or lost and to teach man the means of winning.”¹ The point, we may suppose, is that without ethics there is no purpose to life, no winning or losing, no reason to live one way rather than another. This, we may suppose further, is true even for those with a religious commitment, for even religion bears upon conduct only to the extent that it at least implies an ethics.

    De Beauvoir was speaking here of individual human...

  6. TWO POLITICAL REALISM: THE CHALLENGE TO MORALITY IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
    (pp. 50-82)

    Political realism has a certain initial appeal. If, as one analyst writes,Realpolitikis “the only creed appropriate to the conduct of foreign relations,” then power politics “is the only game in town. The only choice open to the United States is between playing it effectively or ineffectively.”¹ Playing it effectively calls up images of decisive, no-nonsense men making hard decisions in the “real world”—men of the sort, we like to think, who won the West and made America great. And it is men like this, the thinking goes, who know how to deal with America’s enemies. Unburdened by...

  7. THREE REASON OF STATE, MILITARY NECESSITY, AND DOMESTIC SECURITY
    (pp. 83-113)

    Political realism in twentieth-century American thought, as we have seen, is primarily normative. It argues that mortalityshouldbe excluded from international relations, or at best given a limited role. This sets it apart from the positivistic realism of those who deny the very intelligibility of applying moral notions to the conduct of states.

    I shall comment later upon the theological-metaphysical view of human nature underlying much of this approach. Before that, however, I want to examine the Niebuhrian view that groups are incapable of achieving the same standard of mortality as individuals and that therefore a collective morality must...

  8. FOUR ST. AUGUSTINE ON THE JUSTIFICATION OF WAR
    (pp. 114-145)

    If war is of the gravest moral concern, then it is important to understand the thinking of those who support it as well as of those who oppose it. When I say “support” it, I do not mean necessarily in the sense of advocating it, urging that nations wage wars and claiming, say, with Treitschke or Hegel, that some abstract good will somehow emerge if this is done. Few do this. Most people believe that war is a terrible thing, that it should be avoided if at all possible, and that we should try to create a world in which...

  9. FIVE CAN WAR BE MORALLY JUSTIFIED? THE JUST WAR THEORY
    (pp. 146-182)

    Augustine makes a powerful case for the justifiability of war. Grant just a few of his premises, and all the rest follows, enveloped in a theological-metaphysical-eschatalogical wrapping that renders it impervious to countervailing evidence and argument. Virtually every major just war theorist in the Western tradition, as I have said, builds upon his work.

    This is not to say there is not other important work on morality and war outside of the Western tradition. Both Judaism and Islam give attention to the issue, particularly to the question of how war should be conducted, as does some Eastern thought. It is...

  10. SIX THE KILLING OF INNOCENT PERSONS IN WARTIME
    (pp. 183-213)

    If the means necessary to waging war cannot be justified, then war cannot be justified and no war can be just. Not only must there be moral constraints upon theconductof war even if the war is in all other particulars justified; the possibility must be recognized that there are moral constraints upon the treatment of persons that prohibit thewagingof war in the first place, that is, even engaging in the limited killing and destruction that otherwise just wars entail.

    Although Augustine gave this little attention, most just war theorists impose limitations upon the conduct of war....

  11. SEVEN NUCLEAR DETERRENCE: THE ILLUSION OF SECURITY
    (pp. 214-259)

    John Foster Dulles once called deterrence “one of the great advances of our time.” The thought behind this, as elaborated by Robert W. Tucker, is that deterrence provides an alternative to traditional notions of defense, so that “peace-loving nations may realize the purposes otherwise frequently realized only through a defensive war though without ever having to engage in such a war.”¹

    In other words, nations once had todefendthemselves to ward off aggression. This meant fighting, killing, and dying. It was the business of the just war theory to spell out the conditions under which this was supposedly justified....

  12. EIGHT THE ALTERNATIVE TO WAR
    (pp. 260-296)

    The problem is not ultimately with nuclear weapons. The problem is with the belief that security can be achieved through armaments. So long as this belief is clung to, the limitation, reduction, and even elimination of nuclear weapons—as desirable as that would be—will not solve our problems.

    We turn to armaments for national security. But what is it that we are trying to preserve? What constitutes security?

    John Stuart Mill characterized security as a higher-order interest, present when the essentials of well-being are adequately protected. We should consider this carefully. We have become accustomed to identifying security with...

  13. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 297-302)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 303-310)