Ethics of War essay

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Michael Walzer in the book “Just and unjust wars: Amoral argument with historic illustration” examines the surrounding moral issues concerning different theories such as military theories and morality theories.  In this way, he looks into the different conflicts from the historical period. He reminds the commentators that “the argument about war and justice is still a political and moral necessity” (Walzer 75). Some of the commentators argue on the asymmetrical welfare or the long standing tradition that has existed in the western culture. This tradition differentiates between just and unjust war. The commentators seem to be opposed to the war principles and the basic idea that presents a distinctive plausible argument on the war. The jus in bello war theory is not perfect but has a political aspect that is necessary. This is because every war exists in a moral deliberation. In other words, moral category arguments do not apply or convince an inherent moral evil. In other words, these wars are not subjected to moral standards. In this case, some wars will be unjust as compared to others. According to Walzer, ”the argument about war and justice is still a political and moral necessity” (Walzer 21).

This simply means that the commentators have reason to worry, and that this theory may be justified in a way. The vital question is “How does this theory expect to justify the pursuit of wars?” and “How can commentators measure the morals of one war and the other?” Well, it is amusing to note that all the people involved and interested in wars have to demonstrate principals that are presumed to be against violence and that can be overcome by the same. All the principles involved in this theory have value and relevance. It is necessary to note that these principles are extremely difficult to employ because of contradictions and inherent ambiguities. This simply means that this theory has some difficulties which are questionable and problematic. However, this does not mean that this theory is useless but that it does not help to define absolute boundaries.

Sherman’s and Clausewitz’s Ideas of War

Clausewitz’s and Sherman’s ideas have attracted many controversies and suggestions from many parts of the world. Clausewitz’s war ideologies are based on the morality of war as opposed to jus in bello theory. This ideology views war as a political concept that is necessary in the limitation of the use of force between two or more states. Clausewitz examines the importance and essence of war. According to Walzer, “Sherman was right; war is hell” (Walzer 12). This simply means that war is just or simply an act of force that is used to compel an enemy to follow or do the will of the aggressor. However, this is a code of ethics that abstracts the war notion in an extraordinary conflicting way. In other words, force has no logic limit but rather focuses on objectives. He also suggests that war is simply a logical fantasy that can never motivate the real actors or the world at large. According to this theory, war is not absolute in reality but is simply an attempt to overcome initial shortcomings in the future or later conflict.

War, according to this theory, is never final and thus is never absolute. In other words, war is simply a way to put policies in place by using other limits.  Walzer states that “collective responsibility is a hard notion, though it is worth mentioning at once when we have fewer problems with collective punishment” (Walzer 296). In this case, this is an excellent argument that focuses on moral permissibility in order to constitute fair retaliation during warfare. This reasonable and intellectual guideline deals with collective complex relationships.

Clausewitz’s theory considers the ethical beliefs that guide the conduct of war while jus in bello establishes when and why the non violent presumptions against the same can be overridden and war against a state justified. Jus in bello also focuses on the system or right criteria to use in determining the right conduct of the war. This means that it sets limitation on the conduct in which these limitations may be used. According to Clausewitz’s views, the elements of war relations and international relations are based on a realist perspective. In this case, it is related to primary actors who are in an anarchy that dictates the characteristics and behavior on the same. This means that the state needs to be concerned about the relative power that should be willing to use force in order to obtain or get this power. This is a proposition that highlights the conditions and imparities of national survival. Walzer states that “in war, rules are silent” (Walzer 128). In this way, the author separates and examines the justice for fighting in a war and justice for going to war. This questions the decisions and limitations that are related to political and justice ends and decisions to go to war. According to Clausewitz, ethics of responsibility is appropriate and necessary to those who are responsible of the state affairs. On political attributes, Walzer states that “sometimes the aim of struggle is political supremacy within a given territory, but often the aim is ethnic cleansing” (Walzer xii).

Theory of Just and Unjust War in Traditional War Criteria

Walzer insists that war simply shows the nakedness of a certain country when he states that “war stripes away our civilized adornments and reveals our nakedness.” Tactics teaches the use of armed forces in the engagement, strategy, and the use of engagements for the act of war. Walzer uses a popular proverb to explain the kind of deceit and violence in war: “all’s fair in love and war” (Walzer 3). Commentators argue that the just war doctrine is immoral and thus should be changed. However, many other critics believe that changing this theory is not necessary. This is because ethics should be given a place in war. This argument has intensified in the modern days. This is because, in modern conflicts, the doctrine does not apply. The main reasons for this are: wars have no place in ethical theories because they are unjust violence which is a deliberate opposition against morality; justification of war ideas means that violence in the society is not harmful; after war, the normal society rules work against morality; the just war theory is pointless and realistic; and war is a way of achieving victory cheaply and quickly. This simply means that there is a need to be a different approach when dealing with the ethical theory of war.

A critical ethical reflection of just war shows that war can be unjustifiable and justifiable. Justifiable war focuses on how war and the use of arms can be restrained and how war can be aimed at establishing justice and peace. However, many critics totally disagree with this concept. They argue that war can never be justified. The world has witnessed many wars from the historical times, and the efforts to promote justice and peace are extremely rare. This simply means that when dealing with armed human conflicts, the situation becomes more complicated. Arguably, war should only be provoked and promoted at limited occasions. An example of a paradigm case was the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. This took place in the year 1943, and it was caused by a Jewish resistance against Warsaw Ghetto in Germany. The rebellious Jewish were poorly armed and ended up being crushed by the Germans. Another example is the 9/11 which, according to the perpetrators, was a just war. The final example is the World War II which had many casualties and deaths because of the same. The concern should focus on international peace and thus limit and control wars before they take place.

The ethical theory is an extremely significant part of history. This is because it has helped to change and shape evolving rules, policies, and conventions that help to govern war as a practice. In this way, political realities from the present and the future will be content, reliable, and complete. In this case, the world can grasp and apply the latest military possibilities in order to change the traditions, doctrine, and organization of the same. However, Clausewitz’s and Sharman’s ideologies are extremely helpful. This is because these ideologies focus on the complex interactions between humans and countries that might lead to war. According to Walzer, “The judgment of war and of war time conduct is a serious enterprise” (Walzer 4).

Apart from changing the traditional criteria, the countries should adopt a peaceful approach in solving conflicts and problems in order to restrict, avoid, and limit wars. In this war, the countries will be able to uphold justice and peace from the same.


An ethical issue focuses on diverse ideologies on the same. Wars have been around from the prehistoric times. The question is “Can patriotism and ethics can be upheld at the time of war?” Ethics of peace focus on traditions that dominate the realism, pacifism, and just war theories. Ethical issues relate to the ethical consequences which are witnessed during and after a war. In this case, moral judgments and proportions can be made on the ethical issues related to war in many options.

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