Sunday, November 21, 2004

Two Essays on War

Ecumenical Councils of War, reviewed by David B. Hart, outlining the just war tradition in Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. Hart raises a key problem in contemporary just war reasoning:
More importantly, by beginning his account of just war theory by bothering to recognize the legitimacy of a state not explicitly bound to divine law—however much he may urge that Christians must attempt to make the state conscious of that law—Cole puts himself in the odd position of having to argue that Christians must both obey the principles of just war and also resign themselves to fighting at the behest of a political order that has not necessarily placed itself under the sway of those principles. It is, after all, the liberal state that gave us total war in the modern age and that has often, precisely on account of its liberal utopian abhorrence of all war (as Cole himself quite acutely observes), forsaken even the pretense of justice in making war.

It is a curious thing indeed, then, for Cole to begin his defense of the just war tradition by arguing on behalf of a political system that is in its essence intractably post-Christian. If the most for which Christians can hope is that they have a “voice” in the political determinations of a government that does not otherwise acknowledge the spiritual and moral supremacy of the Church in worldly affairs, what remains of just war theory but a collection of axioms by which individual Christians must try to ascertain for themselves whether they may or may not consent to a particular war being waged by their government?

But surely just war theory is not supposed to function as a private calculus, but as a social and political rationality. In the age of the liberal state, what authority may Christians trust in times of war, if the state cannot—by its own constitutional logic—speak under the clear guidance of the Church?

Second, an essay by the Rev. Michael Baxter, CSC, Just War and Pacifism: A "Pacifist"
Perspective in Seven Points

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