Ethique militaire : mes questions (2). A Few doubts about Military Ethics (2d Part)

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Exceptionnellement, je mets ci-dessous et dans le post suivant un texte en langue anglaise lu dans un congrès d'éthique militaire hors de France il y a un an. J'espère que ces questions pourront être utiles à la réflexion des militaires, ou des responsables civils de la défense.

Le Baron Louis aurait dit à Napoléon : "Sire, faites-moi de la bonne politique et je vous ferai de bonnes finances." Ne pourrait-on dire dans le même esprit : "Faites-nous une politique juste, et on vous fera une éthique militaire sortable."



First Question

Is Just War Theory (JWT) consistent with Democracy?


The first one is about how to justify the discrimination Principle, and just war theory at large within a Democracy.


As everybody knows, the Discrimination Principle (= only combatants and military objectives are legitimate targets; non-combatants should not be hit and must be protected) is one of the key-principles of Just War Theory. I obviously believe our states and Military personals have to comply with that basic rule. And yet I now find it hard to prove it, whithout rethinking the mainstream French political philosophy. 


Obviously, the discrimination principle would be crystal clear, if the whole mankind was only one political body, with one public authority, and if all our military forces were only parts of one public constabulary, the one and only mission of the one global government being to guaranty individual rights on the Planet. It would then be obvious that police or constabulary should enforce law and curb criminals without damaging quiet and innocent citizens. But such an interpretation is more a chapter of an utopia, than an element of a valid political philosophy, or of a robust theory of international relations. We probably cannot assume anymore or at least take for granted such individualistic and globalist interpretation of the Discrimination Principle.- So what?


If we now look at the discrimination principle from another and more realistic perspective, I think we have two reasons for not being able anymore to hold true or even plausible such individualistic interpretation of the principle.


The first one is that it assumes a false relationship between the individual and the society. Pascal (according to me rightly) wrote that a human society was “a body composed out of thinking members”. Totalitarianism takes the political body into account, but not the individuals as “thinking” members. For individualism, the reverse is true. I now believe that both are wrong and that it is unrealistic to fancy an individual without his or her body political, as well as the reverse.


War is therefore among bodies political composed out of thinking members. If I am right in so thinking, it becomes clear that a war is a clash between two bodies, and not only a fight between two sets of professional individuals, or at least between one such set (from our side) and some other set, still to be well defined (on the opposite side).


Moreover, individuals use to cling to their bodies political and share their fate. And if the clash is among bodies political, all individuals who are members of these bodies are concerned and cannot just sit by the side, or claim and pretend not to be parts of it, and they have therefore no clear title for an absolute claim to be kept totally aside and untouched by the hardships of war.


If this is true, what about the Discrimination principle? The discrimination principle is still valid, but on other grounds. According to classical natural law (Cicero, or Aquinas), peace is an obligation, peace is the standard for human nature and its development; war remains an anomaly. And if war was becoming total or extreme, that would mean a complete failure and bring about terrible ruins and pains. That’s why each side has a vested interest, moral as well as material, in containing war within an as restricted as possible area, even if war is a clash between two communities and can sometimes involve, unfortunately, many aspects and parts of them, and not only the combatants.    


The second reason for receding from the individualistic interpretation of the Discrimination Principle, is an (at least) apparent inconsistency between the right to shoot the enemy in the head (i.e. decapitation tactics), and the right of the Sovereign People, supreme Head in a Democracy, not to be hit.

If we are allowed and if it is lawful to kill a king on a battlefield (like Gustav-Adolf, King of Sweden) or a dictator commanding his armies (as we tried several times to kill Saddam Hussein), why would the enemy of a Democracy not be allowed to target the People, Head and Sovereign of the body, and not only bulk of it? Or why would it not be allowed to curb his will by all means, since “We the People” are the real sovereign power and head of the Body political? And I have no answer to this question. I would be grateful if you could propose one to me.


I admit that destroying that Head would mean destroying the very Body, in other words, genocide. But although such an action is appalling and horrific, and goes clearly beyond the limits of what natural law can permit, or tolerate, I cannot rule it out completely, as long as I admit a thick theory of popular sovereignty (as that of Rousseau’s Social Contract, for instance) : 1° because the distinction to be made, in this theory, between Sovereign and Government, rules out definitely any claim of the Governement to be the real Head, and not the People ; 2° because that thick theory today seems consistent with a barbaric and totally unprincipled disclaiming of the authority of such natural moral law, as many domestic policies routinely implemented in Democracies now seem to imply.


Even the use of mass destruction weapons against a people, under such philosophical hypothesis (i.e. if has been admitted a thick theory of popular sovereignty), could not be easily ruled out,

      either if we held the totalitarian principle that we are basically at war with one Body,

      or if we held the individualistic principle which implies (maybe paradoxically) a very thick theory of the sovereignty of the people, as it is perfectly clear in Rousseau’s Social Contract.

If a democratical regime is grounded on such a thick theory of Sovereignty, the People and the Head of State are one and the same person. The President is (philosophically) only the head of the Government, the People is the real and living authority. Therefore, it is hard to claim the People at large or as a body was not combatant. And in that same theory, the good citizen does dot cut his particular will from the general will, but both wills end merging in his or her political consciousness, and moral conscience. That means that such a whole (the People) is composed out of "total parts", "parties totales", as Leibniz said, i.e. out of parts in each of which the whole is completely present. And we cannot therefore distinguish (under such a thick theory) the non combatant individual and the sovereign citizen.    



A Just War Theory is therefore consistent only with a thin theory of such sovereignty, even in a Democracy. And since a civilized Democracy accepts a limitation of war, i.e. some sort of JWT, I conclude that the only reasonable and just Democracy has to be equipped with a thin theory of popular sovereignty. What that “thin Democracy” means precisely remains unclear to me. 





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