OUTLINE FOR A NEW ETHIC OF WAR

  • Published on
    30-Sep-2016

  • View
    219

  • Download
    3

Transcript

<ul><li><p>OUTLINE FOR A NEW ETHIC OF WAR 23 5 </p><p>Until the United Nations has sponsored a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Minorities as detailed and comprehensive as the Decla- ration of December 10, 1948 the Commission of the Churches on Inter- national AEairs will have work to do. </p><p>OUTLINE FOR A NEW ETHIC OF WAR </p><p>by </p><p>ERWIN WILKENS </p><p>One of the fundamental conditions for the age of science and tech- nology is the ensuring of world peace. The question of mans chance of survival is not prompted by some irrational existential fear ; it springs from a sober analysis of the present international situation. The Christian Church cannot evade the urgent duty of rendering service to the world of today and of examining the theological foundations for so doing; in both these undertakings it must practise the widest possible ecumenical cooperation. </p><p>The ensuring of world peace presents the people of the world with a tremendously complicated political task. When we speak of peace we must qualify the term. Peace is not synonymous with the absence of war. Peace is organised order of the highest positive quality.. Liberty and justice are its indispensable hallmarks. Hitherto the preservation of these and other precious possessions has been bound up (in the poli- tical thinking of the nations) with willingness to defend them and to restore them, if necessary by resorting to war. The disappearance of war as a political corrective, to be used in the last resort, must be regarded as a turning-point as revolutionary as the discoveries of Copernicus were at that time. The import of this revolution has as yet scarcely penetrated the consciousness of the nations, whose thinking and power- structures still conform to the old patterns of the closed society. </p><p>By accepting the time-honoured tenet of the just war, the Christian tradition has tried to condone war as an ethically-definable factor. Faced by the question of war, Christians had to seek the Christian way of life in this sinful world, neither withdrawing from the world nor </p></li><li><p>236 THE ECUMENICAL REVIEW </p><p>conforming to it. No one with any understanding of history will call this attitude a hasty capitulation to the spirit of the world. Nevertheless, we must ask whether the great wars of this century should not have led long ago to a re-examination of the Christian tenet of the just war. With its tendency to become total, war has found instruments ideally suited to its needs : the modern weapons of mass-annihilation. </p><p>Christian pacifism has always asked the big Churches whether the tenet of the just war did not obscure the Christian witness and provide ethical justification for war. In actual fact, has not the Christian Church shown an attitude of exaggerated moral resignation with regard to war, regarding it as a bad instrument for maintaining order, but, in the last analysis, an inevitable one - instead of advocating a dynamic effort to abolish war and achieve a peaceful international order, appropriate for man and his destiny? All these questions must be re-examined by Christians today. </p><p>The tenet of the just war operates with a closed system of values which starts by fixing what is good or evil, sinful or not sinful, in every conceivable case. By means of ethical casuistry, an attempt is made to establish a domain in which action is permissible. Where war is con- cerned, this method leads in practice to justification of the very status quo which led to the conflict, and the will for vigorous change is paralysed. In extreme cases of conflict, ethical pronouncements about war are a risky piece of borderline ethics. They become involved in a situation of tension in which heterogeneous, often conflicting ethical claims are made. Only through obedience to the claims which God is making upon us today can Christian action receive meaning and liberty and see where its own limitations lie. Casuistic norms and criteria break down in situations where hopeless entanglement in the worlds web of guilt means that action is still possible only under threat of attack and in reliance on forgiveness. </p><p>Where war is concerned, Christians today are challenged to do some- thing more than merely prove the applicability of traditional tenets which originated under different conditions. Responsible Christian pronounce- ments about war can no longer justify it as a timeless truth. The fact that wars occur in the world must not be interpreted as an essential truth about an eternally-valid concept called WAR, in the sense of something which is permissible. The rejection of total war, conducted with weapons of mass-annihilation, is already taken for granted by all reasonable people. But the claims of ethics demand far more than </p></li><li><p>OUTLINE FOR A NEW ETHIC OF WAR 237 </p><p>this. Since any future war may develop into a world-wide atomic war, Christians must insist on the necessity of abolishing war altogether. War can no longer be justified in principle ; in all its forms it has become ethically monstrous and politically senseless. </p><p>At this point, the ethic of war is in danger of reaching a dead end. The majority of Christians are afraid to draw what seems to be the only logical conclusion from this ethical condemnation of war. Ethical judgement cannot ignore the fact that today armaments have become a political instrument; they may be used as a means of preventing war or lessening its dangers. In present circumstances, the pacifist refusal to make provision for defence provides no guarantee for a peaceful, free and just world-order. Any ethic of war which abandons the shelter of the traditional tenets, and yet cannot accept the pacifist conclusion, finds itself torn between conflicts of logic and between agonizing para- doxes. World politics and ethical judgement are passing through a phase of Aporia * which is only tolerable if it is used to make effective efforts to achieve a new order of international peace. </p><p>This historical process confronting mankind demands constant intensification of Christian service in practical form. In dealing with political authorities (and indeed with all men) Christians must work upon their readiness to explore new ways of changing the present inter- national situation. The goal of ensuring world-wide, durable peace can only be achieved step by step. Therefore permanent joint Christian bodies must keep under constant close observation the interplay of international power-potitics, in order to make a valid contribution to international initiatives to build up a new community of nations. </p><p>Translated from the German. </p><p>* Aporia = doubt. </p></li></ul>