Just War

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Just War

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

In two weeks time I will go to a local school to discuss with Sixth Formers the topic of a Just War. Here are some of the starter questions:
  1. Is there such a thing as a Just War?
  2. What should be the rules of a Just War?
  3. Was World War II a Just War?
  4. Is a Just War possible with today's weapons?
  5. Is violence ever acceptable?
  6. When is violence acceptable?
  7. When should religious people go to war?
  8. Is pacifism the ideal for all religious people?
  9. Is pacifism possible in today's world?
  10. Is it irresponsible for a state/government to be pacifist?
  11. Is there a difference between personal behaviour and the behaviour of a state/government?
  12. Is pacifism an ideal and war a reality?
  13. Does Religion get used to justify political wars?
  14. Should a person's religious beliefs ever be used to justify the killing of another?
  15. Should a person's beliefs ever be used to justify the taking of land?
  16. If one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter – is terrorism ever justifiable?

Any comments on the above questions?
Last edited by Bhikkhu Pesala on Fri Jan 09, 2015 7:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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retrofuturist
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Re: Just War

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings venerable,

I think that's a very comprehensive list with a lot of scope for ethical and philosophical investigation. They could spend the entire sixth form investigating those topics and still not exhaust their potential!

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Ben
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Re: Just War

Post by Ben »

That is excellent, Bhante!
No doubt, you know that many young men and women are conditioned by the rhetoric of 'the war on terror'. Given where the school is and its cultural cross-section, you may have some work to do to get the kids to begin questioning the concept of a 'just war' rather then them justifying their deeply held beliefs.
Some examples from history that may demonstrate the absolute stupidity and futility of war include the Children's Crusade, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand which sparked the Great War, and the convenient 'intelligence failure' before Gulf War II.
Other historical examples are the battles between European powers during middle ages and early industrialisation over resources including salt.
I hope your talk goes well and I hope you will share the experience with us.
Metta

Ben
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zavk
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Re: Just War

Post by zavk »

I hope mods won't mind this, but a friend of mine once joked that going to war in the name of peace is like f---ing for chastity.

But that's a great list, plenty to talk about.

:)
With metta,
zavk
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BubbaBuddhist
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Re: Just War

Post by BubbaBuddhist »

That should cover it, Bhante.

As a side note, it's great to "see" you again.

J
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retrofuturist
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Re: Just War

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,
Bubbabuddhist wrote:As a side note, it's great to "see" you again.
Yes, I was thinking the same thing.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
Element

Re: Just War

Post by Element »

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
  1. Is there such a thing as a Just War?
  2. Was World War II a Just War?
No. Wars arise from causes and conditions. WWII was merely an extension of WW1, of which both were wars arising from a colonial race.

Put another way, the horrors committed in China by the Japanese were no different than the horrors committed in China by England in its Opium Wars.

WWII was an intevitable war. It was unavoidable just as certain wars that may arise in the future are unavoidable.

A Buddhist can decided to see thru all of this bullchit and AVOID.

The world is illusion. As Buddha said, a painted chariot.
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cooran
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Re: Just War

Post by cooran »

Hello Ven. Pesala,

I think the list of questions is comprehensive.

Here are a few short readings giving diverse buddhist opinions:

“Just War” is an Oxymoron - Santikaro Bhikkhu, on behalf of BPF’s Dharma Council, March 2003
http://www.liberationpark.org/bpf/just-war-oxy.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

1. A "JUST WAR" IS INCOMPATIBABLE WITH BUDDHISM by Asian Human Rights Commission - Religious Groups for Human Rights
http://www.rghr.net/mainfile.php/0507/476/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

In Defense of Dharma: Just-war Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka, review by Annewieke Vroom
http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/200 ... space.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

metta and respect,
Chris
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Rui Sousa
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Re: Just War

Post by Rui Sousa »

Greetings Venerable,

:namaste:

I believe those questions will put the students brains working, and raise important questions that are seldom addressed.

As Plato said, in his book "Laws", there three types of war: 1 - war with another state, 2 - war within the state or family, 3 - war within one's mind. I would add that a warring mind is a precondition for war, a peaceful mind is the way for the end of war.

I hope your discussion with the students goes well for all involved.
With Metta
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Rui Sousa
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Re: Just War

Post by Rui Sousa »

On another post Calvin & Hobbes were mentioned, and while I was looking for some of my favorite strips I found this one, that sums up some of the issues Venerable Pesala mentioned:

Image
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Re: Just War

Post by Cittasanto »

all questions with no end with out a belief for or against pacifism
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But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
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AdvaitaJ
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Re: Just War

Post by AdvaitaJ »

Venerable,

I'm still quite new to Buddhism, but I was trained for war (long ago, in my youth). I have no idea what your circumstances are, but I could easily believe your surroundings include mostly persons of like mind. As a consequence, I think it may help you to be better prepared to be aware of the following possible responses:

Is there such a thing as a Just War?
Only one that you in no way precipitated or initiated.
What should be the rules of a Just War?
Minimum violence necessary to restore the peace.
Was World War II a Just War?
Parts of it. Certainly Hitler and Hirohito had to be stopped.
Is a Just War possible with today's weapons?
Some of them make it more possible. Some of them make it impossible.
Is violence ever acceptable?
See below: (This question and the next are somewhat duplicates.)
When is violence acceptable?
Only as a genuine last resort (and the phrase "last resort" is way easy to abuse).
When should religious people go to war?
Depends on the religion and whether or not its adherents are willing to allow it to be extinguished.
Is pacifism the ideal for all religious people?
No, it isn't, but pacifism should be the ideal for all people.
Is pacifism possible in today's world?
More possible than it used to be.
Is it irresponsible for a state/government to be pacifist?
The state should provide security for the people, and pacifism may be the best way to achieve that. On the other hand, the perception of weakness has often led to the initiation of hostilities.
Is there a difference between personal behaviour and the behaviour of a state/government?
Yes. The same as there is a difference between an individual's mentality and a crowd's.
Is pacifism an ideal and war a reality?
So far.
Does Religion get used to justify political wars?
Any and every difference is/has been used to justify wars.
Should a person's religious beliefs ever be used to justify the killing of another?
No, but it does happen.
Should a person's beliefs ever be used to justify the taking of land?
Wars happen in this manner when one group of people has more of something that the other group needs/wants.
If one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter – is terrorism ever justifiable?
The victors write the history.

AdvaitaJ
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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Just War

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

Since Augustine and the Roman Catholics came up with this Just War notion, here is how a Catholic describes it:

http://www.catholic.com/library/Just_War_Doctrine_1.asp" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Just War

Post by nathan »

Will wrote:Since Augustine and the Roman Catholics came up with this Just War notion, here is how a Catholic describes it:
http://www.catholic.com/library/Just_War_Doctrine_1.asp" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I read over the Just War Doctrine as detailed in the link. I note the absence of what I consider an important precondition to the whole consideration of war and/or of 'just war' that is rarely if ever presented for any fair and reasonable public discussion.

Namely, "Does the aggressor have a legitimate grievance?" Secondarily, "Despite the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the grievance has there been a thorough consideration of the relative costs of going to war vs. the costs of addressing the grievance?" Thirdly, "Have any efforts been made to address the grievance in whole or in part?" Considering how little attention these considerations typically receive (generally none), I find it hard to consider any of the known war doctrines legitimate.

In regards to the doctrine in the link, I can only ask, "At what point and under what conditions will we have these supposed statesmen who act in the interests of the common good?" I've yet to hear word of such a state of affairs visibly persisting anywhere in the world at any point now or in our collective memory (aka the historical record - the Buddha's references to wheel turning monarchs in the ancient past [frequently dismissed as mythical - not by me], as the recollections of one historical person, are both accepted and excepted).

It seems to me that most of the overt and widely destructive warfare in the last century has arisen from the global promotion of the pernicious concept of the right to assert a national identity, frequently in conjunction with territorial rights, (thanks again America!). Given the present context where a global non-culture is impacting, compromising and homogenizing all cultures and will likely overcome all cultures it might be best to give serious thought to discern that which is valuable and retainable from any and all of the traditional cultures we have variously known and do all that we can to preserve what we can. Retaining the way of life of traditional cultures can more or less be considered a lost cause. If we likewise see a disappearance of "national identities" it need not be considered a complete loss if we can each retain and maintain that which is of real value to us as individuals and as a species. If we cannot face up to the emerging conditions and set aside our former identifications we will of course suffer far more in the future because we are not facing the arising of a monoculture or of a dominant culture but the end of culture more or less entirely as we have all variously known it in the past.

In the context of this emerging non-culture there is a decreasing 'tribal' basis for warfare and so fewer outlets for the warfare goods and services franchises. As they say in the industry, "It is not the one gun for every twelve people on planet earth which is the problem, the question is, "how do we arm the other eleven?" In a studious effort to prepare for this we have already seen the beginning of "conceptual wars" such as the "war on drugs" and the "war on terror" and by casting persisting and visible social differences in this light a context for "perpetual escalation" is guaranteed thus guaranteeing the future growth of the War Industry, which has already long been the dominant economic sector. Social stability and the maintenance of the ongoing hierarchical social structure will probably also increasingly require more overt forms of "class warfare" than those which predominate today.

My personal answer after long consideration and reflection is "No". No to war. Period. No to violence. Period. None of it is ultimately justifiable when one is as fully aware as is possible regarding the overall context of one's existence (and it was my working assumption that until such time I had no thoroughly considered justification for offensive or defensive violence and so my position has remained consistent). Naturally most will object to such a blanket statement on any number of grounds, which if we explore that ground, eventually are found to be groundless. A common example is offered by those who will "do anything to defend their children". I understand. My choice, suitable to maintaining my stance, have no children, therefore no children to defend. And so on, no to self-defense, etc, etc..
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Rui Sousa
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Re: Just War

Post by Rui Sousa »

nathan wrote: My personal answer after long consideration and reflection is "No". No to war. Period. No to violence. Period. None of it is ultimately justifiable when one is as fully aware as is possible regarding the overall context of one's existence (and it was my working assumption that until such time I had no thoroughly considered justification for offensive or defensive violence and so my position has remained consistent). Naturally most will object to such a blanket statement on any number of grounds, which if we explore that ground, eventually are found to be groundless. A common example is offered by those who will "do anything to defend their children". I understand. My choice, suitable to maintaining my stance, have no children, therefore no children to defend. And so on, no to self-defense, etc, etc..
Hi Nathan,

I believe self preservation, protection of your family and defense of your tribe are the fuel for too many wars.

It all comes down to kamma, I believe that setting your mind to peace will create the conditions to be less prone to life in a war situation. If a war cames knocking on my door... And if I can't leave the war... And if there is compulsory drafting... I may find myself with a gun in my hands, but I can't envision any justification for that.

I would certainly try to avoid any harm being done to my family, but there skillful and unskillful ways of preserving their welfare.
With Metta
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