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Allan's Philosophy Podcast

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook # 40 – War

Hey guys! So the podcast is going strong. I have around 400 subscribers now! I am trying to get up the new podcast I did yesterday with Tom Heinrichs and Isaac Kim about the power of the mind but my computer is messed up but I will put it up as soon as I can. I am also finally getting around to fulfilling the request that Jon Witt made like a month ago where he asked "when is war legitimate?" Well Jon Witt I have an answer!

I think a good place to start is relating this to when is it ok to fight like can you fight if someone has disrespected you, out of revenge, or in self defense. I want to talk about vengeance and is it ok to get even. I heard once that you can’t get ahead if you try to get even. The answer to this question is mainly influenced by your own personal philosophy of a moral justice system. This relates to my Philosophy is Phun podcast # 5 about an eye for an eye. It really depends on what you believe is right and wrong which is derived from many factors such as your upbringing, your environment, and those who influence your life like your parents. Of course there are some baseline ethics like you shouldn’t beat up a defenseless innocent person. There are those out there though who do such things despite the fundamental and basic morals society may have. When America goes to war and in highly unstable areas like Iraq, people start feeling like these fundamental morals are being violated. Because there are so many lives on the line and so much death and destruction already happening, as well as more to come, it really makes us question our own morals.

There are many motivators to war and why it occurs. Back to the basic primordial days, resources have been a major motivator to fight others. We live in a world of vital limited resources that are necessities for life and when one person depletes their supply, they will look elsewhere to get more. If the resource was so essential and the person had no other means to attain the depleted supplies, they will then go to extremes in order to obtain what they need. For instance, if you need food in order to survive you would probably break into a grocery store or someone else’s fridge in order to get the sustenance you needed if the situation ever came to it. I think this applies especially to situations where your emotions get involved. Love can be a huge motivator that will push people over the edge to commit unthinkable sins in order to preserve the security and safety of a loved one. This has been exploited in numerous movies where you see the heroes loved ones taken away from them and they will do anything in order to get them back. Think about what you yourself would do if someone held your parents hostage or another significant person of your life in a dangerous situation.

While this is just a smaller more individualized scale, lets get to a more global scale. War is usually portrayed as being an epic struggle between two huge parties with a lot of guns and weapons. This isn’t the case 100% of the time though as you can wage wars with other individuals or within yourself with internal conflicts. In fact Google generalizes the definition of war as being an active struggle between competing entities. However, I think what Jon Witt was looking for is with superpowers battling against each other where militaries are involved. Another motivator for waging war is gaining power. I think power can make people have an insatiable thirst for more to those not capable of self control. There are some and perhaps many out there who, once they have power, experience a thirst for more and won’t stop until they have it. I think this has been a major driving force in what makes people go out and try to conquer others. In fact many of these motivations overlap. When the British set out to colonize the world they were probably looking for not only gaining control of different regions of the world but also the resources that inhabited those areas. As time change, what constitutes power changes as well. Nowadays, it could be said that those with the most money, especially during a recession, hold the most influence and therefore have the most power. Power is essentially having the ability to influence events to take the shape of your desires. Back in the medieval times like during the feudal systems, those with the most land wielded the most power. If you wanted more land you would just go to war and take over others land and thus their power. The more power you had the more you could shape the land to your whim.

Sometimes there’s just unexplainable reasoning behind war. There are over 6 billion people in the world and some of them you are bound not to get along with. If you guys fight severely enough you will become enemies. They reasoning behind this hate can have some many different sources. They might annoy you, your personalities clash, or they might have done something horrible to you in the past. While the reasons why you make enemies may seem to have so many possibilities, the ways to deal with them may be as diverse as well. Sometimes people just have the desire to humiliate and destroy their enemies. There may not be any reason besides the fact that one person hates another enough to want to go to war. I feel like these are the worst because they have no justification and, in my opinion, are completely unnecessary and can cause so many problems like when innocent people die. There are people with driving egos that are highly motivated who won’t stop until their desires are made reality. Some examples can include genocides like the Holocaust and mass killings that seem to have no reasoning behind it except that others look different or practice different religions.

It is amazing to think about all the individuals involved in the different conflicts. When the draft took place in America, especially during Vietnam, I feel that the individual voice started to show. The soldiers and laborers working for the superpowers, who have no say in matters, put their lives at stake. It can’t be that everyone who is involved feels that what they are told to do is right, but because of the chain of command, are forced to carry them out even against their own will. Life isn’t fair but it’s cruel to make people go to war for the leader’s values and views that aren’t universally held. What makes me wonder is that fact that there may be so much outrage against the war in Iraq, why do we continue to stay there? Of course there are some obvious answers like we need the oil as well as many other classified details I have no idea about, but I wonder how people who don’t support the values they’re fighting for stay in combat. I have a feeling that it is too hard to stop and pull the country out because once you start fighting it creates a huge mess that is very hard to leave unless it’s finished or “cleaned up.” I also believe it is a sense of honor and pride that goes along with serving your country. I feel like everyone has some sense of honor and limits to what they will and won’t do because of those beliefs. Some people may feel that they dishonor themselves and their families if they were to abandon their job and perhaps putting others who rely on them in danger. Also, there is definitely some nationalistic feeling as well that can be seen clearly every July 4th here that no doubt inspire someone to take up arms and fight for their country. Whatever the case may be, they have my upmost respect for those who puts their lives on the line to keep us safe.

So when is war legitimate? I feel like a simple answer to this would be when you and those you care about (including your country) are put in harm’s way unjustly. All other situations I feel like aren’t legitimate excuses to put lives and resources at stake, but there are plenty of exceptions. Overall however, I believe that the only reason to go to war would be to protect those who you affiliate with. This isn’t always straightforward however, as those who you affiliate with can do bad things causing you to go to war with others because of their mistakes. If America were to screw another nation over causing a war, then soldiers would have to take arms and fight even if America was at fault. I believe that the default position for a country to be in is acting as a watchdog. A watchdog’s duties would entail looking over affairs but not being involved unless they directly hinder their existence. There are so many wrongs in the world and trying to right them all would be irresponsible and unfair with so many problems that could easily be fixed if more attention were put on them. While it may be a valiant effort, it is a waste of resources to try to fix everything and getting involved in situations that would cause more harm than good is just as bad. Regardless of what I think, it is mainly up to those who have power to decide where their power will go and decide when war is legitimate or not. Hopefully they have a good sense of morals.

-Allan Nicholas

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