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Moral Criteria for Just War... - Part I

Four Different Types of War

Atila Sinke Guimarães


The lack of doctrinal foundation in the discussion about the war with Iraq that just finished has been impressive. Even from Vatican representatives, who so violently clamored for peace, practically no serious or valid argument was presented with regard to either natural law or Catholic Morals. It is sad to have to say this, because the Holy See is supposedly the lighthouse whose mission is to orient Catholics in storms with that sovereign and divine impartiality that characterized Our Lord Jesus Christ. No, unfortunately, what came from the Vatican was a totally biased position against war – no matter what – and against the United States, above all. A new crusade against the US and Capitalism is in course. A Crusade preached by those who “excommunicated” the old Crusades.

Inundated by partial presentations of facts and lacking a secure doctrinal orientation coming from the Vatican, the lay Catholic thus is obliged to look for that forgotten doctrine. This is what I did, without pretending to have a special authority.

It took me a while to sort through the main authors on the topic and select the more important ones. Here is the result of my research on Catholic Moral doctrine and its applications to the present day war. I hope it will help my reader as it helped me.

The piece is long and will be published in a series of several articles to make it easier to read.

Elements that have changed the way to wage war

Crusaders enter the Holy City

Phase 1: Crusaders enter the Holy City, Jerusalem

The battle of Jena

Phase 2: Napoleon's campaign of 1806, culminating in the battle of Jena - the decisive importance of artillery

An american family prepares an undergound survival bunker during the cold war

Phase 3: During the Cold War American families prepared for a nuclear attack - psychological pressure
Is the war on terrorism waged by the United States and Great Britain a morally licit war? This is the question. To respond, it would be useful to know the factors that influenced the development of warfare throughout History. Let me sketch a quick background of the topic, and then analyze how Catholic Morals deals with war as well as its application to the present day situation. It also will be interesting to show how progressivists are taking advantage of the present situation regarding war to spread their dream of a utopia and encourage the formation of a universal republic.

The history of war can be summarized in four different phases:
• In the first phase, human value – honor, courage, intelligence, ability, and physical strength – was the main factor of waging war. This phase began with the war between the first sons of Adam, and extended to the wars of the late Medieval Ages. The prototype of this phase is the war waged by the Crusades.

• In the second phase, the introduction of gun powder made a major change in the way war was waged. The element of human value was still present, but the material capacity of having cannons and bombs emerged as a decisive element in war. This phase went from the late Medieval Ages until the last days of World War II. The prototype of this phase is the war waged by Napoleon.

• In the third phase, with the chastisement of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atomic bomb was introduced in war. With this, the factor of human value almost completely lost its role: supremacy of honor, courage, intelligence, or the prowess of one side over another became secondary matters. What really counted was whether one had the bomb. This weapon did not permit selection to be made between military and civilian targets, as happened in the previous phases. It caused an indiscriminate destruction both during its explosion and after it, with the radioactivity that spread unrestrained over enormous areas. Militarily speaking, this phase actually existed only in the bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After this, the atomic weapon was no longer used.

Psychologically, however, its effect was more far-reaching because of its potential danger. To achieve a military supremacy, the nuclear arms race began between two super-powers, the US and the USSR. This race characterized the Cold War. Many other countries also had access to nuclear weapons even though they did not enter the nuclear race. By a kind of agreement of good sense more than any international treatise, nuclear weapons have not been used in war.

• Presently we are witnessing the naissance of a fourth phase in the history of war with the two Gulf Wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003. The technological and electronic advancements that direct the bomb-carrying missiles have permitted a tight precision in hitting targets and accurately controlling their power of destruction. This has made war a phenomenon much less dangerous than most of the wars in the second phase and, of course, an operation incomparably less dangerous than the atomic war.
Since a concern of Catholic Morals is to determine the rightness or wrongness of human behavior, it should establish rules to wage war in these different phases. In fact, it did so. What are these rules?

The next article will try to answer this question.


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This argument is developed in Guimarães book War, Just War







Part 2  | Part 3  | Part 4

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