Wartime is something that we have seen to be somewhat inevitable in the world and a major part of our history. We have seen all throughout history how different nations, states, groups and even people go to war for feuds that they believe matter to them and to gain something from this whether that be land, power or anything else. But should innocent lives be lost when achieving this goal? I believe that the lives of those that are not involved with war should not be compromised and there is no justifiable reason to do so.
Some can argue that killing of innocents in war time is morally permissible for the greater good in a Utilitarian stand point because killing them is meant to be for a greater good of the nation, making the most utility. But what if their killings did not maximize utility? It is important to point out that I am defining innocents to be those who have nothing to do with the war, civilians that are taking no part in combat for their nation. But why should killing and innocent bystander be justifiable if they had no part in war, or terrorist acts?
Killing of innocents is still murder, a life is still taken away and in the majority of the world, murder isn’t condoned so why should it be any different in war time? The killing of innocents in war time brings up many questions such as many argue if it morally permissible also it is important to note that life has an intrinsic value. And by killing an innocent bystander we would be infringing on their autonomy making their death morally wrong.
We have no right to interfere with someone’s life without their permission; they are not asking to die, they are being compromised for a situation that they had no part in, making their deaths unjustifiable and wrong. This would lead to the question of “what about the intrinsic value of the life of the soldiers? Doesn’t their life also have intrinsic value? ” Their lives absolutely have intrinsic value but they wave this right when in listing to serve their nation; they basically give up their right to life when agreeing to fight and kill others for their nation.
This is because they are conscience that death is certainly a possible endpoint in their military careers and are aware of this when joining to fight for a nation or military group. But civilians have not waved this right to life, so why should we even consider taking their life away from them? Also, in most instances, people that have the personal belief a killing of innocents in war time is permissible, do not stop and realize that these are people as well.
For example, let’s say you were in charge of a drone strike that was ready to take place, aimed at a terrorist of the state in foreign soil and nothing was stopping you, except you calculate that an innocent by standing family would also killed in this air strike. Many would take a utilitarian approach and start to weigh in the greater good of the nation and ultimately believe that killing this family is justifiable. But what if that family actually ended up being your family who was there on vacation?
At this point, in this situation, we would have the urge to choose to save our family because of loyalty to our families and we would chose to be charitable to our family members even though it is not particularly a duty. One of the main five reasons that we find killing to be wrong is that because it causes suffering to those around the victim such as family and friends, but this isn’t something that is taken into consideration during wartime. War time can also be viewed in two different extremes such as a pacifist stand point and a realist standpoint.
From a pacifist standpoint we acknowledge that the killing of innocents in war time is unjust no matter what. And we also see a general of that one must not act unjustly to prevent injustice. One of the reasons that pacifists believe that the killing in war time is wrong is because political authorities are not always legitimate and this is comment for modernstates. For killing innocents in war time, it is also important to understand the Doctrine of Double Effect. The Doctrine of Double effect stated that we should use evil for the means of good but you can, while bringing about good, cause evil as a side effect.
This could be viewed as one must not cause harm, but could ultimately be causing harm when trying to do something good, basically prohibiting that result in something bad or wrong. If we shouldn’t cause harm, then killing of innocents in war time is not permissible. The killing of innocents in fact tends to lead to the demoralization of the enemy. For example, in most cases, nations go to war as a result to something uniust and/or an attack where that be a terrorist attack or not; but how can we justify their wrong actions if we end up killing civilians?
Also under the doctrine of double effect, German philosopher Immanuel Kant, adds that one should not use a person merely as means to achieve a goal. This would unjustified the means of using a person’s life in danger to achieve a goal, in part, alluding to an absolutist view. For this we could use the example of the bombing on Pearl Harbor and how that lead to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in Japan. The United States ultimately felt that it was just for them to bomb Japan because they were not in the war when they were bombed and it was done to cause evil.
As a result of the Pearl Harbor bombing attack 2,403 Americans were killed and over a thousand were injured. But the American government decided to cause evil and decided to drop two atomic bombs in Japan, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This resulted in a range of at least 129,000 to up to or possibly more than 226,000 deaths (Brooks, Risa; Stanley, Elizabeth A 2007. ). The after math was truly terrifying. The cities were distorted and absolutely destroyed the cities. It’s very few survivors there in a sense poisoned from all the chemicals, their water became highly toxic and many became victims of cancer because of this (Listwa 2012).
These bombings were not a justification for the bombing in Pearl Harbor. If anything, it demoralized the attack on Japan and it didn’t justify anything or any attack. It just lead to many lives lost, especially civilian lives, and total distraction within the cities. It is arguable that because Japan lost the greatest about of civilian lives that they were the innocent ones by the Just war Theory considering the unfair advantage that the United States had after bombing them with atomic bombs.
But can we truly call them innocent? The civilians certainly were all innocent but the Japanese military initiated the attacks. Others claim that what makes war and civilian killings permissible would be the end result in a Machiavellian standpoint: “the ends justify the mean”. But is this truly something we can argue in favor for? We do not know the end goal till the end. So what makes it permissible to cause so many deaths if potentially in the end, we are worse off as a country than when we started in a war?
This type of reasoning is typically only used when the end favors the side that we are one. There has been instances where unfair attracts have happened and targets have been missed but at this point we do not take our failed attempts as a justification. This argument would only have validity if the end point ultimately favors the side of the country that got the better end of the fight and could also condone the killing of innocents as well as many evils just as murder, torcher and destruction because all that would matter is the end goal of the situation.
Innocent civilians have always been victims in every war but there is not really a way to justify their killings. There are different approaches that one can take to argue that the killing of innocent civilians is morally permissible but likewise there are theoretical approaches that allow us to condone these killings to not be morally permissible. I believe that the killing of innocents in war time is not morally permissible because it infringes on the autonomy of life, considering the fact that life is intrinsically valuable.