This should hardly come as a surprise. In proxy conflicts the world over, a similar dynamic has emerged.
About the Book
Stinger missiles the United States provided to mujahideen in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets were pivotal to their success over the Red Army. They were also a boon to terrorist groups and criminal gangs from Iran to Bosnia to Palestine. In fact, only a small portion of the Stingers the United States supplied to proxies in Afghanistan were ever recovered.
If a nation provides a proxy with advanced weaponry without instituting practices to prevent their indiscriminate use, then that nation bears some responsibility for their crimes. For its part, the United States has taken several measures to help the Saudi-led forces mitigate civilian deaths and injuries, including providing information on no-strike locations to reduce the chances of collateral harm, instituting training programs for the Saudi military, and offering support for investigations where civilian casualties have occurred.
While these efforts have likely had some moderating effects, the fact that U. Since the United Nations made a frequently used estimate in January that 10, civilians had been killed in the war, civilian deaths in Yemen have increased. Without enough votes to override it, Congress is unlikely to have much immediate recourse. In the absence of new legislation, however, the U. For starters, the U. Whatever actions U. Reevaluating proxy war and the conditions under which U. When a benefactor like the United States intervenes in proxy conflict, this provides reason for a proxy to escalate.
In Yemen, they did. If a benefactor provides weapons to a proxy, they can land in the hands of terrorists. In Yemen, they have. And if proxies violate the laws of war, taking the lives of innocents, a benefactor has a responsibility to take action to prevent this from happening again. In Yemen, and in all proxy wars, the United States must. Anthony Pfaff is the research professor for the military profession and ethic at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.
Army War College. He is a retired Army colonel. He currently works in aerospace and defense.
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View Comments. More from Foreign Policy. Argument Beth Oppenheim. Indeed, the major problem of how nationalist sentiments colour our perceptions and provide a fog over all aspects of war is apparent also in jus post bellum. As we will see, some of the uncertainties are lessened when we add jus post bellum proportionality concerns, but other problems will still remain.
It is for these and similar reasons that I will argue in favour of contingent pacifism rather than a Just War approach. Walzer spends very little time on pacifism in Just and Unjust Wars , instead devoting his final chapter to non-violent resistance, but not to larger issues of pacifism. I subscribe to a view, commonly called contingent pacifism, that holds that war is so likely to involve the killing of the innocent that the moral risks of serving in any given war are normally not worth engaging in war.
Walzer would presumably be opposed to this view for similar reasons that he is opposed to non-violent resistance, namely that it is not a realistic alternative to war in cases where there is a war-mongering state. Contingent pacifists can admit that in principle such cases might exist but deny that there are many, if any, in real life. At this stage, I wish to consider an extended example from real life: an intriguing and revealing documentary film from The film is mainly an interview with McNamara about his experiences during war.
When political leaders like McNamara reflect back on their careers, they tend to portray themselves in the best possible light, and McNamara is no exception.
Michael Walzer on Terrorism and Just War
He describes quite coldly the fact that in one night the US firebombed Tokyo, killing over , civilians. He attempts to defend this action by saying that such a strategy prevented the loss of many US soldiers if the war had gone on longer, even as he recognizes that his judgement is clouded by the fog of war.
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This is clearly not a proper proportionality argument. For it to be so, McNamara would have to explain what was gained that was equivalent to such a horrible loss of innocent life — after all, these were , men, women, and children who were not soldiers and who were burned to death, an especially awful way to die. He does not express remorse or regret for the deaths of the civilians, as I said describing them quite calmly and coldly.
But when, in the same scene he recalls that one US pilot was killed during those firebombing raids, he gets teary eyed and has trouble speaking. While the loss of a single soldier during war is of course also regrettable — on grounds of proportionality it surely pales by comparison with , civilians burned to death. Yet McNamara seems to be more upset by the loss of one US soldier than the loss of , Japanese civilians. This is hardly to show a concern for the jus in bello principle of proportionality, unless enemy lives, especially civilian lives, are discounted, even more than the lives of soldiers are normally discounted, when they are on the unjust side of a war.
Here is where a proper consideration of the jus post bellum proportionality principle would help. But jus post bellum considerations make us discount, and quite heavily, these nationalistic concerns, since nationalistic concerns are some of the most invidious motivations standing in the way of post-war reconciliation.
Civilian casualties - Wikipedia
The Japanese cannot be expected to engage in reconciliation if they believe, rightly, that Americans treated Japanese civilian lives so cavalierly. And it appears that this was indeed true of post-war Japan. McNamara is also simply wrong to think that the political or military leaders of a state that goes to war can shield themselves from moral or legal responsibility by pointing to those higher up the chain of command as the truly responsible ones.
But there is an interesting question raised here about whether political and military leaders who launch an illegal aggressive war should be held to a higher standard of responsibility for the destruction that war generates than those political and military leaders who launch a just and defensive war. In jus ad bellum terms there certainly should be different standards, and indeed the leaders on the just side would not be prosecutable at all. But in jus post bellum terms, I believe that both sides should have responsibilities in the aftermath of war, and that the fact of which side one was on should not make a major difference either for moral or legal responsibility.
Political and military leaders have to understand the rules of war at the initiation of war, the conduct during war, and the aftermath of war as true restraints on their behaviour, not as things to be got round by clever arguments of the sort McNamara employed at various points in the film. This idea, that some, although very few, wars can be justified, is the cornerstone of the United Nations Charter, the founding document of international law today.
The Charter says that all armed conflict that violates the territorial integrity or sovereignty of a state is forbidden, and the Geneva Conventions similarly set the tactical rules for the waging of war. Only wars of individual or collective self-defence can be justified in international law today, and only those that are necessary for self-defence until the United Nations itself is ready to take action. The debates about the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions show that just war theory played a profound role in the thinking of the founders of these seminal documents on the international rules of war.
Today, we have international courts that attempt to enforce these provisions. And these courts have made it clear that what they are largely enforcing are principles that one can trace back at least into the Middle Ages of the Just War tradition. Indeed, the very same Latin terms: jus ad bellum — justice of war, and jus in bello — justice in war, are used by both the Just War tradition and contemporary international law.
I think that the term jus post bellum should also come into the legal lexicon and take up some of the ground covered already by the category of transitional justice, but with an eye towards distinctly moral principles. But doing so is complicated by the fog of war. In one sense, the fog of war is a metaphor for the way nationalist sentiments and the drive for victory cloud judgement during wartime. Even well-intentioned people have a hard time discerning what the right thing to do during wartime is. Decisions to send young men and women into battle, knowing many are likely never to come home, would seem to be hard decisions to make in the best of circumstances.
But during war, political leaders sometimes seem to make these decisions effortlessly. At least in part this is because the normal judgements of people are clouded by the abovementioned nationalist sentiments. In another sense, the fog of war is a metaphor for the unpredictability of war.
Wars often seem to have clear rationales and even clear paths to victory at the outset. But wars rarely proceed as predicted, and even the initial rationales change significantly during the course of a war. Consider the second Iraq war. The US and its allies invaded Iraq to stop it from using weapons of mass destruction.
Once it became clear that there were no weapons of this sort, the rationale for the war was changed several times. And nearly every other aspect of war is also often hard to predict in advance. During wartime, or during the lead-up to war, we can see where we are at the moment, but because of the fog we cannot see very far into the future.
This matters because tactical and end-game assessments become unreliable, as Walzer and Lackey admitted. Jus ad bellum principles call for wars to be waged only for just causes. If the causes change during the course of the war, perhaps because it was insufficiently clear what conditions would be found on the ground when the war in a distant part of the world actually is begun, then the principle of just cause, the lynchpin of jus ad bellum, is made very difficult to apply.
Jus in bello principles call for a prediction of what are the likely casualties in a given strategy of war.
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If the number of casualties is very difficult to predict then the principle of proportionality, a cornerstone of jus in bello , will be very difficult to apply. Finally, jus post bellum principles call for ascertaining whether, for instance, criminal trials will increase or decrease human rights abuse in a given society. If it is difficult to predict what will be the effects of indicting, arresting, and prosecuting a sitting head of state, in human rights terms, then it will be very difficult to apply jus post bellum principles as well.
And we will not be helped by adopting a Just War position as much as might have been hoped. In one sense the fog of war does not matter, namely concerning the intentions of the military actors in ordering a particular tactic to be used. But in another sense the fog of war creeps back in. This is because the choice of tactics is premised on achieving certain results, as well as what is thought to be true of the likelihood of civilians not being in a certain area where the tactic is to be employed.