Ethics consists of one of the most relevant issues inherent in war.
As Anscombe (cited FICARROTTA, 2007), in the face of the impending war, it is not blatant that, driven by common reasons, nations “wrongly think they were right” in their decisions to oppose the enemy. “Pride, malice and cruelty are so commonplace that it is true to say that wars have been, for the most part, mere perversity on both sides.”
Perhaps one cannot tacitly accept the author’s understanding that war is merely an expression of wickedness, but the truth is that war can indeed present itself as a drastic opportunity for the practice of the most despicable kinds of immorality, as expressively has been recorded in the history of mankind.
Therefore, it is not difficult to find so many people who condemn the practice of war in any situation, since these pacifists consider the war a true moral catastrophe in the face of the indiscriminate and abusive use of power in the conduct of combat. It happens that, even in the face of an extreme picture, as in war, there must not be this moral nullity that some presuppose to exist. In fact, there is no way of assuming the existence of a radical moral permissiveness that justifies everything in the event of war.
Carl Ficarrotta (2007), professor of philosophy at the University of the Air Force, emphasized that it is imperative that avoidance of hasty moral judgments be avoided if this is not to lead to unsatisfactory work. That is, one should not proceed in a succinct, reckless or “naïve” way without studying the nature of moral questions related to war.
The study was separated into two areas by renowned military ethics professor Manuel Davenport (FICARROTTA, 2007). The first deals with specific “doctrine” of military ethics; the second, a “method” or treatment of what to teach about military ethics. The theme “doctrine” addresses ethical issues such as: the authority to go to war; the combat; loyalty; the professional competence and, even, getting to the point of being treated as morally should be the military.
The author has addressed an important aspect related to ethics and deserves also in this work to be cited, since it refers to the “dangers” of military power exercised indiscriminately and, consequently, the required loyalty of the people who holds that military power.
It is not uncommon to see cases in which the armed forces receive from the state the power that, whether or not it exceeds the demand for the fulfilment of their duty, ends up transforming this power that has been granted in tyranny against the own state. That is why customer loyalty, which in the specific case is the State, is of prime importance to the armed forces and their military. Here again we see the question of the hierarchy of values.
More clearly, the military has a duty to be loyal to its companion and its strength, but this loyalty must be preceded by loyalty to its main client, the State. A concept intrinsic to that of military ethics refers to a just war. It cannot be ignored that the legitimacy of war goes through the legitimacy of its declaration. It is not uncommon for military authorities to understand that it is they who hold the exact understanding of the proper time to declare war, as if the main knowledge to discern the matter was in the possession of the members of the armed forces.
The author has taught that, throughout history, this misconception of the military side has led to poor results. As I said, when the armed forces “decide who are the enemies of their society and engage themselves in actions aimed at the destruction of these apparent enemies, the stability of society is put at risk rather than preserved” (DAVENPORT apud FICARROTTA, 2007).
Therefore, the decision to go to war must belong to the people, legitimate interested in its outcome and the one who has the power to indicate and even dismiss their governments. The same author mentions that “those who rule directly become harder to dismiss if they have the power to wage war,” as if this faculty of deciding whether or not to war also gave its holder an intrinsic stability of power.
Another “danger” of military power refers to the conduct of war. That is, indiscriminate exercise of the power attributed by the State to the military. More clearly, it refers to the risk that, in an estimated and implicit way, military power will give soldiers sufficient legitimacy so that they, without any restrictions, indiscriminately plunder their opponents as if this were indispensable to the interest of the State. It is important to observe that the state and the rules of morality give the soldier the power to practice violence, but even this one suffers restrictions that are in the self-interest of the client, that is, the State.
According to Davenport (apud FICARROTA, 2007), it is the duty of the military to promote the security and well-being of mankind, and this duty, according to military law, takes precedence over duties towards clients who, as citizens, are only a portion of the human race. It is precisely at this point that discernment on the part of the military is necessary, between enemy combatants and innocent civilians, particularly at a time when these civilians represent almost exclusively the humanity and not the adversary than the decision for the war.
Still on the right to war, or rather, on war with just cause or not, some authors adopt more or less comprehensive positions. Davenport’s work leads to the realization that the author preferred the broader stance that the motives for war are broader than the national interests of the state or its self-defense.
In this way, any violations of human rights give cause for war. The author understood that these violations should be punished and, even if this punishment could not be promoted to the offender, by strict inability to do so, to consign such a position would serve at the very least to lead to a growing moral awareness and, consequently, to the perfection of the norms of war. The author also referred to the fact that serving national interests, sometimes selfish, cannot be more important than improving the quality of life of all human beings.
It should be noted that it cannot be said that the author adopted a pacifist position, but only that he sought to observe the hierarchy of values that can justify war.
By their understanding, the values of humanity precede the interests of a State considered selfish. There is no doubt that judging each of these points is a complex and subjective question. In this case, the understanding is that the assessment must consider the values admitted as universal by humanity.