Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Queen visits Irish Roman Catholic church

“Blasphemy!” cried one of His Grace’s communicants, in an irate email received yesterday.

 “Ecumenical religion is apostasy,” he wrote, “which runs contrary to the Queen’s Coronation Oath to uphold the Protestant Reformed Religion.” He insisted that Her Majesty should be denouncing ‘Romanist priests’; not consorting with them. They are ‘purveyors of false religion, deniers of the efficacy of the atoning death of Christ and of His sole mediatorship’. He concluded: “For the Supreme Governor of the Church of England to enter a Roman Catholic Church and shake hands with Romanist priests and cardinals is to condone their erroneous views and endorse their falsehoods.”

Utter tosh.

The Supreme Governor of the Church of England is also the British Head of State, and by virtue of being so she is obliged to exercise her public ‘outward government’ in a manner which accords with the private welfare of her subjects – of whatever creed, ethnicity, sexuality or political philosophy. The Royal Supremacy in regard to the Church is, as Hooker said, ‘in its essence the right of supervision over the administration of the Church, vested in the Crown as the champion of the Church, in order that the religious welfare of its subjects may be provided for’. Theologians and politicians may argue over the manner of this ‘religious welfare’ or the precise meaning of what Hooker meant by the ‘true fulfilment’ of a ‘right relationship with God’, but that is the function of theologians and politicians. For Hooker, church and society were one.

The Queen is acutely involved in leading men to salvation: ‘A gross error it is, to think that regal power ought to serve for the good of the body, and not of the soul; for men’s temporal peace, and not for their eternal safety,’ wrote Hooker. If the state were concerned solely with economics and the material, it would cease to be concerned with people’s welfare in respect of a right relationship with God. Hooker’s articulation of the prerogative of the Crown over its subjects’ religious welfare is the same as that which still underlies the role of the Queen in relation to the Church of England.

So the brief walk over the road from the Anglican St Macartin's Cathedral to St Michael's Roman Catholic church is consistent with both her Coronation Oath and her vocation as a Christian and Church leader.

Indeed, His Grace is increasingly persuaded that the Queen is the greatest living embodiment of the Gospel of Christ of any world leader; the very incarnation of patience, kindness, grace and forgiveness. In Northern Ireland she is quite literally a bringer of peace, sowing love where there is hatred, and pardon where there is injury. She instils faith where there is doubt, and hope where there is despair. She shines light where there is darkness, and brings joy where there is sadness.

Politicians rarely achieve the spiritual objectives of St Francis’. They might quote them, talk about them, debate them, or make manifesto pledges to fulfil them. But the Queen just gets on with it, and lives them.

Today, she will shake hands with Martin McGuinness in Belfast, and we are told that it will be captured on camera. This has been greeted with incredulity and despair by representatives on both sides of the sectarian divide. Martin McGuinness did, after all, play a not insignificant role in the murder of the Queen’s cousin, the Lord Mountbatten. But she will not feign pardon or utter words of forgiveness: in the symbolic shaking of the hand of a terrorist and murderer, she lays bare her heart, which is for peace, reconciliation, and hope.

To those who criticise her for walking into a Roman Catholic church or shaking hands with a former leader of the IRA, consider what Jesus might do.

In an era beyond conflict, he would not hold grudges or harbour unforgiveness. He urges us to love our enemies, which requires a counter-intuitive act of will. And that might mean the occasional visit to a Roman Catholic church, a mosque, gurdwara or mandir. It might also mean encounter with one’s enemies or critics, which involves discussion, and even a handshake.

The Queen doesn’t do emotion in public: the nearest she has ever got to baring her soul was in her address to the nation following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. But she does ‘do God’. As she said in Dublin last year, it is important ‘to bow to the past, but not be bound by it’. By shaking hands with the Sinn Féin deputy first minister, she is recognising not only his elected position, but that things have moved on. The bombs, blood and carnage of Enniskillen have been transformed into another milestone in the peace process in Northern Ireland. As the Queen reaches out her hand in friendship and reconciliation, Martin McGuinness extends his to the ultimate symbol of British rule in the Province.

Blessed are the peacemakers.


Blogger tangentreality said...

Spot on.

27 June 2012 at 10:03  
Blogger Belsay Bugle said...

Our Queen is the only beacon of hope and moral anchor in an otherwise bleak 'democratic' world.
She is the hereditary principle in action.
God bless her!

27 June 2012 at 10:23  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

Well put, Your Grace. One can only hope that this does continue to spread the ripples of reconciliation in all quarters of The British Isles, both the UK and Republic of Ireland, which Newsnight showed still to exist last night.

27 June 2012 at 10:34  
Blogger ECusick said...

Well as someone living in Belfast who doesn't care about "sectarianism" and is quite happy with Roman Catholicism despite its heathen heresy I can give you some perspective.
I hate them all. All of them especially Mcguinesses and Gerry Adams. What sort of country is it to live in that are rulers [including the Paisley man] are ex-murders or at least incentided terrorist organisations to murder. They should al lhave been locked up UVF IRA the whole lot of them. ITs just the continuing capitulation of Justice. Nowadays you can''t get anything from the police they just ignore everyone, unless of course you might have breached diversity and equality laws at work then its life imprisonment.
The fact the queen is endorsing a murderer, what next is she going to Zimbabwe to shake Mugabe hand, after all he is an "elected official".
And what choice do we have instead the "Alliance Party" who are like a flag waving libdems. What we need

27 June 2012 at 10:59  
Blogger bluedog said...

Exactly right, Your Grace. Bravo!

27 June 2012 at 11:05  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


Likewise here. No problem whatsoever with the Queen visiting Catholics. The Rule of Law should never have been suspended. We continue to see, on a daily basis, the just pursuit of members of the Army and the RUC who committed crimes during the Troubles; no such mechanism exists to bring paramilitary members to justice. Instead we increasingly see them in ministerial roles. Every one of them should be brought to account for what they did, and in many cases continue to do either directly, or by engaging in political narratives that seek to justify the violence of the past (and by extension, of the future if ever the "forces of history" return us to a similar place).

To those who think we're being unreasonably harsh, or who somehow think that there is a justification for one or more sides' worth of violence; if you don't much care about the fatalities on the "other side" or think they "had it coming", then please be aware of the evil perpetrated by the paramilitaries against their "own side". These honourable defenders, who now sport various letters after their name, have engaged, and have not been held to account for the murder, intimidation, extortion and blind thuggery they sowed amongst the communities they purported to fight for.

"There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers." Proverbs 6:16-19

27 June 2012 at 11:44  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

The day that it will be right to shake hands with Martin McGuinness (or his Loyalist paramilitary shadows) is the day when he declares not merely that it is wrong to wage war now, that the "situation" demands a new tactical game, but that it was always wrong to wreak bloody havok in the streets.

We can and should find forgiveness for those who do wrong. But there can be no absolution without the admittance of culpability. Vengeance remains the Lord's.

27 June 2012 at 11:50  
Blogger Elby the Beserk said...

Good man Cranmer. I would just add that this is an extension to the Queen's visit to the Republic, which was clearly a huge success. We must be eternally grateful to the Irish (I am half so - my father was brought up in Dublin until the age of 10) - for the extraordinary forgiveness they have shown us Brits. The Queen's actions are absolutely appropriate.

27 June 2012 at 12:09  
Blogger Marcus Foxall said...

Why does His Grace compare HM's actions with those he would expect of Jesus Christ? The latter would have decided His actions independently,whereas the former is a constitutional monarch,influenced by ministers and advisers.
I offer no opinion on whether what she did was "right" or "wrong", but I dispute the implication that she acted out of Christian principle.It was surely a wholly secular, pragmatic decision.

27 June 2012 at 12:25  
Blogger bluedog said...

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread...

Mr AIB, this communicant can understand your sentiments and thinks he understands the fear that the terrible sectarian episode in Northern Ireland engendered.

Notwithstanding McGuiness's record, which is open to debate, he does seem to have spoken the truth on two recent occasions;

1) 'They know I’ve risked my life for the peace process.'

2) "But in shaking the hand of Queen Elizabeth I am effectively, symbolically, shaking the hands of hundreds of thousands of unionists."

Comment 1) is almost certainly true and may yet be confirmed by an attack from dissident republicans.

Comment 2) in a sense reinforces the possibility of the attack mooted in 1).

If McGuiness is therefore running these risks, exactly what does he hope to achieve as a consequence? The presidency of a united Ireland?

Looking forward to your reply.

27 June 2012 at 12:45  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

"The Queen doesn’t do emotion in public..."
She did at the vindictive scrapping of HMS Britannia, and quite right too.

27 June 2012 at 13:18  
Blogger ECusick said...


I am glad someone else in this country sees thigns the way I do. How can we take any of them seriously until they admit they were wrong. The fact that Cramner has sang Ian Paisley's praise before shows how little any of these High church Tories understand what average Northern Irishmen and women feel. Would David Cameroon have become Prime minister if he has stood on the streets infighting sectarian war or being involved with criminal terrorist organisations. give it ten years and there will be a new rise of Northern Irish Nationalism, spite the Toires/ Labour and the bloody hypocrites at Stormont. I personally will not vote in the next election and will deliberately spoil my ballot paper.

All though I have some sympathies with Mcguissenes' risking his life to stop the violence I can help but think that like all politicians its wholly cnical.

27 June 2012 at 14:25  
Blogger Lakester91 said...


Do you mean HMY Britannia?

27 June 2012 at 14:59  
Blogger Penn's Woods, USA said...

True or false. Before King Henry VIII broke with Rome didn't HM's ancestors attend Mass at least once a week in a Roman Catholic church or chapel belonging to the Church IN England? Of course. So why is some Presbyterian bigot in Ulster shook up about this visit and calling it "blasphemy"?

27 June 2012 at 16:50  
Blogger Recusant said...

"His Grace is increasingly persuaded that the Queen is the greatest living embodiment of the Gospel of Christ of any world leader."

And this ancient and unrepentant 'Romanist' would agree with every word of that. Her latest Christmas broadcast was as good a homily on the truth of the Christian message as you could wish to hear. God Save the Queen!

27 June 2012 at 17:28  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


EC is right to note the future danger of violence. Anyone who lives here knows that in both Nationalist and Unionist communities there remains very strong support for the basic principle of each.

McGuinness' position is partly motivated by:

a) People don't want violence, and don't want to be discriminated against.

But primarily by:

b) A united Ireland is not going to happen soon. Nationalists, in all recent polls, oppose reunion. Not in principle but because the Republic would be incapable of funding the colossal benefits and State sector employment that NI gains from the UK.

He risks his life for a position that is justified by its pragmatism. The PIRA had exhausted its support in the Nationalist community (mostly through the violence it inflicted on it) making its paramilitary campaign unsustainable. Sinn Fein is also aggressively devoted to using the "Peace Process" to gain a united Ireland. The man who, for decades, risked his life dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Northern Irish State, risks his life in a continuation rather than reversal of principle.

The same is true of his Loyalist counterparts - who have lagged behind Sinn Fein in terms of political capital, but nevertheless play from the same book. Their rhetoric is: "Nationalists were paid X, received X, in exchange for not blowing people up, where's ours?" The capitulation of the Rule of Law, paying off paramilitaries, and the shambolic and inconsistent approach to amnesties are now seen as the "right" of all former men and women of violence, rather than a concession bitterly wrought under violent duress of democratic and legal authority.

"Ex-" Paramilitaries have not, in most cases, moved to a position where they acknowledge the immorality of their former actions. They issue statements of a desire to move on, they agree that violence is no longer the "optimum strategy", but they do not preclude or seek to atone for their violence. There *are* those who have done this but they remain a very small minority. The majority are kept quiet because of the money they receive, and because it allows them, dissident or otherwise, to retain control in "their" communities.

The problem is, violence in Ireland does not so much recede as ebb. A comparable situation existed in the 1950s. There was, contrary to popular perception, extensive investment in social housing and employment specifically for Catholics. The Civil Rights movement kicked off when this lapsed - in a sense, not as a result of a crescendo of bigotry, but because the supports that had kept the peace began to evaporate because we could no longer afford them. The extensive State-funded supports for the Peace Process are not immune to the economic crisis.

In all this, our leaders persist in their devotion to the “forces of history” thesis where violence was an inevitable consequence of the situation (a thesis originating with Sinn Fein but echoed flaw-for-flaw by the likes of the PUP and the DUP). One has but to look at the Fountain and Top-of-the-Hill, or Ardoyne and the Village to see that the disaffected remain committed to violence, albeit currently restrained to certain annual sparks. They are responsible for their own violence, but it is difficult to fault their logic in the political environment: they are in the “situation” that the PIRA/OIRA and UVF/UDA felt justified their campaigns. McGuinness’ life will truly be in danger if and perhaps when the “situation” enlarges the population of the disaffected – not because he shook hands with the Queen, but because he and the rest of our political class presided over the backward slide . It won’t be the middle-classes who throw the bombs, but their arm-chair Nationalism/Unionism makes them as guilty of failing to establish real and lasting peace, built not by buying off evil but meeting it with justice.

Violence is not inevitable, but only if we square up to the fact that it was and is never justified.

27 June 2012 at 17:29  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Your Grace. An excellent post, and testimony to the popularity of this site. Well done Sir.

27 June 2012 at 18:20  
Blogger David Lindsay said...

Yesterday, the Queen and Cardinal Brady effectively endorsed each other. How could broadly the same constituency possibly get rid of either of them after this?

Not that almost anyone in it wants to have in theory the same finance ministry as Estonia or Cyprus, though in practice the finance ministry of Germany alone, anyway. Nor do they want to be charged every time that they visit the doctor or go into hospital. But the schools in the 26 Counties might very well turn out to be a different proposition, and by no means only for one side, once those in the Six Counties have been ruined by Sinn Féin.

Ah, yes, Sinn Féin. Rising radical party of the Left in the 26 Counties. Queen-greeting party of bourgeois cultural Nationalism in the Six Counties, where it is implementing exactly the policies against which it is campaigning on the rest of the island (much as the UUP implemented the policies of the Attlee Government at Stormont even while voting against them in accordance with the Conservative Whip at Westminster), keeping it in with the likes of Representative Peter King. What do they have in common? Once the practically knighted Adams and McGuinness generation is out of the way, then the organic split will be inevitable.

27 June 2012 at 18:37  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

David Lindsay. This might come as a surprise to you, but the people in the south of Ireland are much more attuned to politics than you give them credit for. They always have been, it’s now in the blood. They know full well what Sinn Fein are about. Unlike the average thicko Anglo-Saxon, they are not swayed by any newspaper banner headline ‘wot won it’...

27 June 2012 at 19:09  
Blogger Macira said...

I don't find myself very often disagreeing with His Grace, but this article is complete balderdash. He is writing as an Anglican rather than a Christian

27 June 2012 at 19:43  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@OiG (19:09):

Thankfully, you are absolutely correct. Alas the "danger" of the Republic voting Sinn Fein is much more closely related to the fecklessness of their own political class.

Frankly, I don't blame them for wanting a protest vote, but in any case find the Republic's voting decisions entirely irrelevant to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. If her citizens ever wish to leave the UK for a united Ireland it will be at the ballot box and by the wishes of the majority of the electorate, not that of the Oireachtas, Westminster, or the SF ard fheis

27 June 2012 at 20:02  
Blogger len said...

'Blessed are the Peacemakers.'

There are precious few 'Peacemakers' in our violent strife torn World.

27 June 2012 at 20:03  
Blogger ECusick said...

I like the way Seinn Fein oppose the austerity measures but want a united Ireland, I guess economics was never their strong point.

27 June 2012 at 20:07  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

There is a third way. The south re-joining the UK with a devolved parliament for all Ireland in Dublin, and the Queen as head of state. Exactly what was asked for and denied in centuries past. Ask the south, you might be surprised at the answer...

27 June 2012 at 20:18  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Macira said ...
"He" (Mr Cranmer) "is writing as an Anglican rather than a Christian."

There's a difference? Care to elaborate?

I take it your brand of Christianity is of the Presbyterian - "no surrender" - persuasion. Left to this spirit we'd still be amidst terrorism in Northern Ireland.

What approach would you prefer?

27 June 2012 at 20:20  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Of course, there would have to be certain demographic controls in place. The Inspector would not like to see his beloved Ireland overrun with negro gangs and Asian heroin dealers. Best keep those types in English cities. English problem. They deal with it...

27 June 2012 at 20:34  
Blogger Sam Vega said...

"Baring" rather than "bearing" her soul. Her Majesty's soul is anything but heavy.

27 June 2012 at 20:38  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


There's a certain irony in your last post (20:34) when it's contrasted with your contribution in the other thread (@18:42).

"Who knows. One day McGuinness might become as popular in GB as that beloved ex-terrorist Mandela. But don’t put money on it. Mandela wasn’t a Catholic mick, was he..."

He also wasn't racist; not just in the sense of fighting against white domination, but also in refusing black domination.

27 June 2012 at 20:42  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Belfast. Events may overtake his views. The only reason that South Africa hasn’t joined the general trend of post colonial countries in swilling downwards in the pan is that at the moment the ‘majority’ government has the good sense to keep the whites on board. All it takes is one clever black to climb to the top, tapping into black racial prejudice of course. You didn’t think that Mugabe was a one off, by any chance ?

27 June 2012 at 20:52  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

No, I don't think Mugabe was a one-off, but I also don't think that his skin-colour explains or is the source of his evil.

His own racism explains perfectly well how he justifies some of the violence and tyranny he perpetrates; but as I've been saying, people find all manner of reasons to justify violence. I no more buy Mugabe's justifications than I do McGuinness' or the late David Ervine's.

27 June 2012 at 21:02  
Blogger Kennedy said...

Excellent Post and very good comments afterwards.

Thank you, Your Grace, and your correspondents.

27 June 2012 at 21:09  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Belfast, Inspector has missed your point regarding his posts...

27 June 2012 at 21:13  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Only that you decry McGuinness being treated as a "mick" (hence, as a victim of racism), whilst a) not wanting any 'negro gangs and Asian heroin dealers' in your 'beloved Ireland' (how do you feel about the white Irish gangs and heroin dealers in Northern Ireland?); and b) maintaining that said gangs and drug dealers are an 'English problem' - who are of course 'Anglo-Saxon thickos'.

You've since gone on to ascribe Mugabe's actions as being at least in some portion affected by his skin colour.

That's quite a lot you've related to race there. But I do agree, it would be pretty revolting to hate McGuinness simply because he's Irish and (notionally) Catholic.

27 June 2012 at 21:21  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Are you saying McGuiness and Ervine are no different to Mugabee?

27 June 2012 at 21:26  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Was listening to a report on the Haitian earthquake disaster update a few months ago. The negro population can’t even organise themselves to clear the rubble. Even just to pass the bloody time. Expecting ‘aid’ people to do that for them. Don’t expect too much from the white man’s burden. Anyway, you can see why the British Empire treated them all as feckless children – even the eighty year olds...

A couple of years ago a famous fallacy was exposed. You don’t actually lose more heat through the head. Here’s another fallacy exposed, we are not all equal. Hurts doesn’t it....


27 June 2012 at 21:28  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Belfast, almost forgot. White heroin gangs in Ireland ? Hang the lot, every single man involved. Wait a few months and then see if there is a heroin problem. WHY THE HELL can’t people in power do what is required of them. Take the necessary decisions they as politicians are elected to take...

27 June 2012 at 21:32  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


I'm not going to play political top trumps; my position has always been that murder, extortion, intimidation, and thuggery are wrong whether they are exercised by the State or by paramilitaries operating beyond the law. I'm just noting that all of these activities have been variously justified in particular situations by all of the people I named.

Are they "no different"?; no, there are very significant differences between their views, ideologies, and aims, but so long as someone wants to pretend that torturing political opponents, or knee-capping those who report crimes to the police, or funding illegal arms though the heroin trade can be justified, I don't much care what their differences or similarities are: I simply refuse the basis of their claim that such acts can be justified.

27 June 2012 at 21:35  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


Not going to dispute a tough stance on the drug trade, regardless of who runs it.

I've a couple of friends who went out to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake, and their perception of the community response was very different from the one you've outlined. If anything, they were deeply impressed and moved by the Haitians' pulling together, particularly between churches. I could well believe that there would be looters and opportunistic criminals as well, but what country on God's earth is not plagued by such people?

27 June 2012 at 21:39  
Blogger bluedog said...

Firstly, many thanks AIB @ 17.29 for your detailed explanation.

Secondly, Inspector @ 20.18, Bingo! Isn't that what all this is about?

In just under four years time we see the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. How to recognise or celebrate, as the case may be, this momentous date?

It must be obvious to the men of violence on both sides of the divide that with modern electronic and satellite surveillance backed up by predator drones, the leadership of any terrorist group is on a ticket to oblivion. The ballot box is therefore a survival mechanism in pursuit of the goal.

The Unionists want to stay in union with the UK, the Nationalists want independence. Devolution gives them both what they want to some degree. With the corrupting influence of the EU slowly waning as the Eurozone crisis rolls on, the people of the Irish Republic may also look for a new political relationship with the UK. Only a dreamer would now bet on the EU as a social and economic panacea.

It seems significant that the woes of the EU appear quite suddenly to have tempered the SNP drive to independence. In a very uncertain world it looks cold outside the UK tent.

Perhaps all the Irish people are being given a subtle message by HM Queen: 'We're here, if you wish, come and talk to us and we'll cut a deal that you can accept'.

27 June 2012 at 21:42  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Belfast. The Inspector is a determined man, and ruthless with it. Give him carte blanche to end the drugs trade and he will not disappoint...

27 June 2012 at 21:49  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Bluedog. The southern Irish loathe the EU, yet it’s been good to them. However, give them a chance to get out, and join a UK free of the EU itself, they would not only jump, but run around the ring and jump again...

27 June 2012 at 21:53  
Blogger bluedog said...


Maybe Easter 2016 will see a UK exit from the EU and a re-united Ireland within the UK!

27 June 2012 at 21:58  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Sorry to rain on your parade, I doubt the majority of Irish people want to become a part of the United Kingdom. You'd have to go back many centuries to rekindle that spirit.

An independant and united Eire. that includes the six counties, peacefully achieved, remains the hoped for dream.

AIB said ...
" ... my position has always been that murder, extortion, intimidation, and thuggery are wrong whether they are exercised by the State or by paramilitaries operating beyond the law."

An indictment of the whole of human history, I'd say.

I do agree. However, yesterday's State sanctioned murders and paramilitary crimes are in so many places praised as today's freedom fighters.

27 June 2012 at 22:10  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Not by me they ain't.

27 June 2012 at 22:29  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Is such neutrality possible?

All our nations have been formed one way or another by violence. Just look at the different ways 'history' judges William of Orange and Olver Cromwell in Ireland.

27 June 2012 at 22:50  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


Does not your church provide a doctrine of Just War?

Only done for the purposes of self-defence or just purpose (rules out most colonial wars); executed only by legimate authority (rules out paramilitaries); peace as a central motive; must be winnable, must be commensurate, must be backed by the population.

I admit to struggling to think of any violence where those criterion are met, but as you say: an indictment of humanity.

But to the more personal assertion: I struggle to think of any violently-achieved goal that I think was justified. Cromwell was a nasty bastard, and is indeed remembered differently in England. William of Orange is an interesting one - his accession to the throne was largely non-violent in England and more importantly by invitation (a key principle of legitimacy in Just War theory), and his military engagement with James was largely the result of the latter's appalling lack of judgement and attempt to overturn the will of his former people. The fact that the man abandoned his men on multiple occasions, speaks volumes of his character, and rather confirms the Pope's decision to support William.

However, for the avoidance of doubt, I do not share, beyond my indictment of James' personal defects, the prevailing sentiment that his Catholicism constituted a defect. I have no problem with having a Catholic monarch, notwithstanding concerns regarding the means by which such constitutional change would be managed. I also hold no invective for the men and women who followed James in Ireland, save pity that it took so long to realise what a "shit" he was. Nor do I see any justice in the systematic exclusion of Catholics, Presbyterians, and non-conformists from political and social life that followed.

I'll end my answer to you by saying that even were a war to come close to fulfilling all the criteria for Just War, one might fight a Just War and nevertheless put in place an unjust peace. But that was really the point I have been trying to make in other posts: that it is right to scrutinize peace as well as war.

27 June 2012 at 23:12  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


You're views on 'The Glorious Revolution' aside, we are agreed in principle. And I believe I'm right in thinking that Catholic theology allows for a just uprising of people against tyranny.

I can think of a few examples where the criteria for a Just War is applicable. The defeat of Nazism being the obvious one. That said, and is supportof your observation, Hitler was, in part, the result of an unjust peace in 1918.

27 June 2012 at 23:27  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


I didn't mean to subscribe to a Whig history of the Glorious Revolution; the various massacres in Scotland, the subsequent treatment of the non-Protestant Irish were unquestionably reprehensible and unjust.

I do stand by my assessment of the two monarchs - simply because it seems clear that James was a very bad king, and tending towards a centralisation of power, whereas William was a rather better one, who was obliged to accept, and in any case seemed content with a dispersion of power from the Crown. A minor point in the aftermath, but one that I suspect has had a greater influence on the subsequent relations of people in the British Isles was the failure of William's religious toleration laws at the hands of the English Parliament.

That said, I'm afraid I still resist the idea that paramilitary violence - which is very different from popular and open rebellion - would be just, and it certainly would seem to be precluded by the Just War doctrine.

Good point on Nazism; but the thing I've always found to be sound in Just War Theory is that it is not enough for a war to be motivated justly: it must also be exercised in a just fashion. That clearly indicts Stalinist Russia's treatment of both the territories they liberated and soon after occupied, but also a good number of decisions taken by Western Allied leaders. I do not, for instance, think that the firebombing of Dresden, or the use of nuclear weaponry can ever be morally justified.

27 June 2012 at 23:43  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr AIB @ 23.43, some wonderful posts.

But, '...or the use of nuclear weaponry can ever be morally justified.'

If the war to defeat the fascist tyrannies including Imperial Japan was just, how many lives on both sides would have been lost if the atom bombs had not been dropped? The answer is potentially millions. Was it wrong to shorten the war and save those lives? Truman was a decent and thoughtful man who made the right decision in the circumstances.

We have enjoyed sixty-seven years of global peace as a consequence. It is a paradox that such an evil weapon can bring forth such a benign result.

28 June 2012 at 00:00  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


You are of course correct about 'revolutionaries' who use tactics that main and kill innocent people. I remember Pope John being particularly scathing of Catholic Church theologians and priests in South America about this.

So far as James II is concerned, good, bad or indifferent as he may have been, by the standards of the times he was the rightful King, duly crowned with oaths of allegiance sworn. What did he do that was so wrong? Fathered a male heir, thereby displacing the anticipated succession of Mary. The real trigger was the feared re-establishment in England of Catholicism. In Ireland he was supported by the majority of the population.

I do agree with you about bombing Dresden and am still agnostic about the atomic bombing of Japan.

Here's the Catholic line taken from the Cathechism on Just War:

"- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

- there must be serious prospects of success;

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition."

Andon the use of weapons of mass destruction:

"Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation."

"A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes."

Was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "indiscriminate"?

28 June 2012 at 00:39  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

It's always tempting to see issues like this in increasingly abstract terms. We want to have a consistent moral principle, and so, as if we were pursuing something commensurate to a Law of Physics, we expand our vision to the point where human difference is rendered down, and where we see crowds rather than people. The danger with seeing things in abstract terms is that we always tend toward utilitarianism. We can always come up with transactions of life that seem reasonable when we posit that one must choose between one group or another. A Cause too can seem to be sufficiently of value to exchange its survival or ascent for the mere cost of human life.

But let's be absolutely clear: these transactions require the intentional destruction of an Image-Bearer of God, and very often they result in the irrevocable marring of God's Image, whether in body or mind. War is a transaction of torn flesh and the shedding of blood. I don't say that to be overly rhetorical, but simply to keep our eyes on the basic facts.

God's Cause required and demanded the blood of One Person, a Person He provided in and from Himself. It seems to me that this is an important point here, even if I can't grasp and express it in its entirety.

Thinking about the Pacific War always brings to mind the "Miracle on the River Kwai". To those not familiar with it, it's a testimony of the experiences of several Christian soldiers in the Japanese POW Camps, including instances of unjust suffering willingly taken on to spare it to others, and eventually martyrdom. I raise it because it is clear that those individuals were men of peace, in whom the Spirit of God dwelt with real and powerful Love. But they were also soldiers. They were there only because they had come to fight the Japanese - and so, to destroy the Japanese soldiers they faced in the field. They did so, as Bluedog suggests, because they saw immediate evil in the Imperial conquest of the Pacific, an evil that demanded a response, and to which the Allies responded - no doubt for reasons of power as well as altruism - but to which these men of peace responded too.

There is no sense in their testimony that they sought to deny the Image of God in their enemies, nor that they found depersonalisation of the enemy to be compatible with God's Love. If Justice can compel a man to destroy the likeness of God, it is not, I submit, out of hatred, but done with a weeping heart. That heart, even in the heat of battle, amidst every practicality of war, is essential. It is the difference between inflicting a death because one must, and inflicting pain; the difference between a heart willing to accept quarter, and ultimately it is a heart that strives ever to see the surrendur and the cessation of violence. Not one blow, not one shot, not one life that can be avoided.

Compare then the atomic bomb. Even assuming a heavy heart in the man who presses the button, or opens the hatch, there is no corresponding ability to stay a blow; to accept quarter; to respond to the Human before you. There is nothing but naked destruction and death, the utter ruin without possibility of reprieve of countless people. Bombardment and traditional payload bombs have only a smaller scale in their favour.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote often that he was convinced that it was Orcs who were running both sides during the Second World War. He understood that there are some weapons that are works of the Enemy, that cannot be taken up without forfeiting something of our humanity. Therein lies the difference: when man sets out with his arsenal of destruction he has already marred the Image of God before any spark is ignited: not of the enemy, but his own.

28 June 2012 at 02:08  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Here's a teaching based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Righteous versus Unrighteous Anger

"Anger is a desire for revenge. Anger is the passion (emotion) by which a man reacts to evil, real or apparent, and seeks vindication of his rights, that is, justice.

By itself the passion is neither moral or immoral, but becomes so by reason or its being ordered or disordered - that is, reasonable according to the circumstances. An ordered anger is directed to a legitimate object, and, with an appropriate degree of vehemence. An inordinate anger is directed either to an illegitimate object, or, with an unreasonable vehemence. As St. Thomas Aquinas notes, vice may be by defect, as well as excess. So, the presence of evil should provoke a righteous anger, which if absent constitutes a sinful insensibility.

Consider the just anger of the Lord to the presence in the Temple of the money-changers and the action He took (John 2:13-17). Provoked by this offense against His Father, Jesus formed whips and drove them from the Temple. Righteous anger, and the acts which flow from it, intend the correction of vice (both for the good of the individual sinner and the common good), the restoring of the order of justice disturbed by sin, and the restraint of further evil.

On the other hand, unjust anger seeks to do evil to another for its own sake, the harm to body or soul that it entails. While one may desire, and employ, physical force for the sake of correction, restraint of evil and restoring justice, even if it entails injury and death, one may never desire it for its own sake. To desire some slight injury for an evil motive would be venially sinful. To desire grave injury or death would be gravely sinful. A Christian may never, of course, desire the damnation of the evil doer. Charity requires that we will the good, especially the ultimate good, salvation, for every human being. Unfortunately, the entertainment media often promotes an image of anger and vengeance which is closer to blood lust than to justice."

28 June 2012 at 02:27  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Just War

"All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. Despite this admonition of the Church, it sometimes becomes necessary to use force to obtain the end of justice. This is the right, and the duty, of those who have responsibilities for others, such as civil leaders and police forces. While individuals may renounce all violence those who must preserve justice may not do so, though it should be the last resort, "once all peace efforts have failed."

As with all moral acts the use of force to obtain justice must comply with three conditions to be morally good.

First, the act must be good in itself. The use of force to obtain justice is morally licit in itself.

Second, it must be done with a good intention, which as noted earlier must be to correct vice, to restore justice or to restrain evil, and not to inflict evil for its own sake.

Thirdly, it must be appropriate in the circumstances. An act which may otherwise be good and well motivated can be sinful by reason of imprudent judgment and execution.

In this regard Just War doctrine gives certain conditions for the legitimate exercise of force, all of which must be met:

1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

3. there must be serious prospects of success;

4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

The responsibility for determining whether these conditions are met belongs to "the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good." The Church's role consists in enunciating clearly the principles, in forming the consciences of men and in insisting on the moral exercise of just war.

The Church greatly respects those who have dedicated their lives to the defense of their nation. "If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace." However, she cautions combatants that not everything is licit in war. Actions which are forbidden, and which constitute morally unlawful orders that may not be followed, include:

- attacks against, and mistreatment of, non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners;

- genocide, whether of a people, nation or ethnic minorities;

- indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants.

Given the modern means of warfare, especially nuclear, biological and chemical, these crimes against humanity must be especially guarded against.

In the end it is not enough to wage war to achieve justice without treating the underlying causes. "Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war" [CCC 2317]. The Church has no illusions that true justice and peace can be attained before the Coming of the Lord. It is the duty of men of good will to work towards it, nonetheless. In the words of the spiritual dictum, we should work as if everything depended upon our efforts, and pray as if everything depended upon God."

28 June 2012 at 02:30  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

New from Ronco. It's "Just War Theory." The latest in adult parlor games. Astound your friends by creating fancy syllogisms. Spend pleasant hours writing philosophical tomes. Push chits of armies around on a game board as you find new and acceptable ways to win wars. And all in the safety of your own library. Only $19.95 at a retailer near you. Does not include tax and license. Offer void where prohibited by law.


28 June 2012 at 04:17  
Blogger bluedog said...

MR AIB, some interesting musings between Dodo and yourself, but it may be easier to leave it to the Geneva Convention. After all, the GC was written by Christian nations to codify a Christian way of war. The rest of the world has more or less fallen in line. It may be too late to re-invent that particular wheel.

One thing's for sure, there's nothing too high minded down the pointy end, it's kill or be killed. I suspect the infantry in every war are motivated by blind terror and the need to survive. See John Keegan's The Face of Battle.

On the matter of atomic weapons, the constitution of NATO specifically mentions that NATO is an alliance based on the possession of nuclear weapons. Not much chance of banning them with that level of support. However there are clear benefits to non-proliferation, particularly where Islamic states are concerned.

Unfortunately the concept of mutually assured destruction is what keeps the peace. It was ever thus, in one form or another.

28 June 2012 at 09:45  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


So you don't believe the decision to take up arms or how one conducts oneself as a nation or individual during warfare, should be the subject of theological consideration by Christians?

Leave it to the Politicians Generals, eh?

28 June 2012 at 17:13  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


Good point about the Geneva Convention. A good example, actually, of the kind of principled response to violence that I think pulls modern warfare into start relief is one of the main signatory bodies to the GC: The Red Cross/Crescent/Diamond Movement. They have, to my mind, an entirely admirable attitude that refuses to accept that practical and utilitarian concessions in the making of war should change the fundamental morality of providing medical aid to any and all who are injured and wounded.

"One thing's for sure, there's nothing too high minded down the pointy end, it's kill or be killed. I suspect the infantry in every war are motivated by blind terror and the need to survive."

Precisely so. All the more reason to always make sure that any and every military act can be halted before blind destruction takes the day. There is no nobility, I agree, in stabbing, or shooting another person - they are not somehow "better" acts than blowing them up from afar. However, the possibility to stay violence against another person always remains - it is in most direct combat situations possible for one side to be forced into a position of surrender wherein any further loss of life is prevented. We might see bombings as merely being an extension of this, enlarged in scale, but to do so is to move from an understanding of war as a succession of deaths of individuals, each utterly irreplaceable, to one in which casualties comprise a more arithmetic accounting of loss.

If you took all the people who died in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs - both nuclear and conventional - and lined them up in order to shoot them one-by-one, the effect would be different only by the lack of destruction to property, and the absence of lingering radiation. Understandably, most people will balk at this image - which we associate with tyrannical regimes executing dissidents and "undesirables". It would be specious to suggest an equivalence between Truman and Pol Pot, however, so let us modify the image and say that such an act carried out by a Western nation would stop the moment that the population surrendered, when the death toll reached a sufficiently appalling height to make capitulation preferable to continuation.

The sole virtue of the line of executions would be the cessation of violence before the end of the line. Mass bombings of civilian populations, but also of soldiers, are precisely this kind of calculated engagement; save that in our endless drive towards efficient means of destruction we have moved to a position where we no longer consider the already dubious justice of attrition in terms of "how much is necessary to force a defeat", but rather move the base line to the destructive potency of our weapons. It is as if we have taken our line of victims and, for reasons of efficiency, decided to count lives off in greater and greater batches. It is an economics of violence, with precious little between terrorists who seek to inflict sufficient injury to make opposition to their aims too costly, and Great Powers who see such margins as a consequence of waging war.

What we lose is the very heart of Christianity, and by default the very heart of God's Love for mankind: that there is no life, no soul, not precious enough to seek its salvation rather than its destruction. Awaiting the day when all weapons are put beyond use, there is yet a place for the just use of arms in our fallen world, but it should always be bounded by a refusal to accept anything but the most necessary use of force, and guided by hearts that always look towards lasting and just peace.

28 June 2012 at 19:04  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Got off the central point, but just wanted to share with you all two testimonies from the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, both of whom are Catholics (hat-tip to Peter Hitchens & Douglas Murray).

C. McGuigan: "At the time of my father’s death, my mother cleared a space in our kitchen and made me kneel under the Sacred Heart picture and swear to her that I would never do anything about my father’s death that would bring shame on the name of the family. Having lost her husband, I believe that my mother was determined that she would not lose any other member of her family as a result of what had happened. I have honoured that promise to this day."

L. Friel: "I had witnessed what one person could do to another when I saw Barney McGuigan [getting shot] and I knew I could never justify doing this to another human being. I saw reality that day."

I just wish the Queen could have come to Northern Ireland to shake the hands of Mr Guigan and Mr Friel.

28 June 2012 at 21:29  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Didn't the Queen did shake hands in spirit with these ordinary heroes when she entered both a Catholic Church and a Church of Ireland Cathedral?

28 June 2012 at 22:54  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


Leave it to the Politicians Generals, eh?

You are assuming that the 'Just War' criteria specified in your post will have objective non-political answers. In fact the answers to those questions will be driven by politics. You are also assuming that specific actions can be evaluated in isolation - divorced from the context of the larger war. They can't.

I have said this many times. Leadership in war consists of making choices from a list of bad alternatives - choices that must of necessity be made with imperfect information. A leader can't transport himself into the future to see the outcome of his decision. Different sets of lives hang on the outcome of his decision. The decision he makes will literally change the distribution of who lives and who dies.

Consider one of your criterion.

indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants.

Does Hiroshima violate the stated criteria? Many people say 'Yes.' If you consider the attack on Hiroshima as an isolated event divorced from context, you can't come to a different conclusion. But that is the wrong way to look at the problem. You must trade the set of lives lost at Hiroshima against the set of lives saved by Hiroshima.

1. The American soldiers who didn't die in a prolonged war.

2. The Allied soldiers who didn't die in a prolonged war.

3. The Japanese soldiers and civilians outside of Hiroshima who didn't die in a prolonged war.

4. The allied civilians who didn't die in a prolonged war.

5. The allied POWs who didn't die in a prolonged war.

6. Non-combatants in occupied countries who didn't die or continue to suffer occupation in a prolonged war.

Too many people want to focus only on their own personal culpability and not on the total outcome.

Remus: "I would not have destroyed Hiroshima! It was wrong to kill those 100,000 people."

Romulus: "But it ended the war. If the war hadn't ended when it did, 400,000 POWs would have been dead by the end of the year."

Remus: "That is on the Japanese. Not me."

Romulus: So it's better that 400,000 people die instead of 100,000 because that way you have no blood on your hands?"

Leaders in war don't have the luxury of avoiding these choices.


28 June 2012 at 23:16  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Carl. Your logic is of course correct. It is unfaultable...

28 June 2012 at 23:36  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


Undoubtedly. Her visit to the victims of the Enniskillen Bombing was also similarly appropriate.

I don't actually fault the Queen at all for any of her actions in Ireland in the last few years - there is nothing shameful in her conduct or her bearing.

28 June 2012 at 23:36  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


"But that is the wrong way to look at the problem. You must trade the set of lives lost at Hiroshima against the set of lives saved by Hiroshima."

I would rather insist that one must not start to think of it in terms of a trade of lives, and that doing so inexorably becomes its own justification for conflict.

"Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”" (Genesis 18:32)

I wonder, were there even ten righteous people in Hiroshima?

28 June 2012 at 23:48  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


If one follows your logic, then armed resistance is precluded and the only available option is surrender. The commander after all points his finger in the face of a soldier and says "You go die." If that is the only moral calculation in play, then there is no moral justification for ever fighting. But the justification for sending the soldier to die is precisely that the cost to the one accrues to the benefit of the many.

Are you then a pacifist? If not, your position is a logical contradiction.


28 June 2012 at 23:59  
Blogger Pétrus said...

I believe that Her Majesty is welcome to join the Ordinariate.

29 June 2012 at 00:03  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


Why see it solely from the point of view of the commander? The soldier in the cases of morally justified war we're discussing was very often there because they honoured their duty to their nation, and were willing to make a sacrifice on its behalf. This is not insignificant.

The calculation you describe is not a simple case of neutral arithmetic as it may at first seem. The choice was not between differing casualties of soldiers who were engaged in the conflict, but between the POWs, and a civilian population. It is one thing to make decisions in the field of war that will result in the death of soldiers on the opposing side, who also fight, and another entirely to expand the conflict to include non-combatants.

The POWs should not, of course, have ever been forced to endure the conditions or treatment that they did; nor should they have been executed in cold blood. But this provides no justification for engaging in the wholesale, and cold-blooded destruction of life, including women and children. In that instance, I'm afraid I would argue that the "exchange" of the two groups was unacceptable.

It is, to put it simply, a matter of justice. Our God would have stayed a similarly apocalyptic fate, for the sake of just ten people: He would have tolerated the continuation of the abominations of the City of Sodom rather than shed righteous blood; He attests to Romulus' position that one cannot have unjustly shed blood on one's hands and remain justified.

There are simply some forms of warfare that cannot be engaged in without becoming like the Enemy; nuclear weapons and conventional firebombing of cities are two such forms.

To pacifism: there is sufficient basis for just forms of the use of arms to make a simple refusal to use force, in my mind, a non-compulsory position in Christianty. However, I would say that the closer one becomes to Christ, the use of force is increasingly precluded - not because it can never be justified (cf. the overturning of the tables in the Temple) - but because the qualities of God's Love and Mercy form imperatives stronger still for us. This is not to argue that just use of force simply evaporates, or was always a fiction - but rather that it becomes the exclusive perogative of the Lord's.

As we follow Christ we cannot help but find more reasons to love our enemies than to seek their destruction. This very often has meant that the cost of those continuing transactions of violence (the "reality of the world") falls on the heads of Christ's disciples, but only because they accept that burden willingly, and only because they tread in the footsteps of the Man who carries all burdens.

29 June 2012 at 00:32  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Why are you seeking to trivialise the 'Just War' doctrine? Surely you'd agree a State's actions must be shaped by God's rules for when and how military action may be taken?

The Just War doctrine is based on the Bible. Christians must not love violence. They must promote peace whenever possible and be slow to resort to the use of arms. But they must not be afraid to do so when it is called for. Evil must not be allowed to remain unchecked. Peace is the goal, but when it cannot be achieved without force, force must be used.

Take the principles, one by one, and argue against them if you are so inclined, but please don't imply they are idealistic and that war allows for no such considerations. It's not a game of monopoly!

Let's look at one as it applies to Hiroshima.

"Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation."

Do you agree and accept this as a principle? I know from earlier posts that you don't as you argued in favour of raising an entire country to the ground if its leaders nuclear bombed Israel - to teach them and the world a lesson! To my mind an immoral and indefensible suggestion.

Some say grave violations during World War II included the firebombing of Dresden and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This centers not on the balance sheet of the dead but on whether these attacks were designed to destroy targets of military value whilst attempting to spare civilian populations. Or were they deliberate attempts to put pressure on enemy governments by attacking non-combatants regardless of the numbers killed? If so, according to the Just War doctrine they were grave violations of God's law. If the bombings were directed at legitimate military targets and civilians died as a consequence this would not be immoral.

As you know Catholics do not not believe an act is justified by its outcome. An act of evil cannot be justified because it achieves a good outcome. The act itself has to be morally acceptable too.

Application of the moral law is not suspended during armed conflict. The fact that war has broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.

29 June 2012 at 01:20  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


I focus on the commander because he is the one making all the decisions in question. He is the actor who would use 'Just War' principles. It was Truman who authorized the use of the atomic bomb and not Paul Tibbets.

You overlook that the commander does not carry equal responsibility to all those affected by his decisions. He has greater responsibility to those under his charge. He possesses greater responsibility for the welfare of his own people and his own allies than he does to those of the enemy. You are implicitly demanding that he carry those burdens equally. The Chinese who would die at the hands of the Japanese while you act according to 'Just War Doctrine' would not be impressed with the high moral nature of this assertion of equality. They would carry the cost of your unwillingness to act on their behalf.

That difference is at the center of your argument - a denial of equivalence between acting and failing to act. By acting you assume moral responsibility for the outcome. By failing to act you presume to shift moral responsibility to your adversary. This is why you can say that ...

The POWs should not, of course, have ever been forced to endure the conditions or treatment that they did; nor should they have been executed in cold blood.

... even as you avoid courses of action that would save them. Their death is not your responsibility. The center of your view becomes yourself and not all those around you. I understand your position quite well. It amounts to a deliberate willingness to shift casualties from enemy to ally. Your conscience may be clear, but look at the bodies you have gathered around you. The fact that you deny responsibility for those bodies does not mean you have avoided responsibility for them. The Chinese who would have died because Hiroshima was spared cannot just be cast aside as an unfortunate collateral outcome of your logic.

There is no bright boundary between these two worlds of combatant and non-combatant. If I attack a country's ability to make war, I attack its ability to sustain its population as well. Trains carry war supplies. They also carry food. If I destroy trains and yards and rail bridges - all perfectly legitimate targets - I don't just destroy its ability to move troops an supplies. I also shatter the ability of the country to supply food to its population. Wht is this acceptable under just war doctrine? I fail to understand a moral calculus that would legitimize a collateral famine that would kill millions with starvation and yet condemn Hiroshima as immoral. The former was Japan's impending fate in the fall of 1945. Would that have been better for the Japanese than Hiroshima?

Or will you say that all dual use infrastructure becomes an illegitimate target as well? Are you saying that the only way to legitimately end the war with Japan was that awful impending invasion? Would you really kill 20,000,000 Japanese to save 200,000? This is where you position inevitably leads. It's a futile effort to isolate the effects of war to soldiers on fields of combat. It can't be done. Not since nations learned to mobilize their full strength for war.


29 June 2012 at 13:27  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


If you want to know while I think Just War Doctrine is trivial, then read AIB's arguemnts. He is arguing philosophy. He is not addressing the practiocal realities of war. I firmly believe he would assert that it is more important to uphold just war doctrine than it is to win. In fact, his position absolutely demands this conclusion.

Let me state this clearly.

There is no just war doctrine that is worth letting Hitler win the war.

I will say that again.

There is no just war doctrine that is worth letting Hitler win the war.


29 June 2012 at 13:57  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


On the contrary, the deaths of the POWs would be, in part at least, the responsibility of those leaders who had asked and required them to be in the war. My point was that this alone does not justify the wholesale destruction of life.

Non-combatants by definition have not made an informed decision to be involved in the conflict (the moment they do so, they are effectively no longer non-combatants): the POWs had. Thus, the POW engages, and in most cases willingly accepts the possibility of their death. Their commanding officers have a responsibility and a moral obligation not to squander that sacrifice, and to seek the safety of their troops as much as it is possible to do so. This does not, however, grant them carte blanche as to the means by which they do so.

In that sense, the commander's responsibility to his troops is relational. He makes tactical and strategic decisions (either in the case of ordering action, or refusing to take action) that may result in the death of his troops, but he does so with the implicit offer from his men to give up their lives. He is responsible for their deaths, as they are responsible for choosing to go into battle where they may die - but neither would be culpable for the crime of their execution at the hands of the enemy.

A similar relation exists between a commander and the enemy forces: both are there to fight, and both accept by undertaking conflict, that they will seek the defeat, and by proxy to inflict injury and death upon one-another.

No such relation exists between commanders (or for that matter soldiers) and non-combatants. If the commander willfully seeks to injure and kill non-combatants he is solely responsible and culpable for their destruction.

"It's a futile effort to isolate the effects of war to soldiers on fields of combat. It can't be done. Not since nations learned to mobilize their full strength for war."

This is what I meant by the fact that our expansion of war has become the base-line for our justification. In principle, the Geneva Convention and other similar articles exist precisely to rein in the doctrine of total warfare. The fact - and I accept your assessment of the reality - that virtually all nations have the capacity to expand any field of war according the the pay-load of their arsenal does not presuppose that doing so is morally acceptable.

Your point about bombing infrastructure is a good one - but consider that if its use is under a strict policy of adhering to moral use of arms, the threat of starvation will in itself be leverage in achieving the defeat of the enemy. Faced with such an insurmountable threat to their population, a leader should seek terms. Remember that Just War theory demands just principles for waging war: if one is defending oneself, there is no need to press home the defeat in this situation; if one is acting to prevent a great moral evil, inflicting another moral evil on the enemy is counter to the reasons for conflict.

You may aver that there are plenty of tyrants who would not act justly, who would allow their populations to starve before calling a halt to hostilities. But this too relies upon the relational responsibility they share with their people: history has many examples where upon such decisions being made, the people end up resisting their own leaders, as they did in Germany at the end of WWI, as they did in Argentina at the end of the Falklands War.

This is precisely what I mean by resisting the arithmetic narrative of conflict: it is not simply a numbers game, it is reliant on a complex exchange of responsibility, moral behaviour, and culpability, and when properly observed, when military powers exercise proper restraint (even against enemies who exercise no such restraint), it creates the preconditions for the removal of evil, rather than simply the defeat of the enemy by any means necessary.

29 June 2012 at 14:04  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


Not upholding Just War Theory: upholding moral behaviour, refusing to give in to evil, either externally, or by allowing it control of ourselves. And yes, I do think that the ends cannot justify the means if the means are thoroughly immoral.

That doesn't mean that simply doing nothing is an option: I agree, that very often one can make empty gestures of peace or conciliation that not only fail to hold evil to account, but may advance its position. You'll notice in my earlier arguments about paramilitaries in Northern Ireland that I am very much opposed to rewarding evil.

In the end, the central focus for morality can only be the individual. This means that one undertakes to behave morally regardless of the cost to oneself but not irregardless of the cost to others.

The man who takes up arms justly offers his life for the protection of others, and for the possibility of just peace. He behaves as he should, for the prevention of further evil - a central component of which is his own refusal to engage in evil. He may be obliged to seek by force the defeat of an aggressor, or of a tyrant, but he loses the moral justification to force the moment he no longer considers his own conduct relevant to the progress of war. In a situation where doing so will result in his own death, this is the price.

That is the very point of morality: it is the willingness to take up one's cross. It is not a desire to do so, but a recognition that in the narrowing of possibilities, the awful day may come when Christ calls us to follow Him. We strive wherever possible to ensure that those possibilities do not narrow - in the field of war, this does indeed mean being as strategically smart as possible to prevent such stark dilemmas - but in the end, when that choice comes, it is one between doing what is right and doing what is wrong, even for the right reasons. This is, I believe, the central importance of our collective remembrance of the "Glorious Dead": we honour them for their sacrifice, as we promise to care for those whose dedication was no less but who survived.

That's what I'm arguing for. Just War Theory provides a useful codicile, but in the end the question that must always be asked in war is not what States may or may not do, but whether or not each person does what they should.

29 June 2012 at 14:28  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


"There is no just war doctrine that is worth letting Hitler win the war.

I will say that again.

There is no just war doctrine that is worth letting Hitler win the war."

Quite right too.

The Just War doctrine, correctly applied, would not let an opponent win a war.

I will repeat that.

The Just War doctrine, correctly applied, would not let an opponent win a war.

AIB, so far as I understand him, is not advocating the doctrine. He is going beyond it. The Just War doctrine places a moral responsibility on nations to fight wars to repel evil - and to fight wars to win within the constaints of a moral code.

Just how would the application of the doctrine have led to Hitler winning the war? Are you saying, apart from Dresden, the war was conducted immorally?

29 June 2012 at 15:36  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Sorry for the length of posts. I think it might be helpful to offer an example of my argument in the pragmatics.

Sticking with the individual, let's go to the classic case of torture to save the many, as it provides a good parallel:

You have the choice to torture an individual to discover the location of a bomb, which, if it detonates, will kill thousands of people.

Set aside the possibility that torture may not be effective, or the possibility for false information: equivalent problems exist with using a nuclear bomb to spare many more soldiers - there is no guarantee that the enemy will respond as you wish them to etc. Humans, unlike God, do not act with perfect knowledge.

We might also add, that the individual is responsible in part for the pending atrocity, removing the complication of "non-combatant" from the picture.

Carl's view would advocate that however distasteful, torturing a single individual to save thousands is a reasonable exchange, and indeed that *not* torturing that individual would lead to the decision-maker being in part responsible for the resulting deaths. (A)

I am arguing that the morality in this situation does not derive from the outcome (i.e. how many lives are lost), but whether or not the act is itself moral. (B)

Torture, devoid of context, is usually recognised as being immoral. Some might reserve its use in exceptional circumstances, but few would see it as basically legitimate.

If the torture is carried out:

In (A) the reasoning is that "I am more justified in doing this, than I am in not doing this". Morality is relative to the context, and consequently, ultimately utilitarian. A sufficiently extreme context becomes the pretext for extreme action.

In (B) the reasoning is that "I am not justified in doing this, but do so anyway in order to save thousands". Morality is not relative, nor does the action of saving thousands cancel the fundamental immorality of torture. Man cannot reconcile himself to God through his own good deeds.

The distinction is fine, but crucial.

In (A), the torturer convinces himself that the act was "for the best" by justifying it as the least objectionable course of action. One man may be sacrificed for many. No further action is required.

In (B), the torturer makes the same calculation: one for many, but incorporates, by necessity, his own culpability in the transaction. In effect, he acknowledges that if he truly believes that he should torture one man for a thousand, he is sacrificing his own righteousness in addition. In short, that he is culpable for his own immorality. The appropriate action would be to submit himself to punishment for the deed.

This may seem pedantic, torture in either case has gone ahead: but (B) places the need for justice above all other concerns. It involves no self-deception about the legitimacy of immoral actions, and does not seek to justify evil.

29 June 2012 at 16:04  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Turns out in the course of my wanderings for the thread on circumcision I discover that the position I have been arguing is broadly that of Yehareg ve'al ya'avor in Judaism.

Well worth a read.

29 June 2012 at 16:54  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

The post on circumcision is on the wrong thread!

So far as you example about morality in war is concerned it is a good application of the Just War doctrine.

Catholics subscribe to a doctrine that does not permit an act evil in itself (torture), even though it might result in a good outcome (saving lives).

29 June 2012 at 19:09  
Blogger anna anglican said...

There's been a lot of discussion about why a conflict should be fought and how it should be fought, but no-one has really discussed what happens after a war has finished; the Allies forgave Germany and Japan after the war and built them up into economic super powers, rather than crushing them. I think that needs to be thought of too.

29 June 2012 at 19:42  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


No, no, I meant it to be in this thread. I just happened across it by chance when reading up on circumcision, and realised it was relevant to our discussions.


Excellent point. I'd distinguish on two grounds:

Firstly, in the case of Germany, culpability by the State was admitted to, and its war criminals were tried. I'd add that I would have preferred to have seen similar inquests into certain actions (Dresden most notoriously) as well.

In the case of Japan, culpability was not admitted, and it remains a serious obstacle to relations between China, S. Korea, and Japan, and to a lesser extent the West. I agree this should not hinder or prevent peace, nor should it stop us from offering forgiveness. However, once that obligation is met, if our enemies still do not find cause to apologise for their own actions, I see no reason to spare their blushes when it comes to history by aiding them in advancing a narrative that seeks to deny rather than heal past wrongdoings.

Secondly, the vast majority of those who perpetrated atrocities during WWII are now dead. We are still engaged in uncovering and documenting wrongdoing (albeit now at a much reduced rate). In instances where both the perpetrators and the victims are both very much alive, I'd suggest the imperative to seek out truth is stronger still. There are, in Northern Ireland, a number of victims known as "the disappeared"; whose fates and bodies have never been admitted to. Several "former" paramilitaries now engaged in various aspects of the Peace Process have long been linked to some of these cases, but refuse to share what they know. Presumably because some will incriminate themselves, but also, and probably mainly, because they consider that it will harm their ongoing political campaigns.

29 June 2012 at 19:55  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


I posted this earlier:

"Anger is a desire for revenge. Anger is the passion (emotion) by which a man reacts to evil, real or apparent, and seeks vindication of his rights, that is, justice.

By itself the passion is neither moral or immoral, but becomes so by reason or its being ordered or disordered - that is, reasonable according to the circumstances. An ordered anger is directed to a legitimate object, and, with an appropriate degree of vehemence. An inordinate anger is directed either to an illegitimate object, or, with an unreasonable vehemence. As St. Thomas Aquinas notes, vice may be by defect, as well as excess. So, the presence of evil should provoke a righteous anger, which if absent constitutes a sinful insensibility.

On the other hand, unjust anger seeks to do evil to another for its own sake, the harm to body or soul that it entails. While one may desire, and employ, physical force for the sake of correction, restraint of evil and restoring justice, even if it entails injury and death, one may never desire it for its own sake. To desire some slight injury for an evil motive would be venially sinful. To desire grave injury or death would be gravely sinful. A Christian may never, of course, desire the damnation of the evil doer. Charity requires that we will the good, especially the ultimate good, salvation, for every human being. Unfortunately, the entertainment media often promotes an image of anger and vengeance which is closer to blood lust than to justice."

In summary, war should not be about crushing the defeated. This can only create the conditions for future conflict.

In the end it is not enough to wage war to achieve justice without treating the underlying causes. "Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war"

True justice and peace cannot be attained before the Coming of the Lord. Meantime, it is the duty of men of good will to work towards it.

29 June 2012 at 21:01  
Blogger anna anglican said...

Hi Dodo,

I agree with that post. Although, to be even handed I can see where Mr Jacobs is coming from too, as he's coming from the angle of a former soldier.

29 June 2012 at 22:28  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr AIB, some good points regarding the post-war behaviour of both Germany and Japan in terms of their admission of culpability.

The difference between the two states seems to be that the Allies decided to destroy the Nazi regime and kill Hitler if possible. In this we were completely successful and we went on to reorganise the German state from the primary school upwards.

On the other hand, after the Japanese surrender, it was recognised that occupation of Japan would be a practical impossiblity without the consent of the Emperor. This was an accurate political assessment made by that most vain and bombastic soldier, General Douglas MacArthur. Thus Hirohito stayed in his palace despite being a Class A war criminal. This act of societal continuity has given some, but not all, of the Japanese a psychological escape route from the conclusions of their defeat.

Despite this weakness, there is no doubt that the Japanese have learned a very bitter lesson about their limits and are now a humble and conscientious people with democratic institutions and a respect for the rule of law. There is an interesting comparison between Japan and Korea, being very similar societies. The Koreans have fully embraced Christianity, and the Japanese have not, despite the presence of Christian missionaries particularly in the south, from the sixteenth century. To the extent that Japan has been re-organised politically with institutions imposed by a Christian state, the USA, it could be argued that the Japanese are subliminally Christian today by default.

In conclusion, it has to be admitted that to defeat evil requires evil methods. We just have to recognise that paradox and throw the switch to 'good' as soon as soon as we have won, God willing.

29 June 2012 at 22:40  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


The Just War doctrine, correctly applied, would not let an opponent win a war.

In the first place, this statement is wrong. All I have to do is point to AIB on this very thread. He asserts that using nuclear weapons is a violation of "Just war" principles. Hold to that position, and I possess the example to refute your case. If you try to fight a war against a nation that both possesses and is willing to use nuclear weapons, you will lose. There is no 'maybe' about this. There is no doubt. You will lose.

Second, your statement is non-responsive. I was not making an assertion about capability. I was making a case about priority. Let me re-phrase it.

That you defeat Hitler is more important than how you defeat Hitler.

If the choice is between Just War doctrine and defeating Hitler, the moral choice is always to defeat Hitler. This is a position that AIB cannot accept. He must reject it. He is reduced to saying "Yes, it would be better for Hitler to win if Hitler's defeat required abandonment of Just War Doctrine." That to me is a colossal moral inversion. He would stand on principle at a fearful cost. I am not will to pay that cost for the sake of principle.

There are no prizes in this world for losing nobly. But there are frightening consequences for losing. Leadership carries a responsibility to prevent those consequences to those under its authority who would otherwise carry the burden. There is no solace to the conquered in hearing "Yes, but we upheld our principles in our defeat." The cattle cars are filled to their capacity, and the doors will soon be shut.

The difference between AIB and myself is this:

I would accept the moral responsibility to avoid the outcome.

He would accept the outcome to avoid the moral responsibility.

That's why I signed a paper saying that I understood the nature of my job, and that I would commit my sorties if so ordered. That's why he wouldn't.


29 June 2012 at 23:23  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


I'm not defendingAIB's interpretation, as I've made clear!

The Just War doctrine does not rule out the use of nuclear weapons. The modern position is, as I've stated, opposed to:

"Indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants."

And the cautionary note:

"Given the modern means of warfare, especially nuclear, biological and chemical, these crimes against humanity must be especially guarded against."

I find your statement: "That you defeat Hitler is more important than how you defeat Hitler" just morally wrong. It permits any and all acts. The end justifies the means is not a virtuous position.

Also, "If the choice is between Just War doctrine and defeating Hitler, the moral choice is always to defeat Hitler." To me it is you who has made the moral inversion here. Defeating evil by evil means is essentially a defeat of good. The principal involved is following God's way and not the ways of men.

I agree: "There are no prizes in this world for losing nobly." But then its not all about this world, is it? And anyway, victory and defeat is in the Hands of God.

As with all moral acts the use of force to obtain justice must satisfy ethical conditions to be morally good.

And, finally, the responsibility for determining whether these conditions are met belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good. The principles of the Just War doctrine serve only to form the consciences of men and promte the moral exercise of just war.

30 June 2012 at 00:09  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


I appreciate your sentiments but do you not see the contradiction in this statement:

"In conclusion, it has to be admitted that to defeat evil requires evil methods. We just have to recognise that paradox and throw the switch to 'good' as soon as soon as we have won, God willing."

Do you really believe God wills the use of evil against evil? It contradicts His whole nature.

30 June 2012 at 00:32  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


Ah! So you can't even agree amongst yourselves as to the content of 'Just War' doctrine, and yet you would hold men to account for it. I just love these assertions of non-objective objective truths.

To me it is you who has made the moral inversion here.

Of course it is. Because you are sitting in your safe comfortable home. You aren't being herded into a cattle car for deportation to Germany. This is nothing more than an intellectual argument to you, and so you are free to assert all sorts of things without actually realizing the cost of your position. It's easy to say "We should rather subject ourselves to the Einsatzgruppen than violate Just War Doctrine" when you aren't actually at risk from the Einsatzgruppen.

That's why I really don't believe in all this. When the argument isn't intellectual anymore - when it's real flesh and blood that's being discussed instead of abstract hypotheticals - then all these philosophical arguments will fall by the wayside. President Truman wasn't debating in a University Hall. He was leading a nation in war. He held the responsibility of life or death for actual living breathing men. He had to live with the knowledge of lives he chose to sacrifice by the decisions he made. And also the lives he spared.


30 June 2012 at 01:07  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Dodo sums up most of the points I'd make, so I won't repeat them.

For clarity, I do not see the use of a nuclear weapon per se to be an immoral (or moral) act. Plenty of nuclear explosions have been carried out at test sites, for example.

I used the example of torture because it is in many ways similar: it is harm to a human being in a manner that is immoral. Nuclear bombing of cities, and all but the most surgical bombing of cities (cf. Dresden) is immoral. The immorality is not in the tool - any more than the immorality in torture is in the thumb-screws - it is in their deployment. It unjustly sheds blood of non-combatants, of children, and of the wounded.

The ends justifies the means likewise cannot be justified Biblically: because God regards and punishes sin without reference to our good deeds. Take a look at 1 Samuel 24:26-31 - David is advised in no uncertain terms that his favour with the Lord is inextricable from his resistance to use evil means, including his earlier refusal to slay Saul. Think how many lives could have been saved by that single assassination, we might say: but this is not God's way. Nor did David's foolish tactical decision change God's ability to see justice occur.

In part this is the peril of allowing the means of war to match the evil means arrayed against oneself. It merely expands those evil ways. You think Satan cared one bit about Hitler triumphing? That he revelled in and inspired the evil of the Nazi regime is beyond question, but he does not limit his involvement to a single nation - in part because fidelity is fundamentally beyond him, but primarily because his aim is the corruption of all men.

We give evil too much credit to assert that not engaging in its methods will lead to our sure demise. Evil has arrayed its full strength unceasingly against the faithful, but it is not evil, but the Church that stands triumphant across the ages. In that sense there is no way in which I would say that it is "better for Hitler to win", because I would hold faith that God would not permit it. Even Hitler's authority was not his own. Nor, though, would I suggest simply laying down arms or presenting Hitler with the keys to the earth. I simply, and firmly, argue that there are some actions that cannot be countenanced, and that the cost of refusing them is honoured by God.

I can't help but point to the Passion here. 12 Legions of Angels, with more firepower than all the nuclear arsenals of the world awaited His call, but that was not God's way. We are not all called to the exact path that Christ trod, and I would affirm the central place of just warriors, who protect the innocent, and fight to prevent evil, but they must be purer than snow.

"But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God." (2 Corinthians 4:2)

30 June 2012 at 01:42  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

"It's easy to say "We should rather subject ourselves to the Einsatzgruppen than violate Just War Doctrine" when you aren't actually at risk from the Einsatzgruppen."

True. But there were men of faith who did precisely this. I've mentioned some of them in the course of this comment thread, and there are countless others.

30 June 2012 at 01:43  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Romans 3:8 is about as clear as it is possible to get:

"And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just."

30 June 2012 at 01:48  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Now that's a low blow and you know it too! Is that how you fight? AIB has never stated he adheres to the Just War doctrine as I've outlined it.

Andplease stop being so emotive - all this talk of cattle trucks etc. So far as I'm aware, Nazi Germany was defeated without resorting to immoral methods (Dresden being a possible and hotly disputed exception). Is trying to appreciate how to apply God's moral code as it applies to killing one another an intellectual argument? I think not.

Do you actually believe in the concept of a war crime? Or is it just defeated nations that commit these? If all is 'just' in war we are no better than savages.

It's during times of relative peace when these issues can be discussed - rationally and calmly and, if you are a Christian, surely by reference to God's law.

And do stop playing the "I was a soldier" and "I had my finger on the nuclear trigger" cards. I respect you for being a warrior but it gives you no more status than other Christians in these debates. My father was a soldier too. He fought at Monte Casino and was dropped behind enemy lines in Belgium as part of the Normandy landings. He was stationed in Palestine after the war and then Berlin. He became a Regimental Sargeant Major - the backbone of the British Army. Having spent many hours sharing his experiences with him, I am not ignorant about the realities of war or the moral dilemmas it poses.

And why are you trying to peg all this on a defence of President Trueman?

30 June 2012 at 02:00  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr AIB & Mr Dodo, during the Second World War in Britain, it was frequently admitted that to defeat fascism it was necessary to use fascist, and by implication, evil methods. At that point, and faced with a mortal threat to the nation, nobody saw the necessity to deliver a sermon from the mount of moral high ground refuting this proposition. The Spectator published a book of wartime articles about twenty years ago in which these wartime arguments were rehearsed.

For those alive today of a more sensitive moral disposition, let's substitute the ingenuity inherent in the concept of using evil to defeat evil in order to achieve good with a simpler thought - a choice which involves the lesser of two evils.


30 June 2012 at 12:24  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...



Bombing a military target for strategic purposes, killing non-combatants as a secondary but unavoidable effect, and demonstrating overwhelming force, leading to surrender, is the lesser of two evils. Bombing innocent people simply to terrorise the opponent into surrender is evil.

'Facist' methods in the war were concerned with propaganda and with restrictions on democracy, freedom of speech and suspension of the rule of law. Not evil acts in the context of war. They did not, so far as I am aware, entail scapegoating a minority to solidify 'national unity', the use of fear and random murder and torture to crush all opposition, the disregard of the cost in human lives of military campaigns and a lack of accountability to Parliament for the exercise of the war.

30 June 2012 at 13:08  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


But there were men of faith who did precisely this. I've mentioned some of them in the course of this comment thread, and there are countless others.

Yes. And they themselves carried the consequences of their decision. They did not impose those consequences on several thousands of unknown men who had no say in the matter. Men whom they had a duty to protect. It's one thing to sacrifice yourself. It's quite another to sacrifice others. It is yet a third thing to sacrifice those whom are under your protection. To them you would say "I must not do evil that good may abound. Yes, I could do things that might save you, but they would be evil, you see. In the greater scheme of things, it is better that I refuse to do evil and let you die. But you may comfort yourselves in your death by beholding this display of my sterling moral character. For your deaths will be the proof that I have done nothing worthy of reproach."

Don't kid yourself. The essence of war is doing evil that good may abound. We aren't debating good vs evil. We are debating a choice among various evils to produce various goods. You reject one and by implication accept another. You reject the attack on Hiroshima and by implication accept the unknown unseen deaths of countless Chinese in countless little villages all over China. But that is apparently acceptable because you personally are not the agent of their deaths. You cannot set aside your responsibilities by a mere pretense of public hand-washing. Your lack of action becomes action.

How do you not see the moral myopia in this? You are not advocating a courageous moral stand. You are advocating the abandonment of people you have a duty to protect. You take the moral stand. They die. This is not martyrdom. This is cowardice.


30 June 2012 at 13:15  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


And none of that addresses the points I raised earlier!

"The essence of war is doing evil that good may abound."

I wouldn't agree with this. By itself homicide and war is neither moral nor immoral. It becomes so by reason or its being ordered or disordered - that is, reasonable or unreasonable according to the circumstances.

An ordered war is directed to a legitimate object, and, with an appropriate degree of violence. An inordinate war is directed either to an illegitimate object, or, with unreasonable violence. The presence of evil that threatens another should provoke a righteous response, including bearing arms. If it doesn't surely this constitutes an evil insensibility?

"We aren't debating good vs evil. We are debating a choice among various evils to produce various goods."

We are debating good v's evil. During the course of a Just War certain standards are absolute - others will be about the choice of lesser evils.

In my opinion, Hirosima cannot be defended solely on the grounds it ended the war earlier than if it had not been bombed and therefore saved lives. On this basis why not just nuke the Islamic States now and have done with it?

I'm not sure if this is rlevant or not - but was the crucifixtion and death of Christ a 'moral' act? From Pilate's point of view the unjust death of one man averted civil disorder and countless deaths of troops and civilians. From the High Priest's point of view, abusing the legal processes of Judaism was justified because Christ threatened the stability of their faith.

30 June 2012 at 14:08  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


Now that's a low blow and you know it too!

No, it's not. It's a fact. And you need to recognize it. Your isolation from the consequences of your position is all that makes your position tenable. The 'calmness' and 'rationality' is a product of its abstractness. I don't for one second believe you would have made these same arguments in July 1940.

And please stop being so emotive - all this talk of cattle trucks etc. So far as I'm aware, Nazi Germany was defeated without resorting to immoral methods

You are the one who denied my contention that defeating Hitler was more important then how he might be defeated. The question is not an historical one about how Hitler was in fact defeated. The question is "How far would you go to win?" It is intended to display your commitment to your own principles. You must own the logical implications of your position. Those cattle cars are the logical implication. If you would accept defeat to maintain Just War doctrine, then you must admit the consequences of that decision. Is adherence to Just War doctrine worth the cost of people being driven into cattle cars? Yes or No? Don't evade by saying (logical nonsense like) "We can always win using Just war principles." Don't evade by saying "We defeated Hitler anyways." Is the cost of defeat worth the benefit of upholding the principle?

Do you actually believe in the concept of a war crime? Or is it just defeated nations that commit these?

Of course, I recognize the concept of a war crime. I didn't think I needed to say this but now I will. We are only talking about operations of military utility and necessity. The attack on Hiroshima was not a terror attack. It was intended to (and did) destroy Hiroshima's ability to support the Japanese war effort. But in fact the only laws of war that matter are the laws of war imposed on you by your own nation. I could in no case appeal to just war doctrine to refuse a lawful order.

As an aside, I wouldn't follow that 'defeated nation' line of argument too far if I were you. Nuremberg conclusively proved that only defeated nations are guilty of war crimes. Otherwise the Russians would have been in the dock instead of on the bench.

And do stop playing the "I was a soldier" and "I had my finger on the nuclear trigger" cards.

I said that for AIBs benefit because I wasn't sure he knew. More to the point, it establishes that this argument is real to me in a way that in can never be to either of you. It's an intellectual exercise to you. It's not to me. You talk in terms of abstracts. I talk about a real moral responsibility that I willingly undertook.

And why are you trying to peg all this on a defence of President Trueman?

I am not hanging it all on him. I am using him as the prototype for leaders who have to make these kinds of decisions. Truman was never personally at risk. Failing to authorize the use of atomic weapons against Japan entailed no personal cost. So he does not fit AIBs description of the heroic martyr. He fits the profile of a leader who has to decide who lives and who dies. That was Truman's unfortunate fate. He is well-positioned to illustrate my argument.


30 June 2012 at 14:21  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


I give you one Winston Churchill:

"It is improbable that any terrorization of the civil population which could be achieved by air attack would compel surrender .... Nothing that we have learned of the capacity of the German population to endure suffering justifies us in assuming that they could be cowed into submission by such methods, or ... not be rendered more desperately resolved by them." (1917)

When faced with an MP who was demanding total bombardment of German cities:

"My dear sir, this is a military and not a civilian war. You and others may desire to kill women and children. We desire (and have succeeded in our desire) to destroy German military objectives" (1940)

A few months later, of course, Churchill would, along with bomber command, be responsible for bombing German cities. Far from not seeing the necessity of debating morality - that was precisely what the War Cabinet did in May 1940: not as it happened the morality of bombing civilians but the morality of bombing targets that might result in collateral deaths. The justification they used, was precisely that the Nazis had breached every standard of morality in law; they were a response to, and a punishment of a military that had dared to bomb civilians.

Over a month of the Blitz occurred before Churchill signed off on bomber pilots to drop bombs on appropriate targets if they failed in their planned target - but even then, still, on paper at least, only military targets. In 1941, entirely forgetting his words of 1917, he began to permit bombing explicitly of civilians in the hope that they would rise up against Hitler if sufficiently wounded. However, this is hardly the sole reason: a speech made in the same period declared that the British people, even if offered the chance to stop all city bombings would instead reply "'No, we will mete out to the Germans the measure, and more than the measure, that they have meted out to us.'". The truth of this claim is questionable - certainly opposing views would not have been published at the time - but it does demonstrate that Churchill, at least in part, had moved from waging war to waging vengeance. Vengeance, justly deserved in many cases - the German people had, after all, been largely content to profit from the destruction of other cities, and, excepting a small number of notable individuals, had not recoiled in outrage at the actions of the Luftwaffe.

A year later again, in 1942, and it was with Stalin that Churchill's original opposition to the evil of civilian bombing finally evaporated, and the two agreed to carrying out attacks for, as he later put in in an internal memo to bomber command, "the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts" (1943). I've often thought that it was no coincidence that a man who might rival Hitler in evil was a major factor in the decision process that led Britain from it's finest hour in defending itself against unwarranted evil, to carrying out the very actions that had formed the basic justification for the war with Nazi Germany. In the final years, incidentally, many of the cities targeted by Harris (including Dresden) were expressly done to aid the Red Army's advance. I can't help but wonder how differently Soviet occupation of Europe may have played out had we not done so.

The assault on Hamburg in 1942 was called "Operation Gomorrah". It claimed 45,000 lives and wounded 37,000 others - including undoubtedly many engaged in the waging of war, Nazis, soldiers, ammunition workers and others. But it also claimed the lives of children, of the wounded, and of people on whom no claim of culpability for the War could be laid. When our God made the decision to destroy the first Gomorrah, He promised that for the sake of fifty, forty-five, twenty, and even ten righteous people, He would spare the city (Genesis 18:26-33). That was the decision made from the Throne of Grace: that it is not just to deliberately slay the innocent.

30 June 2012 at 14:33  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


I wouldn't agree with this. By itself ... war is neither moral nor immoral.

You and I have very different understandings of the nature of war. War may be necessary. But it is never good.


30 June 2012 at 14:38  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


Did you read my comment @14:04? Would you dispute my description of the difference between relational responsibility, general responsibility, and culpability?

I'll refer back to @16:04 as well, where I outline as clearly as possible the moral difference between viewing transactions of life in a framework that sees morality as relative to the context, and adherent to the action.

If you truly believe that man does evil for good ends during war, surely it is not unreasonable as per (B) to hold man to account for that evil? But what you actually mean, as far as I can see, is that in a context where harm will occur either through action or inaction that evil is justified (A), which logically means it cannot be evil in the conventional sense as being mutually-exclusive with good. Consequently, the notion of "evil" we are debating is not the same thing. The critical question then becomes, what is God's understanding of the permissability of evil?

It is not an intellectual exercise, but a fundamentally spiritual one.

30 June 2012 at 14:43  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

*that should be inherent. Obviously.

30 June 2012 at 14:47  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


Do you honestly suppose that in July 1945 Truman was debating with his staff about the "difference between relational responsibility, general responsibility, and culpability." That's a nice argument for the Moral Sciences Club at Cambridge University. It has nothing to do with the practical realities of prosecuting a war.

Here is Truman's dilemma. He has one non-negotiable war objective: Humiliate, discredit, and remove from power the militarists who lead Japan into this war.

Here is the situation. The Japanese have correctly intuited the American strategy of invading Kyushu. (Truman knows this because the Americans can read Japanese coded messages.) The Japanese have pre-positioned some 5000 kamikaze aircraft on the island. They also have more soldiers on the Kyushu than the Americans are planning to use in the invasion. The Japanese are turning their islands into an armed fortress. (They have learned from Iwo Jima and Okinawa.) They are planning to bleed the Americans into accepting favorable peace terms for Japan, and will sacrifice literally millions of their own people to do so. American strategy is in a crisis. MacArthur wants to go ahead with the invasion. Nimitz thinks it is insanity. How does Truman end this f___ing war?

Option 1: He could proceed with the scheduled invasion. The projections of US dead resulting from this invasion are between 500,000 and 1,000,000. Japanese deaths could go as high as 20,000,000. In addition, the war in China continues indefinitely. Plus the 400,000 POWs in Japan will die before the end of the year. War-weariness in the US population becomes a critical factor.

Option 2: He could stand off and continue burning out Japanese cities. Except this hasn't yet forced surrender, and the AAF wants to move away from the fire raids. It wants to shift attacks to the transportation infrastructure. That will cause a collateral famine that might induce Japan to surrender. But there is already a famine in Japan, and the Army shows no sign of breaking. The war in China continues. The POWs still die. The invasion still looms. War-weariness threatens American policy.

Option 3: He could give the militarists in Japan what they want - a face-saving way out of the war. But that surrenders his one non-negotiable war aim. It also plants the seeds for a bitter war of revenge.

Into this uncertainly steps Oppenheimer and his weapon ...


30 June 2012 at 16:20  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

To which Truman's Philosophical War Advisor responds: "You cannot use that weapon, Mr President. Its use would violate Just War Doctrine."

Truman: "Should we then continue to burn their cities?"

PWA: "No, that would also violate Just War Doctrine." I told you in March you shouldn't have allowed that either. You should have continued the precision bombing"

Truman: "Precision bombing proved totally ineffective in Japan. Without those raids, we would have had to destroy their weapons in combat instead of in the factory. It would increase our casualties immeasurably."

PWA: "Well, if we apply strict conditions to our attacks and threaten them with widespread famine, that might leverage them to surrender ..."

Truman: "May we go through with it and actually induce famine, or may we only threaten it? Is there some moral distinction between how men die? In any case, famine has not yet leveraged them to surrender. So have you any other suggestions?"

PWA: "You could negotiate."

Truman: "With whom? The Government? What will I do after the Army has them assassinated? In any case, I will not allow those militarists to remain in power and start another war in twenty years time. What else?"

PWA: "The only ethical course then would be to invade. The casualties would be fearsome but you will have done the right thing. We must not surrender to evil in order to achieve good. If I could explain one more time about the difference between difference between relational responsibility, general responsibility, and culpability ..."

Truman: "No, you can't. What of our prisoners in Japan? What of my responsibility to them?"

PWA: "I am afraid they would have to be sacrificed for the greater good."

Truman: "And our Chinese allies? What of them?"

PWA: "The war will go on for a while. They will still have to fight but they can be remembered as the 'Glorious Dead..."

Truman: "So for the sake of doing good you would have me sacrifice 1.5 million Americans, untold numbers of Chinese, and upwards of 20,000,000 Japanese - whether by famine or hostile fire. You would have me risk the influence of American war-weariness and possibly leave that government in power. And all to avoid using a weapon that will kill 100,000 people? This is your idea of good?"

PWA: "I admit the principle can be harsh, and the results somewhat counter-intuitive. But it is important to uphold the principle."

Truman: "It's more important not to get 25,000,000 additional people killed. I am going to do everything within my power as President to avoid that outcome. And I am going to start here. You're fired."


30 June 2012 at 16:22  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

carl said ...

"You and I have very different understandings of the nature of war. War may be necessary. But it is never good."

Did I say it was "good"? This implies in and of itself it is good. I said it was moral in certain contexts and immoral in others. Indeed, in some situations it is immoral not to wage war.

"Is adherence to Just War doctrine worth the cost of people being driven into cattle cars? Yes or No?"

Absolutely yes, every time. As I've said, committing an immoral act in the hope of achieving a desired 'good' outcome is just not morally defensible.

"The attack on Hiroshima was not a terror attack. It was intended to (and did) destroy Hiroshima's ability to support the Japanese war effort."

And if it hadn't been? And Nagasaki was too? The two bombs terrorised the Japenese into unconditional surrender. Wasn't this the primary intention? Or was this simply a beneficial secondary effect?

"I could in no case appeal to just war doctrine to refuse a lawful order."

And what makes it lawful? And what responsibility do you have not to follow orders as a Christian and as a moral being? "I was only following orders" is not really an adequate defence. Don't you have to internally consent too?

"Nuremberg conclusively proved that only defeated nations are guilty of war crimes. Otherwise the Russians would have been in the dock instead of on the bench."

It proved only defeated are prosecuted for war crimes. The Russians should have been held to account for the clear atrocities they committed. And shame on the USA for appeasing Russian Communism and not defending freedom in Europe. How many millions died because of this?

And the little role above is unseemly!

PWA: "The only ethical course then would be to invade."

Was it really? You've dismissed a whole range of other options in there out of hand. Are you now jusifying Hiroshima as more than an attack on a strategic military centre?

You believe in an omniscient God. You also know that wars turn on small mishaps and seemingly strange decisions. Look at Hitler's strategic stupidity during the war. Do you really think David's aim against Goliath was just sheer luck or that it was a very good aim?

I happen to believe, and call me afool for doing so, that if man follows the moral path not only will he inherit Heaven but he will further God's intentions in this life.

So its not an intellectual exercise for me at all. Its at the heart of our service to God. We are all faced daily with having to decide whether to compromise with moral imperatives for some perceived 'good' outcome.

30 June 2012 at 17:03  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Dodo @ 14.08 said, 'n my opinion, Hirosima cannot be defended solely on the grounds it ended the war earlier than if it had not been bombed and therefore saved lives. On this basis why not just nuke the Islamic States now and have done with it?'

In this instance your opinion (not for the first time?) is based on a false comparison.

Where is the equivalent of Pearl Harbor, executed by an Islamic state, not Islamic individuals?

Your question implies collective punishment Collective punishment is usually taboo, and may even be so under the diktat of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Why ask such an absurd and vexatious question? It’s similar to the litany of exclusions to a definition of fascism that you posted at 13.08

The character reference offered to you by Mr Avi Barzels is suddenly relevant.

30 June 2012 at 21:48  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr AIB @ 14.33, thank you for your post. I guess that Churchill, being human was fallible.

By way of illustration, it is the path of all individual combat or war that the Marquess of Queensbury's rules or the Geneva Convention as the case may be come under extreme pressure as the struggle continues. Being human, and therefore fallible, we do seek revenge for a bitter blow, so that Corinthian ideals are frequently discarded in the heat of battle.

Evidence of this comes in the trend of prisoner taking in combat. In the early stages, before bitterness sets in, prisoner taking is common if not burdensome. Prisoners impose a high logistical and manpower cost on an army which diminishes its combat power. However, towards the end of any hard fought engagement, very few prisoners are taken. Guess why?

So it must have been with Churchill's approach to strategic bombing.

Your point about the relationship of the Western allies to the Soviet Union in general and Stalin in particular is germane. The USSR was famously described as the Evil Empire by the profoundly Christian Ronald Reagan and he was right. There is no doubt that both Churchill and Roosevelt supped with Stalin using the longest spoon possible.

One can say that the alliance with the USSR was very similar to the equally difficult decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima. Without the Red Army, the western allies could never have defeated the Wehrmacht, it's as simple as that. If one reads accounts of the German retreat from Stalingrad, of the Battle of Kursk etc, time and again the German Army showed astonishing combat power that thwarted the Russians. All this at the end of a logistical effort covering 2000 km. Dresden was a critical logistic hub in the defence of the Reich against the Red Army.

Behind the decision to develop nuclear weapons must have lain a very simple question.

What if they beat us to it?

If any of the Axis powers had developed an atomic weapon and used it first, the war may have ended with an armistice that left Nazi Germany as ruler of Europe, Britain cowed into neutrality and Imperial Japan as overlord of East Asia, to this day.

The Axis already had the delivery vehicle in the V2 rocket, they just needed to perfect the payload.

It truly does become a choice of the lesser of two evils, and of a parrallel skill in applying human ingenuity to use evil against itself to do good.

Any suggestion to the contrary is idle speculation.

30 June 2012 at 22:27  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Are you now accepting the Just War doctrine now rather than the 'end justifies the means'?

Why must there be a Pearl Harbour type situation to justify removing the stated and declared Islamist threat to Israel? I mean these countries will supposedly strike Israel when they are ready. Getting rid of them now could save lives in the future. Why wait? Okay nuking them is going a bit far unless there's another way.

And as for Fascism, well just why is it wrong in itself as a political system for ruling a nation? Do explain.

And your comparison of dropping the A bomb on Japan and cooperating with Russia is not valid. The latter was an exercise in the lesser of two evils; the former was not. Either Hiroshima was a legitimate war target or it was not. And developing the bomb is not the same as dropping the bomb indiscriminantly on civilians to demonstrate might and cause terror!

30 June 2012 at 22:48  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Dodo 22.48, I accept warfare as a necessary evil given that warefare is generally conducted within the rules proscribed by the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention was drafted by Christian states who seem to have used the principles of Just War in their considerations.

'Why must there be a Pearl Harbour type situation to justify removing the stated and declared Islamist threat to Israel?'

Once again you resort to your standard tactic of changing the terms of the debate when backed in to a corner. All previous comparisons in this debate have related to the Second World War with specific reference to Dresden and Hiroshima. You now introduce a hypothetical situation regarding Israel. Your credibility would be enhanced if you offered your own answer first, rather than asking me for my solution to the Israeli dilemma that you posit.

Your technique is, as usual, a crude form of entrapment.

'And developing the bomb is not the same as dropping the bomb indiscriminantly on civilians to demonstrate might and cause terror!'

Predictably you approach the issue of Hiroshima from the perspective of effect rather than cause. There has never yet been a weapon system that has not been used. Once the decision has been made to develop a weapon it's sinful use is predetermined, to dress the argument in suitable moral clothing.

30 June 2012 at 23:48  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


My question about Israel was rhetorical. Of course there would beno moral basis for initiating a war with Islamist states unless it was in response to an act of aggression from them. And then civilian deaths would need to be avoided. All the principles of the Just War doctrine would come into play.

I merely used this to highlight the shallowness of the position that it is acceptable to behave in an objectively evil way to secure an anticipated good outcome.

This is a strange comment:

"Predictably you approach the issue of Hiroshima from the perspective of effect rather than cause. Once the decision has been made to develop a weapon it's sinful use is predetermined, to dress the argument in suitable moral clothing."

My position is that the use of an A bomb is not in and of itself 'sinful' or immoral. This would depend on the context of its use and its intention. Its the same with Dresden.

And this is an immoral position:

"It truly does become a choice of the lesser of two evils, and of a parrallel skill in applying human ingenuity to use evil against itself to do good."

The lesser of two evils would be using the A bomb if there was no other method of winning the war and its use was not indiscriminate. It would rest on military objectives and not on other factors - such as ending the war quickly because the people of the USA were becoming impatient. It could not be used licitly if it was to prevent Russia gaining ground in China or Europe. The deaths of civilians would need to be an unavoidable consequence of military considerations not political ones and not an intended consequence.

Bottom line - one can never use evil means to do good. Just think through the implications of your statement.

1 July 2012 at 02:11  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

"You don't realise that it's better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed."
(John 11:50)

In saying these words, Caiaphas was stating that it was better to put Jesus to death than to expose the whole nation to ruin on his account.

His maxim was: it is better to sacrifice one man than a whole nation.

God says we must not do evil that good may come: Romans 3:8. "Let us do evil, that good may come." St Paul replies this amounts to an abominable doctrine.

1 July 2012 at 19:16  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


"What if they beat us to it?"

An important factor. It's not something I'm very widely read on, but my understanding of the German nuclear programme (which was indeed in full progress) was that it was hindered on two fronts:

1) The loss of key Jewish/dissident physicists (i.e. the Nazi race-laws worked against themselves)

2) A fairly successful resistance by scientists to their work, and their academy being politicized by the Nazis.

I have seen it suggested that the scientists largely in charge of developing nuclear fission were capable of "holding back" on weaponization research. In practice, the programme doesn't seem to have been near completion, and in any case, was secondary to the fact that the Nazi's were being driven to defeat by the arrival of the Americans and the advance of the Red Army (quite right that the latter was by far the most important). *But* a critical part of the decision not to heavily invest in nuclear research in the last years of the War, seems to have been influenced in part at least by the fact that the scientists were not "cosy" with the Nazis. In that sense, their resistance, however unheroic in comparison to others, may well have been more important than we give it credit for in stopping Hitler having a bomb.

1 July 2012 at 20:32  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


A minor point to you, perhaps, but I note you haven't addressed it: do you object to the principle of (B); that if someone is convinced of the need to use an evil means for the general good, they should be willing, also, to recognise the loss of their own righteousness and be held accountable for doing so?

What I'm asking is: do you believe evil ceases to be evil simply because it is justified as being necessary in a sufficiently extreme situation?

Finally, I'd perhaps ask what your opinion is of the Nagasaki bombing. You've outlined clearly the military practicalities in the decision to bomb Hiroshima, but they don't take into account the Japanese intimations of an offer of conditional surrender immediately following it. Was 3 days sufficient time, given the enormity of the act, in your view?

Incidentally, I notice that Kyoto was spared, not because anyone felt much concern about killing its citizens but because the Secretary of War liked its buildings. I mention this, because a key component of your argument has been that the decision was principally military, but evidence suggests that sentimentality for wood and stone was sufficient to guide the eventual destination of the bomb. (Famously, of course, Hitler also refused to bomb Oxford for similar reasons). I doubt your thoughts on the relative value of architecture versus human life match those of one of the key decision-makers.

Because, architecture - in terms of bunkers and fortresses - *was* mooted as a potential target. The option existed to use nuclear weaponry to prepare for that invasion. As I've said, my issue is not, per se, with the use of nuclear weapons, but with their deliberate use, as well as the deliberate use of firebombing, to target civilians.

Would you consider the murder of a child to save the life of three captured soldiers an acceptable military decision? If you were ordered to do so, would you consider your superior to be justified in doing so? What about in the instance of three captured civilians?

I don't ask these things because I think that you are a war criminal, or because I question your integrity. I simply wish to know where you place absolute boundaries. Where is the final line in war? Is it simply a matter of numbers: is the exchange of one life for three a war crime, but 100,000 for a million a necessity?

1 July 2012 at 21:01  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

I just want to flag up another angle.

So far discussions centre on the viewpoint of the Allies. It's worth looking that of people in the Axis countries too.

A central issue to Carl's thesis is the necessity of evil acts to win a war. It is unquestionable that before the civilian bombing in Japan, before the area bombing and civilian bombing in Europe by the RAF, the German armed forces were engaging in such acts.

They were deemed necessary. Keen to avoid entrenched warfare (of which Hitler had direct experience), the Nazis wanted a quick means of securing victory: Blitzkrieg. Militarily this was primarily about speed, lightning strikes, and above all, avoiding the likes of the Maginot Line of fortresses by attacking neutral nations. A central component, and one that was universally decried by the Allies, was the intensive bombing of civilian populations in order to achieve rapid defeat. The rationale was that doing so provided swift defeat. Though the lives of the enemy was never much of a concern to the German military, the lives of their soldiers was; by bombing civilians, defeat could be achieved with very little loss of German military life. In that sense, they were working to secure the safety of their soldiers, inasmuch as not doing so would hinder their effectiveness in war.

I've already quoted Churchill at length regarding his attitude towards the outrageous nature of such bombing. It also played a significant role in the internal campaigning of those opposed to the Nazi regime.

Take for instance, the Lubeck martyrs. The three Catholic priests in particular had long been directly working with young soldiers to persuade them that taking part in the war was a violation of Christianity. (I don't exclude Stellbrink as any indication of judgement btw - just that his own ministry was less directed at the military, and more towards the direct treatment of Jews).

Here then is the dilemma. We presumably all agree to a certain extent that they were quite correct. We seem, after all, to regard Hitler as being genuinely evil, and therefore would, we all hope, have been willing to resist serving him. The question is on what basis.

Anti-semitism must surely play a central role. But in 1941-2 (when the Lubeck martyrs were ministering) the systematic murder of Jewish people was not yet being implemented; and although it had been planned by the Nazi command, it was not widely known. Simple hatred for one's fellow man is certainly enough to refuse to follow a leader. But no nation could claim to be free of the stain of Anti-Semitism, and it is certainly not the case that either Britain or America went to war with Germany solely or even primarily for the sake of the Jews. We might also observe that the Americans used internment camps for people of Japanese ethnicity, which were functionally identical to the Jewish ghettos used by the Nazis. The justification - that they posed a security risk - was, of course, precisely that used by Hitler. However, in order to be absolutely clear, whilst I am drawing attention to the similarities, the differences are equally important: America at no time planned the systematic murder of Japanese people. I am contrasting, rather than speciously equating the two.

What then was the moral basis, beyond anti-semitism, for telling those young German soldiers that bearing arms in the war was wrong?
The nature of the war. Firstly, because it was aggressive. Secondly, and most importantly, because the Germans had already resorted to methods of warfare that were morally wrong: namely, the indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations.

My question is this: what would any of us have said differently in the position of the Lubeck martyrs, or any of their fellows? Would we have understood the necessity of war and provided justification? If so, up to what point? Would we have told those soldiers that such acts were wrong when perpetrated by Hitler, but that had they been ordered by Churchill or FDR, they would have been justified?

1 July 2012 at 22:49  
Blogger anna anglican said...

Hi Guys

Carl Jacobs might not be able to post, having watched the BBC news, apparently the Americans had big storms over there. Can't remember which bit of America Carl's from, but it's affected the east coast and mid west. Hope he's ok.

1 July 2012 at 23:01  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Anna, he lives in Dakota, though not sure if North or South...

1 July 2012 at 23:03  
Blogger anna anglican said...

Hi Inspector,

That's OK then. I've only ever been to the South, very nice and hospitable people, they are like old fashioned English people and know how to conduct themselves with proper etiquette (calling a gentleman "Sir" or a lady "Ma'am", opening doors for women, as well as men removing their hats when in the presence of a lady, cooking enough for everyone who might be around at mealtime, inviting one to church functions).

1 July 2012 at 23:20  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Anna, the very attributes the Inspector has....

1 July 2012 at 23:40  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Saturday was my 28th Wedding Anniversary. Also my daughter came home from Europe that day. After a certain point, I didn't pay much attention to this thread over the weekend. But Anna is right. I did lose my ISP on Friday night. It wasn't working again until Saturday morning.

FWIW, I haven't lived in North Dakota since 1985. I current live in Iowa. You may all be envious now.


2 July 2012 at 13:17  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


committing an immoral act in the hope of achieving a desired 'good' outcome is just not morally defensible.

I do not accept this idea that wars may be fought by good means. And so this whole dichotomy of 'doing evil that good may abound' does not make any sense to me. Wars exist because of man's evil heart. The actions of the soldier may be necessary but they can't be good.

Modern technology allows a commander to strike with precision not imagined in 1945. Today we could destroy the Japanese war industry without burning down the cities. But we would still kill the skilled workers in the factories who make the weapons. We would desire and plan to kill those workers as well. It would be necessary, but don't call it good. It is an evil act intended to achieve the necessary objective of depriving the enemy of supplies. It hasten our victory in the war and seeks to reduce our own casualties.

Don't forget however that the dead man in the factory had a wife and children who now lose the protection and support of a father. In Japan in 1945 that often meant starvation. But the American soldier in the landing craft has a wife and kids as well. Our obligation to him is greater than our obligation to enemy civilians. So we sacrifice the one for the sake of the other.

I would recommend you seek out and watch an animated movie called 'Grave of the Fireflies.' It's a Japanese movie about the lives of two children in Japan in the summer of 1945. It remains the most emotionally difficult 90 minutes of cinema I have ever endured.


2 July 2012 at 14:02  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


I realize that there are many things I haven't addressed, but the sheer volume of material makes it impossible for me to do so.

I'd perhaps ask what your opinion is of the Nagasaki bombing.

And so I will respond here to Dodo as well. It is wrong to call the atomic bombings 'terror bombings.' It is also false to assert that their use 'terrorized' Japan into surrendering. The atomic bombings together killed a small fraction of the number of people the Japanese were prepared to sacrifice in an invasion. The attack on Hiroshima killed fewer that the fire raid on Tokyo in March 1945. It may achieved with one plane what hundreds of planes had been required to achieve earlier in the war and so delivered a profound collateral impact. But that is not where you must look to understand the connection between the bombing and surrender.

The Japanese leadership knew as early as the Summer of 1944 that it could not win the war. It was prepared to end the war on (what it considered) acceptable terms - no occupation, no disarmament, no war crimes trials, guarantees for the inviolability of the Emperor. The Japanese problem was "How do we force the Americans into accepting those terms?" Their solution was pre-figured on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The Japanese would turn the home islands into a formidable fortress and bleed the Americans into giving up. They would inflict so many casualties that the Americans wouldn't be willing to carry the fight to the end. There was however one critical assumption in this strategy. The Americans had to invade Japan. The Japanese couldn't inflict that level of casualties if the Americans didn't close. The atomic bombings completely invalidated this strategy. The Emperor surrendered because he feared the Americans would stand off and simply incinerate Japan.

Nagasaki was destroyed for the same reason that Hiroshima was destroyed - to remove the ability of the city to support the Japanese war effort. But it also proved to the Emperor that Hiroshima was not an isolated event. The Emperor would reason that these two bombs would be followed by a third and a fourth; that the Americans were serious about using them. The Japanese did not know that the American inventory was already empty. And so the Emperor bowed to the inevitable and surrendered. It was sort of an inadvertent bluff that worked.

Truman in any case did not order their use on specific targets. He authorized their use and left the decision to the military. If Japan had actually surrendered after Hiroshima, there would have been no attack on Nagasaki. But conditional surrender was not acceptable to Truman, and for good reason. He wasn't going to leave that militarist Gov't in power to nurse its grudges and return to the field in the future for revenge. Truman was right to hold the line on that condition.


2 July 2012 at 14:36  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


Incidentally, I notice that Kyoto was spared

Kyoto was spared because of its cultural significance to the nation of Japan as the old imperial capital. It's the same reason for why the Emperor's palace was never destroyed. It was an act of cultural respect. How long this would have lasted if the war had continued I don't know.

As I've said, my issue is not, per se, with the use of nuclear weapons, but with their deliberate use, as well as the deliberate use of firebombing, to target civilians.

Both the nuclear bombings and the fire raids may be justified in military terms. Neither attack deliberately targeted civilians. The intent was not to kill as many people as possible. The intent was to destroy Japanese infrastructure. They both killed a large number of people collateral to the attack. But to characterize either the fire raids or the atomic bombings as deliberate targeting of civilians is simply wrong. The casualties in the fire raids dropped dramatically after Tokyo because the USAAF started dropping leaflets warning the population that their city was about to be burned. That wouldn't have happened if the goal was to kill as many people as possible.

Would you consider the murder of a child to save the life of three captured soldiers an acceptable military decision? If you were ordered to do so, would you consider your superior to be justified in doing so? What about in the instance of three captured civilians?

That would be a prosecutable crime in the US military. The action has no military necessity. It does not achieve a goal that advances the end of the war. It amounts to deliberate killing of those who possess protected status. But that isn't to my mind what this debate is about. We are are debating whether some action of legitimate military necessity should be forsworn simply because it violates (someone's idea of) Just War Doctrine. This is why I asked about the trade between Just War Doctrine and Hitler's victory.


2 July 2012 at 14:59  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


"The action has no military necessity."

At what point does the death of children become a military necessity? You are prepared to justify the death of many hundreds of thousands of children as a military necessity: my question is, given that one child would be a war crime, at what point does the scale become sufficient for their deaths to be justifiable?

Or is it simply, in your view, the difference between deliberately taking the life of a child, and the life of a child being taken as an unavoidable consequence? That being the case, one could easily find room for the abeyance of culpability in the tragic case of a child being hit accidentally during a fire-fight. But what about when your action will, with absolute certainty, result in the loss of innocent life? Is that morally the same, even if it is militarily the same?

The thing I find strange, is how you reconcile on the one hand viewing war as something that is principally evil, but on the other hand see the situations that arise as promoting options which, you argue, would be evil not to pursue. Do you not share a belief in a manifestly objective good? Without detracting from your bravery, or in any way suggesting that you take up arms for evil purposes, I can't help but notice that the entirety of your argument hinges on evil: it is always a balance of evils, always the lesser of two evils that can be justified in extremis. If war is so profoundly evil, ought not our position to be to refute it altogether? You suggested this as the logical end point of my own argument earlier, but I can't help but wonder if, assuming that good objectively exists (and not just as a word to describe the least-worst or most efficient outcome) it is in fact the logical end of your own.

It's probably worth me clearing up a minor point: I don't much regard the nuclear bomb as being an exceptional evil above any other kind. I'm not fetishising nuclear weaponry - or the Americans - you'll see I dealt in precisely the same terms with the graduation of area bombing of civilians by the RAF. I don't see them as being enormously far on the moral scale from firebombing, sacking cities, or the slaughtering of baggage crew.

I'll also clarify that while I offer no criticism of Just War Theory (it is pretty much entirely in line with my own views), I am not arguing for its status as a statutory instrument in war. I *am* however very much concerned with the morality and justification of evil, in a manner that makes my argument compatible with Just War Theory, but nevertheless not derivative of it. In that sense, it's not about JWT vs Hitler, but morality vs evil in combating Hitler, or indeed any foe.

2 July 2012 at 18:06  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Had the atomic weapon been used by an Axis power, and yet they were still defeated, there is almost no question that we would have held them to account for it. I've quoted similar views from Churchill, but here's what Henry Stimson wrote in his diary:

""I told him [Truman] that I was busy considering our conduct of the war against Japan and I told him how I was trying to hold the Air Force down to precision bombing but that with the Japanese method of scattering its manufacture it was rather difficult to prevent area bombing. I told him I was anxious about this feature of the war for two reasons: first, because I did not want to have the United States get the reputation of outdoing Hitler in atrocities; and second, I was a little fearful that before we could get ready the Air Force might have Japan so thoroughly bombed out that the new weapon would not have a fair background to show its strength. He laughed and said he understood." (6th June 1945, my emphasis)

Truman himself thought similarly on the day when the Manhattan Project was first successful:

"The weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop this terrible bomb on the old capital or the new.

He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I'm sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler's crowd or Stalin's did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful.

The "warning" however ended up being one that did not mention the capacity of the atomic bomb, and did not mention the Russian agreement to enter the war (by both's assessment, a far more important factor than Hiroshima).

The choice was to be between utter annihilation and unconditional surrender as attested by initial plans and orders for more nuclear bombs, to be used "in quick succession" after each other, with the third target likely to be Tokyo.

In fact, those plans were halted the day that Truman got pictures of Nagasaki. One day before that, responding to a Hawk Senator he said:

"I know that Japan is a terribly cruel and uncivilized nation in warfare but I can't bring myself to believe that, because they are beasts, we should ourselves act in the same manner.

For myself, I certainly regret the necessity of wiping out whole populations because of the 'pigheadedness' of the leaders of a nation and, for your information, I am not going to do it until it is absolutely necessary...

My object is to save as many American lives as possible but I also have a humane feeling for the women and children in Japan.

A day later, when he got some sense of what he had actually done he said he could not condone further uses of such weapons, specifically because of the deaths of "all those kids" - precisely the same language he used to describe his own soldiers throughout his diaries.

The Chairman of the AEC recorded a discussion with Truman three years later:

""I don't think we ought to use this thing unless we absolutely have to. It is a terrible thing to order the use of something that (here he looked down at his desk, rather reflectively) that is so terribly destructive, destructive beyond anything we have ever had. You have got to understand that this isn't a military weapon. (I shall never forget this particular expression). It is used to wipe out women and children and unarmed people, and not for military uses." (July 21st 1948, my emphasis)

2 July 2012 at 20:15  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Interestingly, the 100,000 dead from conventional invasion figure is retrospective. I didn't realise this, but reading up on it those early high estimates were rejected by General Marshall as being unrealistic, and, prior to Hiroshima, the official estimate was in fact 20,000-46,000 American dead. Not least because (as Hirohito would later bitterly complain to his War Cabinet) the Japanese had not by any means completed their coastal defences, which had been due in June 1945 but remained a long way off completion by August.

In the aftermath of the bomb, and the lack of access to secret archives (until comparatively recently), this wasn't of course known, hence the widespread take-up of the 500,000 total dead prediction, issued as part of the White House's public justification for the act (prior to Nagasaki).

2 July 2012 at 20:37  
Blogger anna anglican said...

Happy wedding anniversiary wishes Mr Jacobs!

A few other thoughts to put into the mix :

why Truman didn't drop the bomb on China during the Korean war. Afterall if the use of the bomb was purely military and had nothing to do with geo-political- strategic considerations, why did he sack MacArthur when he advocated such a strike against China? Truman apparently gave an answer as thus :

"I fired him [MacArthur] because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President ... I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail"

2 July 2012 at 23:01  
Blogger anna anglican said...

I've also been reading some background here, on Truman and the Aftermath of WWII and the Cold war, in particular the works of Stephen E Ambrose who conclues :

"When Truman became President, he led a nation anxious to return to tradtional civil-military relations and the historic American foreign policy of noninvolvement . When he left the white house, his legacy was an american presence on every continent on the world and an enormously expanded armament industry. He had established the policy of containment of America's enemies rather than their destruction. The measure of his triumph was that all of his sucessors stayed with his policies"

2 July 2012 at 23:02  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

I'd say a small part of that legacy has found itself in the USA's institutional inability to admit wrongdoing, even many years after the fact. Truman's mission for the world (based in many ways in just principles), amplified by the Cold War, has had the unfortunate side-effect of creating an atmosphere in which the pressures of being the world's policemen has, paradoxically in many ways, resulted in it being unwilling to publically examine its own conduct in the relatively few instances where its armed forces have not behaved as they should have done.

Fortunately this has not applied to many of her veterans. The No Gun Ri massacre being a good example: whereas the Pentagon refuses to even consider culpability, some of the soldiers involved not only came forward but acknowledged their own personal role in the killing.

Again, the No Gun Ri massacre doesn't even begin to compare, in context, intent, or magnitude to the numerous atrocities perpetrated by the North Koreans. Rather like in Northern Ireland, there is a pressure on legitimate forces to admit responsibility for their failings, whilst men with far blacker stains on their souls are able to get away scot-free (actually, the parallels with Bloody Sunday are striking). But it is no small irony that a country (and it is by no means alone in this) that once regarded the Japanese as barbaric for placing "honour" above any other concern, currently refuses to square up to events like No Gun Ri for fear of losing face.

Out of interest Anna, what's your take on the morality of using evil means to achieve good ends?

2 July 2012 at 23:45  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Let's be honest, the Allies may have won the war but the 'peace'?

How many millions died in China during the 'Great Leap Forward' and the 'Cultural Revolution'?

And the countless millions who died as a result of Communist Russia?

Nazism was evil. So were the powers that emerged after its defeat. All predictable. All preventable.

2 July 2012 at 23:54  
Blogger anna anglican said...

Hi Dodo,

how could all of what you have described have been preventable?

At the end of the day, the allies did win in some respects- making Japan and Germany into industrial half giants (thanks to the US Marshall plan etc) who are both of pacifist inclinations (an irony given the calls for Germany to take control of europe by permanent bailouts of the south of Europe). The iron curtain eventually fell and did the evil empire. Even China is embracing free market enterprise. That to me says a lot, over the long term, about civilisation and democracy- one little step at a time.

3 July 2012 at 00:34  
Blogger anna anglican said...

Hi Mr Belfast,

A good question-although the definitive answer is hardly likely to be settled by a gay girl and a Ulsterman (with a Yank and a dead Bird chipping in) -I shall ponder it over night and discuss tomorrow.

3 July 2012 at 00:40  
Blogger anna anglican said...

Hi Mr Belfast,

I guess what your asking is a bit like Tom Baker in Dr Who, when he's sent back by the Times Lords to prevent the Daleks from being created. And what was Dr Who's response?

3 July 2012 at 18:12  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


The answer is in the bible.

God says we must not do evil that good may come: Romans 3:8. Let us do evil, that good may come", Paul replies this amounts to an abominable doctrine.

I think we've exhausted this one and in some respects are talking at cross purposes.

I hold the view that taking up arms in a just cause and waging war according to principles is a responsibility on nations, is moral and is not evil. It's the same set of principle that apply to defending oneself and one loved ones. It's also the principle that lies behind State execution.

Of course its not "good" to kill someone. Nevertheless, it can be morally right and demanded in certain circumstances.

3 July 2012 at 23:10  

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