Thestudy of ethics, put simply is the study of morals; of rights and wrongs.Ethics can teach us what we ought to do and how to do it. It is a vital aspectof many professions such as nursing and medicine. However, in relation towarfare, it can be more complicated and obscure. How can the systematic, mass killing,and destruction of warfare have ethical components? This essay aims to outlinethe ethics of the three aspects of warfare. They are, conduct in waging war,conduct during war and conduct in the aftermath of war.Firstly,according to Aquinas (2002), there are three criteria to meet for a war to belabelled as justifiably waged.

A legitimate authority must be the one to wagewar, the war must be of a “just cause”, and the intention must be right (164).If these needs are meet it can be arguably concluded that the enemy deservedwar and that the war was necessary to restore peace and justice to the nationspartaking in the conflict. Baraclow (2007) points to other criterion that werelater added to the list of justifications; mainly, that a reasonable chance atsuccess exists and that the war must be a last option, once all other possiblediplomatic solutions have been exhausted.Regardlessof this criteria for waging war Pacifists like to argue that war is neverjustifiable as it is “Immoral means”, by which goals are sought and that war isultimately ineffective and leads to further conflict (Baraclow, 2007)) (304).Also, what constitutes as just cause, poses serious questions.  Self-defence, severe economic sanctions anddefence of allies may be cited as just causes for war.

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Vardy, P. and Vardy, C. (2012)state that “arguably the only just cause for war is in response to aggression”,(245). This however may raise further questions as to what exactly is definedas aggression. Not all aggression may be of physical characteristics.Oncea cause exists for war the issue is then on who should take the role indeclaring war.

Some believe it is up to nations leaders to order the countriestroops to fight for justice and peace. However, more commonly it is seen to bea collective democratic decision made by the members of the U.N. that isrequired before a war is initiated.

This however has been controversial incases such as Iraq where the U.S. and the U.K. entered conflict on the premiseof there being Weapons of mass destruction, by ordering combat withouttechnically declaring a state of war. Secondly,when a nation has entered a war it may be widely believed that the combat issimply fighting, without rules, to overcome the enemy. This however is not thecase. There exists ethical standards and regulations by which conduct duringcombat is governed.

The Geneva convention of 1949 sets out a series of articleswhich essentially act as codes of conduct during warfare. Article 19 of thefirst convention states “fixed establishments and mobile medical units…may inno circumstances be attacked”. This article ensures that those marked with theflag of a medic whose purpose is to treat the wounded are not attacked. Otherarticles of this convention lay out similar rules in relation to the woundedthemselves.Anotherissue during the engagement of conflict is that of proportionality. Is itethical for a country to not just declare war, but to use the full force of itsmilitary capabilities on its enemy? On this issue Shaw, H.

William (2016)claims that “the use of force or violence must be proportional to the value ofthe military objective being sought”. Therefore, it can be argued that the useof chemical, biological and nuclear weapons are outright disproportionate toany form of aggression other than in retaliation for the use of such weaponsagainst themselves. If the objective of a war is to establish peace and justice,then the collateral damage of the killing of innocents is not proportionate to thisaim. (Thompson, 2010)


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