Monday, March 31, 2008

Self Defense and Innocents in War

The passage below struck me as being quite relevant to understanding the difficult, but necessary, approach that one has to adopt with regards to innocents in war – necessary that is, if one is to successfully defend oneself.
In the war against Japan, American naval commanders faced what might be called the prison ship problem. Submarines had little way of knowing which Japanese transport ships were carrying prisoners of war. In any case, “the U.S. Navy adopted a ruthless view,” Max Hastings writes. “Destruction of the enemy must take priority over any attempt to safeguard P.O.W. lives.” As a result, some 10,000 Allied prisoners were doomed (including more than twice as many Americans as have perished in Iraq). And if the Americans didn’t kill the P.O.W.’s, then the Japanese did.
I of course reject the modern idea of including adult civilians in enemy countries who tacitly support, or simply evade the need to evaluate, their governments as part of the "innocent", but even for the legitimately innocent such as children, hostages or POW's, as terrible as it is, one’s self-defense cannot be tempered by considering the harm they may come to. The moral blame for their fate falls squarely on the aggressor who makes the war necessary, and indeed the potential consequences to such innocents is a fundamental reason why any citizen must take the responsibility of opposing and denouncing the evil elements within his society -- before they can rise to power and wreak their havoc. If citizens fail to do this, they can not blame their government’s foreign victims for defending themselves with every possible means, including killing and even targeting civilians.

The rest of the book review presents additional interesting facts, but for a deeper moral analysis of our war with Japan, I once again urge everyone to read Dr. John Lewis' masterful essay. And for more on the issue of innocents in war, see Onkar's editorial.


Blogger Gideon said...

Thanks for this post (and the email on Obloggers). The review was very informative.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Amit Ghate said...

You're very welcome Gideon. And thanks for stopping by here.

11:41 AM  

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