Ius Post Bellum: Just Completion of War

Excerpts of the following appeared in UUWorld of Summer, 2008:

Paul Rasor’s excellent article leaves out what several ethicists now are including in deliberations about the “just war” tradition: ius post bellum, the just conditions at the cessation of a war. Since wars are fought for purpose of establishing a just and lasting peace, that consideration also is very important to our deliberations about just wars. We know, for example, with the benefit of hindsight that the peace at the end of World War I was not a just peace; otherwise, the next war would not have been fueled so quickly by the dissatisfaction on the part of the powers vanquished in the First World War. Immanuel Kant addresses also the conditions of the military personnel at war’s end. Here is a summary: Kant argues in favor of a full amnesty at the secession of hostilities as part of any war.   In the tradition of Grotius, he also argued in 1797 already for the judicial need of a league of nations; apparently European nations of the time already used a court at the Hague in the Netherlands for solution to some of the international problems.  

In addition, Kant says: “No war of independent states can be a punitive war (bellum punitivum), for punishment can occur only in the relationship of a superior to a subordinate, but that is not the proper relationship between independent nations” (Suhrkamp edition, p. 470/471).   Kant also addresses the rights of military personnel: “All means of defense are permitted for the state under siege of war, except those, the use of which would make it impossible for its citizens to function as citizens. . . . Part of this constraint is not to use the state’s soldiery as spies, not to use the state’s soldiery or even foreigners to assassinate, to poison, to act as sharp-shooters from ambush, or to spread incorrect news—in short, a state must not use malicious means which are likely to destroy the confidence and trust which are necessary for the establishment of a lasting peace afterwards.” (Suhrkamp edition, p. 471). 

I am sure that Kant would have also included military “high-stress and duress interrogation units” here, in part because of the damage done to the psyche of the interrogators themselves.   These remarks are particularly important in view of Kant’s strong rejection of any professional army, which he says is an unsettling provocation for the rest of the world.  Instead, Kant acknowledges the occasional requirement of a citizenry in uniform, the nature of which citizenry may not be perverted by way of its military service. When the soldiery is now returning from Iraq with severe psychological trauma, we must conclude also that the leadership of this country is egregiously in the moral wrong.