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Just Wars are Easy to Explain

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A just war, or a morally justifiable war, should look like a morally (and legally) justifiable killing. The reasoning behind a just war should be quick to explain, with an obvious motive like self defense. It should be nearly impossible to find fault with a just war.

By comparison, the longwinded articles that I'm reading on the Wall Street Journal reference Neville Chamberlain, Henry Kissinger, soft power, appeasement and isolationism while trying, and trying hard, to get people to sign the dotted line for another war.

It got me to wondering: because the pro-war articles are long, is that all anyone needs to know? If you can't explain why thousands of people's children need to die for a cause in 25 words or less, is it possible that the cause isn't especially worthy?
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To take the extreme example, if the Canadians were lining up thousands of American civilians in front of firing squads, storming down the Mississippi River, destroying all in their path, would there be need for a foreign policy debate, and careful crafting of arguments in favor of military intervention? I think I wouldn't be alone in supporting a war if there were Maple Leaf death squads patrolling Louisville, even without a thoughtful op-ed by a think-tanker.

Sending America's youth off to die is, although recent history might make you think otherwise, a really big deal. Therefore, it should be trivial to explain exactly why we are sending our children to get shot. If it requires considerable thought, and significant filtering of information to craft a decent argument, drawing on historical precedent, lawyerly rhetoric and a dash of jingoism to get people fired up for war, a war must not be all that valid to begin with.

If there were a situation so uncontroversial as repelling a genocidal foreign invasion, there would be no need for op-eds beating the war drums. So, does it stand to reason that a pro-war op-ed's very existence denies its validity? Widely circulating newspapers publish op-eds that spark debate; to wit, an article opining that parents ought to feed their children wouldn't get much attention. Controversy sells, and a just war is uncontroversial.

All in all, if a war doesn't receive enough unanimity to escape the op-ed section, then it isn't worth fighting. Likewise, the only just war is so simply explained that there can be no interesting debate over whether or not to fight it.

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Richard is an engineer by day, and a political activist by night, fighting would-be totalitarians and government busybodies everywhere.

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