These aspects of the contemporary scene more than any others point to the need

These aspects of the contemporary scene more than any

This preview shows page 230 - 232 out of 413 pages.

may be defending its civilization itself against forces that seek its complete destruction. These aspects of the contemporary scene more than any others point to the need to think about just war in deeper historical terms than simply international law, precisely because existing inter- national law has been formed almost entirely in the European, post-Reformation and Enlightment, Westphalian system. If the second interpretation of the GWOT has some validity, the central point is precisely that those shared assumptions of the past several centuries may have less and less relevance, and the original concerns of defending the stability of a system of civilization against fundamental attack may be the better analog to present circumstances. CONCLUSION The moral tradition of just war, and its partial embodiment in the laws of war at any moment is part of on-going evolution. They represent a drive to make practical restraints on war that honor the moral claim of individuals not to be unjustly attacked while at the same time recognizing that use of military force in defense of individuals and values is sometimes a necessity. All military Officers charged with the grave moral responsibility of commanding and control- ling military units and weapons must, if they are to conduct war morally, have a good working knowledge of the just war tradition and of the moral principles it strives to enshrine. Above all, strategic leaders who set large-scale military policy, control training and organiza- tional culture, and supervise the preparation of operational plans for national militaries need to understand and think in ways deeply conditioned by just war principles. Because their responsi- bility is so great and because the weapons and personnel under their control are capable of caus- ing such destruction, they above all bear the responsibility to ensure that those forces observe the greatest possible moral responsibility in their actions. No amount of knowledge of the terms and concepts of just war will make morally complex decisions miraculously clear. But clear understanding of the concepts of just war theory and of
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225 the moral principles that underlie them can provide clarity of thought and a way to sharpen one’s thinking about those choices. And in the rapidly changing international scene characterized by American military supremacy and nonstate actor attack, it may be that we are entering into a rare fundamental shift in the understanding of the international system such as we have not seen in four centuries. If our military is to conduct itself in war in ways compatible with American national values, and if individual Soldiers and Officers are to be able to see themselves and their activities as mor- ally acceptable, they must be able to understand the moral structure of just conduct in war. Fur- ther, it is imperative that they integrate that understanding into the routines of decisionmaking in military operations.
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