100 years af­ter the ‘war to end all wars’

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Insight - BY AN­DREW FIALA Spe­cial to The Bee

One hun­dred years ago, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, The Great War came to an end. The war killed tens of mil­lions of peo­ple. Some thought this would be the war to end war. They were wrong.

A League of Na­tions was formed. The Kel­logg-Briand pact re­nounced war as an in­stru­ment of na­tional pol­icy. But by the 1930s, the world went back to war. With each pass­ing decade, the ma­chin­ery of death has be­come more ef­fi­cient. The war dead of the 20th cen­tury are counted in the hun­dreds of mil­lions.

And still the scourge of war af­flicts us. This year 100,000 hu­man be­ings have been killed in wars in Ye­men, Syria, Afghanistan, and else­where. It might seem like good news to learn that the

body count is lower to­day. But even one death from sense­less vi­o­lence rep­re­sents a moral fail­ure.

Over the past mil­len­nia, schol­ars have clar­i­fied a moral the­ory known as the “just war the­ory.” War can be jus­ti­fied when it is fought for a just cause and as a last re­sort. War should be pro­por­tional. Civil­ians should be spared from harm. Pris­on­ers should be re­spected. And so on.

This the­ory re­flects a com­mon-sense view that re­quires vi­o­lence to be lim­ited and jus­ti­fied. Its prin­ci­ples are re­flected in in­ter­na­tional law and in var­i­ous treaties and con­ven­tions. But the re­al­ity of war de­fies such ab­stract mor­al­iz­ing. Eth­i­cal judg­ment is over­whelmed by war fever. Politi­cians seek ad­van­tage. Na­tions vie for supremacy. Fear, ha­tred and pro­pa­ganda over­rule rea­son. And moral scru­ples are set aside.

LU­DOVIC MARIN As­so­ci­ated Press

The Os­suary of Douau­mont, near Ver­dun, north­east­ern France, is pic­tured dur­ing cer­e­monies mark­ing the cen­te­nary of the end of World War I .

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