In the 21st century, there is no longer any justification for war
Second reply by the Koalition für Leben und Frieden to the
"What we are fighting for" group of the Institute of American Values
Your latest statement, "Is the use of force ever morally justified?", in reply to our letter of response "A world of justice and peace would be different" to your manifesto "What we're fighting for", has
attracted considerable attention in Germany. The attempt to make the political and military actions of the U.S.A., as the leading world power, the subject of a critical discussion, appealing to the intellectual and
moral forces of the West, seems important to us, and deserves to be continued. In this respect, we thank you for your recent letter, and in our answer follow up your final point: the joint desire to remind the
West-as the most economically and militarily powerful part of the world (society)--that it should not act egoistically in its own interests, but demonstrate credibly to all the world that it "is serious about
the universality of human rights and dignity".
War and 'just war'
You express your disappointment because we only addressed your central argument of "just war" indirectly in our reply. What
we find difficult is to consider the concept of "war" appropriate at all to dealing with the problems facing us (triggered by the terror attack)-and for various reasons.
Under the current law of
nations, only states can wage war against one another. To term the combating of terrorists, who occur throughout the world, and some of whom come from countries such as Germany and the U.S.A., "war" is
misleading. Is the United States of America a country that is at war, a war without temporal or geographical limits, with unspecified enemies? Or are the means and laws of war to be invoked for worldwide police
actions, now and in the future? As the 11th of September demonstrated in a terrifying way, every society is fundamentally open to attack and vulnerable, even without a war. The question that concerns us all is how
to react appropriately to this special threat, or to such an event.
At the beginning of your letter, you raise the question, "Is the use of force ever morally justified?" Your question clearly is not
about the force-counterforce equilibrium processes that are generally necessary to stabilize living systems, but the more restricted question of the moral permissibility of military violence and war, confrontation
rather than constructive conflict management, and basically not between states, but between their specially equipped and trained armed forces. Due to its potential for overkill, for mass destruction, modern warfare
with its mighty weaponry has become totally irrational, because it can no longer resolve the conflicts that it is supposed to resolve. And it will never be able to resolve them-given an equal respect to all
mankind-but will even preserve them in aggravated form into the future, due to the hatred of many innocent persons who have come to harm. For it affects mainly those who are not participants in the conflict, and not
only by direct hostile actions, but also by the destruction of their vital material and social resources, which is even more serious for the people concerned. Given the almost unlimited escalation of violence made
possible by modern technology, neither an ideology of 'just war' nor pacifism is therefore needed to oppose all wars today, but merely pragmatic, appraising reason.
But even without this devaluation in
principle, in our view, 'just war' is a historical concept burdened by its past, since it invites abuse. It would require going into some detail to spell this out; we will limit ourselves to only a few remarks.
In recent centuries, there has hardly been a war that was not described as a "just" or even a "holy war" by both sides. Even the Nazi regime and the Hamas assassins declared their actions as
a "just war". And the members and sympathizers of al-Qaida presumably see a "just" cause behind their terrorist attacks, the struggle against a predominant foreign power that threatens their own
sovereignty, which finds expression in their eyes in the U.S. military-industrial complex and its symbols, the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. With the term "just war", one needs at any rate to
distinguish fundamentally whether the word "just" refers to the cause (which may be justified) or to the execution, which may consist of grave crimes that are cloaked, and in the final analysis
legitimized, by the term "just war".
Specifically, we ask: can a war employing weaponry that does not combat troops, but destroys whole regions, their inhabitants, and the latter's vital resources,
lay claim to the designation "just" at all? With good reason, the cynical expression "collateral damage" was chosen as 'Unword of the Year', because fleeing children, women, and old men, whose
death the attacker accepts and condones, are more than marginal events. It is understandable that the assessment of what can still be considered "just" will vary greatly, depending on whether one is in the
shoes of the person dropping the bombs or of the person fleeing. Can one really-as you imply in your letter-give less moral weight to "unintentionally" killed civilians in Afghanistan that to intentionally
killed civilians in the U.S.A.?
And who is to decide in a specific case what is just? Justice, by its nature, cannot be established by the one who was offended or harmed, but only by a higher, impartial,
moral and legal authority. The power to define whether a war is just surely cannot be left to the arbitrary views of the war-making parties. In your letter, you yourselves mention the great importance and the
principles of the United Nations. The United Nations and the present-day law of nations, which the United States of America played a constructive role in creating, have replaced the jungle of arbitrary decisions by
self-appointed judges of war and peace. Universally valid (because created by the consensus of countries) law, which was intended to be equally applicable to all states, whether strong or weak, large or small, was
one of the great cultural achievements of the twentieth century, in our opinion.
Possibilities of defence
You ask us, "How can people who are attacked defend themselves?" That is the great
question of life-and-death, since life is fundamentally vulnerable. Not only you, but we and all the six billion people on our Earth are faced by it. And the question faces the poorer people of the world, not only
in developing countries, but also within our highly economically developed countries, even more urgently and threateningly. The force that they are subjected to every day, and which hinders their full human
development, is not mainly physical violence, but to a shocking extent "structural violence" that rides roughshod over their human rights and dignity. The have-nots do not themselves possess any structure
that would enable them to protect and defend themselves against this "structural violence" which robs them, seemingly nonviolently, of "air to breathe" or "the right to grow their own
food". Thus the question of protection must not be limited to the demand for security of the prosperous minority in the world due to the current attacks. There are basic moral requirements that are shared by
all cultures. The "sufficiently developed means of democratic states under the rule of law" we mentioned, and their partial flexible extension to the international level therefore already represent a
highly differentiated bundle of examples as an answer to the initial question. But such legal systems require continual development, so as to be able to deal with new forms of this question efficiently and
effectively. It is apparent that extreme structural imbalances, where naked powerlessness is confronted by structural domination, make just solutions more and more difficult to mediate in practice. Such hopeless
situations result more and more frequently, out of the despair they create, in acts of terrorist violence.
We would welcome it if the tradition of "primarily seeking to limit, not extol the use of
force" you assert were to be made official policy as well. It is true that, officially, the U.S.A. seeks to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction from the face of the Earth-and there are many among us who
have actively promoting that objective for decades. But we also know that the U.S.A. does not wish to make this demand of itself, and is not even willing to abandon the option of first use. Isn't it time that the
question of the legitimacy of possessing weapons of mass destruction was put not only to those who do not possess such weapons, but want to have them, but also to those who already long since possess them, and in
vast quantities? In our opinion, worldwide cut-backs in weapons of mass destruction, and waiving the option to use them, is the only effective way to prevent their further proliferation.
Of course, a
limitation of military force has actually been practised until now, for exploiting all the military potential to the full would amount to multiple racial suicide of humanity and destruction of the entire biosphere,
which even the "victor" would not be able to survive. But this threat does loom over all of us, and is even evoked rashly. It is true that a certain degree of restraint continues to be exercised in using
the worst weapons available. But this is based more one the understandable wish to prevent casualties of one's own as much as possible, and less on limiting the destructive force, whose consequences, especially for
the innocent, are ignored in striking the balance(US Secretary of Defense: People have to realize today that we can fight wars without casualties!), and are largely concealed from the public. Due to the inherent
momentum of every war, of which victory remains the essential goal, we cannot count on rational restraint not being abandoned in the end-which is a lethal vision, in view of the present arsenals of annihilation.
You object to our statement that one must not respond to one wrong by another. Indeed, the expression "mass murder" is provocative and liable to be misunderstood, and should therefore be avoided
whenever possible. However, our comparison was not meant to equate the acts of September 11th with the U.S. bombing raids, but to say that they are both wrong.
Unfortunately, since World War II-in contrast to
the important Nuremberg war-crimes trials-there has been a sort of consensus among the victorious powers, but also between the former opponents, not to pursue war crimes any further. Therefore, we consider the
statement in your letter "that universal moral criteria should be applied to specific situations to determine whether the use of force is morally justified" important. However, determining this is the
responsibility of a higher, impartial body, which demands that these principles be observed, monitors them, and publicly condemns and convicts violations of them. This is why we support the strengthening of the
United Nations and the establishment of the International Criminal Court.
There is nothing we would like more than to see the U.S.A. also strengthening international bodies and recognizing the International
Criminal Court. We cannot accept legal vacuums being created so as to remove prisoners of war, war criminals, and terrorists from the internationally valid legal processes, which are a matter of course in the United
States, as well.
Our statement about the dangers of fundamentalism on the U.S. side was also provocative. Our growing concern about the ever-greater concentration of power in a few hands in
the U.S.A., the only remaining superpower, seems "alarmist" to you. We all hope that you will prove to be right about this, but we have plenty of historical knowledge of how quickly, and unfortunately how
easily, hard-won civil rights and the balance of powers can be sacrificed spontaneously by a large majority in a country under suitable external conditions and psychologically sophisticated pressure from above. Are
you not very seriously worried by speeches about "combating evil everywhere in the world", about "rogue states" and an "axis of evil", and similar remarks by politicians, as well? We
know that many U.S. citizens are just as bothered by this as we are, and by the fact that warning voices to this effect hardly reach the public any more since September 11th, in your country of maximum freedom of
But at the word "fundamentalism", some of us think not only of the intolerant and more radical religious and nationalistic tendencies, but also of the growing power of a business world
that is becoming more and more a fundamentalist ersatz religion, with the motto "There is no alternative!", and employs its growing structural power to strengthen itself without any moral scruples.
We regard religious, and also secular fundamentalism, in its many shades, as a reaction to a real or perceived attack on one's own culture, one's own identity, and on personal or national sovereignty. In the Moslem
world, the opinion and feeling that Moslems are exposed to a latent threat from the West is very widespread. The al-Qaida terrorists derived the legitimation for their attack on September 11th against the symbols of
the West from this mood; however, by their acts they injured the national pride of the people of the U.S.A., who had believed themselves invulnerable to attack, and thus triggered fundamentalist reactions in the
U.S.A. in turn. One of our most urgent tasks is to break this pernicious chain reaction of fundamentalism, and to build bridges by breaking down hostile stereotypes and by a dialogue between the cultures.
Regardless of this, we do not underestimate the danger of fundamentalism and the willingness to use violence based on it in the Moslem world, despite what you think. But we are firmly convinced that warding off
fundamentalist dangers can be done most effectively by strengthening the trust of the powerless of this world in universal values such as the inviolability of human dignity and rights and individual liberties, and
the universal principles of law. For this, it is absolutely essential that the West, and above all the United States, give proof of its own credibility in defending universal values and legal principles. For
example, it lacks moral and legal credibility to condemn Islamistic fundamentalism, and at the same time to do deals with Saudi Arabia, the most influential fundamentalist regime in the Moslem world, which is known
to have supported the Taliban and the Islamists in Pakistan and to have helped create al-Qaida forces, and defend it by all possible means. It lacks credibility to condemn vehemently violations of human rights in
Iraq, but to be silent about violations of them in Chechnya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A respect for human rights and international law demands that the West should end its pernicious practice of moral
and legal double standards.
For the reasons given, we consider that your statements need to be challenged; and not only that: we consider them dangerous, because in a situation that is
controversial in international law, you grant to a president who is ready to go to war the intellectual and moral justification to plunge the world into further military adventures with unpredictable results,
instead of employing mighty America's means for a credible, globally accepted peace policy. The next escalation of military force by an assault on Iraq, with predictable destabilization and catastrophic consequences
for millions of people in the countries of the Near East, and also in Europe, is being prepared under our very eyes, after all! We know that many American intellectuals agree with our assessment of the situation.
We trust that you will continue to be willing to consider our view of matters. Please consider our appeals to you as an offer of a constructive continuation of the dialogue for a more just, peaceful, and free
Thank you again for your reply.
Prof. Hans Peter Dürr, Heiko Kauffmann, Prof. Mohssen Massarrat, Frank Uhe,as representatives of the Koalition für Leben und Frieden [= Coalition
for Life and Peace]. The Coalition is the initiator of the first statement of May 2002, signed by about one hundred German intellectuals, on the manifesto "What we're fighting for", written by sixty U.S.
intellectuals. This second statement by the Coalition is supported by the following persons in the Federal Republic of Germany:
Franz Alt, Baden-Baden;
Carl Amery, München;
Prof. Dr. Hans-Eckehard Bahr, Bochum;
Johann-Albrecht Bausch, Aachen;
Franz S. Bautz, München;
Prof. Dr. Jörg Becker, Solingen;
Dr. Peter Becker, Marburg;
Prof. Dr. Adelheid Biesecker, Bremen;
Michael Bouteiller, Lübeck;
Prof. Dr. Elmar Brähler, Leipzig;
Prof. Dr. Klaus Brake, Berlin;
Reiner Braun, Dortmund;
Dr. Dieter W. Bricke, Bergen;
Dr. med. Angelika Claußen, Bielefeld;
Prof. Dr. Klaus Dörner, Hamburg;
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Duchrow, Heidelberg;
Dr. Matthias Engelke, Idar-Oberstein;
Margot Esser, Uffing;
Hannah-E. und Ekke Fetköter, Uelvesbüll;
Dr. Ralph Fischer, München;
Bernd Fischerauer, München;
Prof.-Dr. Andreas Flitner, Tübingen;
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Gottstein, Frankfurt;
Brigitte und Prof. Dr. Heinz Häberle; Herrsching;
Dr. Dirk-Michael Harmsen, Karlsruhe;
Irmgard Heilberger, Neuburg;
Christoph Hein, Berlin;
Prof. Dr. Peter Hennicke, Wuppertal;
Dr. Markus Hesse, Berlin;
Prof. Dr. Ing. Helmut Holzapfel, Kassel;
Dr. Margarethe und Prof. Dr. Siegfried Jäger, Duisburg;
Prof. Dr, Walter Jens, Tübingen;
Matthias Jochheim, Frankfurt/Main;
Dr. Helmut Käss, Braunschweig;
Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrich Knauer, Berlin;
Hans Krieger, München;
Prof. Dr. Ekkehart Krippendorf, Berlin;
Prof. Dr. Ing. Helmar Krupp, Weingarten;
Prof. Dr. Ilse Lenz, Bochum;
Herbert Leuninger, Limburg;
Frauke Liesenborghs, München;
Prof. Dr. Birgit Mahnkopf, Berlin;
Prof. Dr. Klaus Meschkat, Hannover;
Franz Meyer, Leisnig;
Otto Meyer, Münster;
Prof. Dr. Klaus-Michael Meyer-Abich, Essen;
Dr. Christa Müller, München;
Michael Müller, Düsseldorf;
Dr. Till Müller-Heidelberg, Bingen;
Dr. Lars Pohlmeier, Hamburg;
Prof. Dr. Rolf Rosenbrock, Berlin;
Dr. Gerd-Dieter Schmid, Fischbachau;
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schneider, Göttingen;
Prof. Dr. Randeria Shalini, Potsdam und Budapest;
Friedrich Schorlemmer, Wittenberg;
Dr. Henry Stahl, Berlin;
Prof. Dr. Harmen Storck, Hannover;
Uwe Timm, Minden;
Peter Vonnahme, Kaufering;
Dr. Reinhard J. Voß, Bad Vilbel;
Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin;
Konstantin Wecker, München;
Dr. Rainer Werning, Frechen;
Dr. Karin Wesner, Bielefeld;
Prof. Dr. Martin Westerhausen, Dinslaken;
Walter Wilken, Hannover;
Frieder-Otto Wolf, Berlin.
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