Okay…so, I was just accused on my Google plus page (also The Elephant’s Conscience, in case you were wondering) of not truly being pro-life. This accusation was based on the assumption of a stranger on the internet that I am obviously pro-war and pro-death penalty because I’m a conservative. Oh well, I guess such things will happen in the darkest chasms of the interwebs. But it did get me thinking about how I really do feel about war and the death penalty. After all, these are pretty deep subjects. Here’s my simplest answer to that question.
As far as war goes, I subscribe to the ‘Just War Theory1′ that was created by St. Augustine and refined by St. Thomas Aquinas. There are seven principles of the ‘Just War Theory’, and they go like so:
1. Last Resort- Only if there is absolutely zero other options left.
2. Legitimate Authority- Only governments can really wage a war.
3. Just Cause- Self-defense in almost all cases.
4. Probability of Success- You must have a legitimate chance to win.
5. Right Intention- You have to try to create more peace than you had before. Then you have to try to establish justice.
6. Proportionality- The force used has to be proportional to the force suffered. After you win, there must be no raping, pillaging, burning villages, massacres, or genocide of any kind…AT ALL!!!
7. Civilian Casualties- Only kill other soldiers. Avoid killing innocents at all costs.
I don’t believe that we Americans should ever start a war. I do, however, believe that if someone feels like starting a war with us…then we should end it as fast and painlessly as possible. For example, I believe that the First Gulf War and WWII were both just wars. Vietnam (where we tried to restore a colony that won its’ independence back to France because they couldn’t do it themselves) and World War I (aside from the Schlieffen plan, we were never really at risk of invasion) were not. (WWI only applies to rules 2,4, and 5. As such, it doesn’t meet the requirements of a Just War.) As Tony Stark says in the Avengers: Age of Ultron2, “Isn’t that why we fight: to end the fight and go home?” Well said, Mr. Stark. Well said.
I am admittedly less enthusiastic about the death penalty. In my eyes, it should be used sparingly and only in the most extreme cases. I have no problem if someone like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, or a serial killer who has taken multiple lives and is liable to continue killing, is sentenced to death. The death sentence is the ultimate consequence and should be handled as such. Granted this is probably inhumane, but anyone who has barbarously killed other human beings for sport or ‘glory’ doesn’t deserve to be considered a human being anymore. Being a homo sapien is right conferred by biology. Being considered a person and a citizen (by which I invoke the Ancient Greek meaning in which a person commits their life to doing what’s best for their fellow man) is a privilege that must be earned.
War and the death penalty are very much alike. If employing either tactic is the best available way to avoid the deaths of many innocents, then I’m okay with it. If they are being used in an expedient or incompetent fashion and innocent people are dying because of it when they normally wouldn’t have, that’s when I have a problem.
The Elephant’s Conscience
2. I write more about this in my article: The Importance of Parenthood in Avengers: Age of Ultron