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Flying Fickle Finger of Fate

When the pilot for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In premiered on TV on September 9, 1967, the Vietnam War raged in full gear, the Civil Rights Movement continued to explode, and the country was split by conflict and political divide. A forerunner of Saturday Night Live, Laugh-In used provocative satire and humor to comment on current affairs. The show featured well-known actors and actresses like Henry Gibson, Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, and Richard Dawson. Sets used bright colors and mod art, reflecting the hippie culture of the time. Popular slang, like “Sock it to Me,” peppered the show. Strange characters, bold costumes, and mind-blowing music enthralled the audience so the show emerged again as a series on January 22, 1968, and ran until May 14, 1973.

There were no social media then and people frowned at curse words. Laugh-In compensated by inventing the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate award. Every week the hosts, Rowan and Martin, awarded some entity this award, which was the equivalent of giving the finger to unpopular governments, public officials, organizations, celebrities, and corporations. The first award was given on September 16, 1968. Over the years, winners included the Pentagon, the U.S. Congress, and the National Security Agency.

(Rowan and Martin awarding the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate to Soviet Russia.)

Dawn Pisturino

March 27, 2023

Copyright 2023 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


Augustine, Aquinas, Vitoria: Justifications and Limitations of War: Christian Perspective

(Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash)

[NOTE: This is a 6,214 word research paper that I wrote for my university class, Ethics and Politics of War (Just War Theory). I am posting it for those people who are interested in the topic. This week, in the U.S., we honor our brave soldiers who unfairly died at Pearl Harbor.]

Augustine, Aquinas, Vitoria: Justifications and Limitations of War: Christian Perspective

by Dawn Pisturino

       Augustine, Aquinas, and Vitoria examined just war from a Christian perspective and believed that negotiations and diplomacy should come before the use of force; however, if this is impossible, force may be used in a just war that is declared by a legitimate authority, for a just cause, and with the right intention (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 1).

Three Just War Thinkers and their Views on the Justifications and Limitations of War

       Cicero developed three tenets which cover the justification, implementation, and resolution of war.  Of the three, this writer will address jus ad bellum (the justification for the use of force) and jus in bellum (the limitations for the use of force in war) as expanded on by St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Francisco de Vitoria (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 1).

St. Augustine

       St. Augustine went through three phases in his just war thinking.  During phase one, he condoned “a soldier killing an enemy, . . . a judge or his minister killing a criminal, . . . someone inadvertently or imprudently throwing a spear . . . when they killed a man” (Johnson, 2018, pg. 23).  In phase two, he insisted that war, if commanded by God as in the Old Testament, “cannot be inherently immoral” (Johnson, 2018, pg. 23).  Phase three showed a more cynical shift in his thinking when he said that “the quest for justice and order is doomed; but dedication to the impossible task is demanded by the very precariousness of civilized order in the world” (Johnson, 2018, pg. 25).  In other words, just war is necessary to keep the world from chaos.  At the same time, Augustine stressed Christ’s exhortation to love your neighbor and protecting “non-combatants in war” (Johnson, 2018, pg. 32).

Thomas Aquinas

       Thomas Aquinas saw war as “an instrument of peace” that would keep the wicked in check (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 52) through the use of “public authority” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 52).  He did not promote pacifism as a Christian value.  But he did stress that “conduct in war is first and foremost a matter of moral behavior” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 52).

       Aquinas’ three tenets include princely authority, just cause, and right intention.  These conditions must be met before any war can be considered just (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 55).  He justified princely authority by insisting that “defense of the common good requires a chain of command with the prince at its head” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 55) and this can only be achieved where there is “a unified force” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 55).  Just cause only occurs when “those who are attacked deserve this attack by reason of some fault (culpam)” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56).  Lastly, war should be fought with the right intention, to promote the common good.  Unnecessary “cruelty, avarice, unbridled anger, or hatred” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57) are not Christian or even human virtues and should be condemned.  He does, however, recognize that unintended damage is bound to occur.

Francisco de Vitoria

       The most surprising development, so far, in our study of just war thinkers, has been Vitoria’s sophisticated analysis of Spain’s treatment of indigenous people in the New World.

       Vitoria believed that nature (or natural law) divided humans into “perfect communities . . . [united by] their own traditions, languages, and cultures and contained within them the means necessary to provide for themselves and the well-being of their members” (Bellamy, 208, pg. 79).  By his reasoning, the indigenous people in the New World formed perfect communities and were entitled to “the same basic rights” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 79) as European Catholic communities.  Neither the Pope nor the Holy Roman Emperor had supreme authority over these communities, which contradicted the dominant idea at the time that indigenous people in the New World were “vassals of the Spanish King and subjects of the Pope” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 79).

       Horrified by the behavior of the Spanish conquistadores in the New World, Vitoria defended the rights of the natives.  For example, he did not believe in the legitimacy of converting the natives to Christianity against their will, saying, “war is no argument for the truth of the Christian faith” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 80).  However, Vitoria still referred to the natives as barbarians and asserted that if they “persist in their wickedness and strive to destroy the Spaniards, then [the Spanish conquistadores] may treat them no longer as innocent enemies, but as treacherous foes against whom all rights of war can be exercised” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 81).

       In the final analysis, Vitoria condemned the use of force when it comes to “religious differences, claims of universal jurisdiction, and the personal ambitions of sovereigns” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 81).  The only justification for the use of force is “to right a prior wrong” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 82).

Application of Just War Principles to Historical Conflicts

       When applying just war principles to Sherman’s March to the Sea, the First Sino-Japanese War, and the U.S. intervention in Somalia, all three represent situations where conflict and force became necessary for humanitarian and self-defense reasons.

Augustine, Aquinas, Proportionality, and Sherman’s March to the Sea

       St. Augustine viewed social groups as “people bound together by agreement as to what they love” (Johnson, 2018, pg. 29), rejecting Cicero’s emphasis on political states.  It is, therefore, an act of love to fight in a just war in order to protect our neighbors.

       Aquinas reaffirmed the conviction that “solely those who have no temporal superior – namely princes – are permitted to initiate war” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 55) and the fact that “a unified force” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 55) will be more successful than people acting independently.  The “common good” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56) can best be promoted by the leader in power.  Part of the responsibility of the leader is to handle “internal disturbers of the peace” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56).

       The second condition for just war, according to Aquinas, is “that those who are attacked deserve this attack by reason of some fault (culpam)” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56). 

       The third condition for just war, according to Aquinas, is the concept of “right intention” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  People involved in a war should fight with the intention of promoting the common good and “the avoidance of evil” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  He emphasized that unnecessary brutality, greed, and hostility should be avoided (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  Harming innocent non-combatants is unacceptable in jus in bellum.  Besides sparing innocent lives, soldiers should refrain from “cutting down the fruit trees on enemy territory” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  Aquinas recognized, however, that unintended damage is bound to happen in war, and soldiers are not liable for that damage.  Committing deliberate acts of harm, on the other hand, confers personal liability on the person committing them (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  Only force “undertaken by public officers of the law” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 58) can be justified as a necessary action for promoting the common good and punishing a wrong-doing.

       In my opinion, Sherman’s March to the Sea was a legitimate military campaign, consistent with the conditions of just war as laid down by Augustine and Aquinas.

Sherman’s March and Proportionality

       In 1864, the Civil War had been raging for three years, demoralizing the North and solidifying the stubbornness of the South, when William Tecumseh Sherman devised a plan to end the war once and for all (Smith, 2007, pg. 7).

       In a speech given on September 30, 1875, Sherman admitted that he and his troops had “transgressed the rules of war . . . and we determined to make it and to subsist on our friends and enemies while making it . . .[for] Georgia was at that time regarded . . .as the arch stone of the South . . .[and] that once destroyed, and the Southern Confederacy dwindled down to the little space between the Savannah River and Richmond, . . . the people of the United States could not only vindicate their laws but could punish the traitors” (Trudeau, 2008, pg. 548).

       Sherman blamed the people of the South for starting the Civil War in the first place and determined to punish them collectively by making “the people themselves experience the war” (Smith, 2007, pg. 8).  His intention, as he marched through Georgia, was to destroy “the state’s war-making capability” (Smith, 2007, pg. 8).  He cared about hastening the end of the war, and he was not so concerned about the means by which he did it.  Governor Joseph Brown was given the option to surrender, and when he did not respond, Sherman pursued his plan “to go ahead, devastating the State in its whole length and breadth” (Smith, 2007, pg. 8).

       There is no denying that the Civil War – and the North’s punishment of the South – was a just cause, according to both Augustine’s and Aquinas’s conditions for just war.  Sherman was acting to promote the common good; out of love for his country and his neighbors in the North; to end the war that had divided the United States; and to ensure that the South would be so devastated, it would have to capitulate and never rise again (Davis, 1988, pg. 3; Johnson, 2018, pg. 29; Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56, 57).  Sherman’s actions were authorized by both General Ulysses S. Grant and President Abraham Lincoln, so the condition of proper authority was fulfilled (Smith, 2007, pg. 8, 15).

       The South had declared war against the North and made the first attack on April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter, South Carolina (National Park Service, 2021, para. 1).  “Southerners gambled that Southern spirit and military elan could overcome the wealth and size of the North” (Smith, 2007, pg. 14).  Southern forces refused to back down, even when Sherman gave Governor Brown of Georgia an ultimatum.  Therefore, by Aquinas’s rationale, the South deserved to be attacked and punished for the crime of secession and beginning the war in the first place (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56).

       The March to the Sea destroyed everything that could be used to support the Confederate military machine.  Sherman ordered his foragers to forage for food and necessary supplies, knowing that there would be abuses.  But he also ordered that “churches and private homes” should be saved (Davis, 1988, pg. 3).  He counseled his men to pick on “rich Southerners rather than the poor” (Davis, 1988, pg. 8) because he blamed the rich plantation owners the most.  But Sherman was no fool.  He understood that “hard war” (Davis, 1988, pg. 9) was the only way to end the war.

       Since the Confederates refused to surrender, in spite of the North’s victories, Sherman claimed, “I had a right, under the rules of civilized warfare, to commence a system that would make them feel the power of the government and cause them to succumb . . .” (Davis, 1988, pg. 25).  This actually does comply with Aquinas’s view that the enemy should be attacked and punished for its wrong-doing (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56).

       In my estimation, Sherman had no choice but to embark on the March to the Sea because it ultimately ended the Civil War and re-united the country.  He fulfilled all the requirements for just war laid down by St. Augustine and Aquinas.  And to prolong the war would have led to more casualties and destruction.

       It has been estimated that Sherman lost 1,888 Union soldiers to death, wounds, missing in action, and capture during the March (Smith, 2007, pg. 85), as opposed to the official Department of Veteran Affairs statistics of 529,332 Union and Confederate soldiers lost during the entire war (Department of Veteran Affairs, 2020, pg. 1).  Thomas Livermore estimated total deaths at 624,000, and the latest figures by J. David Hacker bring the estimate up to 750,000 (Ransom, 2021, pg. 7).

       Union foragers on the March managed to acquire roughly 13,294 head of cattle, 7,000 horses and mules, and 10 million pounds of corn.  Approximately 300 miles of railroad lines were destroyed.  Sherman himself estimated the damages at $100 million, with Union soldiers consuming about 20% of the food and supplies foraged, and the rest left to waste and rot.  Confederate deserters and civilians picked over what was left behind (Smith, 2007, pg. 85).

       Compare this with the cost of the war itself: total government spending (Union and Confederate) $3.3 billion; lost human capital (laborers, etc.) $2.2 billion; and the overall physical damage $1.5 billion (Ransom, 2021, pg.8). The South bore the brunt of the costs, and “the Confederacy had been reduced to a barter economy by the time Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox” (Ransom, 2021, pg. 11).  Freeing 4.5 million slaves cost Southern plantation owners $2 billion alone (Ransom, 2021, pg. 11).

Sherman’s Attack on Civilian Property

       As previously mentioned, Sherman’s primary goal was to destroy “the state’s war-making capability” (Smith, 2007, pg. 8), and he was lax when it came to enforcing his orders to not unnecessarily harm civilian property.  But bored and drunken Yankee soldiers were known to set fires and engage in wanton destruction, despite Sherman’s orders (Davis, 1988, pg. 5).  This does not align with Aquinas’s warning to avoid “cruelty, avarice, unbridled anger, or hatred” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  And yet, the South had been given opportunities to surrender and negotiate peace and had refused to back down.  And, according to Aquinas, the enemy must be given the “opportunity to make amends” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56) before resorting to force.  The Georgia governor failed to accept peace terms, so Sherman acted in good faith to take the necessary steps to end the war.  Aquinas calls for moderation in war but also recognizes “the doctrine of double effect” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57) which recognizes that good actions can have unintended negative consequences, and that “some missions will be justified, on grounds of DDE, in spite of a recognition that civilian casualties will ineluctably follow” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).

Breaking Southern Morale and Freeing Thousands of Slaves

       “[Sherman’s] more limited goal [than total war] was to make any continuance of rebellion so unpalatable to southern civilians that they would view a return to the Union as the lesser of two evils” (Trudeau, 2008, pg. 534).  Ultimately, Sherman’s March did end the war, and the South did capitulate, but not without serious bitterness against the North (Trudeau, pg. 534).

       Such a brutal and historic undertaking would have left a lasting negative impression on the collective consciousness of people in the South—even today.  This continued divide between North and South is one of those unintended consequences that Sherman did not foresee.  He also did not reckon the long-term economic impact on people in the South.  Although he understood that the South would be re-built, he did not understand that “the South was locked in a cycle of poverty that lasted well into the twentieth century” (Ransom, 2021, pg. 13).

       Sherman’s attack on civilian property also included freeing the slaves.  He and his soldiers were greeted with cheers by black slaves everywhere they went.  By the end of the March, his troops had picked up hundreds of freed black slaves (Trudeau, 2008, pg. 538) who “came out in groups and welcomed us with delight, they danced and howled, laughed, cried, and prayed all at the same time” (Trudeau, 2008, pg. 531).  Slaves gave them valuable information, stood watch, worked as laborers, and foraged for food, horses, and supplies (Trudeau, 2008, pg. 531, 532).  Freeing the slaves was an act of neighborly love in St. Augustine’s world view and “advancing the common good” in Aquinas’s (Johnson, 2018, pg. 29; Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  As a result of the war, 4.5 million black slaves were freed from slavery (Ransom, 2021, pg.11).

Trade, Treaties, Francisco de Vitoria, and the First Sino-Japanese War

Chinese Point of View

       In 2014, China commemorated the 120th anniversary of the First Sino-Japanese War by releasing a collection of essays analyzing the event (Hengjun, 2014, pg.2; Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 2, 3).  China lost the war against Japan – a loss which still bothers the Chinese government and the Chinese people.  The essays were written “by members of the People’s Liberation Army ‘analyzing what China can learn from its defeat’” (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 3).  The writers concluded that “the Qing dynasty’s failure to effectively modernize” (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 3) China led to China’s defeat and that China must continue its program of Westernization (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 3).

       Japan’s strong navy was a key component in its victory.  China’s leader, Xi Jinping, wants to strengthen the country’s navy because “the ocean remains central to national security interests today” (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 5).

       PLA writers also denounced Japan’s militaristic, nationalist, and imperialistic behavior that led to the war.  It was not until Japan’s defeat in World War II that this behavior was finally restrained (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 5).

       China still fears a rise in Japanese militarism and warns its military to “guard against the sneak attack that Japan has a history of making” (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 6).

       On the bright side, the Chinese defeat led to the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, the establishment of Taiwan as a democratic state, and the rise of China as a world power.  Japan’s war against China was “horrible . . . but that cannot cover up the fact that the Qing dynasty was a decadent and declining dynasty that existed in opposition both to historical trends and to the Chinese people” (Hengjun, 2014, pg. 3).

Japanese Point of View

       People in Japan believe that “the First Sino-Japanese War from August 1894 to April 1895 is one of the most important wars in Japanese history in that it heralded Japan’s appearance on the world stage as a serious player” (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 1).  Although Japan recognized Korea as a tributary state of China, it was also aware of the turmoil in the country as factions fought for control of the government.  Reformists wanted more Japanese influence in Korea and pushed for increased Westernization.  Traditionalists identified with China and Chinese culture (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 1).

       Japan needed important natural resources, such as coal and iron, and looked to Korea to get them (Britannica, 2021, pg. 1; Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 1).  Japan wanted free access without interference from China and, if possible, to control Korea’s natural resources.  Japan aggressively tried to break China’s influence and control in Korea for its own benefit (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 1). 

       Although China had a larger army, the Japanese navy was more organized, efficient, and better equipped.  Corruption in the Chinese military had left China’s navy weak and under-equipped.  Japan’s ground forces were also in better shape than China’s.  By October 1894, the Japanese “expelled the Chinese from Korea . . . [and] entered China itself” (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 5).  Japan soon controlled Manchuria, the Liaodong Peninsula, Beijing, Weihaiwei, and Taiwan (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 5).

       Proudly, Japan became the dominant power in Asia, freed Korea from China’s domination, and brought Westernization and trade to the whole region (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 6).

Korean Point of View

       As a tribute state of China, Korea followed “the Confucian principles enshrined in the Chinese classics and the rules of tributes elaborated in the Chinese statutes [which] constituted the backbone of the system” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 1).  The Korean king was content to be under Chinese influence and Confucian international law.  But Japan wanted to break China’s hold over Korea in order to establish a base of power in which to prevent both China and Russia from controlling the region (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2).

       On February 26, 1876, Japan and Korea signed the Treaty of Kanghwa which gave Japan trading rights to three Korean ports, access to the coastal seas, and unequal trading privileges in Japan’s favor.  Another treaty signed on August 24, 1876, granted Japan “duty-free importation of Japanese goods carried by the ships belonging to their government” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2).

       Article 1 of the treaty declared that “Choson [Korea] being an independent state, enjoys the same sovereign rights as does Japan” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2).  This addition to the treaty was meant to undermine China’s claim on Korea.

       From the Korean point of view, “independence” meant that “the political and legal matters of tributary states are totally in the hands of them” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2), in accordance with the Confucian legal system.  Korea, therefore, felt no hesitation in signing the treaty because it meant that Korea would carry on its diplomatic duties as usual.  The Qing dynasty supported Korea as “entirely independent in her relations with other states” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2) but continued to regard Korea as a tribute state.

       In spite of the treaty, Korea did not make any changes in its relationships with Japan and China.  The treaty was regarded as more of a sign of friendship with Japan.  But since Japan and China both had special privileges over Korea and its resources, Korea became a pawn for both parties in their quest for control.  As Korea became more unstable from within, diplomatic relations began to break down.  After the Japanese were expelled from Korea by the Chinese, “the Convention between China and Japan for the Withdrawal of Troops from Korea, signed on 18 April 1885” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2, 3), established Korea “as a buffer state between them” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 3).

       The First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) spelled the end of Chinese dominance in Korea.  The Treaty of Shimonoseki between China and Japan ended the Confucian legal system and brought Western international law and trade to Eastern Asia, with Korea at its center.  The treaty ended Korea’s status as a tributary state to China and granted the country both independence and autonomy (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 3).

The War

       The First Sino-Japanese war began in the first place because Japan ended its isolation from foreign trade, embraced Western technology, and aspired to expand its trading territories.  Korea had been an important tributary state to China for many years.  “In 1876, the Japanese negotiated a treaty with Korea, opening Korea up to foreign trade for the first time” (Rickard, 2013, pg. 1), with Japan becoming the main beneficiary.

       The treaty led to much discourse in Korea, with pro- and anti-Japanese contenders vying for power.  In 1882, an anti-Japan uprising occurred against the Korean Royal family.  The Chinese stepped in to quell the rebellion (Rickard, 2013, pg. 1).

       Japan negotiated with Korea for peace and then secretly prepared for war.  Japanese influence in Korea continued to grow, with China suppressing a pro-Japanese rebellion in 1884.  “Japan and China signed a new treaty [Li-Ito Convention Tientsin Treaty]” (Rickard, 2013, pg. 1) which removed all Chinese and Japanese troops from Korea.  Korea became “a co-protectorate under [China] and Japan” (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 3).

       Although Japan signed the treaty, its expansionist ambitions took priority.  In 1884, pro-Japan Korean leader, Kim Ok-Kyun, was assassinated — and his body mutilated – by the Chinese.  This led to more tension between Japan and China.  When China sent troops in to quell the Tonghak rebellion at the behest of the Korean king, Japan accused China of breaking the treaty and sent troops to Korea (Britannica, 2021, pg. 1, 2).  “On July 23, 1894, Japanese troops deposed the Korean king, annulled Korean-Chinese treaties, and proceeded to try and expel the Chinese from Korea” (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 3), something Japan had been planning to do all along.

       On August 1, 1894, war was declared.  Due to its more modern and better equipped military, Japan quickly won the war when it invaded Manchuria and the Shandong province, and China negotiated to end the war (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).

       The Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed by both countries, and Korea gained its independence.  Japan gained significant trade rights.  The conflict sparked a movement in China against foreigners and rebellion against the Qing dynasty (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).

Francisco de Vitoria and the First Sino-Japanese War  

       Francisco de Vitoria strongly believed that the “enlargement of empire and personal glory or convenience did not constitute just grounds for war” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 82).  Although he believed in free trade between sovereign nations (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 81), he would not have supported Japan’s aggressive actions to exclude China from the mix.  At the same time, I believe he would have condemned China for the assassination and mutilation of the Korean leader, Kim Ok-Kyun — which alone would have been a violation of the Tientsin treaty.  Japan, therefore, had a right to defend its interests when China sent troops to Korea, even though the Korean king had requested China’s help.  And China had a right to defend its interests.  Japan was already prepared to wage war, and when it sank the British steamer Kowshing, killing Chinese troops, there was no turning back (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).

       Russia, Germany, and France attempted to moderate the Treaty of Shimonoseki in order to limit Japan’s influence in the region.  In the process, Russia gained control over Port Arthur and railway rights, which upset the British.  This, in turn, angered the Japanese and led to the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 (Rickard, 2013, pg. 2).

       Although Japan, China, and Korea all had a cause to wage war, it was Japan’s aggressive actions regarding trade which ultimately created the conditions that led to war.  The Japanese government should have honored its treaty with China and stopped trying to exclude China.  China should not have aggravated the situation by assassinating Kim Ok-Kyun.  Korea should not have played both ends against the middle.

       Vitoria would have viewed all of these shenanigans as an unjust basis for war because peaceful trade agreements between sovereign nations should be respected and negotiated peacefully. Japan’s continued aggression in the region, however, threatened China, and China reacted in response.  Korea was destabilized by warring factions within the country.  Both China and Japan wanted to control Korea exclusively.  In spite of their differences, Vitoria would see this as a fight over territorial conquest, which he condemned as unjust because “not all causes of war were just . . .such as territorial conquest and glory” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 86).

Delivering Humanitarian Aid to Somalia in the Midst of Civil War

       In 1960, Somalia gained its independence from Italian control.  In 1969, Mohamed Siad Barre came to power through a military coup, set up a socialist regime, and befriended the Soviet Union.  During Somalia’s war with Ethiopia, the Soviet Union backed Ethiopia, so Somalia sought aid from the United States (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1).

       The Barre regime became more repressive, and opposition forces forced him from office in January 1991.  “The country descended into chaos, and a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions began to unfold” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1).  The Somali people faced “the combination of civil war, a famine after a poor harvest, and a prolonged drought” (Mugabi, 2018, pg. 2).

       The United Nations and the United States attempted to aid the Somali people in 1992, but “intense fighting between the warlords impeded the delivery of aid to those who needed it most, and so the United Nations contemplated stronger action” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2).

       Operation Restore Hope was implemented by President George H.W. Bush, which authorized U.S. troops in Somalia “to assist with famine relief as part of the larger United Nations effort” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2).  Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter “allowed for the use of force to maintain peace” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2) while these humanitarian efforts were being carried out.  Unfortunately, the humanitarian aid was impeded “by warlord Muhammad Farah Aideed” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2) and his band of militia soldiers.

       In October 1993, the U.S. raided the capital of Mogadishu in an effort to capture Aideed and his soldiers.  But the group fought back, shooting down two Black Hawk helicopters, killing eighteen U.S. soldiers, and wounding eighty more.  This debacle discredited President Bush and Operation Restore Hope and undermined all future interventions in Africa (Mugabi, 2018, pg.2).

       In the beginning, the humanitarian effort was regarded by many Americans “as an act of charity . . . [and] a mechanism to protect ordinary Somalis from marauding militias who looted anything they set their eyes on and killed at will” (Mugabi, 2018, pg. 2).  But, after “images of the bodies of American soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu as anti-American slogans were chanted were seen round the world” (Mugabi, 2018, pg. 2), public sentiment turned sour on relief efforts in Africa.  The U.S. withdrew all troops from Somalia six months later (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2; Mugabi, 2018, pg. 2).

       Presidential Decision Directive 25 was issued on May 3, 1994 by President Bill Clinton, outlining eight conditions which must be met before authorizing another peacekeeping mission with the United Nations, nine other conditions before authorizing any action under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2).

       Although the intentions behind Operation Restore Hope were good, American leaders underestimated the ferocity of Somali militia groups, putting American troops in peril.  In fact, “’Somalia’ has become a symbol for the unacceptable costs of humanitarian intervention and for the type of foreign involvement the United States should avoid” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 1).  Apart from the politics, however, many people involved in the operation believe “that substantial good was done, although there were problems and missteps . . . U.S. involvement meant that countless lives were saved; and violence and disorder were reduced to the extent that steps toward political reconciliation could begin” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 1).  As a result of the lessons learned, new strategies for diplomatic action, U.N. reform, military action, and implementation of humanitarian aid programs are possible (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 1-3).

Augustine, Aquinas, and Vitoria

       Augustine maintained that “Christians should be obedient subjects to the emperor and that the government has the God-given authority to violently punish in order to keep the peace and stability . . . [therefore] it [was] legitimate for a Christian to serve in the Roman legions and help defend the empire against the barbarians” (Johnson, 2016, pg. 8).  Although he agreed with Jesus’s command to wage peace and not war, he explained that “war is waged in order to attain peace” (Johnson, 2016, pg. 8).  He further maintained that soldiers must wage war against the enemy with the right intentions of love and charity (or “benevolent harshness,” as Augustine called it), safeguarding the rights and well-being of opposing enemy soldiers as well as non-combatants.  For war, after all, is nothing to celebrate (Johnson, 2016, pg. 9).

       Aquinas later elaborated on Augustine’s thinking by including self-defense as a justification for war and a necessity to preserve human life.  He reaffirmed that a just war must be declared by a legitimate authority and must be fought with right intention – out of love and charity – in order to restore peace and without unnecessary harshness toward combatants and non-combatants (Johnson, 2016, pg. 10).

       Vitoria further expanded on just war thinking by insisting that “rights necessarily extended past one’s own borders and to all people” (Johnson, 2016, pg. 11).  Therefore, the people of other sovereign nations are due the same respect, love, and charity as the citizens in our own country (Johnson, 2016, pg. 11).

       The United Nations Security Council was given the responsibility “of maintaining peace and security among nations,” (Johnson, 2016, pg. 12), so they have the legitimate authority to get involved in military and humanitarian operations.  The United States, working with the U.N., had the authority to implement Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.  U.S. troops had the right to use force, if necessary, to maintain the peace and security of the country.  Using U.S. troops to protect humanitarian efforts was an act of love and charity that respected the right of the Somali people to survive, in spite of the war crimes perpetrated by the Somali warlords (Johnson, 2016, pg. 12).

       In my opinion, Augustine, Aquinas, and Vitoria would have condemned the continued violence against innocent Somalis and praised the humanitarian efforts by the United Nations and the United States to feed and protect the Somali people

Lessons Learned, Personal Observations, and the Vitoria Surprise

St. Augustine

       Augustine demanded absolute obedience to authority figures, but I believe this is more a reflection of his education and the times in which he lived.  I don’t agree that people should be content to live under a harsh totalitarian regime or be subjected to genocide, persecution, and repression.  Otherwise, nothing would ever change. The Jews would have been completely wiped out during World War II, blacks would still be slaves in the Deep South, and more people would have died of starvation and violence in Somalia.

St. Aquinas

       I agree with Aquinas that self-defense is a legitimate cause for war, otherwise, there would be no recourse against tyrants and bullies.  Hitler would have invaded more countries, Iraq would now control Kuwait, and the Soviet Union would still be in control of Eastern Europe.  The United States would have accepted the bombing of Pearl Harbor without retaliation.  The U.S. would not have gotten involved in World War II, and Germany might have won the war.


       Exploration and colonization were such an integral part of Vitoria’s era that it is surprising that anyone spoke up in defenseof the indigenous people.  He demonstrated a deep compassion for all people, regardless of race, religion, and culture.  At the same time, he condemned the conquistadores and their exploitation and brutality against the natives.  Their behavior was un-Christian and inhumane and undermined the efforts of the missionaries to spread Christianity.  In fact, the cruelty of the Spaniards led to more bloodshed and war.  Vitoria was absolutely right to criticize the conquistadores.

Pacifism, Realism, and Just Peacemaking

       Some people believe pacifism is the right approach because it is more in line with Christian and humanist values.  Other people are realists and recognize that war is sometimes a necessary evil.  A more modern approach is called just peacemaking, which calls for a more proactive approach in preventing conflict (Johnson, 2016, pg. 18-20).  This approach would require a worldwide fundamental change in attitudes, however, that may be unrealistic.  There have always been people who refuse to follow the rules, defy the norms, and place their own ambitions first, and that seems unlikely to change anytime soon.  Human ambition and ego are strong forces that drive dreams of power, conquest, wealth, and control that can be resistant to rational solutions.  Having guidelines in place to evaluate legitimate conditions for war is a useful tool for making decisions about whether or not to intervene in conflicts, propose sensible solutions, and set goals for a positive result.


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Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 23, 2021; December 9, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash)


Suez Canal Crisis, 1956

(Suez Canal, 1956)

Suez Canal Crisis, 1956

       When Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser claimed control of the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956, he sparked an incident which changed the geo-political landscape forever in the Middle East and elsewhere; undermined remaining vestiges of the British Empire around the world; reinforced the positions of the United States and the Soviet Union as world powers; and utilized the United Nations for the first time in a peacekeeping mission (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1, 2).

       Although the Suez Canal was built on Egyptian territory, construction was facilitated by “the Suez Canal Company, the joint British-French enterprise which had owned and operated the Suez Canal since its construction in 1869” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1).  President Nasser wanted to end British and French control over Egyptian interests.  He offered financial compensation for the company, but the British and French governments did not accept the offer (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1).

       President Eisenhower wanted a diplomatic solution to the conflict.  “On September 9, 1956, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles proposed the creation of a Suez Canal Users’ Association (SCUA), an international consortium of 18 of the world’s leading maritime nations, to operate the Canal” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1), which did not succeed.  Behind the scenes, Britain and France prepared a military plan with Israel’s help “to invade Egypt and overthrow its president” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1, 2). 

       On October 29, 1956, Israel – which had been denied all access to the Suez Canal – invaded Egyptian territory.  British and French forces arrived two days later, taking control of the zone around the Suez Canal.  In response, Nikita Khrushchev condemned the military action and threatened nuclear war with Europe (History, 2021, pg. 2).

       President Eisenhower warned the Soviets against the use of nuclear bombs and condemned the British-French-Israeli coalition for the invasion.  He threatened to impose severe economic sanctions on the three countries.  Britain and France withdrew all troops by December, 1956.  Israel followed suit in March, 1957.  For the first time, the United Nations assembled a peacekeeping force, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), to oversee all troop withdrawals (History, 2021, pg. 2, 3).

       In 1954, Egypt and Britain had agreed upon a new treaty which would force all British troops off Egyptian soil in twenty months.  After Winston Churchill resigned from office in 1955, he was succeeded by another pro-Empire British official, Anthony Eden.  It was after all British troops had withdrawn from Egypt in July, 1956 that “Nasser abruptly announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company” Brown, 2001, pg. 2).  Outraged, Eden planned the invasion of Egypt.

       In the meantime, diplomatic negotiations failed to ease tensions between the offended nations.  Finally, Nasser rejected international interference in Egypt’s control of the Suez Canal, and the British-French-Israeli coalition proceeded with the invasion (Brown, 2001, pg. 2, 3).

       A ceasefire arranged by the United Nations, under pressure by the United States, halted the conflict.  Nasser ordered the destruction of forty-seven ships and blocked the Suez Canal (Brown, 2001, pg. 3).

       The invasion diminished the standing of both Britain and France on the world stage.  Israel emerged as one of the “most potent force[s] in the Middle East” (Brown, 2001, pg. 3).  The Soviet Union and the United States consolidated their positions as world powers, with the Soviet Union condemning continued “western imperialism” (Brown, 2001, pg. 4).  Prime Minister Eden resigned from office on January 9, 1957.  President Nasser became a hero in his own country.  And countries around the world gradually shed the yoke of English and French control (Brown, 2001, pg. 3-5).

Who should have Controlled the Suez Canal

       In my opinion, Egypt had the right to control the Suez Canal, based on its location.  But the British and the French already had legal ownership and control of the Canal, a privilege they had enjoyed since 1869.  Instead of suddenly announcing that he was taking possession of the Canal and Suez Canal Company, Nasser should have negotiated with Britain and France for that control.  He could have brought in the United Nations and the United States to help with a diplomatic solution.  Nasser’s aggressive stance inflamed tensions in the Middle East and ultimately led to a military confrontation.  Furthermore, Egypt had deliberately blocked Israel from access to the Canal since the establishment of the Jewish state.  This act of anti-Semitism brought Israel into the military conflict (Brown, 2001, pg. 3).

       [Philosopher] Immanuel Kant enthusiastically supported both the American and French revolutions.  He would have agreed that British and French imperialism should come to an end so that sovereign nations could chart their own destinies (Orend, 2018, pg. 169).  The British and French had not violated Egypt’s rights since they had legally owned and operated the Suez Canal since 1869.  It was President Nasser’s personal ambition for Egypt to control the Canal.  Once he took control of the Suez Canal Company, he violated the rights of its British and French owners and threatened British and French interests.  When the British-French-Israeli coalition invaded Egypt, however, Egypt had a right to exercise Kant’s principles of “the defense, protection, and vindication of the fundamental rights of political communities and their citizens” (Orend, 2018, pg. 170).  Either Britain and France should have accepted cash reimbursement for the Suez Canal Company, or the three countries should have continued to negotiate with the help of the United Nations and the United States.

       [Just war ethicist Michael] Walzer did not support the invasion of Iraq and would not have supported the invasion of Egypt, because he does not believe “in regime change as a motive for intervention” (Brown, 2018, pg. 213).  He would have supported Egypt’s right of autonomy and right to control the Canal since President Nasser had offered to buy that control.

A Shift in the International Order

       President Eisenhower was angry at Britain for not revealing its intention to invade Egypt, so he did not support the action or take Britain’s side (History, 2021, pg. 2).  He also worried about Soviet intervention in the conflict, so he tried to settle the dispute through diplomatic channels.  The British-French-Israeli coalition was determined to take military action and to overthrow Nasser’s presidency, however, and proceeded without the backing of the United States or United Nations (History, 2021, pg. 2).

       The United States was not directly threatened by the conflict and had no obligation to get involved.  Walzer’s position, in my opinion, is that Egypt was a sovereign nation, and the British-French-Israeli coalition had no legal right to invade the country – let alone overthrow Nasser’s presidency – since “Egypt possess[ed] political sovereignty and territorial integrity . . . [and] attacks on the latter are acts of aggression which the victim is entitled to resist, to enlist the aid of others in so doing, and later to punish the aggressor” (Brown, 2018, pg. 207, 208), which Nasser did by blocking the Canal with sunken ships.  Even today, the United Nations Charter only stipulates self-defense as a legitimate basis for war.

       Even though Immanuel Kant was eager to see the old regimes fall in his own lifetime and would have been pleased to see the end of British and French imperialism in our own time, his basic belief was that self-defense was the primary just cause for war.  He would have supported a peaceful resolution to the conflict.                                                                                                                                       

       It’s clear that President Eisenhower was interested in avoiding a larger conflict.  Egypt had a right to the Canal since it was located on Egyptian territory, and President Nasser had offered to make full restitution to the British and French owners of the Canal.  But Britain and France were both invested in keeping at least some of their colonial territories and were not willing to give up such a valuable possession.  They were protecting their own interests while ignoring President Nasser’s ambition to make Egypt independent of British and French influence (Brown, 2001, pg. 1-5).

       President Eisenhower was wise to end the conflict and support Egypt’s autonomy even though it meant the temporary closure of the Suez Canal.


Brown, C. (2018). Michael walzer (1935-Present). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (205-215). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

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History, The Editors. (2021). Suez crisis. History. Retrieved from



Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 11, 2021; August 24, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


Martial Arts and the Boxer Rebellion

(By Peter d’Aprix – http://www.galleryhistoricalfigures.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13275101)

       The Boxers were a group of martial arts practitioners who formed a secret society called the I Ho Ch’uan (Fists of Righteous Harmony).  They “opposed foreign influence and [were] strongly anti-Christian” (Plante, 1999, pg.1).  When Northern China experienced a series of natural disasters in the 1890s, farmers and workers joined with the Boxers to harass “Chinese Christians and foreign missionaries” (Plante, 1999, pg. 1).

       Originally, the Boxers staged rebellions against the Qing dynasty in the late 18th and early 19th centuries” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).  They wanted to destroy the Qing dynasty and all the Western foreigners who had set up “spheres of influence” in China with the full support of the Chinese government (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  The American government wanted a piece of the action in China, but Empress Tsu-Hsi rejected that proposal (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  Secretly, she supported the Boxers but “promised the Westerners that she would stop the Boxer efforts” (University of Washington, 2021, g. 2).

       United States Secretary of State John Hay “contacted the governments with Chinese spheres of influence and tried to persuade them all to share trading rights equally, including the United States” (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1,2).  The other governments declined to sign any agreements, but Hay charged that the governments had all agreed in theory to his “Open Door Policy,” which represented a legally-binding agreement (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 2).

       In 1900, the Boxers led a peasant revolt against all foreigners in China.  “In Beijing [Peking], the Boxers burned churches and foreign residences and killed suspected Chinese Christians on sight” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).  In response, foreign-led forces took control of the Dagu forts.  Empress Tsu-Hsi ordered the murder of all foreigners in China, as a result (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).

       The Boxer rebellion posed a threat to Hay’s Open Door Policy.  Foreign ministers refused to leave China, even though the Empress had declared a state of war.  On June 20, 1900, the Boxers and Chinese combatants attacked the city of Beijing, with the foreign ministers and their families barricaded within the Legation Quarter (Plante, 1999, pg. 2,3).

       The United States sent troops into the area “to relieve the legations in [Beijing] and protect American interests in China” (Plante, 1999, pg. 3).  Beijing was taken by a coalition of foreign forces, including the United States, and the Boxer Protocol was signed in September, 1901 (Plante, 1999, pg. 4).

China’s Internal Matters: Support for the Boxers.  Should the Chinese Government have Supported the Boxers in their Rebellion?

       By all appearances, Empress Tsu-Hsi was playing both sides in order to direct aggression of the Boxers away from the Chinese government.  Economically, China benefited from the foreign “spheres of influence,” but foreign influence was undermining Chinese culture and society.  “Christian converts flouted traditional Chinese ceremonies and family relations; and missionaries pressured local officials to side with Christian converts . . . in local lawsuits and property disputes” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).

       If the Chinese government had formal agreements with foreign governments, they should have kept their agreements.  China was a sovereign country with an established monarchy.  However, the Western countries were more technologically advanced, aggressive in their quest to exploit Chinese resources, and showed no respect for Chinese culture and authority.  In this regard, the West posed a threat to the Chinese and, according to las Casas (2018), “Every nation, no matter how barbaric, has the right to defend itself against a more civilized one that wants to conquer it and take away its freedom” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 96).

       Empress Tsu-Hsi exploited the Boxers against the foreigners but undermined her own government in the end.

China’s Internal Matters: Negotiation.  Should the Chinese Government have Attempted to Negotiate a Peaceful Resolution to the Conflict?

       By all appearances, neither Empress Tsu-Hsi, the Boxers, nor the Chinese civilians were interested in peace.  People were suffering economically, Chinese society was being disrupted by foreign influence, and the push to remove all foreigners from China was too strong.  The Empress actually backed the Boxers against the foreigners, ordered the murder of all foreigners, and declared a state of war (Plante, 1999, pg. 1,2).  If the Chinese wanted to negotiate, they could have done so at any time.

       If the Westerners were injuring China and the Chinese people, the Empress should have tried to negotiate terms in favor of her own people.  If the Empress did not want war with the Westerners, she could have negotiated with the Boxers to control the rebellion.  Instead, she supported them.  She was, according to Suarez (2018), derelict in her duty “to maintain order” (Davis, 2018, pg. 111) in the kingdom.

China’s External Matters: Western Governments’ Troop Intervention.  Should Western Governments have Sent Troops to China to Protect their Citizens and Property? 

       By all appearances, foreigners were in China with the permission of the Chinese government.  But in 1898, “conservative, anti-foreign forces won control of the Chinese government and persuaded the Boxers to drop their opposition to the Qing dynasty and unite with it in destroying the foreigners” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).  This implies that the Chinese government was not interested in peace or negotiations.  Once established, the Westerners refused to leave China, even in light of the increasing violence and threats of war.  When the foreigners sent troops into China, they had no legitimate authority to do so because China was a sovereign nation with a legitimate government.  According to las Casas (2018), “No ruler, whether king or emperor, nor anyone else, can exercise jurisdiction beyond his borders, since borders or limits are so called because they limit, determine, or restrict the property, power, or jurisdiction of someone” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 97).  Before sending in troops, the Western governments should have tried to negotiate a peace deal with the Chinese government.  However, if the Chinese government was unwilling to control the Boxers and negotiate peace, the Western governments had no choice but to send in troops to rescue Western citizens.

China’s External Matters: Western Governments’ Negotiations.  Should Western Governments have Attempted to Negotiate either with the Boxers or the Chinese Government Directly?

       After the defeat of China in the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan was granted the right to conduct trade in China.  This encouraged Western governments to also seek trading rights in China (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).  “Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and Russia all [claimed] exclusive trading rights with specific areas of China” (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  The United States wanted trading rights, too, but Empress Tsu-Hsi rejected U.S. proposals (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  Secretary of State John Hay pressured the other Western governments into an unwritten agreement that had no legal status.  Hay insisted that the agreement was real and called it the Open Door Policy (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1,2).  Some of these Westerners claimed to own the land within their trading zones, which infuriated the Boxers and the local civilians (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).

       The United States had no legitimate authority to invade China, even if the other Western governments did.  They had no legitimate claim to take back the land because they did not legitimately own the land in the first place.  So, las Casas’s assertion that it was just cause “to take back formerly Christian lands held by unbelievers” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 97) does not apply.  The effort “to punish pagans who practice idolatry in provinces formerly under Christian control” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 97) also would not apply.  Las Casas (2018), however, does consider it a just cause to “wage war upon those who prevent the gospel from being preached within their jurisdiction” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 99).  If the missionaries had permission previously to evangelize in China, the Western governments would have a legitimate cause to send troops into China to rescue missionaries, converts, and government officials from persecution by the Boxers and the Chinese government.

Legitimate Negotiations. Given that the Boxers had No Legitimate Authority within China, could Negotiations have Occurred with them Directly under any Circumstances?  If so, how?

       The Boxers were fundamentalists who believed that “they had magical powers and were invulnerable to bullets and pain, and that ‘spirit soldiers’ would rise from the dead to join them in their battles” (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 2).  With that kind of thinking, why would they negotiate if they were convinced that they could defeat the Westerners and already had the backing of the Chinese government?  From my point of view, only the Empress could have negotiated with both the Boxers and the Westerners.  For one thing, she was the only one with real authority to negotiate and control events.  She was the only one with real authority to declare war, per Suarez’s requirement that “war must be waged by a legitimate power” (Davis, 2018, pg. 111).


Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia (2020, February 13). Boxer rebellion. Encyclopedia

       Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/event/Boxer-Rebellion

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia (2021, July 25). First sino-japanese war. Encyclopedia

       Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/event/First-Sino-Japanese-War-


Brunstetter, D.R. (2018). Bartolome de las casas (1484-1566). In D.R. Brunstetter & C.   

       O’Driscoll (Eds.), Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (92-104). Abingdon,

       Oxon: Routledge

Davis, G.S. (2018). Francisco suarez (1548-1617). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (105-117). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

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Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 11, 2021; July 22, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


Allied Bombing of Dresden, 1945

(Destruction of Dresden, 1945)

[NOTE: A week ago, my father’s ashes were interred with full military honors in a military cemetery in California. The ceremony included a three gun salute, a bugler playing “Taps,” and the flag-folding ritual. Although my father served during the Korean War, he never saw live action. Instead, he was sent to Cuba on a reconnaissance mission. My brother is also buried in a military cemetery and died of cancer at the age of forty. He was an Army medic and became a paramedic and German teacher after leaving the military. Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer here in the United States. We honor all of our dead this weekend, but especially, those who have served, fought, and died protecting our country. War is hell, as any soldier will tell you, but sometimes, it is a necessary evil. Just ask the people of Ukraine, who are fighting for their lives, their country, their freedom, and their sovereignty as a nation. Please take a moment to remember all the soldiers who have given their lives to protect YOUR country.]

Allied Bombing of Dresden

The British RAF began dropping bombs on Dresden, Germany on February 13, 1945. Over the next few days, British and American Allies dropped approximately 4,000 tons of bombs onto the city, killing 25,000 people, and destroying the center of the city (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 2).

Prime Minister Winston Churchill questioned the attack, saying, “The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 2).

But, was the bombing justified?

Summary of Theories and Concepts of Pufendorf and Vattel

Pufendorf claimed that the enemy’s aggression “allows me to use force against him to any degree, or so far as I may think desirable” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). He explained that the people fighting a defensive war may use any force to put an end to the threat against them, receive reparations, or “secure guarantees for [their] future security” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). It was not, he explained, a priority to gauge proportionality but to ensure “the defense and assertion of [their] safety, [their] property, and [their] rights” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). The people on the defensive, therefore, may use whatever means necessary to defeat the enemy.

Vattel, on the other hand, believed that “now the laws of nature being no less obligatory on nations than on individuals, whatever duties each man owes to other men, the same does each nation, in its way, owe to other nations. Such is the foundation of those common duties – of those offices of humanity – to which nations are reciprocally bound towards each other” (Christov, 2018, pg. 159). But he also allowed for the possibility of nations that would violate the law of nations and violate all the civilized rules of warfare: “If there were a people who made open profession of trampling justice under foot, — who despised and violated the rights of others whenever they found an opportunity, — the interest of human society would authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . .the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Was the Allied Bombing of Dresden Justified?

At the time of the bombing, the Eastern Front – “where Nazi Germany was defending [itself] against the advancing armies of the Soviet Union” – was only 155 miles from Dresden. According to Luckhurst (2020), Dresden “factories provided munitions, aircraft parts and other supplies for the Nazi war effort” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). It was a major city through which German “troops, tanks and artillery traveled through . . . by train and by road” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). The attack was intended to bolster Soviet efforts on the Eastern Front (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3).

RAF planes were equipped with both “high explosive and incendiary bombs: the explosives would blast buildings apart, while the incendiaries would set the remains on fire, causing further destruction” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 4). The United States Air Force completed the attack with daylight bombings which were directed at the city’s railway yards” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 4).

The Nazis denied that Dresden had any military function and exaggerated the death toll at 200,000 civilians. They claimed that Dresden “was only a city of culture” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 7).

Worldwide, Dresden was considered a tourist attraction. British Members of Parliament questioned the attack, and the Associated Press accused the Allies of using terrorism against the people of Dresden (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 7).

Allied military leaders defended the attack as necessary to further cripple Nazi Germany and end the war. A 1953 report done in the U.S. determined that “Dresden was a legitimate military target” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 9), and the attack was no different from previous attacks on other German cities.

The debate continues, with some people viewing the bombing as immoral – possibly a war crime – and others defending it as necessary to help end the war with Germany (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 9).

My own view is that Pufendorf’s and Vattel’s theories both justify the bombing of Dresden. Pufendorf is correct when he says that the side waging a just war (in this case, the Allies) may use any means necessary to secure the peace and “secure guarantees for . . . future security” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). Nazi Germany was a rogue nation that had invaded other countries, murdered millions of people, and imposed authoritarian rule against the will of the people. They were guilty of “trampling justice under foot . . . [and] despised and violated the rights of others” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160), in Vattel’s own words. So, Vattel is also correct when he says that “the interest of human society [should] authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy [in this case, the Allies] in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . . the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation – the Germans] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Is Preservation of Cultural or Artistic Enemy Cities Relevant in War – Or are they Secondary?

My personal view is that preserving cultural and artistic enemy cities is secondary because defending the safety of Allied nations, property, and human rights takes precedence and aligns with both Pufendorf’s and Vattel’s theories of just war and the right of self-defense. Germany was the aggressor. It was not the duty or priority of Allied forces to save their cultural and artistic centers (Christov, 2018, pg. 160; Glanville, 2018, pg. 152).

Is it Justifiable to Bomb a City to Weaken the Enemy Civilian Morale – Even if the City has Marginal Industrial Significance?

Although the Nazis claimed that Dresden was only a cultural center, the Allies considered it an important transportation center for the Nazis and sought to help Soviet forces on the Eastern Front by destroying it (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). The bombing weakened civilian morale but also undermined the Nazi’s efforts on the Eastern Front. Since civilians in Dresden supported the Nazi cause, they were also enemies of the Allied forces and subject to punishment by Allied war efforts. In my opinion, Vattel would have seen the bombing of Dresden as necessary “in order to humble and chastise the delinquents” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Works Cited

Christov, T. (2018). Emer de vattel (1714-1767). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (156-167). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Glanville, L. (2018). Samuel pufendorf (1632-1694). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (144-155). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Luckhurst, T. (2020, February). Dresden: The world war two bombing 75 years on. BBC.com.

       Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51448486

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 10, 2021; May 27, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


Vietnam and Grotius’s Standards for Just War

The Vietnam War and Grotius’s Standards for Just War

The Vietnam War resulted in the deaths of more than three million Vietnamese combatants and non-combatants in North and South Vietnam. America lost 58,000 combatants. Both countries were split by opposing camps. Both countries suffered great losses in economic resources and political credibility (Shermer, 2017, pg.1). But was America’s involvement in the war a just cause?

Grotius’s Standards for Just War

According to David Armitage (2018), “Grotius was the first theorist of the law of nations . . . to grapple with the meaning of civil war” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Grotius generally defined war as “armed execution against an armed adversary” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8) and made distinctions between public and private wars. Public wars resulted from “the public will, or the legitimate authority in a state” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Private wars resulted from private entities or individuals and did not depend on the public’s endorsement (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Grotius further defined civil war as a “public war waged ‘against a part of the same state’” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Later, he elaborated on “mixed war . . .  a war fought on one side by the legitimate authority, on the other by ‘mere private persons’” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Grotius denounced private war against the State at any cost and even condoned “submitting to an unlawful government” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8) in order to avoid civil war.

Although Grotius is widely touted as one of the founders of international law, he is best remembered for his defense of the use of force by the Dutch East India Company against the Portuguese (Lang, 2018, pg. 133). He insisted “that no state could control [the seas]” (Lang, 2018, pg. 133-134), therefore, the use of force was justified, even though the Dutch East India Company was a private company. It followed that the State found it necessary to control such private companies in order to give them legitimacy and sovereignty as part of the State (Lang, 2018, pg. 134).

Grotius still affirmed the three traditional bases for just war – “self-defense, retaking of property unlawfully taken, and punishment of wrongdoing” (Lang, 2018, pg. 134). He still relied on natural law to guide people morally and saw no conflict between natural law and divine law (Lang, 2018, pg. 134-35). He concluded that natural law and the law of nations worked in tandem to support the guidelines that shape the jus in bellum between warring nations; and he did not condone breaking either natural law or the law of nations (Lang, 2018, pg. 135).

We, therefore, see Grotius condoning war that conforms “to both natural law and the law of nations” (Lang, 2018, pg. 136). A private war is just when someone (or a private entity) is acting to defend himself from harm (Lang, 2018, pg.136). However, he condemns “insurrection by subjects of a sovereign, arguing that once they enter into the relationship of a formal community there is a need to ensure that peace is the outcome rather than continued war” (Lang, 2018, pg. 136).

Was the Vietnam War Ethically Justifiable in Terms of Grotius’s Standards

According to Greenspan (2019), “the Vietnam War was ostensibly a civil war between the communist North and pro-Western South” (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 1). After the French were ousted from colonial rule of the country in 1954 by communist leader Ho Chi Minh, civil war broke out between Viet Cong forces from the North and Ngo Dinh Diem’s U.S.-backed forces in the South. Under pressure from the Cold War that was going on between the Soviet Union, China, and the United States, American leaders elected to back Diem’s forces in the South to prevent a communist take-over of South Vietnam. The U.S. eventually overthrew the Diem government in a coup in 1963 (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 2, 3).

In 1964, President Johnson committed “combat troops and launch[ed] a massive bombing campaign” which cemented America’s investment in the war. By the time of the U.S. troop withdrawal in 1973, the war had cost American taxpayers $111 billion in military costs alone (Greenspan 2019, pg. 3), and America could not claim victory in the war. In 1975, South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam, becoming a communist country against the will of the people (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 6).

The Vietnam War has many layers to it. In the first phase, the Vietnamese people staged an insurrection against the French colonial government in order to win their own freedom and become a sovereign nation. In the second phase, when the country was divided with the understanding that it would be re-united, elections were not held, and the Viet Cong from the North started hostilities against the South in order to turn the whole country communist. In the third phase, the United States and other countries intervened in the hostilities, with opposing countries supporting opposite sides. In the fourth phase, the United States pulled out of Vietnam, and the North defeated the South, turning Vietnam into a communist country against the will of the people (Greenspan, 2018, pg. 1-6).

If we are to take Grotius literally, he would have condemned the insurrection against the colonial French government by the Vietnamese (Lang, 2018, pg. 136) and then the civil war that broke out because he did not condone either instance of war. He himself said that “submitting to an unlawful government” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8) was better than ripping a country apart with civil war. Elections had not yet been held to reunite the country, so neither government was legitimately elected by the people. When the North attacked the South, it was attempting to take over the South against the will of the people. Grotius’s defense of self-defense against harm would apply here because the people in the South were defending themselves from harm against an illegitimate government (Lang, 2018, pg. 136).

When the United States got involved in the war, we were helping the South Vietnamese defend themselves against an aggressor. It may have been foolish to get involved, but the right intention was there – charity in helping one’s neighbor defend himself. Grotius, as a Protestant Christian, said, “we must also take care that we offend not against Charity, especially Christian Charity” (Lang, 2018, pg. 139). The paranoia about the communist threat was real at that time, and America’s leaders acted to minimize that threat, however misguided. The Viet Cong did not follow any rules of war – their goal was just to win, and they did (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 6). So, although Grotius would not have agreed with insurrection and civil war, I believe he would have lauded the United States for attempting to help the South Vietnamese defend themselves against the aggressors in the North.

Works Cited

Armitage, D. (2018). Civil war time: From grotius to the global war on terror. The american

       society of international law, 3-14. doi:10.1017/amp.2017.152

Greenspan, J. (2019, June). Which countries were involved in the Vietnam war? History.com.


Lang, A.F. (2018). Hugo grotius (1583-1645). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (21-33). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Shermer, M. (2017, December). Can we agree to outlaw war – Again? Scientific american.

       Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-we/agree-to-outlaw-war- 


Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 3, 2021; April 29, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


Local Natural Gas Distribution Systems

(Photo: Unisource Energy Services)

If you’ve ever wondered where your natural gas comes from and how it gets to your house or business, here’s an example of how a local natural gas distribution system works. Regulations and construction requirements may differ from state to state.

Case Study: Local Natural Gas Distribution in Kingman, Arizona

Unisource Energy Services (UES) in Kingman, Arizona receives natural gas from the Transwestern Pipeline, which originates in Texas.  The steel transmission pipeline is 30 inches in diameter and operates at pressures from 200 to 1500 psi.  The pressure is reduced to 60 psi at UNS regulator stations and then reduced again to 0.25 psi before it enters the service lines that connect to home appliances (Unisource Energy Services, 2019; Energy Transfer, 2020).

In Arizona, there are four compressor stations along the Transwestern Pipeline at Klagetoh, Leupp, Flagstaff, and Seligman.  The compressors were built by USA Compression (Energy Transfer, 2020; USA Compression, 2020).

“Natural gas is compressed for transmission to minimize the size and cost of the pipe required to transport it” (Busby, 2017, p. 49).  Friction inside the pipe reduces the pressure and flow rate.  The gas is re-compressed at compressor stations in order to boost the pressure in the line.  Compressor stations are generally found every 50 to 100 miles along a pipeline.  They are a crucial part of the transport system that keeps the natural gas flowing through the pipe at the right pressure and flow rate.  Air is mixed in with the gas to lower emissions from the compressor stations (Busby, 2017, p. 49, 51).

Reciprocating compressors use high compression ratios but have limited capacities.  They are driven by internal combustion natural gas engines (Busby, 2017, p. 49).

Centrifugal compressors use lower compression ratios but have high capacities.  They rotate at 4,000 to 7,000 rpm and are driven by natural gas turbines.  They are energy efficient and cost less to install and use (Busby, 2017, p. 49-50).

The Transwestern Pipeline has an interconnect point at Kingman, Arizona, at legal description 21 N, 16 W, in Section 19.  There is a measuring station there that measures the amount of gas delivered to the Kingman interconnect (Energy Transfer, 2020).

Transwestern utilizes all types of meters in its measuring stations: orifice meters to measure gas received or delivered at an interconnect; turbine meters or ultrasonic meters to measure displaced gas; and coriolus meters, all according to the AGA Gas Measurement Manual (Energy Transfer, 2020).

“Metering of gas flow is an important function of pipeline gas operations” (Busby, 2017, p. 51) because customers along the line pay for the amount of natural gas they receive.  Meters must be accurate in order to ensure accurate and reliable billing (Busby, 2017, p. 49).

Many natural gas companies handle seasonal demand by storing natural gas in underground facilities or storing it as liquefied natural gas (LNG).  “Peak shaving is one of the most common domestic uses for LNG today” (ADI Analytics, 2015).  When seasonal demand (usually in the winter) requires a bigger load of natural gas, the “LNG is regasified and sent to the distribution pipelines” (Maverick Engineering, 2016).

Natural gas supplies can also be augmented with synthetic natural gas (SNG) during seasonal demand.  SNG is actually propane-air or liquefied petroleum gas air (LP-air) which “is created by combining vaporized LPG with compressed air” (Transtech Energy, 2020).  During seasonal demand, peak shaving facilities inject SNG into the natural gas distribution system to augment the real natural gas in order to meet increased demand (Transtech Energy, 2020).

Another way to increase the natural gas supply during peak demand is line packing.  This requires installing oversized pipes in transmission lines, which is incredibly expensive, and not always worth the cost (INGAA Foundation, 1996).

Unisource Energy Services has no storage facilities so it must plan ahead and estimate how much natural gas it will need to meet the winter peak demand.  Then it must contract with a reliable natural gas supplier, schedule the deliveries, and submit its Gas Supply Plan to the Arizona Corporation Commission.  This arrangement is called an asset management agreement (AMA) (American Gas Association, 2019; Arizona Corporation Commission, 2017).

As local natural gas distribution companies grow, they must install new lines to accommodate new customers.  The state of Arizona requires that all excavations be reported to the state at least 2 days before the actual trenching.  All utility lines must be discovered and clearly marked.  Only manual digging can be used within 24 inches of marked lines (Arizona 811, 2020).  These requirements were put in place for safety reasons, to prevent damage to buildings and injuries to humans.

Joint trench requirements can differ from city to city, county to county, and state to state. But a typical safe guideline is as follows: a trench at least 36 inches deep and 18 inches wide; 24 inches between gas and electric lines and between natural gas and water lines; 12 inches between natural gas and communication lines; 24 inches between natural gas and sewer lines (Arizona Public Service Electric, 1995; Lane Electric Cooperative, 2020).

Unisource Energy Services is required by law to follow state and local construction requirements and trenching laws.  The company uses plastic pipes 0.5 to 8 inches in diameter and coated steel pipes 0.75 to 16 inches in diameter (Unisource Energy Services, 2019).  Like all natural gas companies, company engineers must consider line pressures, the length of the line, and estimated load when deciding which pipes to use.


ADI Analytics. (2015). A new role for small-scale and peak shaving lng infrastructure.

       Retrieved from https://www.adi-analytics.com/2015/06/03/a-new-role-for-small-scale-and-


American Gas Association. (2019). LDC supply portfolio management during the 2018-2019

       winter heating season. Retrieved from

Arizona 811. (2020). Proper planning. Retrieved from https://www.arizona811.com.

Arizona Corporation Commission. (2017). Winter preparedness. Retrieved from



Arizona Public Service Electric. (1995). Trenching requirements. Retrieved from


Busby, R.L. (Ed.). (1999). Natural Gas in Nontechnical Language. Tulsa, OK: PennWell.

Energy Transfer. (2020). Natural gas. Retrieved from


INGAA Foundation. (1996). The use of liquefied natural gas for peaking service. Retrieved from


Lane Electric Cooperative. (2020). Typical trench detail. Retrieved from

Maverick Engineering. (2016). Oil & gas: LNG: Peak shaving facilities. Retrieved from


Transtech Energy. (2020). SNG peak shaving system design & implementation. Retrieved from


Unisource Energy Services. (2019). Construction services. Retrieved from

USA Compression. (2020). Gas compression. Retrieved from

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 19, 2020; April 18, 2022

Copyright 2020-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism

(Photo from The Guardian)

Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism

       Fighting terrorism is a different situation than fighting a conventional war because it is not about one nation in conflict with another nation.  Terrorists embody an ideology which conflicts with established culture and values.  In the case of Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, radical interpretations of Islam were used to recruit jihadists to wage guerilla warfare against all people in the West and even other Muslims who did not agree with their interpretation (9-11 Commission, 2004, pg. 55-68).   This defies both the jus ad bellum and jus in bellum traditional requirements for just war.

Jean Bethke Elshtain and the War on Terrorism

       Osama bin Laden fought as a freedom fighter (mujahideen) in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union.  After the Russians were driven out of the country, he organized the terrorist group, Al Qaeda.  The CIA did not become aware of Al Qaeda and its leader until 1996-1997 (9-11 Commission, 2004, pg. 55-68).  After the August 7, 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Osama bin Laden became one of the FBI’s “most wanted fugitives” (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2017, pg. 390).  After the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush ordered the creation of the Department of Homeland Security with Executive Order No. 13228 on October 8, 2001 (Exec. Order No. 13,228, 2001, pg. 51812). 

       Although Osama bin Laden and the majority of 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, the Al Qaeda training camps were located in Afghanistan.  In fact, forces within Afghanistan and Pakistan were collaborating with the terrorists.  Al Qaeda also had the support of regular citizens in both Afghanistan and Pakistan who felt a strong hatred for the United States.  The Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic group, had taken over large parts of Afghanistan and supported the use of terror against the West (9/11 Commission, 2004, pg. 47-68).

       Invading Afghanistan was a natural response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  But the U.S. military should have stayed focused on destroying the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan before embarking on a war in Iraq, especially since the 9/11 Commission found no involvement by Iraq with the attacks on the World Trade Center (9-11 Commission, 2004, pg. 47-80).  Imposing economic sanctions on Pakistan instead of giving them economic aid, in my opinion, might have yielded results sooner.

       The invasion of Afghanistan was justified, from the point of view of Jean Bethke Elshtain, because “those who launched the 9/11 attacks cannot be reasoned with, in the manner the ‘humanists’ would like – and that no change in U.S. policy would have that effect – for the simple reason that: they loathe us because of who we are and what our society represents” (Rengger, 2018, pg. 220-221).

What Role did the U.S. have in Afghanistan Beyond Military Action?

       “In October 2001, the United States of America initiated air strikes on Afghanistan, followed by a ground offensive called Operation Enduring Freedom, to topple the Taliban government and drive out Al Qaeda forces hosted in Afghanistan following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States” (Bella, Giacca, & Casey-Maslen, 2011, pg. 47, 48).  A new government was installed, and with a new regime in control, U.S. troops became peacekeepers, which undermined the original military offensive.  Al Qaeda and the Taliban continued to push back at the expense of American troops.  Although bin Laden was finally killed in 2011, this did not extinguish Al Qaeda or the Taliban.  The U.S. concentrated on re-building Afghanistan, and a new terrorist threat emerged under President Obama: ISIS.

       Elshtain believed that the United States’ War on Terrorism was just because “the United States must take the lead – not alone, to be sure – but it must take the lead in defending human dignity. ‘As the world’s superpower’”” (Rengger, 2018, pg. 221).  If the United States failed in Afghanistan, in my opinion, it is because we lost sight of our goal to destroy the terrorist camps and the power of the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  By not going in and finishing the job, the United States left itself open for more terrorist attacks on American soil, especially since the Taliban now control Afghanistan.

Given the Larger Human Rights Implication that Elshtain Addresses, what Role did the World at Large have in Combating Terrorism?

       Few countries in the world have been left untouched by terrorism, whether it is direct terrorist attacks or taking in refugees from war-torn countries.  For security reasons alone, the United Nations and all countries in the world should be working together to address the issue – which certainly will not go away anytime soon.

       Ultimately, it is the non-combatant citizens who suffer the most when terrorists are wreaking havoc in a country.  According to Amnesty International (2011): “The Taliban and related insurgent groups in Afghanistan show little regard for human rights and the laws of war and systematically and deliberately target civilians, aid workers, and civilian facilities like schools (particularly girls’ schools)” (Bella, Giacca, & Casey-Maslen, 2011, pg. 51).

       The larger humanitarian issues of violence, refugees, homelessness, poverty, and starvation affect all nations in one way or another, and all nations have a moral obligation to address it.  Elshtain called it the “principle of equal regard, faced with a terrible situation, an enormity, one is obliged to think about what is happening, and to conclude that the people dying are human beings and as such equal in moral regard to us” (Dissent, 2005, pg. 60).                                                                                                                                         


9-11 Commission. (2004). 9-11 Commission report. Retrieved from


Bellal, A., Giacca, G., Casey-Maslen, C. (2011, March). International law and armed non-state 

       actors in afghanistan. International Review of the Red Cross 93(881), 47-79.

       Retrieved from https://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/r27089.pdf

Dissent, The Editors. (2005, Summer). Interview with jean bethke elshtain. Dissent. Retrieved

       from http://www.dissentmagazine.org/wp-content/files_mf/1390329368d1Interview.pdf

Exec. Order No. 13228, 66 Fed. Reg. 196 (October 10, 2001)

Haddow, G.D., Bullock, J.A., & Coppola, D.P. (2017). Introduction to emergency management.

       (6th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Elsevier

Rengger, N. (2018). Jean bethke elshtain (1941-2013). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

       (Eds.), Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (216-226). Abingdon, Oxon: 


Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 23, 2021; April 1, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


Humanitarian Aid and Peacekeeping in Somalia, 1992-1994

(Famine in Somalia, December 13, 1992. Photo by Yannis Behrakis, REUTERS.)

Jean Bethke Elshtain’s book, Women and War, insisted that “the roles men and women play in war are represented and narrated in the stories we tell about ourselves” (Rengger, 2018, pg. 218). Women are represented as “beautiful souls” and men as “just warriors,” but ethicist Elshtain felt that this was too simplistic and that the roles were “more ambiguous and complex” (Rengger, 2018, pg. 218) in reality. She believed that St. Augustine had the best understanding of humans and their relationship to war and peace because he saw that humans are fragile and limited in their ability to control the world and human impulses. She further elaborates on this theme in Augustine and the Limits of Politics. (Rengger, 2018, pg. 218-220) By the time she wrote Just War Against Terror, she was convinced that the United States had to embrace its role of most powerful nation and step up to the plate to address terrorism (Rengger, 2018, pg. 220,221).

Based on her beliefs, I believe she would have encouraged the United States’ involvement in Somalia. In an interview with Dissent magazine (2005), she said:

“Beginning with that principle of equal regard, faced with a terrible situation, an enormity, one is obliged to think about what is happening, and to conclude that the people dying are human beings and as such equal in moral regard to us. So we are then obliged to consider this horrible situation and think about whether there is something we can do to stop it. Would the use of force make a difference in this situation? Minimally you are obliged to do that. Perhaps the use of force would not. But one must not just evade the question. Another minimal requirement is that if you have decided that you can’t intervene you are obliged to explain why that is, in light of the principle of equal moral regard.”

However, she would have recognized our limitations and possibilities for human inadequacy when dealing with the situation in Somalia.

The Role of the United Nations and the United States in Somalia

In 1969, Mohamed Siad Barre came to power in Somalia through a military coup. The regime became more and more repressive, and opposition forces removed him from office in January 1991. “The country descended into chaos, and a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions began to unfold” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1). The Somali people faced “the combination of civil war, a famine after a poor harvest, and a prolonged drought” (Mugabi, 2018, pg. 2).

The United Nations and the United States attempted to aid the Somali people in 1992, but “intense fighting between the warlords impeded the delivery of aid to those who needed it most, and so the United Nations contemplated stronger action” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2).

“There was a fairly lengthy period in which preventative diplomacy and the focused attention of the international community could have headed off the catastrophe in Somalia” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 5). The United Nations and the international community could have engaged in diplomatic negotiations when: 1) the Somali National Movement (SNM) was repressed by Barre in 1988 and the situation exposed by Amnesty International and Africa Watch; 2) the Manifesto Group arose in 1990 and suggestions by the Inter-African Group “that the UN appoint a special envoy to conduct ‘shutter diplomacy’ in the Horn” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 6) were squashed; 3) Barre left office in January 1991 with no replacement government in place and the UN declined to get involved until a year later, when it passed its first resolution on Somalia (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 6).

From January to March 1992, UN resolutions “called for an arms embargo and increased humanitarian aid, and urged the parties to agree to a cease-fire, which they did through an UN-sponsored meeting in New York in February” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 6). In April, the Security Council approved UNOSOM, which “was intended to provide humanitarian help and facilitate the end of hostilities in Somalia” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 6). However, these efforts met with resistance from warlord militia leaders Aideed and Ali Mahdi. In August, Operation Provide Relief was implemented which authorized the United States to deliver humanitarian aid and bring in five hundred peacekeepers (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 7). Later, a Hundred Day Plan was devised to bring together UN agencies and NGOs to deliver aid, but continued violence interfered with the plan (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 7).

Bureaucracy at the United Nations also held up operations. “Food and medicine could not be distributed because of looting . . . [and] famine intensified as the civil war continued” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 7). People around the world reacted emotionally to the famine in Somalia, and “President George [H.W.] Bush announced the initiation of Operation Restore Hope” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 7) on December 4, 1992. The United Task Force (UNITAF) was “a multinational coalition of military units under the command and control of the American military” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 8) authorized by a United Nations resolution (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 8). UNITAF’s goal was to provide “security in the service of humanitarian ends for a brief period” (United States Institute of Peace. 1994, pg. 8) in compliance with Chapter VII of the United Nations charter and allowed the use of force (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 8-11).

Unfortunately, conflicts arose between the United Nations and UNITAF which impeded the efficiency of these efforts. Secretary General Boutros Ghali insisted on nationwide disarmament in Somalia with the United States in charge of implementation, but UNITAF refused. The task force was more interested in a cease-fire.  The UN also insisted on top-down reconstruction of the country, whereas the United States believed that reconstruction should begin at the local level. The UN refused to take long-term responsibility in the operation, insisting that UNITAF held that responsibility. The United States countered “that the project was limited not only in scope but in time, and that when certain humanitarian and security goals had been met, responsibility for Somalia would be turned back over to a ‘regular UN peacekeeping force’” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 10). When Ghali created the peacekeeping force, UNOSOM II, the United States agreed to participate (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 9,10).

On May 4, 1993, UNOSOM II assumed all military responsibilities in Somalia and became “the first UN peacekeeping force authorized under the provisions of Chapter VII of the UN charter” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 11). The new goal for the force was rebuilding Somalia and safeguarding the peace.

After Aideed and his soldiers killed twenty-four Pakistani and three American peacekeepers, the United Nations and United States agreed to go after Aideed. The effort resulted in the raid of Mogadishu on October 3, 1993, which killed eighteen American soldiers. By the end of March 1994, all U.S. troops had been withdrawn from Somalia (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 12).

Responsibility of the International Community

The United Nations had a definite responsibility to address the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and to make an attempt to end the violence. This is the designated function of the United Nations. People around the world, shocked by the starvation in Somalia, were demanding action. The United States, as the most powerful country with the most resources, was obligated to get involved. Politically and morally, it was the right thing to do.

Jean Bethke Elshtain, as a proponent of St. Augustine and his writings, would have supported it because Augustine stressed love of neighbor and extending charity to others. To ignore the situation would have been immoral and inhuman.

The problem with Somalia isn’t that nations got involved. The problem is that the fierceness and tenacity of the warlord militias was underestimated, and bureaucracy and internal disagreements were allowed to undermine the operation, as outlined by the United States Institute of Peace. But both St. Augustine and Elshtain would have recognized that humans are imperfect creatures living in an imperfect world, and as such, there is only so much we can do to contain and control chaos.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 15, 2021; March 11, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Department of State. Office of the Historian. (2021). Milestones: 1993-2000: Somalia,

       1992-1993. Department of State. Retrieved from


Dissent, The Editors. (2005, Summer). Interview with jean bethke elshtain. Dissent. Retrieved

       from http://www.dissentmagazine.org/wp-content/files_mf/1390329368d1Interview.pdf

Mugabi, I. (2018, December). Opinion: How George h.w. bush’s failed somalia intervention

       shaped us-africa ties. DW. Retrieved from



Rengger, N. (2018). Jean bethke elshtain (1941-2013). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

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       intervention. United states institute of peace. Retrieved from



I. A World in Anguish – a Poem

(Photo from Pixabay)

A World in Anguish

by Dawn Pisturino

A world in anguish

Is a world at war,

Suffering the throes of poverty,

Living in fear,

Desperate for freedom

From unfeeling despots;

One man kills another

And crowds cheer for more:

A bloody holocaust screams

The victory cry.

Women weep for children

Dying in the womb,

And fathers beat

Their screaming brats in rage,

Placating the demon-gods.

The dark-faced villain

In the streets

Pushes his deadly wares

To the wayward and unsuspecting,

Supplies the knowing,

And murders the human spirit.

The Godly are intimidated

By the unholy-ungodly

And cry out in vain for vengeance.

God does not hear

Or does not want to.

“Let them fight their own battles,”

He must say; and looks down

In amusement at the skirmish of ants

Crawling in the streets.

It is not a funny sight, no,

But a sorry commentary

On the uselessness of the human species.

God Himself must weep

At the awful destruction wrought

By pitiful creatures.

It is not worth His powerful strength

To save them or His loving heart

To love them or His abounding mercy

To forgive them.

Let those who will survive, survive.

Death to the others.

The battle is just begun.

Dawn Pisturino

September 20, 1985; March 7, 2022

Copyright 1985-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


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