Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

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.

15 Comments »

“Wounds I Healed” Anthology Acceptance

I’m pleased and proud to announce that my poem, Boudica’s Soliloquy, has been accepted for publication in the upcoming Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women anthology. I want to thank Gabriela Marie Milton (editor), Ingrid Wilson of Experiments in Fiction (publisher), and Nick Reeves for their hard work and dedication in bringing this project to fruition.

As you may have guessed, the poem is about Boudica, the fierce Celtic Queen of the Iceni tribe who reigned in the East Anglia region of Britain. In 60 C.E., she led a revolt against the Romans. Bravely driving a chariot against Roman forces, she fought for the liberation of her tribe and vengeance for the rape of her two daughters by Roman soldiers. Although defeated, she went down in history as a tragic figure and a British folk hero.

For some reason, when I heard about the anthology, Queen Boudica immediately popped into my head. She was a woman who lost everything but died with dignity and honor.

Please visit these sites:

Gabriela Marie Milton (Short Prose)

MasticadoresUSA//Gabriela Marie Milton, editor

Ingrid Wilson, Experiments in Fiction

Nick Reeves

Thank you!

Dawn Pisturino

May 9, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

43 Comments »

The Pagan Origins of Easter

The Spring Equinox marks the festival of Eostre – also known as Ostara – a Germanic goddess worshiped by the Anglo-Saxons. If “Eostre” looks familiar, it’s because the word eventually morphed into “Easter.”


The pagan symbols of Easter include rabbits, hares, and eggs. Rabbits and hares represent fertility, while eggs symbolize fertile purity. Easter egg hunts can be viewed as a re-enactment of rebirth and renewal rituals practiced by ancient people. Lighting a bonfire at dawn on Easter morning hearkens back to the days when Germanic believers lit bonfires at dawn on the morning of the Spring Equinox. Decorating eggs and wearing new clothes symbolize the end of winter, the coming of Spring, and the birth of new life.


We all look forward to the coming of spring and all the beautiful treasures it brings: fresh green grass, colorful and fragrant flowers, birds singing in the trees, blue skies and sunshine, and warm breezes wafting through our open windows. Spring is the time when we feel energetic and renewed. We want to stretch out our muscles and get outdoors in the sunshine. We feel suddenly motivated to clean out our closets and send belongings we no longer need to the local thrift shop. We shop for new clothes, try a new hairstyle, revel in nature and the world at large. After the oppression of winter, Spring sets us FREE.


Happy Easter! Happy Spring!


Dawn Pisturino
April 11, 2020; April 12, 2022
Copyright 2020-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

21 Comments »

Jesus Wept

(Eastern Orthodox icon showing Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead)

“Jesus wept” is the shortest and one of the most profound verses in the New Testament. In those two words, we see Jesus’s humanity and feel his pain. It may have taken scholars a few hundred years to officially decide that Jesus was both human and divine, but the people who encountered him during his lifetime felt his Presence and his Power and witnessed both his human nature and his divinity. They were touched and forever changed.

John 11:1 to 12:11 tells the story of Lazarus’ illness and death and Jesus’ miracle:

When Jesus hears that Lazarus is seriously ill, he tells his disciples, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Two days later, Jesus (knowing that Lazarus is dead) and his disciples set out for Judea. By the time they arrive at their destination, Lazarus has been dead for four days. Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, remind Jesus that their brother would not have died if Jesus had been there. Surrounded by mourners, Mary falls at Jesus’ feet in despair. Touched by her faith, her love, and her grief, he begins to weep.

At the entrance to the tomb, Jesus cries, “Lazarus, come forth!” Lazarus hears him and emerges from the tomb. The result of this event is two-fold: believers are confirmed in their beliefs and doubters believe; and people who witnessed the miracle inform the Pharisees.

The Pharisees, concerned about their own positions and survival, conspire against Jesus and plot his death. In the meantime, Jesus and his disciples return to Judea to visit Lazarus and his sisters. It is during this visit that Judas Iscariot questions Jesus and his mission and begins to plot against him.

The significance of Lazarus’ resurrection cannot be underestimated. Jesus used Lazarus – someone he loved – to illustrate the glory and power of God and his own role in God’s plan on earth. Lazarus’ death and resurrection foreshadow Jesus’ own fate and emphasize his promise that anybody who believes in him will also be resurrected into a new life.

(“Jesus is Just Alright” – The Doobie Brothers)
(Superstar Scene – Jesus Christ Superstar)
(“Put Your Hand in the Hand” – Ocean)

Happy Easter!

Dawn Pisturino

April 8, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

13 Comments »

Irish Blessings for St. Paddy’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here are some traditional Irish blessings for you!

~

~May your day be touched

By a bit of IRISH LUCK,

Brightened by a song in your heart,

And warmed by the smiles

Of the people you LOVE.~

~

~May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.~

~

~May good luck be with you

Wherever you go,

And your blessings outnumber

The shamrocks that grow.~

~

~May your days be many and your troubles be few,

May all God’s blessings descend upon you,

May peace be within you,

May your heart be strong,

May you find what you’re seeking

Wherever you roam.~

~

~May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been,

The foresight to know where you’re going,

And the insight to know when you’re going too far.~

~

~May you always have walls for the winds,

A roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,

Laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,

And all your heart might desire.~

~

~May the lilt of Irish laughter lighten every load,

May the mist of Irish magic shorten every road,

May you taste the sweetest pleasures that fortune ere bestowed,

And may all your friends remember all the favors you are owed.~

~

~May the Irish hills caress you.

May her lakes and rivers bless you.

May the luck of the Irish enfold you.

May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.~

~

~Here’s to a long life and a merry one,

A quick death and an easy one,

A pretty girl and an honest one,

A cold beer and another one!~

~

Enjoy this rousing performance of “The Wearing of the Green.”

May the luck of the Irish be with you, now and always!

Dawn Pisturino

March 17, 2022

17 Comments »

My Irish Ancestors

(Antrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland)

My 5th great-grandfather, John McInally, was born in Antrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1760. His father, Owen McInally, was a flax grower. John was a weaver by trade. He married Sarah Dobbin in 1780 and emigrated to Grand Island, Quebec, Canada in 1781. His first son, John, was born aboard ship on the way over.

In Canada, John worked the cattle boats along the St. Lawrence River. One day, in 1827, when he was trying to control the steer, he fell overboard and drowned. His wife, Sarah, prowled the riverbanks, calling his name, unable to accept the possibility of his death. But he was, indeed, drowned and later buried in the cemetery at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Quebec. Sarah was forced by poverty to adopt out her five boys to other families. Although the boys were baptized Catholic, they only found homes in Protestant families and were brought up as such. Broken-hearted by the loss of her family, Sarah soon followed her husband to the grave.

Like America, Canada was colonized by immigrants from France, the British Isles, and other nations. After the American Revolution, many Loyalists to the British Crown emigrated north. Although I live in America, I have a lot of relatives in Canada – mostly around Ontario – from both sides of the family. Before COVID, they held a huge family reunion every year. Although invited, I never went. Maybe one of these days, I’ll get there!

Dawn Pisturino

March 15, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

23 Comments »

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

       http://www.history.state.gov/milestones/1993-2000/somalia

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

       http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-how-george-hwbushs-failed-somalia-intervention-shaped-

       us-africa-ties/a-46598215

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:  

       Routledge

Special Report. (1994). Restoring hope: The real lessons of Somalia for the future of                                                                                                                                       

       intervention. United states institute of peace. Retrieved from

       http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/sr950000.pdf

5 Comments »

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.

21 Comments »

Cicero’s Three Tenets for Just War

(Marcus Tullius Cicero)

It is difficult to determine just when the just war idea began. Aristotle used the phrase, “just war” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 4), but it is Cicero who developed a “systematic ethical project” (Stewart, 2018, pg. 8) around the concept of just war.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BCE – 43 BCE) grew up in a wealthy Roman family, acquired a good education, and worked his way up the ladder to achieve the high political status of Consul. When Catiline tried to seize power over Rome by force, “Cicero had five of the conspirators executed without trial and was thereafter hailed as ‘the father of his country’” (Stewart, 2018, pg. 9). His experiences helped to shape his ideas about just war.

Cicero tried to place an emphasis on “virtuous behavior” (Stewart, 2018, pg.8) based on the principles of natural law. He believed that all civilized nations were bound by the same law and that “the god will be the one common master and general (so to speak) of all people” (Stewart, 2018, pg. 11). He expected all civilized nations to follow a course of laws, morals, and ethics that reflected the will of God. Following the will of God would lead nations to make the best decisions.

Out of this came Cicero’s idea of the “ideal statesman” (Stewart, 2018, pg. 14, 17, 18) who would have the wisdom to discern the difference between the justice of war and the necessity of war. After a thorough analysis, an ideal statesman would decide when conflict could be solved by diplomacy and debate, and when the use of force would be necessary. He would base his decision on what was best to ensure the safety and survival of the Roman Empire.

He developed three maxims:

     Jus ad bellum covered the justification for the use of force.

     Jus in bellum outlined the limitations imposed in the use of force.

     Jus post bellum offered guidelines about how to deal with participants after a war was over.  

          (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 1).

If we adhere to Cicero’s idea about the ideal statesman then jus ad bellum is the most important. The decisions that leaders make can determine the fate of the whole nation. If they make wrong decisions out of a “selfish passion” (Stewart, 2018, pg. 15) for glory and ambition, justice has not been done, and the whole nation may suffer.

In order to justify the use of force, there must be a legitimate reason to declare war. Roman officials must have the authority (right thinking and right intention) to declare war. The decision to go to war must come as a last resort. There must be a high probability of a successful resolution. And the use of force must lead to more benefits than harm to society (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 1).

The use of force in war will be limited to what needs to be done to defeat the other side.  It must never exceed the purpose of its use. It must only be aimed at “legitimate targets” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 1). Discrimination in the use of force must be exercised by military leaders to achieve the objective and nothing more.

After the conflict is over, the winner must decide what to do with the survivors and post-war plunder. Can peace be restored? Has justice been done? Have grievances been resolved? The winner is responsible for restoring balance and harmony in the region and making sure that humanitarian efforts are made to help the survivors recover. This fulfills the principles of beneficence and honor (Stewart, 2018, pg. 13).

If peace cannot be restored and a nation continues to be a threat to the survival of the Roman Empire, Cicero concludes that necessity overrules justice and beneficence and complete annihilation is justified (Stewart, 2018, pg. 14-16).

Rome was a militarized society. Cicero served in the military and never discounted the inevitability of war. He believed in ius gentium (international obligations between nations) (Stewart, 2018, pg. 9). These international relations involved treaties and agreements made in “good faith” (Stewart, 2018, pg. 10). Broken treaties and other wrongs were justification for the use of force. But Cicero insisted that there were acceptable limits when following a path of revenge and retribution (Stewart, 2018, pg. 12). He believed that there were duties owed to the people who broke good faith and were defeated in battle (Stewart, 2018, pg. 13). This, for him, is what defined justice.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

October 6, 2021; March 4, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Brunstetter, D.R., & O’Driscoll, C. (Ed.). (2018). Just war thinking: From cicero to the 21st  

     century. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Stewart, G. (2018). Marcus tullius cicero (106 BCE – 43 BCE). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

     (Eds.), Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (8-19). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

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Foreign Non-Intervention: Soviet Invasion of Hungary, 1956

In light of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, it seems appropriate to remind people that Russian Premier Nikita Krushchev invaded Hungary in 1956 in a similar way when the Imre Nagy regime began to institute democratic reforms and pull away from the Soviet Union.

On October 22, 1956, student protests began in Budapest, and a list of sixteen demands were adopted which included the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary, free elections, free speech, workers’ rights, and a multi-party political system. By 6:00 pm, 200,000 to 300,000 people had joined the protest. At 9:30 pm, the statue of Stalin was overturned.

The next night, around 9:00 pm, tear gas bombs were thrown into the crowd of protestors, and State Security Police (AVH) began firing into the crowd. A number of people were killed and wounded. The infuriated crowd attacked other AVH police who arrived wearing white doctors’ coats. At first, Hungarian forces came to the aid of the AVH and then sided with the protestors.

In other parts of Budapest, workers drove through the city, snatching up weapons and firearms wherever they could find them. Many soldiers voluntarily gave over their firearms to the protestors.

In the early hours of October 24th, protestors seized and occupied the Radio Building and then were driven out. Again, AVH police fired into a crowd of unarmed protestors, further infuriating the people. Armed protestors fought back against the AVH and seized the newspaper building. At 2:00 am, Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest.

The important thing to understand is that the Soviet Union had already been planning to invade Hungary before the protests began. The invasion was intended to overthrow Premier Imre Nagy’s government and to install a more cooperative Soviet puppet in his place.

Neither the United Nations nor the United States intervened to help the people of Hungary, before, during, or after the invasion. And, so far, this is holding true for the people of Ukraine.

~

Immanuel Kant, the United Nations, and International Law

Philosopher Immanuel Kant, who despaired in his lifetime that “there [was] no reliable or effective international authority” to prevent war, could not foresee that in the future there would exist the League of Nations and then the United Nations. These organizations arose in the aftermath of World War I and World War II to provide a forum for nations to come together and discuss their differences in order to prevent world war.  The United Nations, in my opinion, has not been very effective in dealing with international conflicts. It does, however, have a good track record of attempting to provide humanitarian aid to countries wracked by internal conflict and natural disasters.

“The UN Charter recognizes self-defense as the only legitimate use of force (although only until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to ensure international peace and security, Article 51)” (Brown, 2018, pg. 209). And since the time of Kant, we have established “the Law of Armed Conflict (also known as International Humanitarian Law), that is, the Geneva and Hague Treaties and the accompanying Protocols” (Brown, 2018, pg. 209). The international community has come together to set rules to limit and prevent war. But, the United Nations and other organizations seem very ineffective. Conflicts never seem to get resolved, and human rights abuses continue without redress. Situations drag on for years with no resolution, leading to a different kind of war – prolonged conflict.

Michael Walzer’s Arguments against Foreign Intervention

Just war theorist Michael Walzer believes that nations have autonomy to decide for themselves, regardless of the form of government they have embraced. “Outsiders are obliged to assume that whatever form of government exists reflects the wishes of the people concerned; even if pro-democracy movements are suppressed, as long as the society has not collapsed into civil war and insurrection, it has to be presumed that there is a ‘fit’ between government and people . . . the only real circumstances in which outsiders would be entitled (although not obliged) to intervene would be in the case of genocide or mass enslavement” (Brown, 2018, pg.211).

Clearly, the Hungarian people wanted their freedom and were prepared to fight and die to get it. Clearly, Premier Imre Nagy tried to institute reforms, limit the Soviet Union’s influence in Hungary, and create a free Hungarian State. Clearly, there was no “fit” between the Hungarian people and their Soviet oppressors. From Walzer’s point of view, then, the Hungarian people were exercising their right to autonomy, and the United States should have offered assistance if our leaders were sincere about fighting totalitarianism and helping oppressed people to gain their freedom. Since the Voice of America had been broadcasting this message to the Hungarian people and “approximately 30,000 Hungarian refugees were allowed to enter the United States” (History, 2021, pg. 3), President Dwight D. Eisenhower should have offered some sort of assistance. To just stand by and offer sympathy was hypocritical.

And where was the United Nations in all of this? I have found no indication that the United Nations tried to intervene. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1957 that the UN compiled a report on the Soviet invasion of Hungary and its causes. According to the report, “Consideration of the Hungarian question by the United Nations was legally proper and paragraph 7 of Article 2 of the Charter does not justify objections to such consideration. A massive armed intervention by one Power on the territory of another with the avowed intention of interfering in its internal affairs must, by the Soviet Union’s own definition of aggression, be a matter of international concern” (United Nations, 1957, pg. 31).

The United Nations Special Committee determined, after the fact, that the Hungarian national uprising was spontaneous in nature, with Hungarians wanting to be free of Soviet oppression and rule; the protestors demanded an independent, democratic socialist government; the protest occurred in reaction to Poland’s efforts to gain independence from the Soviet Union; the Soviets were already making plans for an armed invasion as early as October 20, 1956; the initial protests of October 23, 1956 were peaceful until the AVH (State Security Police) opened fire onto the crowds; rumors circulated that Nagy had requested help from the Soviets, which turned out to be false; rumors also circulated that Kadar had requested Soviet troop intervention during the second round of protests, which turned out to be false; the real power was in the hands of the Revolutionary and Workers’ Councils – not Nagy; after the first few days of freedom, freedom of speech was established, with the support of the people; reported lynchings and beatings were carried out by members of the AVH (State Security Police); negotiations were conducted between the Nagy government and the Soviet Union for full withdrawal; the Workers’ Councils began initiating the reforms demanded by the people and life was returning to normal; the Hungarian people’s human rights “were violated by the Hungarian Governments before 23 October, especially up to the autumn of 1955, and such violations have been resumed since 4 November” (United Nations, 1957, pg. 31); Hungarian citizens were deported to the U.S.S.R. in order to suppress the uprising; Hungarians showed no support for the Kadar government, which reinstated Soviet-style repression and totalitarianism and put elections on hold; negotiations on Soviet troop withdrawals were suspended; and 190,000 Hungarians sought asylum in other countries, with most refusing to return (United Nations, 1957, pg. 31).

The Hungarian people had chosen freedom and the kind of government they wanted, and their newly-won liberation was subverted by outsiders who would not intervene after “Budapest Radio broadcast its last message before going off the air . . . an appeal to the writers and scientists of the world to help the people of Hungary” (United Nations, 1957, pg. 26). But this aligns with Walzer’s philosophy of limitations on foreign intervention, to the detriment of the Hungarian people.  And that means that I cannot agree with him.

What Role could the U.S. have Played in Hungary

It is clear from the United Nations report that the Soviet Union was preparing for the invasion as early as October 20, 1956. And it is possible, although not proven, that the Soviets had planned for Kadar to replace Nagy from the beginning. I believe Nagy and the members of the Revolutionary and Workers’ Councils were naive in thinking that the Soviets would give up Hungary without a fight. As soon as the Hungarians achieved their liberation, they should have consulted the United Nations, and the leaders of the United States and Europe, for help in keeping it. Instead, Nagy waited until November 1, 1956, when Soviet troops had already crossed the border into Hungary, to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and to notify embassies located in Budapest and the United Nations of the situation. He specifically requested “the aid of the four Great Powers in defense of Hungary’s Neutrality . . . [and appealed] to our neighbors, countries near and far, to respect the unalterable decision of our people” (United Nations, 1957, pg. 25). By this time, there was no time for either the United Nations or the United States to stop the Soviet invasion (United Nations, 1957, pg. 18-31).

The Risks of War with the Soviet Union

If the United Nations and the United States (and the “four Great Powers”) had been involved in the negotiations with the Soviet Union, urging a complete troop withdrawal from Hungary, the Soviet Union might have backed down or delayed taking any action against Hungary. But this also risked getting the “four Great Powers” involved in another major conflict, one few could afford after World War II.

What Measures, if any, could have been Aimed at the Soviet Union?

Economic sanctions and isolation are about the only measures the United Nations could have taken to pressure the Soviet Union into leaving Hungary. Under pressure from the United States, the United Nations General Assembly passed several resolutions early in 1957, demanding the Soviets avoid all military offensives against the Hungarian people; withdrawal of  all troops from Hungarian soil; restoration of the legitimate government chosen by the Hungarian people; establishment of free elections; the end of deportations to the U.S.S.R.; and permission for UN officials to go into Hungary to assess and observe the situation (Harrison, 2012, pg. 3).

Unfortunately, the resolutions could not be enforced, but Soviet expansion was stalled by public pressure, Kadar’s government was not given official recognition, and Hungary lost its membership in the United Nations. Ultimately, the non-compliance of the Soviet Union with these UN resolutions led to the creation of the United Nations Special Committee that compiled the report. This Special Committee submitted public protests against the execution of Nagy in 1958 and kept the Hungary issue on the UN agenda because of its continued maltreatment and human rights abuses of the Hungarian people (Harrison, 2012, pg. 3).

At the same time, the United States and the Soviet Union were attempting to improve relations, and the Hungarian situation became less important as the Soviets convinced other countries to look the other way. On December 20, 1962, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to drop the Hungary situation altogether (Harrison, 2012, pg. 4).

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 29, 2021; updated February 24, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

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

Harrison. (2012). United nations report on the hungarian uprising 1956. Libcom. Retrieved from

       http://www.libcom.org/history/united-nations-report-hungarian-uprising-1956

History, The Editors. (2019). This day in history: Soviets put a brutal end to hungarian

       revolution. History. Retrieved from

       http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/soviets-put-brutal-end-to-hungarian-revolution

United Nations Special Committee. (1957). Report of the un special committee on the

       problem of hungary (compiled 1957). Libcom. Retrieved from http://www.libcom.org

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