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

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[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.

Vitoria

       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.

References

—–. (2021). First sino-japanese war. Japan visitor. Retrieved from

       http://www.japanvisitor.com/japanese-history/first-sino-japanese-war

Bellamy, A.J. (2018). Francisco de vitoria (1492 – 1546). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

       (Eds.), Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (77-91). Abingdon, Oxon: 

       Routledge

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia. (2021). First sino-japanese war 1894-1895.

       Britannica. Retrieved from

       http://www.britannica.com/event/First-Sino-Japanese-War-1894-1895

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

       century. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Davis, B. (1988). Sherman’s march. New York: Vintage Books

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

Department of Veteran Affairs. (2020). Fact sheets: America’s wars. Retrieved from

       http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf

Hengjun, Y. (2014, August). The biggest lesson of the first sino-japanese war. The diplomat.

       Retrieved from http://www.thediplomat.com/2014/08/the-biggest-lesson-of-the-first-sino-

       japanese-war/

Johnson, E. (2016). War and peace in christian tradition. Augustine collective. Retrieved from

       http://www.augustinecollective.org/war-and-peace-in/

Johnson, J.T. (2018). St. augustine (354-430 ce). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

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

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

National Park Service. (2021). Fort sumter. Retrieved from

       http://www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm

Nho, Hyoung-Jin. (2021). From kanghwa to shimonoseki: The disputes over the sovereignty

       of tributary choson korea. Oxford public international law. Retrieved from

       http://www.opil.ouplaw.com/page/kanghwa

Ransom, R. (2021). Causes, costs and consequences: The economics of the american civil war.

       Essential civil war curriculum. Retrieved from

       http://www.essentialcivilwarcurriculum.com/the-economics-of-the-civil-war.html

Reichberg, G.M. (2018). Thomas aquinas (1224/5 – 1274). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

       (Eds). Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (50-63). Abingdon, Oxon:

       Routledge

Rickard, J. (2013, October). First sino-japanese war (1894-1895). History of war. Retrieved from

       http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/wars_first_sino_japanese.html

Smith, D. (2007). Sherman’s march to the sea 1864: Atlanta to savannah. Botley, Oxford:

       Osprey Publishing

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

Tiezzi, S. (2014, April). Chinese strategists reflect on the first sino-japanese war. The diplomat.

       Retrieved from http://www.thediplomat.com/2014/04/chinese-strategists-reflect-on-the-first-

       sino-japanese-war/

Trudeau, N.A. (2008). Southern storm: Sherman’s march to the sea. New York: HarperCollins

       Publishers

~

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)

19 Comments »

The First Sino-Japanese War, 1894-1895

(Artwork by Korechika)

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

by Dawn Pisturino

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  

       Just war philosopher 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).

(This essay is part of a longer paper. Contact author for sources.)

Happy Veterans Day 2022!

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 23, 2021; November 11, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

20 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 »

Proportionality in War: Sherman’s March to the Sea

(Burning of Atlanta – a Civil War engraving done by an anonymous artist)

Aquinas’s Doctrine of Proportionality in War and Sherman’s Attack on Private Property

       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 this paper, I aim to show that 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).

       Ten years ago, when I was speaking to my elderly distant cousin in South Carolina on the phone about genealogy matters, he referred to the Civil War as “the war of the North’s aggression against the South.”  At the time, I thought he was just an old geezer who could not get over losing the Civil War.  I did not really understand what he meant until I started reading about Sherman’s March.  Such an 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).

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

October 28, 2021

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

(STUDENTS! DO NOT PLAGIARIZE MY WORK. IT WILL SHOW UP ON TURN IT IN AND OTHER PLAGIARISM PROGRAMS.)

References

Davis, B. (1988). Sherman’s march. New York: Vintage Books

Department of Veteran Affairs. (2020). Fact sheets: America’s wars. Retrieved from

       http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf

Johnson, J.T. (2018). St. augustine (354-430 ce). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

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

National Park Service. (2021). Fort sumter. Retrieved from

       http://www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm

Ransom, R. (2021). Causes, costs and consequences: The economics of the american civil war.

       Essential civil war curriculum. Retrieved from

       http://www.essentialcivilwarcurriculum.com/the-economics-of-the-civil-war.html

Reichberg, G.M. (2018). Thomas aquinas (1224/5 – 1274). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

       (Eds). Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (50-63). Abingdon, Oxon:

       Routledge

Smith, D. (2007). Sherman’s march to the sea 1864: Atlanta to savannah. Botley, Oxford:

       Osprey Publishing

Trudeau, N.A. (2008). Southern storm: Sherman’s march to the sea. New York: HarperCollins

       Publishers

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