Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nation-States, Balancing Power, Clausewitz and Just War

The current-world system is made up of nation-states. There is no worldwide sovereign power. Hence, the world stage is anarchic. In an anarchic situation, comprehensive sovereignty is non-existent. The only way to bring order is for balance(s) of power to achieved by individual players and/or blocs of powers. For nation-states, balancing power is essentially a political act. Thus the famed war theorist Clausewitz said, "War is politics by other means."

When Christians do just war thinking, many treat just war thinking as abstract theory that is then applied in an almost ideological manner to the world stage. I think this is wrong. The proper way to apply just war theory is to start with the world-stage as it is and then apply just war theory. One should look at the world-stage, assess what end needs to be achieved to bring order and stability and then reflect on how to achieve that end justly. Since the world-stage is anarchic, balance of power is a proper end because it contributes to temporal order/peace -- the good that just war theorists have often argued is a central goal of just war-making.

A war to balance power and bring stability to the world-stage or to a major region of the world can be a just war -- if the imbalance of power brings disorder, instability and destructive consequences to people's lives.


takingthoughtscaptive said...

An unique take on Clausewitz and Just War theory, no doubt. I'd be interested to know whether or not you are suggesting that a balance of power is A or THE proper end for just war. The former I could agree with, the latter I could not.

I also don't think I can agree that a balance of power necessarily "contributes to temporal order/peace." If governments were intrinsically good (or even morally neutral), this may be the case, but history certainly suggests otherwise on both international and domestic levels.

Maybe I'm misreading or reading in to what you have said...or maybe you intentionally addressed only one possible end to just war. Either way, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

BTW, as a regular reader I thoroughly enjoy your blog...thank you!

Peter said...

Definitely an end. Also, other principles need to hang with balance of power for it not to be just a utilitarian act. I'll write another post to develop that idea.

takingthoughtscaptive said...

Thanks for the clarification, Peter! I look forward to your further thoughts at some point in the future.


#Debi said...

A very rational, sane explanation of the subject matter. I look forward to reading your further thoughts on it.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Interesting reading. Thanks, Peter.