Bioethics Discussion Blog: Memorial Day Should Include Ethical Contemplation About War

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day Should Include Ethical Contemplation About War


In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army


IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.



When we look back at those who have died in war and those who are carrying on, we must still wonder about the merit of the war that was being fought and the true moral responsibilities of those who continued the fight. We must also remember that there are not only Flanders fields for the soldiers but also burial grounds of the non-combatant civilians who also died because of the war. The moral and ethical issues of war have had added complexity particularly in the recent century by the wars which include issues of preemptions and also lack of signs of identification between combatants and the innocent civilians. Yes, Memorial Day is a day to think about those servicemen and women who have fallen in our battles but it is a day also to contemplate the ethics of war: what ethical principles will support the resultant loss of all the lives that lie in their own Flanders fields throughout the world. ..Maurice.

3 Comments:

At Saturday, May 27, 2006 9:03:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Dr. Bernstein ... do you believe that war is ever ethical?

 
At Saturday, May 27, 2006 9:41:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Moof, you ask if I believe that war is ever ethical. I don't know. Maybe an ethical war would be one in which one nation would fight another in self-defence to preserve the nation which is under attack. However, as I mentioned in my post, rationalized preemption of war, the ambiguity of the inability to identify one's enemy combatant and finally, one which I had left out of my post, the use in recent times of weapons of mass destruction, where innocent civiiians are also ending up as part of the target, all provide the complexity which makes it difficult to. without doubt, say "this war is ethical." How about just the leaders of each country shoot it out on a level playing field and the country of the one who is killed loses the war. If the leaders of each country would face the possibility that they themselves being a casualty of the conflict, perhaps wars would not have to be started nor defended. As I said, I don't know. ..Maurice.

 
At Sunday, May 28, 2006 7:37:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Dr. Bernstein, I agree that it's a very difficult question.

Action involves innocent people, causing deaths ... inaction may also involve innocent people, again causing deaths.

What does a nation that has the *capacity* to intervene do?

It would, indeed, be quite nice if battles could be fought only by the leaders ... or better still, on a chess board. However, we're not quite that civilized yet. At this point, those that perish are our finest young people, the opposing country's finest young people, and far too many non-combatants.

That said ... sometimes, inaction is just as much of a crime ...

Tough call.

 

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