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ProfessorBainbridge.com: Tancredo versus Hewitt

Professor Bainbridge sides with Tancredo on the issue of whether it is ethical to target non-combatants.While it may be (in very rare cases) ethical to target non-combatants, I would argue that it is so unlikely that any of these cases would apply to the War on Terror that Hewitt’s statement is true enough for blog use.Tancredo has argued that bombing Mecca “should be on the table.” I fail to see any relevant example where traditional Christian ethics would allow for the bombing of Mecca. First, the default ethical position is strongly on the side of Hewitt’s general take that one should not intentionally target non-combatants. It seems to me that Hewitt has stated a generalization with so few exceptions (none of which seem at all likely to apply to this war) that it should be accepted.The War on Terror seems unlike any other war used as an example in three important ways.First, we are not (mostly) at war with a state. Terror need not depend on state support. (We are of course in the process of destroying those few, very weak states that decided they will support terror.) Therefore arguments about knocking out the infrastructure of a guilty state do not apply.Second, terrorists do not depend on massive arms, numbers, or supplies to act. With or without state support, they are lean. Destroying an entire city will not keep them from getting box cutters or simple explosives.Third, those few nations that do support terror (or might) are so weak that it is incoceivable that we would need saturation bombing to bring them down.I am of course assuming that Mecca is not a military target. So far as I know it contains no massive stores of arms, factories to build military supplies, nor does it have a large civilian population necessary to the “radical Islamic” war effort.Mecca is of importance only as a symbolical target. As such, the only value it could have is if the destruction of this place would shorten the war by demoralizing the foe. Since nobody believes it would do this and it would obviously have exactly the opposite effect, I see no precedent in just war thought that would allow for consideration of the bombing of Mecca in this War.As a result of these considerations, I think Hewitt is right in his generalization as applied to the GWOT. It would always be self-defeating and wicked to intentionally target civilians and civilian targets in this war which is the only war were are fighting at present. Generic examples (which may be rare) from World War II do not help Tancredo.Bainbridge is a very good thinker, but isn’t it a bit unfair to apply examples to a Hewitt generalization that do not apply to the situation to which Hewitt was commenting?Comments below:ProfessorBainbridge.com: Tancredo versus Hewitt: “Actually, the extent to which one can target non-combatants consistently with Christian just war theory is a pretty complex question, as I explained in a semi-tongue in cheek post on Star Wars.Bainbridge is right, but I feel to see one reason Mecca would fit (even in theory) as an example of just targeting of non-combatants. (I view this intentional targeting of non-combatants with some degree of distaste. It may be ethical in some rare cases, but even in those cases it should scarcely be the topic of bombastic speech making by a Congressman with his eyes on the White House.) LTC Peter Farber has written that just war theorists long defended strategic bombing: … 1) it preserved and protected the just against the criminal (note the Augustinian emphasis here),It is unclear to me how the bombing of Mecca would accomplish this end. We are not at war with Saudi Arabia. Though terrorists may live in Mecca (or LA for that matter), there is no reason to think the majority of the people of Mecca are aiding terrorists. If their government is doing so, then I would suggest we start a war against the House of Saud. Such a war would not begin with a bombing of Mecca! If on the other hand, the House of Saud is being (on the whole) presently helpful against terrorism, then what possible justification can there be in attacking Mecca?2) the civilians supporting their national leadership were equally responsible for the decisions made by that leadership,I fail to see how the people of Mecca could express this view in present day Arabia. They did not elect their government.and 3) the vigorous prosecution of the war prevented an even greater loss of human life.As everyone agrees there is no chance that Mecca would be a good target in this regard.The use of strategic bombing in response to an act of non-state terrorism presents different questions than its use in traditional warfare between states, of course, especially when one of the states is as evil as Nazi Germany, but what if the terrorists had state support?-If the House of Saud (the government in the case of Mecca) supports terrorists and they will not stop, then war with them might be justified. In such cases one might bomb cities in order to quickly bring the terrorist nation to its knees and end active warfare, but only if this was necessary to save lives in sum. However, since the House of Saud could not withstand even the amount of force used to topple Sadaam, it is hard to imagine a case where the war would get to the point where targeting non-military infrastructure and civilians would ever be necessary OR ethical. The government of Arabia simply does not have the muscle (unlike the powerful Nazis) to justify it in any conceivable situation. In fact, does any Islamic state have such power at present? As a result, even in this hypothetical, Hewitt’s general rule would still apply.

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