War has to be Different

I went to Catholic school for 16 years.  As a kid I’d learn in one class, “Thou shalt not kill” and “love thy neighbor as thyself” then in the next one I’d learn about our heroes who fight for our country.  This was very hard for me to understand as a young kid.  It didn’t make any sense to me and I remember really struggling with it.  I’d ask a teacher about it and hear that war is part of life, or it is inevitable, or we owe our freedom to war, some variation of that.   After a while I figured They must be right and accepted their answers for the next 15-20 years.  Now, I’m starting to think like a 10-year-old again.

I think it is safe to say that an overwhelming majority of people, at least 99.9%, think senseless murder is wrong, even Democrats probably agree with that statement.  I also think most people, probably slightly less than the previous, think it is okay to kill in certain situations, for example, in self-defense if your life is in danger.  We could also come up with certain hypotheticals, like, “if you kill one person the entire world will be saved, if you don’t then the world will blow up”.  While it is an absurd scenario, most people would say it is okay to kill in that situation,  but the consequences must be extremely severe.  If instead of the entire world it was your lunch, most people probably wouldn’t think it is acceptable to kill.  Without exhausting every possible scenario of a justified killing, let’s just say it should be extremely rare.

War has to be different from your average street murder in order to be justified.  We’re supposed to declare our wars, but that hasn’t happened since WWII, so that doesn’t seem to make it okay.  Besides, what does that even mean? Just because a group of people vote to kill someone, that somehow doesn’t seem right.  Can I declare war on my neighbor if I don’t like him?  I guess I can, but it wouldn’t justify killing him.

What if my neighbor was torturing someone in his house?  I’d be a hero if I stopped it, and if deadly force was required, I think most people would say I should do it.  So defending someone else’s life seems acceptable, which many argue we do in our foreign wars.  However, if my neighbor is torturing someone it is definitely not acceptable to blow up an entire street, or kill him and 15 of his neighbors.  If someone drives his car into my house on a suicide mission to kill my family, it is probably not acceptable to kill his family, friends, and 100,000 other people of the same nationality.

I’ll be honest, after 9/11 I was angry. As an 18-year-old I probably said we should turn the Middle East into a parking lot, or something to that effect.  However, just because some loony tunes killed 3,000 Americans, I don’t see how it is justified to kill hundreds of thousands of people in response (the numbers aren’t clear, but it is a lot).  Someone, please explain how the state has the authority to kill.


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