Might is Right and the Good War

I have been reading the Once and Future King and discussing it with my colleagues. Personally, I didn’t like the book all that much. But that’s beside the point. The point is that it leads to a discussion about whether might is right. Many might consider “might is right” to be immoral. The ironic bit is that one could suggest that morals are based upon might. Morals begin to become established when you are taught that certain actions will result in punishment. Without this punishment, it seems unlikely that the lessons would have much effect. Morals, to me, seem to be forced upon us when we are young. We are taught that a certain ethical spectrum is correct. We are taught about good and evil. However, it seems unlikely that there really exists a set of universal morals, fundamental morals. Now, one could logically work out what is best for society, for the individual, etc. to establish a rational system of rules. But do the vast percentage of human morals benefit society? Is that what is being considered in their creation? I do not know. Another concept is that of a good war. I agree with Kay. I believe that if it shall achieve a greater good, initiating war can be a good thing. Wars are terrible, but, if they are needed to achieve a goal, as a last resort of course, I see little wrong with them. If a war were fought to force humanity into a brighter age, I see little wrong with the war. Of course, it would be better to attempt more peaceful methods first, but if all else fails, I see little wrong with this sort of war. What do you think?

(I just have to add, that The Once and Future King is one of my favorite books.)

However, as far as Might Makes Right-shouldn’t it be the other way around-Right Makes Might?

The problem is who decides what constitutes a “brighter age for humanity”? People like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot believed in creating a “better world”. Unfortunately, their better worlds were a racially homogenious Europe, a world where the government controls everything and a return to a pre-industrialized agrarian state. Their “new worlds” ended up killing millions and destroyed entire nations.

There is nothing wrong with trying to change the world through peaceful means. Using military force as an instrument of change is dangerous. After all, if your proposed world was so much better, why would you need to kill 20 million unconvinced people?

What I think is that this leads quickly to the things that other posters have said. How do you go about, and who does the going about, deciding whether or not an act will “force humanity into a brighter age?”

As a concrete example of what I’m talking about I’ll quote from a speech of 28 May 1846 by US Sen. Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri on the subject of Manifest Destiny and ability of the whIte race to lead humanity to “a brighter age.”

Benton’s position was that it was the duty of the “superior white race” to force all others into this “brighter age” or exterminate them if they didn’t want to go. Is this what you had in mind?

Everybody agrees with a war that suits their own needs or achieves their own aims - by definition, the other side does not agree. And what is more, they disagree to the extreeme that they are willing to die for their disagreement. Which side is right? No human being is in a position to judge, as there is no such thing as a totally neutral position…