Morality of Civil Wars

Suppose in 2011, a state or some states decided to secede from the union, over some real or perceived difference of opinion with the PTB on the federal level. They form their own country. The federal government can crush the secession, but at the cost of thousands and thousands of dead people. Is it moraly justified?

On the one hand, thousands of dead people and massive suffering. On the other hand, what? So these guys won’t be part of the same country as the other states. Big deal.

As backdrop, the US Civil War resulted in over 600K deaths, and other ruined lives of all sorts. Was it worth it?

Of course there’sa backdrop of ending slavery. Maybe ending slavery is worth 600K deaths but other issues are not. Or maybe that wasn’t worth it either.

[My main objective is not the Civil War here - it’s about a civil war over lesser issues, such as those we face today.]


I have no problem with secession as such.

I should add, though, re the CW, that Abraham Lincoln felt - or at least claimed - that he was not fighting the war over slavery, but rather over what seems like a legalistic issue of the importance of the union, which would apply regardless of the underlying cause.

If thousands of people die it won’t be because of our coming in to bring them back into the Union, it’ll be because they seceded. So you shouldn’t be questioning whether enforcing the unity of the United States is moral, but whether seceding itself is moral. The answer to that question will depend on why they’re seceding. It’s like saying that the cops shouldn’t have cornered me at my home when it was discovered that I’d been bootlegging movies out of my basement, leading to my death. My death would be my responsibility for having resisted to begin with.

I disagree. Each actor has their own calculation. Suppose they were wrong for seceding, that on its own doesn’t mean that the feds can just ignore the consequences of breaking the rebellion and just blame it all on the rebels.

Because if one goes, other will follow it; and if a state can secede, why not a county, or a city? Or an individual? Secession will become the solution to any disagreement, and within a few years, instead of one big, prosperous nation, you’ll get a mess of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of bickering principalities and city-states - Renaissance Italy at the best, Somalia at the worst.

So long as they didn’t try to keep any national military assets, I don’t see any reason not to let any state that wished secede.

(If North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana seceded and tried to take all the ICBMs based on their soil (which is to say, all of them) with them, that would be problematic.)

Right, and that is exactly what I disagree with.

It should be noted that a war to hold authority over a section of people who want to go (and their land) is not the same kind of “civil war” as between factions each contending for control of the whole.

They made you invade them. There was nothing else you could do. :dubious:

It will not. There are quite often good reasons for people and communities to want unions or partnerships of one sort or another with their neighbors.

Police can’t just let criminals do whatever they want because, well, it’d be a shame to throw such fine folk in jail. In order for society to function at all law and order has to be maintained. If the rebels’ cause is just then so be it, but that governments should just let their provinces secede is ridiculous.

Are they getting off our land?

It might also be noted that Lincoln strongly felt that a small clique of individuals had railroaded the rest into secession, and history shows that (initially) that was very much the case. So in that case it wasn’t people who want to go, it was “a few people who want to make everybody else do what they want.”

Subsequent events did shift the majority mindset toward secession, but all through the war there were significant numbers of loyalists in the South.

With their neighbors, sure - but with the next town/neighborhood down the road?

Who said they have to be bickering? Maybe they’ll be like the US and Canada.

You’re suggesting we should start a war now because if we don’t then maybe we’ll have a war down the road. Hard to figure.

You’re comparing secession to criminality, which begs the question.

Start a war now or you’ll have *lots *of wars down the road. Makes perfect sense.

I think it’s safe to say that invading a seceded territory is not the way to make the people there feel good about joining back up.

I seem to have missed the news of Bohemia and Moravia splitting up a couple years after the Czechs let the Slovaks leave.

Unless the country in question has laws regarding the process of secession I’d assume that seceding is, in fact, criminal.

Yeah, but that’s a technicality.

Czechoslovakia was never a real country to begin with - it was a union of two nations with different languages, religions and histories. Maybe secession could have worked in the U.S. of 200 years ago, but it won’t in the unified nation-state America is now.

All laws are technicalities.

“Secession” consists of several of them - refusal to pay federal taxes, theft (of Federal property), weapons laws (when they found a military), laws limiting freedom of movement (when they set up borders)… the list goes on and on.