Well, Alayna is definitely recovering faster than I am. I feel a little better than death warmed over and she’s ready to work a 12 hour shift. So, today’s question comes mostly from her, though I’m supplying some of the academic details. There is, in western philosophy, a branch of military ethics known as Just War Theory. There are a fairly wide range of versions of this theory, but the broad ideas remain generally the same: a nation is justified in going to war if 1) the cause is just and realistic (i.e. defense of self or others, the overthrow of an abhorrent tyrant, not starting a war you can’t win, etc), 2) the means are just (i.e. military targets are attacked, civilian casualties are avoided, responses are proportional, etc), and 3) the war ends justly (i.e. the enemy is allowed to surrender, steps are taken to promote cultural recovery for both sides, etc). One of the major problems in modern just war theories has been the issue of civilian casualties. Before the advent of explosives civilian casualties were must more easily avoided, though it still wasn’t perfect. However, with the advent of explosives, air-power, missile warfare, etc along with the fact that most military bases are near or in significant urban centers it has become more and more difficult to avoid large numbers of civilian casualties. Now, while civilian casualties probably saw their height in World War 2, and they certainly did in recorded history, this is still a regular problem.
So, here is your challenge today. Write me a 1000 word story presenting and defending your answer to the following question: how do we determine ‘acceptable’ civilian casualties in war?

Remember to do your best to be realistic in your response. Simply saying: ‘it’s never okay for civilians to die’ is essentially the same as saying ‘war is bad, let’s stop doing that.’ It’s a nice sentiment, but its just not going to happen while man rules the earth.

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