Is Collateral Damage An Acceptable Part of War?

Collateral damage to civilians is one of the most consistent elements of modern warfare. As bombing attacks continue to take deadlier and more impersonal forms, collateral damage is all but an assumed part of warfare, perhaps not celebrated, but at the same time not really regretted. In the context of foreign conflict, collateral damage is treated as something that simply happens, and no fault is attributed to the forces which cause civilian deaths and destruction to their property. This should not be, “collateral damage” in war is completely unacceptable in all circumstances.

So called “collateral damage” is morally unjustifiable because of the simple facts that civilians are not combatants, and they are not the property of the states which are warring with one another. The persons who are maimed and killed and their property which is damaged do not suddenly become part of either state which is at war simply because the governing body of the area in which they live has determined to battle with another state. These persons belong to themselves in the same way which they did in a time of peace, and have every moral right to their life, their freedom, and their property just as they did prior to the initiation of interstate conflict. Even if Nation A has a justifiable reason to go to war with Nation B, this does not justify causing harm (either intentionally or by neglect) to the citizens of nation B.

Who the specific target of an attack is is irrelevant to the question of whether civilian deaths are justifiable. It’s certainly the case that manslaughter due to neglect is less morally wicked than premeditated murder, but this does not mean that manslaughter is morally upright. Additionally it’s important to remember that the far and away majority of collateral damage in war is not entirely accidental. For example, Florin’s military identifies target X they wish to destroy in Guilder, but they realize they cannot deal with target X without harming bystanders Y, and they determine that destroying target X in Guilder is important enough to justify the harm caused to the civilians of Guilder. This ethical calculus is utterly wrong, however. There is no way to morally compare the value of or right to life of specific persons, each and every one has this right, and it is not suspended just because they find themselves in close physical proximity to an important person or place in a time of war.

It becomes far easier to accept the ethical calculus above when the issue is removed from our view, but what would our reaction be if it happened in our neighborhood? Imagine a police officer engaged in a high speed chase, following fast on the heels of a bank robber who was caught in the act. The police officer drives willy-nilly all over the road in pursuit of the thief, causing several traffic accidents. He still cannot catch the robber, so he begins opening fire on the car he’s chasing. He misses several times, and his shots accidentally kill two pedestrians. Finally one of his bullets takes out one of the tires of the car, and the bank robber is apprehended. Is the police officer a hero in our eyes? Of course not, he killed two innocent bystanders and caused massive property damage to persons who had nothing to do with the crimes of the robber. Change the players in this hypothetical to a terrorist being chased and a military following after him, and move the setting to the middle east, and all of the sudden we find it perfectly alright. There is a serious inconsistency here, and it needs to be addressed.

Even though it is clear that collateral damage is completely unethical and unacceptable when removing the personality of individuals from the scenario, this cannot be done in the real world. Every civilian who dies due to collateral damage of an attack is a human being, one who has rights to his own life, one who has friends and family, one who has his own life to live that is completely separate from interstate conflict. The poor man whose situation requires him to live in a bad neighborhood is no more consenting to be mugged by a common thug than the civilian who lives in a region whose government is at war with another is consenting to be killed by a member of a military.

So called “collateral damage” causes the loss of real, human lives, and damage to the property of real human beings. Turning questions of how to wage war into a moral budgeting spreadsheet where the only goal is to make sure you kill more actual bad guys than you do civilians is not the solution. One civilian casualty is infinitely too many, and there is no moral justification for collateral damage in warfare.


Love God And Do What You Want

do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” This text from 1 Corinthians is definitely in the running for the most ripped out of context and misused verse in the New Testament. It is often (mis)used in order to condemn any number of acceptable Christian practices, from alcohol consumption, to eating genetically modified foods, to smoking tobacco, etc. The text is also used as more generally as a proof text for why Christians ought to exercise, eat healthy, and care for their bodies well out of an obligation to God.

While one could make the case that there is some level of obligation for Christians to pursue good health, there is no biblical support for a mandated form of Christian asceticism in order to maintain bodily health. That is not the main issue in this text, and it’s time to stop ripping it out of context and using it to promote this idea. This quote is from the end of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 6 regarding sexual morality, this argument being particularly focused against the Corinthian believers who were continuing to visit temple prostitutes. If we wish to use this text to forbid a particular bodily sin, perhaps we should, you know, use it to forbid sexual immorality. Crazy idea.

Using Paul’s injunction against sexual immorality as a means to forward one’s particular hobby horses is a bad, bad idea. Olympic weightlifting is a wonderful sport, but I would have a very hard time convincing you from this text that you should learn how to perform a technically proficient snatch, because Paul is not commanding anything, he’s forbidding sexual immorality. Avoiding drunkenness is a good and biblical idea, but you’d have a terribly hard time supporting avoidance of alcohol from this text, particularly in light of the rest of the testimony of scripture regarding it. Why? Once again, because it’s not what Paul is dealing with here. Context is important.

The body of any Christian is truly the temple of the Holy Spirit, and to deny that would be completely contrary to the testimony of scripture. However, to use this text as a means to create some sort of ascetic understanding of the body, diet, and exercise is completely outside of the purpose and usage of the text. Using this text as means to forbid various bodily pleasures also goes completely against the surrounding context of Paul’s continued argument against the gnostic heresy which was present and taking hold on some of the church at Corinth. Don’t be a practical gnostic. Love God, and do what you want. If what you want is smoking tobacco, drinking wine, or eating french fries, then do so. If what you want is to lift heavy things, run marathons, or simply enjoy a recreational sport, then do that. God gave you these things to make your heart glad. The point Paul is making in this text is not specifically for or against any of these things, he’s just against visiting temple prostitutes. Love God, do what you want, and stop ripping bible verses out of context to further justify your lawful hobbies or condemn the lawful hobbies of others.

Why Chewing Gum Should Be Illegal

no chewing gums sign

The use of chewing gum has long been a controversial topic, and the debate over its merit and uses is not likely to end soon. While the pro chewing gum lobby currently holds the upper hand, it is of vital importance that the sale, purchase, and use of chewing gum should be made illegal at the federal level and in all fifty states. Here are five reason why chewing gum should be illegal:

1) Chewing gum can be extremely addictive. While some pro-gum lobbyists may claim that chewing gum has certain mental health benefits we all know that even if these benefits are real, the potential of becoming addicted to chewing gum is far more dangerous to make the possible benefits worthwhile. People would be liable to destroy their lives through incessant chewing of gum, and even if it didn’t wreak havoc on their personal health, their finances would suffer terrible.

2) Chewing gum is a gateway to any number of other bad habits. It always starts off with just one stick of Wrigley’s Doublemint, and degenerates into something worse. When the gum chewer runs out of his stash, he is liable to move onto trying to chew other things to satisfy his appetite, such as his fingernails, or (in some extreme cases) table legs. It doesn’t stop there though. Chewing gum with sugar in it can also lead to a dangerous sugar addiction, fed by candy, soda, and other foods, ultimately leading to horrific tooth decay, obesity, and even type 2 diabetes.

3) Chewing gum makes you rude and stupid. There’s a reason why chewing gum is often associated with rude and airheaded people. Chewing gum in public is extremely rude, and this one infraction leads to the degeneration of all other sorts of manners and common decency. We also can tell based off observing the flighty and unintelligent behavior of many gum chewers that there is a causal link between the two. Remember, correlation always equals causation, and that remains true in this scenario.

4) Chewing gum is bad for society. Even if gum chewers only chewed in the privacy of their own homes, their behavior still makes the rest of society confused and uncomfortable. If we cannot maintain the solidarity of society against gum chewing, how can we do more important things like fighting the war on obesity, or making sure that Burger King doesn’t run off to Canada?

5) Making gum chewing illegal is good for the economy. All the money that people spend on gum could be spent on more important and useful things, like cell phones, or coffee. Even if that money doesn’t immediately flow back into the economy, think of all the jobs that could be created and maintained in the prison system if chewing gum were illegal. Even though we know making things illegal is a sure way to keep 99% of the population from doing them, the other 1% will keep on, and when they are inevitably caught, they can be shipped off to prison. If chewing gum were legal, there would less prisoners, and there would be less jobs for prison guards.

By locking up these immoral, stupid gum chewers, we can ensure that they don’t harm society, that they don’t pick up other bad habits, and that their rudeness and stupidity will only affect their fellow gum chewers, all while providing a living for prison guards, and the police that bring the gum chewers to justice. If it means a loss of freedom for the gum chewer, so be it. The greater good is always worth it, plus we know that this will ultimately help gum chewers and dealers to turn their lives around towards more productive pursuits, like alcohol consumption.

Disclaimer: This piece is poorly written satire. It is not the conviction of the author that the state should legislate what people may or may not put in their bodies. This post is used to point out the flaws in the logic of those in favor of legislating the medical or recreational use of drugs.