Daily Archives: December 30, 2010

The Long Shadow: World War II’s Moral Legacy (3. Jus in bello)

[I am posting rough drafts of the chapters from a book I am writing about World War II and its moral legacy. My hope in posting these chapters is that I might receive helpful counsel. So, please, read the chapters and let me know what you think. All comments, questions, and challenges are welcome and will be most useful as I revise the chapters this winter and spring.]

3. Jus in bello: The conduct of the war

Ted Grimsrud —12/30/10

Jus in bello criteria

In moral reflection on warfare in the western tradition, generally analysis is broken into two general categories. Political philosopher Michael Walzer describes these categories as follows: “War is always judged twice, first with reference to the reasons states have for fighting, secondly with reference to the means they adopt. The first kind of judgment is adjectival in character: we say that a particular war is just or unjust. The second is adverbial: we say that the war is being fought justly or unjustly. Medieval writers made the difference a matter of prepositions, distinguishing jus ad bellum, the justice of war, from jus in bello, justice in war….Jus ad bellum requires us to make judgments about aggression and self-defense; jus in bello about the observance or violation of the customary and positive rules of engagement.”[1]

In chapter two, I looked at the rationale for the U. S. entering the War, the jus ad bellum. I concluded that the basic criteria of “just cause” may arguably be seen as having been met. In the European War, the violence of Nazi Germany provided several bases for warfare being the appropriate response: “an injustice demanding reparation,” “offense committed against innocent third parties,” and “moral guilt demanding punishment,” among others.[2] In the Asian War, Japan provided the key basis for the response of war, “an aggression demanding reparation.”

I did suggest that the American mythology of World War II, established at the very beginning of the U.S. formal entry in the War with Franklin Roosevelt’s “day of infamy” speech, masks numerous complicating factors that made the “just cause” bases for America joining the War a bit more complicated than the mythology of the “good war” would admit.

The mythology asserts (not inaccurately) that the U. S. had more legitimate causes for going to war in World War II than probably any other war. However, this assertion may actually be making more a statement about the lack of justifiability in going to war in the other cases than the clear justness of entering this particular war. That being said, though, I am willing to accept that as far as the just war tradition goes, even though America’s entry into World War II does not match up perfectly with the traditional criteria—the most obvious tension lies with the crucial criterion of “war must be a last resort”—we do not do violence to just war thought to accept that United States entry into World War II was “just.” Continue reading

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Word and Deed: The Strange Case of John Howard Yoder

Today is the thirteenth anniversary of the death of the Christian theologian who has influenced my thinking more than any other—John Howard Yoder. Yoder’s published writings, beginning with The Politics of Jesus down through the recently published posthumous collection, The War of the Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking have provided the intellectual bases for my pacifism as well as many other of my core convictions. However, his legacy is seriously tainted by allegations of sexual misconduct. So I am left with a puzzle—how to reconcile the theology that has helped me so much with practices that seem repugnant and that surely contradict that powerful theology. Here is a kind of tribute I wrote shortly after Yoder’s death that only briefly touches on this problem. I have continued to reflect on these issues and want to share a bit of my more recent thinking here.

Yoder’s books were the main catalyst in my wife Kathleen and me first seeking Mennonites out back in the 1970s. His presence at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary is what took us to northern Indiana as students in 1980. And our experience at AMBS was the main reason we decided to become Mennonites. Now, these past 30 years have seen a lot of stresses in our relationship with the Mennonite world. Still, our joining up with Mennonites has and continues to define so much in our lives—and it’s hard to imagine that happening without our encounter with Yoder’s writing.

My interest in and valuing of the Yoder published corpus remains strong. I recently co-edited A Pacifist Way of Knowing: John Howard Yoder’s Nonviolent Epistemology (Cascade Books, 2010), a collection of Yoder’s fairly obscure writing that touch on epistemology. I also published an article on this theme of epistemology a number of years ago that is not in the book. I have introduced myself at theology conferences as a “Yoderian,” and I probably still would, depending on the context. Continue reading

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The Long Shadow: World War II’s Moral Legacy (2. Jus ad bellum)

[I am posting rough drafts of the chapters from a book I am writing about World War II and its moral legacy. My hope in posting these chapters is that I might receive helpful counsel. So, please, read the chapters and let me know what you think. All comments, questions, and challenges are welcome and will be most useful as I revise the chapters this winter and spring.]

2. Jus ad bellum: The reasons for war

Ted Grimsrud —12/29/10

The storm clouds gather

My father, Carl Grimsrud, graduated from high school in the tiny western Minnesota town of Hitterdahl in 1934. Those were challenging times. On a personal level, just days before high school graduation, Carl’s mother Dora died of cancer. The mid-1930s were the height of the Great Depression. Carl’s father, Carl, Sr., had served for years as a Lutheran pastor in rural congregations mainly made up of farmers whose economic depression actually dated back to the early 1920s and had only gotten worse and worse. Western Minnesota was at the northeastern edge of the Dust Bowl, environmental devastation that gave dramatic visual expression to the economic devastation shaking the Great Plains.

Lurking in the background, but surely in the consciousness of a socially aware person such as young Carl, deeply problematic global political dynamics were foreshadowing profound crises to come. In 1934, Adolf Hitler was in his second year of power in Germany, consolidating his National Socialist dictatorship. Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union was in the midst of government-imposed famine meant to consolidate its power over the Ukraine. Japan’s effort to expand its power in China was building into a full-scale attempt at military conquest. Continue reading

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The Long Shadow: World War II’s Moral Legacy (1. Introduction)

[I am posting rough drafts of the chapters from a book I am writing about World War II and its moral legacy. My hope in posting these chapters is that I might receive helpful counsel. So, please, read the chapters and let me know what you think. All comments, questions, and challenges are welcome and will be most useful as I revise the chapters this winter and spring.]

1. Introduction

Ted Grimsrud—12/28/10

Why I have written this book

World War II was big, maybe the biggest thing ever.

Within the six years of what truly became a global conflict (or, maybe more accurately, a series of conflicts that encompassed the globe), as many as eighty million people were killed. That’s more than the entire population of most of the countries of the world. Many times more people had their lives profoundly traumatized. Countless millions were displaced. We simply have no way to measure or even to comprehend the scale of suffering and destruction the nations of the world unleashed not only onto each other as human beings but also on nature.

Yet, we have not even begun to take the measure of this extraordinary trauma. It’s impact remains present and alive throughout the world. It has shaped the morality of all subsequent generations. For many, especially in the world’s “one superpower,” the United States of America, World War II remains the moral touchstone for understanding the necessity and even moral “goodness” of military force.[1]

My own life, I imagine in typical ways for Americans of my generation, has been shaped by the War—though surely in ways that are fairly minimal in comparison with people from the parts of the world much more directly impacted by the War’s destructiveness. For me, for my generation of Americans, the War’s impact was more subtle—on one level fairly benign, on a deeper level quite morally problematic.

Both of my parents enlisted in the U.S. Army in order to contribute to the war effort. My father, Carl Grimsrud, enlisted in the National Guard in 1941. After Pearl Harbor, he was pressed into active duty. He was stationed in eastern Oregon to guard against a possible Japanese invasion and he met my mother, Betty Wagner. In time, Carl was shipped to the South Pacific where he spent three intense years—he was wounded, he killed, he suffered malaria, but he managed to survive, even to thrive. He received a battlefield commission and reached the rank of captain. As the Army demobilized, he was asked to stay in and make a career of the military, with the promise of further advancement. He said no, not because of any negative feelings about “the Service,” but because he had made a commitment to Betty to return to Oregon and establish a life together. While Carl served in combat, Betty worked as a military recruiter, gaining the rank of Sergeant prior to her discharge. Continue reading

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