The Evolution of Warfare: Reassessing Ethical Principles in the Modern Era

  • The conventional just war principles require reevaluation to address the complexities of contemporary warfare.
  • New principles should focus on controlling intrusions into people’s lives economically, mentally, and socially. 
  • Redrafting war conventions becomes imperative to adapt to the challenges posed by fifth-generation warfare.

The concept of war has undergone significant transformations over the years. In the past, armed conflicts were the norm and considered a standard foreign policy. However, in contemporary times, the definition of war has expanded, encompassing diverse forms of conflict, including cyber warfare, trade wars, and even the war on drugs. These modern conflicts pose serious threats to a nation’s sovereignty, the freedom of its people, and their rights.

Throughout history, major and devastating wars often originated from smaller conflicts. Examples include the Israel-Palestine and Indo-Pakistan conflicts, as well as trade disputes between powerful nations like the US and China. These conflicts share a common trait of adhering to a modern warfare structure, leveraging propaganda, economic coercion, and misinformation spread through various communication channels. The progression of such conflicts typically involves sowing division within a country along religious or ideological lines, followed by destabilization of its economy and geopolitical landscape, culminating in outright military confrontations and acts of terrorism. Regrettably, civilians bear the brunt of suffering at each stage, facing threats to their lives and national sovereignty.

The traditional just war principles, encompassing “Jus ad bellum” (the right to war) and “Jus in Bello” (justice during the war), have been the ethical foundation for evaluating warfare. Jus ad bellum focuses on justifications for initiating war, including responding to direct attacks, pre-emptive strikes, and preventative actions. It dictates that war should have a noble purpose, be authorized by legitimate authority, and be conducted with acceptable means that avoid harm to civilians. Moreover, it requires that the damage inflicted should be proportionate on both sides. Jus in Bello, on the other hand, centres on assessing whether justice is upheld during the war and if a country’s forces adhere to international standards and rules of engagement.

However, applying the traditional just war principles to modern-day warfare presents challenges. In cases of trade wars, a nation’s economic capacity becomes the defining factor, with businesses and manpower serving as its strength. Nevertheless, tactics like tariffs and sanctions employed by powerful countries, such as the US and China, disproportionately impact ordinary citizens and hinder their aspirations. Additionally, in scenarios involving biowarfare, cyber warfare, and religious propaganda, the primary targets are the people of a country. Division among the populace can create chaos, leading to the escalation of conflict-like conditions.

Consequently, the conventional just war principles require reevaluation to address the complexities of contemporary warfare. New principles should focus on controlling intrusions into people’s lives economically, mentally, and socially. Redrafting war conventions becomes imperative to adapt to the challenges posed by fifth-generation warfare. Addressing these issues may be best approached at the national and regional levels, allowing each country to develop its conventions, unburdened by outdated rules ill-suited to the realities of the modern world.

(The author is a post-graduate student in International Relations at Kalinga University, Raipur. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.