Monday, June 2, 2014

jus in bello and jus ad bellum

Does Neve Gordon confuse jus in bello with jus ad bellum? When told, as a reservist, to talk about human rights to soldiers, Neve Gordon was handed the following scenario (from today's CHE):

soldiers were seen evacuating Palestinian residents from a house in the West Bank minutes before bulldozers demolished it. The plot focused on a soldier who took a knife from the house during the evacuation. The soldiers were then asked: Was it all right to take something from the house, since the structure would be destroyed within minutes? As one soldier put it, the knife would be useless after the demolition anyway, so why not take it? Following a discussion highlighting several perspectives, the film concluded that pocketing the knife, despite the extenuating circumstances, was an act of looting and consequently forbidden.
The film focused on the ethics of taking the knife, but it ignored larger questions—not least the morality of demolishing Palestinian homes. The recent articles about Ariel University do the same. They pass over the wider context and therefore end up obfuscating the central ethical questions at stake.
But the morality of demolishing homes is not a question for soldiers. The army's goal is not to make every private a strategist, with the freedom to decide whether or not and how to obey orders, but rather to make them soldiers who do not violate the ethical codes within the parameters of their responsibilities. Any army would be ill advised to train every one of their soldiers to think about the morality of war in general. That misses the point of their job, just like Gordon seems to.

Should a soldier come into the military with a preconceived version of what wars, if any are just, that is a different matter. But is that a military's responsibility?

What do you think? Did I miss something or did he?

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