Wednesday, May 5, 2004

dien bien phu

it's funny. when i first saw this article on, nothing came to mind. i remember the name and knew that it was in vietnam. then, i read the story and was reminded, but gosh, i didn't know nearly enough.

first, how did 20,000 people die in that battle? granted, the battle was not just a "battle," but rather 60 days of fighting - but 20,000 people?! does anyone else find this incredulous. maybe it's because i'm used to modern worlds where few people die, few wars are fought on homelands, and colonialism, for the most part, no longer exists.

now that i think about it, there have been a lot of war or conflict commemorations lately, or that are upcoming. the anniversary of tiananmen square is coming up. rwanda was 10 years ago. iraq started one year ago. i don't know what to make of all of this. all i can say is that lately, i've realized that i've become some sort of pacificist. most, if not all, types of violence get to me much more than they used to. i guess it all happened after i took a class at uc berkeley on leadership and ethics. it was an awesome class and the part that i remember most and that i find is most significant in changing my view of the world is war and ethics.

as an intro to what was taught in that class (and yes, i'm a bit rusty, so feel free to chime in)... in just war theory, there are two things that are used to evaluate a "just war." jus ad bellum and jus en bello. jus ad bellum is having just reasons for going to war and jus en bello is conducting a just war. i'll use the current war with iraq that the united states is currently involved in. a lot of the reasons as to why people oppose the war in iraq is because the united states was not going to war for "just" reasons. my main objection, along with others', is that pre-emptive strike against a country that does not pose an imminent threat to either the country starting aggression or to the international community is not just. though people could argue the other side in saying that iraq did pose an imminent threat to the united states or to the international community (however, evidence on that is thin and has been misconstrued to the point where any evidence is dubious). to illustrate jus en bello, some can argue that the way that iraqi prisoners of war have been treated by american troops is not just. prisoners of war are granted rights, as accorded in the geneva convention, and those rights have been violated.

in summary, a "just war" must be just in its reasons and just in its conduct. however, after taking the class and thinking about it extensively, my idea of what just reasons are and what just conduct is has become very strict - so much so that most wars, especially modern ones, are unjustifiable, hence my recent pacifist leanings.

i don't know what i'm getting at. i guess just a mini-lesson on just wars. later, i can evaluate international justice and what can be done in terms of reconciliation (e.g. rwanda, south africa) and international aid and equality (e.g. sudan, debt relief, etc.). but that's for another night.

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