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Anne Meeker

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Is war a national right?

First, I would like to clarify a few things:

While, perhaps, there may be or have been wars waged for worthy causes, I don't think anyone would argue that war as a whole is morally right, or the best way to solve international conflicts in every situation.

Also, I'm referring to offensive war, not defensive war or post-war operations. Self defense, nationbuilding, etc., are way easier to argue, I think, re: Dr. Barnett's talk on the future of the United States military. I mean Hobbes' Leviathan.

Anyway, that being said: looking at nationalism, it seems that part of national identity is based on the idea that nations, whatever their governmental structure, have rights as entities--the right to economic involvement with the rest of the world, for example (although I know it gets complicated with trade embargoes, etc). Is war one of those rights? Does a nation have a right to invade another nation? Does it depend on the reasons behind the invasion? Does this right rest with a national coalition, like the United Nations? Has this right ever existed, or will it exist if it doesn't now?

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    Jul 15 2011: Violence is for the vicious and stupid. Bring this argument down to an individual level and it is very clear that violence, for whatever reason, is ugly and wrong. Why is it lent some imagined nobility when it takes place on the scale of nations?

    A politician that instigates a war should have to lead the charge, by which I mean be the first casualty.
    • Jul 15 2011: But what about, say, undertaking a war to remove a brutal despot from power? If it's the lesser of two evils, can individual countries take it upon themselves to make that kind of move? (and I know all the ways this excuse has been misused to cover unjustified wars, but with people like Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc., I think it could possibly be valid. It's a moral question I'm having issues with)
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        Jul 15 2011: It's a difficult one because tyrants will murder their own people and it's hard to do nothing. I just don't think fighting violence with violence will ever solve the problem.
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          Jul 24 2011: But is allowing violence to happen a form of violence in itself? "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"

          I agree with you though, it is a slippery slope. Violence inevitably begets more violence. And war inevitably claims innocent lives, and when that happens you have to question the act no matter how much theoretical prevention of violence the war may bring about.
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        Jul 24 2011: I don't think that being non-violent is doing nothing.

        But having said that, it's quite easy for me to sit in my stable country and talk about non-violence, but that is where we are at in my society.

        Were I forced into a situation and my family was in danger, perhaps all my rhetoric would be useless.

        In the meantime, while I can, I promote making love, not war and try to teach my kids that violence is not an acceptable course of action for any intelligent, good people.
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    Jul 24 2011: Wow, great topic. I view it as a subtopic of the general question: Is it right to use violence to prevent violence? E.g. can I shoot an armed robber as he enters a bank to prevent possible death? Or example of a more eminent threat, can I shoot someone to prevent a violent crime in progress if no alternative exists?

    If you answer yes to either these scenarios, than a logical pathway exists leading to a nation being justified in war. If we agree that we can use force/violence to assert the rights of an individual who isn't able to assert their rights for themselves, then what does it matter who is doing the asserting? The nation is just the vehicle.
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    Jul 15 2011: Even if it is a national right , it violates HUMAN RIGHTS.
    Since when we have nations .................? Why we needed Nations...........?
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    Jul 15 2011: nations don't have rights. only individuals have rights.
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      Jul 24 2011: Hmm, think I agree with your statement! But can a nation act on an individuals behalf to assert those rights if the individual is incapable of doing so?