The Debate on the Just and Un-Just of Wars

Is War Ever Justifiable?

Peter Kilner and David Swanson came to the Bonnie auditorium this past Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, to debate what is “just” in war and if there’s any real reason for having one.

The debate began with Kilner stating that this was not a debate between pro-war and antiwar, instead, Kilner says, “I am not pro-war. We are both anti-war, granted in a different way. I say that war can be justifiable in certain circumstances and as a pacifist, he [Swanson] says war is never justifiable.”

Kilner goes on to say, “Don’t think that I am pro-war. I have had many of my students killed and my friends killed. I am not pro-war. War is not good, but in a certain situation it is the right thing to do.”

Kilner’s background goes as far as 28 years in the Army as an infantryman and professor at the U.S. Military Academy. He got his degrees from Penn State for a Ph.D. in education and a master’s degree in philosophy from Virginia Tech. Kilner also is a graduate of West Point.

He continues his speech with how war is a crime, which usually happens when someone somewhere does something wrong “usually in political leadership” he mentions, it is often the one percent he refers to in an analogy about sheep and wolves.

Meaning that “There is a problem with evil in this world, as much as 98 percent of us would like to all get along, there’s always that minority who will not just get along,” Kilner said.

In his conclusion to his analogy of sheep and wolves, Kilner says that the sheep are the 98 percent of the population that “just wants to get along,” and the wolves are that one percent of what’s left over. There’s not much the sheep can do if the wolves break the rules, but that is why there are sheepdogs to stop them.

“We have human rights…and based on our human rights, which give rise to our communal rights, we have rights also to defend ourselves against other countries,” which, as Kilner puts it, his primary stance.

The close-knit audience claps and Swanson steps up to the stage and thanks, Kilner on his speech.

Swanson starts off by saying that must of what Kilner is saying is theoretical.

Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is the director of, his books include, War is a Lie and War is Never Just.

He also has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize multiple years in a row, for example, 2015, 2016, 2017. He also holds a Masters Degree in Philosophy, from UVA.

Swanson expected Kilner to go into the wars that he would think that Kilner would say were justifiable.

“We have heard the Gulf War. Last Resorts. Nothing else we could have done, they were “just,” humane and good wars,” Swanson derisively says “Iraq, before the Gulf War, was willing to negotiate a peaceful settlement. It proposed that Israel would also withdraw from the Palestinian territory while Iraq withdraws from Kuwait. They proposed weapons of mass destruction-free zone for the Middle East.”

“Oh how horrible that would have been,” Swanson sarcastically says. Continues with, “The United States preference was for war.”

He talks about who has the right to say if a war is justifiable or not because it can’t be the U.S. or even an individual soldier on the battleground. Just because his actions may be “just” then, doesn’t mean the war itself is “just,” Swanson sates.

The debate goes on for about an hour and 30 minutes ending with a Q&A where the audience member came up eagerly to the mic to tell about their own experiences with war, crime, and the faults of everyday life.

Time was running up on the debate, but it appeared that the audience members were too much into it to stop. Swanson and Kilner personally pulled aside people after the two-hour debate to answer more questions they might have had.

In the end, the staff pulled down a screen projecting a poll of what their opinion, or if it changed, on if war was justifiable or not, which they voted on using their smartphones.

The results stated that the audience was mostly divided between the question of whether war is justifiable or not and with only a small amount not sure.


*This article originally published on The Tartan*

2 Replies to “The Debate on the Just and Un-Just of Wars”

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