What constitutes the definition of war? It can be any conflict involving serious dangers to a country’s sovereignty, people’s freedom and rights. In the medieval times until the early 20th century, warfare involved armed conflicts which were a default foreign policy. Today however, the definition of war has become a subject of discourse and different opinions. It ranges from the Cold War, biological and cyber warfare, trade and tariff wars, civil wars to the very war on drugs and so on. The means of warfare have shifted to much more diplomatic ones with greater potential to destroy a country. So how do the just war principles apply to these wars?
Firstly, we need to understand that the largest and most protracted and devastive wars sparked from smaller conflicts. The Isreal-Palestine conflict, Indo-Pakistan conflicts, US-China trade wars, etc; each one had its own roots which soon aggravated into its present form. What their build up has in common though is a modern warfare structure characterized by propaganda, debt diplomacy and economic power show and misinformation carried through social media platforms and other channels. So, at first they undermine a country’s unity on religious lines and then economically and geopolitically destabalize the country’s government.
At the second stage, they use bio warfare and cyber warfare tactics to the a country’s resources resources further. Finally, the country is bombarded with military conflict, terrorism, etc. The worst sufferers at every stage are the civilians whose sovereignity and lives are threatened. Just war principles have two major components: Jus ad bellum meaning the “right to war” and Jus in bello meaning the “justice for war”. Jus ad bellum deals with the instances where it is justified to go to war. These instances include response to direct attack on the nation’s sovereignity, pre-emptive strike against the attack and preventative attack on an entity.
It prescribes that war should be for a good purpose, authorized by a legitimate authority and with acceptable means of warfare without harming the citizens. Also the damage on both the sides should be proportionately equal. Jus in bello on the other hand deals with he decision making on whether justice was and is served in the war. It provides the framework to judge whether the international standards and rules of war were followed by the country’s forces. If they violate the rules appropriate action could be taken against them.
However, if we go back to the question of what defines war today, the principles simply don’t apply. Firstly, in a trade war, it is the economic capacity of a country which defines its position. Therefore, the businesses and quality of manpower become its strength. However, when developed countries like the US and China use tactics like tariffs and sanctions, it is the common people constituting the businesses and manpower who suffer financially. This is even worse for the developing countries forced to toe the line of the superpowers. A trade war is solely started with the purpose of gaining economic dominance hampering many people’s aspirations in the long run.
Same conditions can be observed in cases of bio warfare, cyber warfare and religious propaganda and misinformation tactics. The first target of all the countries are the people of a country who if divided can cause chaos aggravating war-like conditions. So, in this regard it can be concluded that the Just war principles have become outdated where the “right to war” and “justice in war” are limited to the 20th century military wars. Modern-day warfare requires new principles, measures and procedures.
Invasion of people’s lives economically, mentally, and socially needs to be controlled through redrafted war conventions. In the end, these 5th generation war tactics can only be tackled at a national to regional level where each country must have the liberty to follow its own conventions rather than being forced to follow outdated rules not applying to the modern world.