Is war an inevitable and inescapable reality of the human condition? Far from it. Rather, like other forms of institutionalised violence that humanity has made great strides toward eliminating, war can and should be abolished. Not only does it result in the death of innocents (both soldiers and civilians), it also perpetuates far greater evils than it eliminates, including lawlessness, social disorder, and dehumanising attitudes toward others. While arguments in favour of the judicious use of warfare (such as Catholic teaching in just war theory) often rely on what seem like “commonsense” or realistic attitudes toward the necessity of violence in an imperfect world, other forms of institutionalised violence, such as vendettas and duels, slavery, and lynching, were also often accepted as commonplaces in American society. Through a gradual and reinforcing process of changing social attitudes as well as public policies, humanity can move toward the eventual elimination of war as an acceptable form of violence just as it has moved, albeit slowly and unevenly, toward the abolition of these other forms of institutional violence. A patient, consistent, and multidimensional global effort can weaken the impulse toward war, and eventually consign war to humanity’s past.
David Cochran teaches politics and directs the Archbishop Kucera Center for Catholic Intellectual and Spiritual Life at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. His primary areas of teaching and research are religion and politics, multiculturalism and democracy, and the morality of war. His most recent book, co-authored with Clarke E Cochran, is The Catholic Vote: A Guide for the Perplexed (Orbis Books 2008).
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