For centuries, people have argued about when a nation is justified in going to war.
The earliest roots of what now is called Just War Theory predate Christianity and grow out of Hinduism and its epic Mahabharata. Over the centuries various takes on this have been offered by both religious and non-religious authorities until today there's a fairly widely accepted model that University of Kansas law professor Raj Bhala uses in this recent column he wrote for Bloomberg Quint.
But Bhala isn't writing about military battles. Rather, he's responding to the reality that the term "war" now gets attached to lots of things, including efforts to eliminate poverty and drug abuse and to what President Donald Trump's policies and the policies of other nations may be moving the world toward -- a trade war.
It's the trade war that Bhala subjects to Just War Theory, a really interesting way to think about it that I hadn't considered before.
"Applying the wisdom of the ancient Hindus, early Christians and modern philosophers. . .," Bhala writes, "America fulfills three of the six criteria of the Just War Theory" in regard to a potential America-China trade war. (Italics are his.)
Bhala concludes that there is a just cause for a trade war, that it would be led by a competent authority (the U.S. government) and that it is being used as a last resort after many efforts to get China (and others, but mostly China) to behave properly when it comes to trade.
The moral question, of course, is whether satisfying half of the criteria can justify embarking on a trade war. Batting .500 in the big leagues of baseball will win you a nobody-else-close batting crown and maybe a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But baseball is designed to be a game of failure. The rest of life? Not so much.
And Bhala's conclusion is pretty nuanced:
"Admittedly," he writes, "Trump is as unsympathetic a Commander in Chief as America has ever had, even less so after the remarkable March 25 CBS 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels. But, jus ad bellum — the right to go to war — should be analysed based on facts, not personalities.
"In American trade AD-CVD (anti-dumping and countervailing duties) and safeguard law, tie votes at the six-member International Trade Commission go to the petitioner. Carrying through this analogy, with three Just War Theory criteria in favor of, and three against, a Sino-American trade war, the tie supports President Trump.
"Sticking to the pure theory, all six criteria must be met for this war to be ‘just’. They aren’t.
"But maybe the three that are satisfied are all the inspiration from the Mahabharata and Saints Augustine and Thomas that Trump should need."
If I were president I'd want a stronger case than 50 percent. My guess is that Trump in this case has given no consideration whatsoever to Just War Theory as it relates to trade wars. Which would mean that on that score he's batting .000, which in baseball will soon get you sent to the minors or an unconditional release.
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FINALLY DEFINING ISLAMOPHOBIA
The term "Islamophobia" gets tossed around rather casually and frequently, but there's not much agreement on just what it really means and about the history of anti-Islamic thinking in the U.S. Well, until now. A law professor has written a new book in which he explores this topic in detail. This RNS story will tell you about it. And, no, the law professor isn't the one I've quoted above. But this may be the first post in my 13-plus years of writing this blog that two law professors have shown up on the same day. The Islamophobia book, by the way, is called American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear.