Timothy N. Baldwin, JD.
November 2, 2011
There are four states of mankind relative to political philosophy: nature, society, peace, and war. The study of these states is crucial to the political scientists’ and concerned citizens’ understanding regarding individual and societal liberty. An abused concept of each state results in disaster--especially the state of war. Given the United States of America’s seemingly constant participation in various wars throughout the world, it behooves us to understand and compare war’s concept in light of Hegel’s and the Enlightenment’s philosophy.
Enlightenment philosophy advocated war only upon just cause, and in those cases, certain formalities were required to ensure nations return to a state of peace as quickly as possible. The justness of a nation’s war against another is based upon The Law of Nations. The United States constitution uses this exact term. Article I, Section 8, Clause 10 says, Congress has the power “to define and punish…Offences against the Law of Nations.”
Make no mistake: the United States constitution was established on those Enlightenment philosophies based on The Law of Nations. Thus, to understand the justness of war—and thus its constitutionality—one must know the principles of The Law of Nations. To an American, “strict attention to the most rigid justice” should be a priority, as was advocated in the philosophy which founded this county.
A. The Law of Nations Is Natural Law For Nations
The Law of Nations is based upon natural law as applied to nations—as compared to individuals within a State, which is governed by constitutional and civil law. Emer de Vattel defines natural law as those laws “God has laid down…that are the most appropriate to man, [and] most advantageous to the good of society in general, and to that of each individual in particular” (Vattel, Essay on the Foundation of Natural Law, Sec. 7). Regarding the U.S. Constitution, God’s creation/natural law is a necessary part of the analysis.
B. Sovereignty and Independence of States Fundamental Premise
One of the fundamental and necessary premises concerning the application of The Law of Nations is the absolute sovereignty each state has in relation to other states. “[T]he state remains absolutely free and independent,” Vattel says, “with respect to all other men, [and] all other nations” (Vattel, The Law of Nations, Preliminaries). The Declaration of Independence mirrors this philosophy in its last paragraph, saying, “all states have a perfect right to those things that are necessary for their preservation (Ibid).
This independence of the State is as important of an element of liberty as any other. “No nation is willing to renounce her liberty: she will rather break off all commerce with those states that should attempt to infringe upon it” (Ibid). Thus, “it does not belong…to other nations to pronounce a judgment on the contested question [of the other state]” (Ibid). Each is independent from each other and not bound to the authority of any other but its own. While a nation may not like the government or actions of another nation, this gives no right of war against them.
Therefore, it cannot be overemphasized how important it is for nations to observe, respect, and not usurp the sovereignty and independence of other nations. To shirk this duty will inevitably heap coals upon our heads—and worse. It further violates the U.S. Constitution.
C. War Not Sought or Desired
Vattel describes war this way: “Whoever entertains a true idea of war,--whoever considers its terrible effects, its destructive and unhappy consequences,--will readily agree that it should never be undertaken without the most cogent reasons” (Vattel, The Law of Nations, Book 3, Ch. 3). To the Enlightenment, a society constituted for war and empire building would not long survive in peace; empire building is not the basis underlying the U.S. Constitution.
“Humanity revolts against a sovereignty,” Vattel says, “who, without necessity…exposes his people to the calamities of war” (Ibid). Such a violator of peace “is responsible to God, and accountable to human nature, for every individual that is killed, for every hunt that is burned down” (Ibid). The Law of Nations’ idea of war is not without serious condemnation against those who war against other nations without just cause and without proper motive.
D. Just War
War is a last resort. It is not used flippantly or just because the power to conquer exists—like Rome. “Force is a wretched and melancholy expedient,” Vattel says, and “it becomes necessary to adopt that mode, when every other proves ineffectual” (Ibid). So, what is a just cause for war?
“[w]e may therefore distinctly point out…the three following—I.
To recover what belongs or is due to us. 2. To provide for our future
safety by punishing the aggressor or offender.
3. To defend ourselves, or to protect ourselves from injury, by repelling unjust violence. The two first are the objects of an offensive, the third that of a defensive war” (Ibid).
2) Motive: while “war may for a time enrich a state, and extend her frontiers, it renders her odious nations, and exposes her to the danger of being crushed by them. Besides, do opulence and extent of domain always constitute the happiness of states” (Ibid, emphasis added).
The motive requirement is the element of the “war on terror” which Congressman Ron Paul denounces regularly. It is known as blowback. This idea of blowback is especially concerning when considering a war that is not declared; has no defined enemy; is undefined itself; is prolonged; purports to pursue “every government” that supports “it”; and whose cause is essentially unknown or confusing to the sovereigns (people) of the state.
“[I]f a nation, on an injury done to her, is induced to take up arms, not by the necessity of procuring a just reparation, but by a vicious motive, she abuses her right…[T]hat war is now no more than a pretext,” Vattel observes (Ibid). Therefore, “he, who, having in reality just grounds for taking up arms, is nevertheless solely actuated by interested views in resorting to hostilities[:] his conduct is reprehensible, and sullied by the badness of his motives” (Ibid).
Naturally, a pretextual war is normally one that appears just. A deceived people will know no better. Only a wise observer can distinguish between pretextual and just war. This is difficult and constant work, especially the more corrupt the government becomes, as it hides incriminating facts and motives to the people.
E. Declaration of War by Sovereign Necessary
One may wonder why the United States constitution requires a declaration by Congress (the people’s representatives) before engaging in war as defined by The Law of Nations. There are many, including the requirement that only the Sovereign has the rightful power to declare war. It’s our money, men, materials, and minds that have to endure war. The Federalist Papers makes this point very clear.
Another very important reasons was expressed by Vattel when he says, “we owe this farther regard to humanity, and especially to the lives and peace of the subjects, to declare to that unjust nation, or its chief, that we are at length going to have recourse to the last remedy, and make use of open force for the purpose of bringing him to reason” (Ibid. Ch. 5). This declaration requirement is designed to “terminate the difference” between the states as quickly as possible and to restore them to a state of peace (Ibid).
Undeclared wars are not legitimate wars and are practically impossible to resolve amicably with a treaty of peace. They are private attacks by government against the authority of the people at home and abroad. They only perpetuate more war and distort the very essence of The Law of Nations. Their burden on a free society is more than costly; it is devastating.
There is only one war which does not require a sovereign declaration: “He who is attacked and only wages defensive war, needs not to make any hostile declaration” (Ibid, emphasis added). All others must—and naturally, letters of marque and reprisal must be of a more limited scope than “perfect” war and cannot replace the requisites of a declaration of war. Those who attempt to compare, for example, the current “war on terror” to the power President Thomas Jefferson received from Congress’ letter of marque and reprisal are simply wrong and are distorting history to justify the United States’ unconstitutional philosophy.
This Enlightenment philosophy stands in sharp contrast to the philosophy of war adopted by many Americans, both democrat and republic, which is reflected not only by those just described above, but also by Congressman Henry Hyde’s statement concerning the now-10-year-and-still-going “war on terror”:
“There are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events, by time. Declaration of war is one of them. There are things no longer relevant to a modern society. Why declare war if you don’t have to? We are saying to the president, use your judgment. So, to demand that we declare war is to strengthen something to death. You have got a hammerlock on this situation, and it is not called for. Inappropriate, anachronistic, it isn’t done anymore.”
It is impossible to reconcile this position with the U.S. Constitution and Enlightenment philosophy. So, where does this philosophy come from? It appears to me, Georg Hegel.
Georg Hegel had a completely different outlook on war than did those Enlightenment philosophers who formed the basis of early American ideology. This naturally comes from the differences of view concerning the purpose of the State (see part 3). To Hegel, war was not based upon justice or natural law; it was based upon the arbitrary will of the state. It could be based upon a mere disagreement. Additionally, Hegel views war as the catalyst to move the nations forward to their destined end-- the spiraling vortex of endless amounts of diverse interests.
Hegel says, “if states disagree and their particular will cannot be harmonized, the matter can only be settled by war” (Georg Hegel, Philosophy of Right, Part 3, Sec. 334). War could be waged upon a slight injury of its “widespread connexions and many-sided interests”, even though “it remains inherently indeterminable which of these injuries is to be regarded as a specific breach…or injury” (Ibid).
To Hegel, war’s justification has nothing to do with a “universal thought” (i.e. natural law). “When politics”, Hegel says, “is alleged to clash with morals and so to be always wrong, the doctrine propounded rests on superficial ideas about morality, the nature of the state, and the state’s relation to the moral point of view” (Ibid).
To Hegel, the purpose of war simply boils down to this:
“It is as particular entities that states enter into relations with one another. Hence their relations are on the largest scale a maelstrom of external contingency and the inner particularity of passions, private interests and selfish ends, abilities and virtues, vices, force, and wrong. All these whirl together, and in their vortex the ethical whole itself, the autonomy of the state, is exposed to contingency…Their deeds and destinies in their reciprocal relations to one another are the dialectic of the finitude of these minds, and out of it arises the universal mind, the mind of the world, free from all restriction” (Ibid).
In short, Hegel finds that the relations of the nations is based upon nothing more than a spinning vortex of endless ingredients of particular interests in competition (thesis verses antitheses), forming a synthesis of new thought and relations. War is not about justice or the like. It is about the particular interests (i.e. nations) getting theirs, which is determined by those leaders in power who control the State. It is a matter of mere discretion and desire.
Liberty for each nation and state rests in its sovereignty and independence not being violated by another state. Liberty cannot be maintained within or without unless each state respects The Law of Nations relative to peace and war. This requires each state to observe not only the natural laws of justice relative to war, but also the formalities of declaring war when it is necessary as a last resort. The United States constitution requires the same.
It is apparent that many in the United States, including most of its politicians, have rejected or ignored the Enlightenment (and thus constitutional) notions surrounding the requirements of war. Just observe the gut-sickening responses given by audiences during Presidential debates as they cheer and clap when talking about America’s wars abroad.
And how many wars or war operations have been perpetrated by the United States against foreign states in violation of these just war principles? More than most people know of. They continue, and Americans seem proud of that.
Ron Paul’s Presidency: A Reflection of Enlightenment and Constitutional Philosophy
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On this ground, it appears that Congressman Ron Paul is the most qualified candidate for President of the United States of America. Our foreign policy must be reevaluated and redirected. America must cease its war-offenses. Foreign nations must be respected, as must the American people who pay for war’s endless costs. Congressman Paul has a solid and convicting grasp of the Enlightenment principles of war. And thus, he applies in most original form, the principles which framed the U.S. Constitution.
If the United States of America is going to maintain its glory, virtue and honor, it must embrace these just war concepts. Otherwise, it is heading in the same direction as Rome—a society constituted for war and empire building.
(Subscribe to Tim Baldwin’s articles by going to www.libertydefenseleague.com and enter your email address in the appropriate box. Also, order Tim’s and Chuck Baldwin’s new book, Romans 13-The True Meaning of Submission at www.Romans13Truth.com)
The following subjects will be further developed.
A. Individual Freedom and State Supremacy (Part 2)
B. Formation and Purpose of the State (Part 3)
C. Interpreting and Applying the Constitution (Part 4)
D. Republicanism and Democracy (Part 5)
E. The People’s Right of Revolution (Part 6)
F. Religion/Church (Part 7)
G. War (Part 8)
Subscribe to Tim Baldwin’s articles by going towww.libertydefenseleague.com and enter your email address in the appropriate box.
A state of nature is where individuals live independently of any body
politic/commonwealth/state. Samuel Pufendorf says, they are “subject
to no one, to do all Things as he lists, and in every thing to consult
his single advantage.” Pufendorf, The Whole Duty of Man, Ch. V,
2. Where men “quit their own natural liberty, and to form themselves into Communities…[to] provide for themselves a Security and Defense against the Evils and Mischiefs that are incident to Mean from one another.” Pufendorf, The Whole Duty of Man, Ch. V, Sec. VII. “[I]t cannot be imagined that men should generally put fetters upon themselves [by abandoning natural liberty], unless it were in expectation of a greater good that was thereby to accrue upon them[;] no more can be required to prove that they do voluntary enter into those societies, institute them for their own good, and prescribe such rules and forms to them as best please themselves, without giving account to any.” Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, Ch. 1, Sec. 12.
3. “Peace is the reverse of war: it is that desirable state in which every one quietly enjoys his rights, or, if controverted, amicably discusses them by force of argument.” Emer de Vattel, The Law of Nations, Book IV, Sec. 1.
4. Emer de Vattel, The Law of Nations, Preface, quoting Cicero.
5. The law of nations is “that system of right and justice which ought to prevail between nations or sovereign states.” It “is, in point of importance, as much superior to the civil law, as the proceedings of nations and sovereigns are more momentous in their consequences than those of private persons.” Emer de Vattel, The Law of Nations, Preface.
6. Note: Algernon Sidney believed that a society constituted for war was preferable to one of peace, using Rome as an example. He thought it would prevent that society from being conquered by a foreign nation’s conquest. Still, he advocated only just wars, not arbitrary wars. See, Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, Ch. 2, Sec. 23.
7. “The right of employing force, or making war, belongs to nations no farther than is necessary for their own defence and for the maintenance of their rights” (Ibid).
8. --“derived from the good of the state, [and] from the safety and common advantage of the citizens. They are inseparable from the justificatory reasons,--a breach of justice being never truly advantageous” (Ibid).
9. For discussion on unjust causes of war, see Samuel Pufendorf, The Whole Duty of Man, Ch. XVI, “ambition and covetousness; those that admit of a faint and imperfect Colour to be pretended in their Excuse; the fear of a Neighbour’s growing Wealth and Power; Convenience of a Possession; Desire of a better Habitation; the Denial of common Favors; the folly of the Possessor; the Desire of extinguishing another’s Title; and many more” (Sec. II).
10. “Legitimate and formal warfare must be carefully distinguished from those illegitimate and informal wars, or rather predatory expeditions, undertaken, either without lawful authority, or without apparent cause, as likewise without the usual formalities, and solely with a view to plunder.” Emer de Vattel, The Law of Nations, Bk. 3, Ch. 3, Sec. 65.
11. In marks and reprisal” situations, the enemy and property at issue must be identified, along with the extent of authority by Congress, which is by nature more limited than a general declaration of war. See, “[H]ostilities may subsist between two nations more confined in its nature and extent; being limited as to places, persons, and things; and this is more properly termed imperfect war; because not solemn [that is, not declared], and because those who are authorized to commit hostilities, act under special authority, and can go no farther than to the extent of their commission.” Bas v. Tingy (1800) (emphasis added). Compare this to G.W. Bush statement concerning the “war on terror”: “Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them. Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” Bush literally describes this war as a “global” war and includes any “radical network of terrorists” and “every government that supports them”. This hardly qualifies for a “marque and reprisal” condition as required by The Law of Nations and U.S. Constitution.
© 2011 Timothy N. Baldwin, JD - All Rights Reserved
Timothy Baldwin is an attorney licensed to practice law in Montana (and Florida) and focuses on constitutional issues. Baldwin graduated from the University of West Florida in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in English and Political Science. In 2004, Baldwin graduated from Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, AL with a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree. From there, Baldwin became an Assistant State Attorney in Florida. For 2 1/2 years, Baldwin prosecuted criminal actions and tried nearly 60 jury trials. In 2006, Baldwin started his private law practice and has maintained it since.
Baldwin is a published author, public speaker and student of political philosophy. Baldwin is the author of Freedom For A Change, Romans 13-The True Meaning of Submission, and Political Discussions for People of States–all of which are available for purchase through Liberty Defense League. Baldwin has also authored hundreds of political science articles relative to liberty in the United States of America. Baldwin has been the guest of scores of radio shows and public events and continues to exposit principles which the people in America will need to determine its direction for the future.
Web site: LibertyDefenseLeague