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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Was the Destruction of Alderaan Consistent with Just War Theory?

Professor Bainbridge has some interesting thoughts, writing that:

While the destruction of Alderaan may be regretable, it seems clearly defensible under this understanding of the ethics of strategic warfare. Indeed, as Tarkin noted, the very purpose of destroying Alderaan is to end the war more quickly. Hence, just as was the case with strategic bombing in earlier times, "the vigorous prosecution of the war" could be justified as an effort to prevent "an even greater loss of human life."

Also, he has his doubts that Leia was telling the truth when she claimed that Alderaan had no military targets. 

Next week:  The Distribution of Darth Vader's estate.  Some key questions: 

  • Does Leia have a claim to a portion of Vader's assets, as an "undiscovered twin"? 
  • May Luke claim a share of Vader's estate, or is his claim barred because of his role in Vader's death? 
  • What sorts of claims may be raised by the heirs of Vader's victims against the Darth Vader estate?
  • Posted by Kaimi Wenger on June 9, 2005 at 11:49 AM in Deliberation and voices | Permalink


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    Tracked on Jun 9, 2005 12:48:35 PM

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    Tracked on Jun 9, 2005 7:14:52 PM


    Darth Vader is not a Gengis Khan figure, as he is not the actual leader of the Empire. Legally speaking, he's the military executor, supreme commander of the Imperial armed forces under the Emperor. To put it simply, he's a soldier following orders (not necessarily a legal defense in international law, as Nuernberg proved, but perhaps Imperial or even Republic law is different). That he has considerable political power and dabbles in political maneuvering does not change this basic fact; countless generals have turned political when their power grew sufficiently.

    Indeed, perhaps a better comparison would be to Flavius Aetius, the "last of the Romans," the Germanic-born general who was for a long time the power behind the Roman throne, and who managed to fight Attila to a standstill. Many in the Empire could see him as such--the Rebels must be, to many, the interstellar equivalent of the IRA or Confederate States of America. Vader is a hero keeping the barbarians at bay--at least, that's how they see him, and that's probably shades of how he sees himself.

    Posted by: Ethan | Nov 21, 2005 8:26:49 PM

    Ahhh ... I leave for a few days and come back to the most interesting of topics. I think we would have some trouble fullyl justifying the destruction of Alderaan as Just War theory. It is important to remember that while there were members of Alderaan who were in opposition to the government, the planet itself had disarmed quite some time ago when Episode IV occurs. Alderaan qua Alderaan was not a threat to the empire and was not actively engaged in a military action regarding the empire. I think the just war theory falls short when all of the facts are taken into account.

    I also question the use of international [or would we be intergalactic/intragalactic] terminology for what is essentially a police action by a government of questionable legitimacy. But that is a lot of writing I am not about to start right now.

    Leia is definitely a pretermitted child if there is some sort of will to be probated. Assuming she can adequately establish paternity, she will have rights to Vader's estate. In a similar vein, Luke should have rights considering his repentance, though if Leia is feeling difficult she could challenge the distribution on Luke's hastening of Vader's death.

    I will also point out that Vader must be held personally reliable for any of his victims to have rights. Now, assuming that we are not able to pull a defense of Duress of otherwise show that Palpatine was clouding Vader's mind, Vader's estate may be liable to the extent that he left anybody alive in his rampages. Now, this gets us back to the legitimacy of the government ordering the actions. I will see if I can dig up a copy or a crib of the Republic constitution or legal system in the next day or two.

    Kaimi, you have found an area I could talk about for days. This and superheroes interaction with the law.

    Posted by: Joel | Jun 13, 2005 3:00:23 PM

    I'd take issue with Prof. B's apologia for that Stalin, that Hitler, that Mao, that Pol Pot, Vader. Even if we now know how awful, how terrible his childhood was: his mother was sold away, he won a pod race and a minor battle, he got to wander around being a Jedi, he got to date a Senator/former Queen, got to marry her, and had the respect (feigned, if not real) of the Emperor and the Jedi. No wonder he wound up killing all but two of the above.

    Anywho: Vader might have been prosecuting a just war, as the B-man suggests. But, let's look at it.

    Who was he fighting?

    Who's the enemy?

    What are the goals of the war?

    Without being the kind of geek who cares what happened between Ep. III and Ep. IV, let's just guess a few things:
    - the clone wars ended. the robots lost.
    - all the jedi are dead, in hiding, or busy being infants.
    - vader and the emperor have essentially absolute power
    - they're wicked, cruel, love imposing fascistic order, and use war to spread their power.

    I'm sorry, I don't see the likelihood of a just war _anywhere_ here. Did the breakaways- Senator Organa, the other members of the Resistance who become the Rebel Alliance- really threaten the peace and security of the rest of the Empire's (formerly Republic's) citizens?

    This looks like Rome to me. Not in a good period. In one of the nation-burning eras. Vader isn't Bush-as-we'd-wish-him-to-be. He's Genghis Khan, or Torquemada.

    Posted by: eh nonymous | Jun 13, 2005 10:16:00 AM

    What victims of Vader?

    After all, Vader did not command the Death Star -- Tarkin did. Rebels in arms were killed in combat in war. Captain Antilles may have been executed after an interrogation, but as an armed rebel (remember his ship firing upon the Star Destroyer) claiming false diplomatic immunity, the normal and traditional laws of war do allow his summary execution. Kenobi was an armed and resisting rebel when killed in combat. And as best can be told from the films themselves, execution as military discipline is permitted under the Imperial equivalent of the UCMJ. In the original trilogy, the only victim of Vader whose heirs have a plausible claim against Vader are the heirs of the Emperor himself -- and at that, only if the use of force to interrupt the extrajudicial torture and killing of the unarmed Luke Skywalker was excessive.

    Now, in the prequels . . . all the victims of Anakin in Phantom Menace were casualties of lawful war, so no claims there. In Attack of the CLones, the execution of an entire tribe of Tusken Raiders is somewhat hard to defend, but as no survivors were left of an entire tribe, it is unlikely any heirs exist to make claims. Others killed in Clones were armed persons in open rebellion against the Republic, and thus lawful killings.

    That leaves Revenge of the Sith. In the death of Mace Windu, Anakin was preventing an extralegal killing by Mace Windu, and used quite arguably minimum force; that Sidious then killed Windu is hardly Anakin's responsibility, legally. The execution of the Jedi was less excuasable, but as in the case of the Tusken Raiders, one wonders if there are any heirs. As adopted wards raised from infancy by the Order, and without families of their own, it would seem the only likely legal heirs of the Jedi killed would be the Order itself -- and as of Vader's death, the only member of the order is Luke Skywalker.

    That leaves us Count Dooku and the other Separatist leaders, who were unarmed and executed by Anakin extrajudicially. On the other hand, such executions were carried out by Anakin/Vader as an agent of Chancellor Palpatine, the lawful head of government, who was endowed with emergency powers by the Senate. However, if these executions were legal, so was the Emperor's attempt on Luke Skywalker. Of course, given the way the Sith arrange things, it is likely the only heir of Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, legally, was his apprentice Darth Vader.

    So, we accordingly reach the point where, arguably, the only extant heir of the victims of Vader is Luke Skywalker himself.

    Posted by: Warmongering Lunatic | Jun 9, 2005 10:38:21 PM

    1. On the just war theory: Darth Vader is Sadaam Hussein. He treats people just as savagely (remember the whole "choke you with my mind" incident at the beginning of Episode IV?) and must be stopped. The rebels are just as justified in getting Vader by any means necessary. Of course, my son (coincidentally named Luke) told me during Episode V last week that Darth really needed a hug. My Luke is a Restorative Justice fan.

    2. I definitely think that Leia is a pretermitted child, and I'm very proud that I can recall that term at the drop of a hat. Also, since Luke tried to save Vader, he would still be free to inherit. I hope that the Ewoks get some sort of compensation for having the evil empire occupy their territory for so long.

    3. I think the important thing to remember is that Vader/Anakin went to Jedi heaven, but the Emperor didn't. I can guess where he went.

    Posted by: Christine Hurt | Jun 9, 2005 12:29:03 PM

    I think the more interesting question is: what does Darth Vader's estate consist of? I mean, he lost his Star Destroyer after it crashed into the Death Star. His lightsaber fell down the shaft after Luke cut off his arm (and his previous lightsaber, "given" to Luke by Obi Wan, fell down the shaft on Cloud City). Then Luke burned his suit. I'm not sure there's much left to make a claim on.

    Posted by: Ugh | Jun 9, 2005 11:55:56 AM

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