VIDEO: Online Debate: Can War Ever Be Justified

By World BEYOND War, September 21, 2022

Debate set up by World BEYOND War on September 21, 2022, International Day of Peace.

Arguing that war can never be justified was David Swanson, an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of World BEYOND War and campaign coordinator for Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He hosts Talk World Radio. He is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and U.S. Peace Prize recipient.

Arguing that war can sometimes be justified was Arnold August, a Montreal-based author of three books on US/Cuba/Latin America. As a journalist he appears on TelesurTV and Press TV commenting on international geopolitical issues, is a Contributing Editor for The Canada Files and his articles are published world-wide in English, French and Spanish. He is a member of the International Manifesto Group.

Moderating was Youri Smouter, host of 1+1, a topical history and current affairs program on his YouTube channel 1+1 hosted by Yuri Muckraker aka Youri Smouter. He is based in Southern Belgium and is a left-wing media critic, NGO critic, anti-imperialist, an advocate for Indigenous solidarity and a Native Lives Matter movement and socially liberal thinker.

Doing tech support and timekeeping and polling was WBW Organizing Director Greta Zarro.

Participants on Zoom were polled at the beginning and end of the event on the question “Can war ever be justified?” At the beginning 36% said yes and 64% no. At the end, 29% said yes and 71% no.

3 thoughts on “VIDEO: Online Debate: Can War Ever Be Justified”

  1. Thank you for the very interesting debate. I did not expect so much focus in the Ukraine war, which I was pleased by, and certainly did not expect one of the debaters to argue that the Russian invasion was justified, which he did quite well. I attended the live debate and then watched the recording and took notes. Mr. Swanson’s alternatives to the invasion was what I focused on. Here is a synopsis and my thoughts and questions.

    Alternatives to Russian invasion of Ukraine:
    1. Doing nothing, and defying everyone’s expectations of an invasion.
    2. Relocating oppressed minorities of Eastern Ukraine
    3. Giving more than $29 to Ukrainian refugees
    4. Requesting UN to hold elections in Crimea to determine if they want to join Russia
    5. Could have joined International Criminal Court and asked it to investigate the crimes in Donbas
    6. Could have sent into the Donbas many thousands of non violent protectors and asked the world to help them

    1. Since Ukrainian were massing troops on the Donbas border doing nothing would not be an effective response, and most would not feel it a responsible one. A similar situation occurred within Moldova in 1991 and Russia responded and the conflict was resolved quickly. The Transnistrians credit Russia with averting a bloodbath.
    2. Does David mean relocating all Russian speaking citizens to Crimea? Not sure how easily that could have been done, but perhaps it was a better option than what has ensued. Not clear how many Russian-speaking Ukrainians would agree to be relocated.
    3. Yes, good idea, but that would not have defused the conflict.
    4. Not sure how trusted the UN is by Russia, but even if they held the elections and Crimea voted to separate from Ukraine I don’t think the Ukrainian government would accept that as a legitimate election any more than if the UN held elections in the newly annexed regions. They argue against holding referendums after Ukrainian-speaking citizens have fled.
    5. Trust factor with the ICC is even lower than UN. The ICC has never ruled against a Western power. Africans complain, rightly so, that it has targeted African countries and left Western nations untouched.
    6. This is an interesting idea. May well have worked if enough volunteers went. That would be quite a brave act to volunteer to go unarmed into a region that is being targeted for an invasion.

    The above suggestions only deal with resolving the violent civil war within Ukraine. They do not address the NATO expansion. I don’t see how any of those steps would have influenced NATO to agree that Ukraine should be kept as a neutral country, a point that Putin made again and again as one of the reasons for the invasion. Nor was it simply that the Ukrainian army was amassed at the border of Donbas. They were also being supplied and trained and advised by NATO, even then.

    I would like to hear a nonviolent solution. I suppose one was something that was recently floated by the Russians themselves. They would place nuclear missiles in Cuba. That did bring about negotiations last time it happened, but I don’t think many of us want to endure another Cuban missile crisis.

    I think Putin acted in a way that any other leader of a major power would have acted facing a similar threat. That, of course, doesn’t make it correct. The leaders of major powers are not to be mistaken with moral paragons. I am curious to hear what others suggest he might have done?

      1. That is an interesting list. Some of the incidents I am familiar with. However, none of them that I could ascertain apply to a situation where a hostile power is placing nuclear weapons at your border, thereby reducing the response time and making the world less safe for all. Combine this with NATO’s refusal to disavow first use of nuclear weapons, the extensive anti-Russian rhetoric, and the use of nuclear weapons by one of its members and the cause for concern is not superfluous. The link concerning Ukraine was devoted to a Ukrainian non-violent response, I saw nothing about a non-violent Russian response, but I have not read it carefully. Perhaps if you know a page number. Understand , I am not talking about the conflict between the Russian-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking population, but a nonviolent method for convincing NATO to declare Ukraine would not become a member of the alliance , bit remain neutral. Russia many times floated this proposal, but one cannot negotiate with nations that are unwilling to consider your proposals or even come to the table.

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