[FOUNTAIN]A Lexicon of Armed Conflict

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[FOUNTAIN]A Lexicon of Armed Conflict

As I dwell on whether an imminent protracted retaliatory American attack is justified, I have come to observe that a number of diplomatic terms originated from Latin words.

Persona non grata means fully unacceptable or unwelcome as a diplomatic representative. Modus vivendi means a temporary compromise or provisional agreement. In particular, diplomatic terms related to war are mostly Latin, perhaps so the bloodbath of the battlefield can be embellished with elegant words. The final notice before a war is ultimatum; justifiable war is bellum justum, legal war is bellum legale. The cause for declaring war is casus belli.

Human history is essentially a history of war. And, as the famous German writer Herman Hesse said, the brief period between wars is history. There have been numerous wars in ancient history, like the Troy War, the Persian War, and the crusades, and the more recent wars, like the Napoleonic Wars, the Opium War, the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War.

The Italian philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli, once said that when it is inevitable, fight is justified, and arms are also sacred when there is no hope besides arms, but war begins when logic reaches a dead end and cannot advance further. So, the Latin word for war is ultima ratio regum, or the final logic of kings.

Historical evaluation of wars or how history values wars depends on casus belli or the justification for declaring a war. There is no war without justification since war always leads to the loss of life or blood. If the cause of war is justifiable, the war becomes a war of righteousness, but if not, the war becomes a war of injustice. At the same time, justifiable war on one side can be an immoral war on the other side, which is the irony of war.

The Crusades were a war of justice for the Christians, but it was an ugly war in the eyes of the Muslims. In any war, killing leads to more killing. When war begins, the cause for war disappears and only victory replaces justice.

If tens of thousands of casualties of innocent people occurs at once because of a terrorist act, this can be casus velli, or enough cause for declaring war.

The United States is about to declare war. War of the 21st century against the new terrorism is certainly not a hot war with obvious enemies and not a cold war, but a gray war.

In the end, it may be asked, how will future generations evaluate the United States' war against a faceless enemy?



The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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