Author Topic: The "Just War" in BattleTech  (Read 168 times)

Dubble_g

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The "Just War" in BattleTech
« on: 17 June 2017, 09:02:11 »
 Here's another thinkpiece on the BTech fiction: to what extent can any of the conflicts portrayed in BattleTech be called a "just war"?

First, let's define what we mean by "just war." I'll take the utilitarian approach: a war is "just" when it is better than the alternatives, i.e. the harm done by war was less than the harm of NOT fighting.

Next, let's deal with the obvious objections, at both ends of the spectrum. On one side: BTech shows us a galaxy repeatedly driven to the brink of destruction by war; no war in the IP is justified. On the other extreme: by focusing on soldiers rather than politicians BTech shows us war as an instrument of policy, neither good nor bad.

However, I'd argue the fiction/fluff does make moral judgements about some of the conflicts, though obviously with multiple writers at work it's not always a consistent message.

Unjust Wars

War of Reunification: The periphery posed no threat to the StarLeague, nor were they particularly oppressive to their own people.

Succession Wars: 1-3 were clearly mere power grabs, involving massive loss of life through the use of WMDs.

What about the fourth war? I'm calling it unjust: yes, Max Liao's regime was oppressive, but it wasn't genocidal. The real objective of the war was to create a corridor between the Suns and Commonwealth, and punish Liao for the attempt on Hanse's life. No real net gain for the people affected: unjust.

Minor conflicts (3039, Canopian-Andurien invasion of the Confederation etc.) are generally unjustified, territorial squabbles rather than attempts to limit harm.

Just Wars

Amaris Crisis: a little hesitant on this one. Yes, Amaris murdered the Cameron family. That's one family. Does revenge really justify the deaths required to reconquer Terra? That said, if you let a tyrant get away with murder, there's nothing to stop him doing it again. In this sense, in order to avoid further casualties as Amaris tried to expand his realm, I'm calling this one justified.

Resistance to the Clan Invasion: Easier to justify, as the war was entirely defensive‚Äč for the IS. The Clan Invasion is unjust: while the damage they inflicted to civilians was minimal (Turtle Bay notwithstanding) there was no net benefit for the people of the IS. They simply swapped a noble aristocracy for a military one.

Bulldog: More ambivalent on this one. The key to justifying it depends (a) on how oppressive the Jaguars were to conquered populations, and (b) theoretical benefits of halting the Clan Invasion for good. Justification (a) seems weak, but (b) is more tenable, so on balance I call it justified.

Jihad/Resistance to the WoB: Probably the clearest case of a just war in the fiction. WoB are an apocalyptic cult that doesn't hesitate to use WMDs and "reeducate" civilian populations.

Scotty

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Re: The "Just War" in BattleTech
« Reply #1 on: 13 July 2017, 22:07:13 »
There's also the fact that Amaris ended up being the unholy spawn of Hitler and Stalin.  The intro fiction of Liberation of Terra Vol II goes fairly far out of its way to illustrate that he was an insecure tyrant that included "torturing the peons" on his hobby list and had an unfortunate penchant for deliberate war crimes against civilians.  Kerensky was a dick, but Amaris was the next best thing to literally satan.

The objective of the Clan Invasion was to remove the stagnant and bloated aristocracy of the post-Star League Inner Sphere, and replace it with a new Star League.  While you can argue that many of the belligerents went into it with ulterior motives, the stated goals of the SLDF-in-Exile's return was definitely "just" by your definitions.
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Dragon Cat

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Re: The "Just War" in BattleTech
« Reply #2 on: 13 July 2017, 22:52:52 »
I agree with Scotty the Liberation books show exactly why the campaign was justified but also necessary Amaris was pure Evil who took pleasure on ills of others.  I cannot think of another main character I'd call that.

Many of the pilot bios during the jihad show minor characters like that though the WoB were mostly mad driven by twisted logic

Clan War I'd call the OZ campaign justified the Homeworlds overkill honestly the Jags would have died either way when the other Clans found out about them losing an OZ.  Huntress was to prove a point

The Dark Age conflicts are more interesting many of the small faction campaigns start off as self defence but as time goes on they are more influenced by the states to the point I'd call the later DA little more than an undeclared Fifth Succession War

Pat Payne

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Re: The "Just War" in BattleTech
« Reply #3 on: 17 July 2017, 18:44:34 »
To add context to the whole debate, here are the classical criteria for a "Just War" (developed through the thinking of St. Augustine of Hippo):

1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; (i.e. there has to be a firm casus belli and grievance that would compel armed conflict)

2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; (i.e. all non-military attempts at resolution must be exhausted unless the nation is under direct invasion)

3. there must be serious prospects of success; (self-explanatory)

4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition" (i.e. "Nuke 'em till they glow like Chernobyl" is not a proportional response).

Dubble_g

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Re: The "Just War" in BattleTech
« Reply #4 on: 18 July 2017, 08:37:29 »
The objective of the Clan Invasion was to remove the stagnant and bloated aristocracy of the post-Star League Inner Sphere, and replace it with a new Star League.  While you can argue that many of the belligerents went into it with ulterior motives, the stated goals of the SLDF-in-Exile's return was definitely "just" by your definitions.

This is a subject I deliberately didn't touch on. You'll note my choice of words "Resistance to the Clan Invasion." I considered the war from the IS perspective.

But since you brought it up, was it a "just war" from the Clan perspective? In the fiction, the Clans themselves are divided on this -- it gets to the heart of the whole Warden vs Crusader schism. In their own eyes then, for some of them it gets a "yes" as a just war.

From the 21st century perspective though, I have to say I find the Crusader position unconvincing. While overthrowing the noble Houses would indeed put an end to the Succession Wars that had killed billions (so harm done by invasion < harm done by inaction), the society the Clans proposed to establish instead featured child-rearing with incredible mortality rates and near-constant ritualized warfare. I can't see how this would have led to less harm than the IS was currently inflicting on itself.

Pat Payne

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Re: The "Just War" in BattleTech
« Reply #5 on: 18 July 2017, 15:40:05 »
But since you brought it up, was it a "just war" from the Clan perspective?

As a thought experiment, let's look at the criteria I posted:

1:  the damage inflicted by the aggressor... must be lasting, grave, and certain: from the Clans' perspective, certainly 300 years of unending and destructive war would count as "lasting, grave and certain" harm, but that raises the question of if Kerensky suspected that was going to happen, why did he still say "screw this I'm outta here" and take 80% of the SLDF? I know the canonical answer is "he was afraid the SLDF would be pulled apart piecemeal to join the Successor States, making the war that much worse," but it still leads to...

2: all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective: This is a complete fail for the SLDF exiles and the Clans going all the way back to Kerensky. There seems to have been little to no serious attempt to nip the problem in the bud before Operation EXODUS was launched (props to Kerensky for going all George Washington and not raising five military coups when the League council stripped him of his post, but STILL...). Then, the Clans launched what was essentially a sneak attack on the Inner Sphere with zero attempt at dialogue or diplomacy at all before smashing through the Federated Commonwealth, Free Rasalhague Republic and Draconis Combine. It wasn't until VSD finally marched his troops all the way to Huntress and then Strana Mechty that someone somewhere in the Crusader Clans finally thought "maybe we SHOULD sit down and talk..." This in itself IMO disqualifies the Clan Invasion as a just war from the Clan perspective.

3. there must be serious prospects of success: With superior tech and doctrine but inferior numbers there was a thin margin for the success of the Clan invasion -- essentially they had to have won in the first few years before the Inner sphere could gain technological parity with them, in which case the invading clans would be swamped in a tide of steel, or as happened the war ground down to a stalemate. They marginally pass this one, as they did have that narrow window of overwhelming technological superiority.

4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated: Turtle. Bay. If they wanted to wear the white hat to the people of the Inner Sphere, glassing a city is not the way to go. (and yes, that was only one of the four-ish initial invading clans, but as nominal allies, the actions of one reflects on them all.)