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Practical Ethics: Casus Belli

HM Solomon I

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This entry of Practical Ethics will be about casus belli, or CBs. More specifically it will be about whether it is ethically permissible to have no casus belli when going to war. For any that do not already know, casus belli is a latin phrase meaning the reason for war. It is the justification used by one party when making war against another party. Casus belli have a long tradition on our world, going back to the first ever war fought amongst alliances, but tradition does not make something ethical or not. Perhaps though, some further reasoning can be found in why this tradition even exists.

CN is a political simulator in so far as it simulates the interactions between nations and groups of nations (read: alliances). More importantly, much of the fun derived from playing this game is from playing politics, speculating on politics, working to change politics, or discussing politics, and most of the rest is made all the more so by politics. Building a nation wouldn't be all that enjoyable if there was no political framework to give it depth and to provide some meaning.

Given this, CBs find a place in our world. If CBs were not ethically required to declare war, then a large chunk of the politics would evaporate from this game as requiring a reason for war is the same as saying that wars cannot be arbitrary. If wars are arbitrary then there is no need for a system behind them: no need for treaties or other formal agreements, no need to scheme, no need think about how war might be started, no way to discuss wars in a political context. Wars would just be a time for fighting, there would be no further context to them. Politics is a system that gives structure to this world and politics cannot exist in a world of arbitrary decisions and arbitrary wars.

So given that politics is a key part of what makes this game fun, that wars cannot be arbitrary for politics to have a real place in this world, and that a lack of CBs in wars makes them, by definition, arbitrary, it follows that for this game to be fun CBs must exist. Those making war must somehow justify their actions for the game to remain fun.

So to paraphrase a favorite English teacher of mine: so what, who cares? How does any of this relate to ethics you ask? Well if you make war arbitrarily, then you take away much of the politics and thus take away much of the fun. Taking away the fun of others is itself ethically impermissible unless you happen to be doing something that outweighs this loss of fun. Now one might claim that war itself is so fun that making it, even arbitrarily, outweighs any other losses that might be suffered. However, this misses the point. Since so much of the fun in this game is tied to the politics, making war without justification ruins the fun of the entire game, and no war can overcome that because, by extension, most of the fun derived from wars is tied to the politics of those wars. Without it there would be no real context, and war without context would be boring and not very fun at all.

Thus, it is not ethically permissible to make war without a casus belli.



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Wow - a ton of opinion and no logic whatsoever to back it up.

You say, "much of the fun derived from playing this game is from playing politics, speculating on politics, working to change politics, or discussing politics, and most of the rest is made all the more so by politics."

- As this world is currently organized, the so called "politics" of the world are limited to alliance leaders only, which is a VERY small part of the overall population. For most alliances, maybe 2 to 5 people. Thus, if it is true that much of "the fun" is derived from politics than this world is only fun for a few people at the top. If that's the case, why any of the rest of us stick around is a very good question.

Thankfully - you're wrong. Some people find nation building fun. Look at the neutral alliances for example and how many nations they have.

Other people find war fun and war here, unlike the current state of "politics" - is something that every nation here can take part in if they wish.

If we're REALLY concerned about ethics what we should do is find a way that satisfies everyone's need for fun - not just those people who like the world as it currently is organized.

"If CBs were not ethically required to declare war, then a large chunk of the politics would evaporate from this game as requiring a reason for war is the same as saying that wars cannot be arbitrary."

- The lack of an community accepted "Casus Belli" does not = an "arbitrary" war. It just means that there is no community accepted STATED reason for it that other people can debate.

An alliance can declare war for whatever reason an alliance wants. Also, alliances are not required to announce a reasoning to the rest of the world. Sure, it's been tradition but the fact that something is "traditional" does not also make it ethical.

Imagine a situation where something happens behind the scenes between alliances and one decides to declare war over it but decides not to give the actual reason in public. Does this fact make the war unethical? No.

Finally, just because there is a stated CB, even one with "evidence" etc. that doesn't make a war ethical. The CB could (as often happened in the past) be a total lie, so called "evidence" can be false or at the very least there are two sides to the conflict and one could be totally misrepresented. In my opinion, it is far more ethical to say there is no CB than to make something up as has often occured in the past.

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I never said it had to be accepted as valid. Even if it's just an attempt at justifying a war, it satisfies the above conditions because then the war wouldn't be truly arbitrary; under the above logic, you'd be ethically required to provide a justification, but you wouldn't be required to provide one that even anyone else would find acceptable. If you have some reason, then it isn't arbitrary (some reason beyond "I felt like it" or the equivalent of course).

It also doesn't need to be publicized either. I said when making war, one needs a reason, I never said it had to be posted anywhere in public, though presumably those directly involved on both sides would know it simply by virtue of them being involved.

I also never commented on whether having a CB makes a war "ethical", I was merely commenting on whether it was ethical to have no CB at all.

And yes, there are neutrals and presumably they find it fun to just build, but without politics what would neutrality even mean. You can't have neutrality in a vacuum, at least some of the fun of being neutral and building ones nation is based on the context provided by politics.

I think you've read a lot more into this piece than was actually there, bringing the typical baggage associated with this topic to bear even when no one else has brought it up. I urge you to reconsider it without this baggage, as I've attempted to do. I don't claim to have been entirely successful, but I don't think all that many have made a genuine attempt to reason without the baggage.

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OP is thinking correctly, although I would tackle the issue from another angle than ethics. The casus belli is one.of the core cultural values of CN civilization, regardless of whether you think the CB is legit an attempt has always been made during significant wars to establish the righteousness of the aggressor.

An alliance which disregards these principles should be considered to be hostile to any alliance which values these shared and ancient cultural values. The would be reformist risks this alienation by nature, and has an uphill battle in convincing the traditional alliance to adopt this new and chaotic state of affairs. Considering that doomsphere has already alienated so many alliances with their physical transgressions of sovereignty I highly doubt this will end well for Doom Squad.

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The thing is, the CB for virtually every major war has been manufactured or forced when it wasn't truly necessary. To put it bluntly, a vast majority of them have been !@#$%^&*, and thus we are all sick of seeing them. The real reasons have been and always will be "for fun, for power, to settle grudges"

At the same time, much of the general populace will only accept defensive wars as justified. (And also at the same time, they get bored and want war).

My question: is it ethical for casuals to do nothing but come in when there is a CB and judge it based on OOC ethics & muh feels?

The noCB DoW is a symptom, not the disease.

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"Because we don't like you" was always a viable CB, in my opinion, and one I had to be talked out of on several occasions. Then again, I think that whatever reason an alliance has to attack another is "viable" as there is no governing body to tell us what constitutes a "viable CB". Of course, when attacking another entity, you need to be aware of the consequences (both militarily and politically) of your actions and be willing to accept them ... especially when you know that your CB is one that won't fly with the community as a whole. I openly admit that when I disliked an alliance, I tried to find ways to attack them. I also didn't want to let go of what the community would consider an "airtight CB" if I had one, even if the other party wanted to make ammends. My alliance came to expect a war every couple of months, and come Hell or high water I was going to give them one. :P

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There have been many wars fought in real life that had no justifiable reason for war. While a CB here is generally required in order to garner favor with ones allies in order to procure defensive and offensive support there is no actual need for a cb.

The CB as it pertains to our current situation is truly a PR tool and nothing more angst it is one that no matter how cut and dry will always be hotly contested by one or more sides in the war.

I for one would not engage in an offensive (alliance wide)conflict without a valid CB but I don't think it is a requirement for one aa to attack another. I may not agree with ds attacking invicta or goons "raiding" micros (yes same thing no matter how you spin it) but I commend them for conducting themselves as a sovereign entity should, how they see fit for themselves.

If only more alliances acted as such and threw their care for pr aside to settle whatever grudges they harbor. This convoluted treaty Web would reset itself.

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I think you've read a lot more into this piece than was actually there, bringing the typical baggage associated with this topic to bear even when no one else has brought it up. I urge you to reconsider it without this baggage, as I've attempted to do. I don't claim to have been entirely successful, but I don't think all that many have made a genuine attempt to reason without the baggage.

The issue that I have with your attempt is that you're taking something that is both outside the realm of the game and also is entirely based on individual preference (i.e. what is "fun" to some people is not necessarily "fun" to others and this is perfectly okay) and you try to use it to argue an ethical stance. It just does not work.

At best, you're taking one definition of "fun" (and there are plenty of people who have other definitions and who would argue that "politics" are the least fun aspect of CN) and arguing as if it's the only one out there when it is not.

I think there are ways to argue effectively that a CB of some sort is a requirement for a war to be ethical. Keeping things "fun" is just not one of them. It's improssible to define fun for anyone but yourself.

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OP is thinking correctly, although I would tackle the issue from another angle than ethics. The casus belli is one.of the core cultural values of CN civilization, regardless of whether you think the CB is legit an attempt has always been made during significant wars to establish the righteousness of the aggressor. An alliance which disregards these principles should be considered to be hostile to any alliance which values these shared and ancient cultural values. The would be reformist risks this alienation by nature, and has an uphill battle in convincing the traditional alliance to adopt this new and chaotic state of affairs. Considering that doomsphere has already alienated so many alliances with their physical transgressions of sovereignty I highly doubt this will end well for Doom Squad.

You may very well want to tackle it from a different angle from ethics, but that is irrelevant to a discussion on ethics unless you are claiming it cannot actually be tackled from the perspective of ethics.

The thing is, the CB for virtually every major war has been manufactured or forced when it wasn't truly necessary. To put it bluntly, a vast majority of them have been !@#$%^&*, and thus we are all sick of seeing them. The real reasons have been and always will be "for fun, for power, to settle grudges"

At the same time, much of the general populace will only accept defensive wars as justified. (And also at the same time, they get bored and want war).

My question: is it ethical for casuals to do nothing but come in when there is a CB and judge it based on OOC ethics & muh feels?

The noCB DoW is a symptom, not the disease.

Even if their real reason is to settle grudges or to gain power that's still a reason. Just to have fun wouldn't be a reason though since that's effectively the same as declaring war because one feels like it. The reason has to be or involve something external to the person feelings of those making war since making decisions based entirely on one's own feelings is arbitrary. Here one could define arbitrariness as a condition which exists when no one could reasonably understand the motivations behind a decision. Doesn't mean they do, it just means they could (and no one can ever truly understand the personal feelings of another since they do not themselves experience them).

"Because we don't like you" was always a viable CB, in my opinion, and one I had to be talked out of on several occasions. Then again, I think that whatever reason an alliance has to attack another is "viable" as there is no governing body to tell us what constitutes a "viable CB". Of course, when attacking another entity, you need to be aware of the consequences (both militarily and politically) of your actions and be willing to accept them ... especially when you know that your CB is one that won't fly with the community as a whole. I openly admit that when I disliked an alliance, I tried to find ways to attack them. I also didn't want to let go of what the community would consider an "airtight CB" if I had one, even if the other party wanted to make ammends. My alliance came to expect a war every couple of months, and come Hell or high water I was going to give them one. :P

Because we don't like you is a reason if you have a reason not to like them other than it simply striking your fancy (as per the reasoning I gave above). Even if it's just that they're a threat and you want to silence said threat.

More importantly, I never claimed to be arguing for what constitutes a "viable CB". I am only concerning myself here with whether one ethically needs any CB at all to declare war.

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The issue that I have with your attempt is that you're taking something that is both outside the realm of the game and also is entirely based on individual preference (i.e. what is "fun" to some people is not necessarily "fun" to others and this is perfectly okay) and you try to use it to argue an ethical stance. It just does not work.

At best, you're taking one definition of "fun" (and there are plenty of people who have other definitions and who would argue that "politics" are the least fun aspect of CN) and arguing as if it's the only one out there when it is not.

I think there are ways to argue effectively that a CB of some sort is a requirement for a war to be ethical. Keeping things "fun" is just not one of them. It's improssible to define fun for anyone but yourself.

It is absolutely not impossible to define fun for anyone but yourself because of context. Politics is merely the term we assign to the context in which we play this game: the structure of the world in which interactions occur. Without context, there can be no fun.

Picture this as a thought experiment: You are in a white walled room. There is nothing that you can see except one rubber ball. You start bouncing the ball against the wall, and you quickly realize that nothing changes and nothing happens except the ball coming back to you repeatedly. Then you find yourself in another room exactly the same in every way except that now when you begin to bounce the ball, the wall changes and begins to split into sections and move about. The ball bounces differently each time as the wall moves around to change angles and surfaces.

Which room would you prefer? I would guess that nearly everyone would say room two, and those that don't are merely being facetious or intentionally obtuse. Politics is the moving wall sections, it causes the same action to have different responses depending on the exact circumstances (how the wall is arranged at the precise moment). This context is omnipresent, and I'd say that it may be a lot harder to separate out from this game than one might think. Even neutrals experience this context though maybe to a lesser extent; in any event, neutrality is defined by the context in which it is practiced. Different context would change the response to an assertion of neutrality.

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Just because there is no justification from the war does not mean there are no reasons for it and it is divorced from political reality. There are politics in this game and lots of alliances competing to push their own agenda.

It so happens that DS have managed (better than invicta) to reach a place not before reached in CN history-namely the place of having the ability to act against certain alliances without needing a justification. I find this very interesting as there are two possible actions for those that dislike this;

1. Fight back, and hope to win support for their cause on a moral ground

2. Not fight back, and hope to build a new sphere around a moral cause.

Or 3. Do nothing and slowly fade from significance

Options 1 or 2 both involve actual political work (so the power of persuasion and the power of ideology rather than cold gameplay and a fake justification). That sounds fun to me as we get to see a proper upfront consequence of conflicting morals.

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Picture this as a thought experiment: You are in a white walled room. There is nothing that you can see except one rubber ball. You start bouncing the ball against the wall, and you quickly realize that nothing changes and nothing happens except the ball coming back to you repeatedly. Then you find yourself in another room exactly the same in every way except that now when you begin to bounce the ball, the wall changes and begins to split into sections and move about. The ball bounces differently each time as the wall moves around to change angles and surfaces.

So your saying that Tennis is more fun than Racquetball and therefore also a more ethical game to play and people who claim they think otherwise are being being facetious or intentionally obtuse? :D

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So your saying that Tennis is more fun than Racquetball and therefore also a more ethical game to play and people who claim they think otherwise are being being facetious or intentionally obtuse? :D

lol

But to be serious, that misses the point entirely. Even in racquetball there are rules, others involved, and such. There is a context, it isn't just a bare room with a ball and nothing else in the world.

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Even if their real reason is to settle grudges or to gain power that's still a reason. Just to have fun wouldn't be a reason though since that's effectively the same as declaring war because one feels like it. The reason has to be or involve something external to the person feelings of those making war since making decisions based entirely on one's own feelings is arbitrary.


The creation of entertainment is usually a smaller factor. In and of itself, it is a weak reason for war. I'll compromise with you there, but virtually no one declares simply for fun. There is always some underlying political reason such as a grudge, loyalty to allies, or gaining power.

It's arguable that is physically impossible to declare war without being justified. I think you should focus on whether or not it's ethical to keep the CB a secret.. because trust me, there are reasons for this war. It's not simply DS declaring on Invicta for their own personal fun. (altho that did encourage them I'm sure, the fact that they would have fun in the process)

It is absolutely not impossible to define fun for anyone but yourself because of context.


btw I like how you say declaring for fun is arbitrary and based on feelings they no one else can understand.. then you say to White Chocolate that fun can be defined and isn't simply based on feelings. :P

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btw I like how you say declaring for fun is arbitrary and based on feelings they no one else can understand.. then you say to White Chocolate that fun can be defined and isn't simply based on feelings. :P

I didn't actually say that, I said that declaring a war for fun is effectively the equivalent to declaring a war because you feel like it, and that cannot be reasonably understood by others. But more significantly, there is a difference between being able to determine if someone would have fun given some set of circumstances and making a decision just for the sake of fun. One is a judgement, the other is an action; comparing them does not make sense.

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Holy !@#$! I regret opening this door.

*Quietly closes door*

Are you impressed/horrified at how much can actually be written about this subject?

Perhaps we should also have a conversation on the ethics of words, specifically on whether it is ethical to use words as weapons to take out others eyeballs with sheer volume. :P

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I didn't actually say that, I said that declaring a war for fun is effectively the equivalent to declaring a war because you feel like it, and that cannot be reasonably understood by others. But more significantly, there is a difference between being able to determine if someone would have fun given some set of circumstances and making a decision just for the sake of fun. One is a judgement, the other is an action; comparing them does not make sense.

Okay, I understand.. but I did not mean simply declaring out of one's own boredom. A war can move us from boring White Room 1 to exciting White Room 2. It can be for the fun of others, for the fun of everyone.

Which, right now you could say DS/DBBC hasn't accomplished that but this war just got started, and who knows what the aftermath will be? The walls will be moving more now than they were before, and it will be harder to predict where the rubber ball will bounce next.

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I think a useful point that the OP brings up is how CN is ultimately meaningless apart from the importance that we invest in it. The more we forgo politics and strip things down to pixels and numbers, the harder it becomes to maintain any illusion of meaning here. I'd argue that the inability of most alliances to RP and stick to any sort of value system is even more destructive than no-CB wars.

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I think a useful point that the OP brings up is how CN is ultimately meaningless apart from the importance that we invest in it. The more we forgo politics and strip things down to pixels and numbers, the harder it becomes to maintain any illusion of meaning here. I'd argue that the inability of most alliances to RP and stick to any sort of value system is even more destructive than no-CB wars.

Agreed, it is the social environment of the game that makes it entertaining, the game itself is antiquated. Doomsphere essentially wants to shut this game down and ruin everyones fun to be edgy.

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I think a useful point that the OP brings up is how CN is ultimately meaningless apart from the importance that we invest in it. The more we forgo politics and strip things down to pixels and numbers, the harder it becomes to maintain any illusion of meaning here.

Yes, that's definitely part of it.

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Doomsphere essentially wants to shut this game down and ruin everyones fun to be edgy.

So dramatic. Reminds me of when people claimed NPO had "won" the game and it was all over.. and then when MK had "won" the game and it was all over.. now it's DBDC.

It's true the wars could cause some people to quit, but why? Aren't these people here for the community and the roleplay? Nay, they have stripped the game down to just being about their pixels and numbers. That is why they quit.

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Not even MK so systematically targeted the culture that really makes CN such a rare game. What do we have without this unique political culture? Just another clan based facebook game.

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If the rest of us attack without DoWs, then you can make that claim and not sound like a lunatic.

They are just doing their thing, but they aren't trying to make people follow suit. As an ally of DBDC I can tell you that for a fact. They seem to have no ambition to change this aspect of CN culture, they just don't subscribe to it personally.

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I recall an embassy post discussing the creation of a new world. That was before the latest round of terrorist attacks of course. I think that has woken some once confused people up.

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I completely disagree, I think declaring war on an alliance in order to start a broader conflict is itself a Casus Belli. Casus Belli or Case for War is a justification that you use to justify a conflict to yourself and the rest of the world. If your cause for war is good enough for those who would support you and justification enough to declare war, then it is a valid cause for war.

No war is ever just for the target of war, but there is a belief that if the Casus Belli for a war is found to be flawed, that would fatally undermine the aggressive war coalition, so people will attack "the CB" for days, weeks and months. This is completely pointless because for the attacker, the war is its own justification, and that alliance's allies are there for their allies, not for the CB.

Causes for war is not politics. Coalition building, stoking grievances, stroking egos, promising quid pro quo, fear and loathing, rampant paranoia, raw hatred, webs of lies and deceit, THAT is politics. Politics is a dirty game of smoke filled rooms, where people trade influence for power, and power for influence. Never trust anyone who is really good at the political game.

Doing what you say you are going to do, honoring your commitments and defending your allies is behaving properly and honorably. Coming up with a turd of a CB is not honorable or proper behavior, it is a fig leaf.

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