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.