Feb. 3, 2020
4. Incompetence, Technology, and Justice: Today’s Lessons from World War I
This chapter looks at leadership issues from the Great War and draws lessons regarding accountability, the philosophy of technology, and postwar justice. Each of these areas tracks with one of the three basic components of just war thinking: the ethics of going to war (jus ad bellum), of how war is fought (jus in bello), and of ending war well (jus post bellum). When thinking about World War I, one has to consider whether the grotesque body counts were the result of incompetent leadership, and, if so, why were these incompetent leaders not fired? Second, World War I was characterized by the pell-mell introduction of new armaments and technologies, including tanks, machine guns, submarines, and chemical agents. What is the appropriate philosophical framework for establishing protocols for use and restraint of the tools of modern warfare? Third, each of the principal victors—Georges Clemenceau (France), David Lloyd George (the United Kingdom), and Woodrow Wilson (the United States)—took a different approach to postwar justice, ranging from vengeance to restoration. What was at stake, and which was the most appropriate? Operating from the just war framework, this chapter argues that these questions have currency today, whether in the consideration of how to measure the success of battlefield commanders, defining the norms and limits of cyber warfare, or advancing postconflict stability and justice.