Thursday, April 15, 2010
Grand Theft Auto: The Game: If there ever was a video game that resembled what English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes referred to as the "state of nature," then Grand Theft Auto (GTA) certainly qualifies. When Hobbes published Leviathan in 1651, England was on the verge of entering a de facto military dictatorship under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. The traumatic events of the English Civil War in the 1640s pushed Hobbes to question what would happen to a society devoid of government. As a result, he conducted a hypothetical thought experiment in which men proceeded to fight each other in the name of land and liberty (bellum omnium contra omnes). As for GTA, the idea of a "war of all against all" becomes a virtual reality when players are immersed in a world where objective morality ceases to exist. Players can steal cars, kill pedestrians, rob stores, and even copulate with hookers. Critics claim that the game's graphic imagery incites violence and sets a poor example for young children. But the game can also be considered a teaching tool with regard to the importance of having a strong central government, especially in a society of ruthless individuals.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
On "Just War" Theory: American Protestant theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr (pictured above), advocated a theory of "just war" that eventually morphed into the Christian Realist movement. Originating with Catholic theologians like Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Thomas Aquinas, a just war is fundamentally conducted from a defensive standpoint. Basic requirements (jus ad bellum) include just cause, comparative justice, and legitimate authority. Yet with the advent of the Cold War in 1945, Christian Realism brought a hawkish attitude to American foreign policy. As a religiously rooted ideology, it helped Americans cope with the prospects of imminent war. And Niebuhr recognized that attempting to meet every stipulation for a just war would hamper the ability of the defender to prepare an adequate defense. Therefore, sometimes the best way to defend a territory involves going on the offensive. Preemptive war signifies an off-shoot of this kind of thinking. For example, the Bush Doctrine in Afghanistan and Iraq applied the principle of preemption to combat global terrorism. But it is never enough to strike preemptively and then leave one's opponent wallowing in the wake. A comprehensive plan for recovery (nation building) must be implemented in order to mitigate the potential for future aggression.