UN’s First Air Force – Peacekeepers in Combat – Congo 1960-64

 The UN’s First “Air Force”: Peacekeepers in Combat, Congo 1960–64

A. Walter Dorn

Originally published in Journal of Military History, vol. 77, no. 4 (October 2013), pp. 1399–1425. (pdf)  An updated and shortened version of this paper was published in the volume Air Power in UN Operations: Wings for Peace (A. Walter Dorn, ed.), Ashgate/Routledge, 2014, available on UNairpower.net.

Abstract

The United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) was created in July 1960 to help the Congolese government gain control of its mutinous army and to establish order in that newly independent country. After ONUC’s mandate was expanded in 1961 to stop the Katanga province’s secession, a shooting war developed, in which Katanga paralyzed UN operations with a single armed jet. An aerial “arms race” and open combat followed. In December 1962 ONUC implemented Operation Grand Slam: Swedish jets neutralized Katanga’s air force, and the UN’s coordinated air-ground manoeuvers forcibly ended the secession. This article uncovers the unprecedented case of air power in UN peacekeeping and evaluates it for twenty-first century lessons.

 

The United Nations Operation in the Congo (abbreviated as ONUC for its French name: Opération des Nations Unies au Congo) was the largest, most complex, and most expensive UN peacekeeping mission during the Cold War. It was also the most robust operation, utilizing ground and air power in an unprecedented and, in fact, unrepeated fashion among UN peace operations. It was, for example, the only UN peace operation to date to use bomber aircraft.1

The mission began as an effort to restore law and order in the Congo, a vast and newly independent country that had just elected its first democratic government. During this phase, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld did not allow ONUC to interfere in the internal and complex issue of the secession of the Katanga province. ONUC’s military operations were devoted to quelling the uprising of the riotous Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC) and restoring order throughout the Congo. After Hammarskjöld’s fatal plane crash while seeking a Katangan settlement in September 1961, the UN Security Council and the new Secretary-General, U Thant, adopted a firmer, more proactive stance, siding with the Congolese central government to halt Katanga’s secession. This period saw a myriad of political and military Cold War intrigues, major U.S. support, a murdered prime minister, and an operational mandate more forceful than had ever been put in place for UN peacekeeping. Katangan resistance, especially in the air, necessitated the creation of the first “UN Air Force.” There followed the unique story of an aerial arms race in which UN headquarters implored its member states to contribute aircraft, while Katanga bought them clandestinely on the black market.

The United Nations suddenly became a protagonist in a series of shooting battles with Katanga in which aerial surveillance played a crucial role alongside pre-emptive air attacks against an opponent who possessed lethal aerial assets. The Security Council mandate permitted “all necessary” and “appropriate measures.”2 But the United Nations had to be careful about how it justified the use of force, emphasizing self-defence and the need to secure freedom of movement for its peacekeepers. As the conflict intensified, the United Nations adopted more forceful Rules of Engagement. A contest unfolded in which the UN’s smaller air force eventually emerged triumphant over Katanga’s.

What was the UN experience with air power in this early mission and what lessons can be learned from it? This paper examines ONUC’s dangerous and forceful aerial mission, drawing from newly uncovered archival sources. The study of ONUC’s use of air power is particularly valuable as the United Nations resorts to air attacks in current operations in the Congo and elsewhere. More generally, ONUC’s experience is worth reviewing as the United Nations and the international community still seek to find the right levels of force to deal with conflicting parties, counter-insurgency, and secessionism.

Phase I: Deployment to Restore Order ^

During the first phase of the Congo Operation, from July 1960 to February 1961, ONUC’s principal function was to restore order throughout a vast country that had fallen into widespread lawlessness and chaos. This tragic state arose immediately following the Congo’s independence from Belgium on 30 June 1960 when the Congolese National Army (ANC) mutinied against both its Belgian officers and the Congo’s first democratically elected government. This triggered tribal uprisings against the central government. The national force that should have quelled these rebellions, notably the 25,000-strong ANC, began to plunder European  property and even to beat and kill many Belgians who had remained in the Congo, as well as their fellow Congolese.3

Belgium responded by unilaterally deploying troops to the Congo to protect its citizens, in violation of its treaty with the Congo. The Congolese government of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasavubu refused to accept this intervention. To make matters worse, the Congo’s richest province, Katanga, declared that it would “secede from chaos.” The Katangan leader, Moïse Tshombé, asserted that if he allowed Lumumba’s mutinous troops to enter Katanga, it would only result in slaughter and lawlessness. With the encouragement of the Eisenhower administration in the United States, the Congolese government turned to the United Nations for assistance. At the urging of the much-admired Hammarskjöld, the UN Security Council established ONUC in Resolution 143 of 14 July 1960 to provide military assistance to allow the Congolese forces “to meet fully their tasks.”  The Council also demanded that Belgium remove from the Congo all of its troops since they were seen an affront not only to Congolese independence but also to the global decolonization movement.4

During this phase of the operation, the United States provided strategic airlift to transport an unprecedented number of UN troops into the Congo. The U.S. Military Air Transport Service, using about fifty C-124s, moved some 9,000 UN troops in about two weeks5 to positions across a country approximately the size of Western Europe. ONUC gradually re-established a semblance of law and order, and once the UN mission demonstrated an ability to protect civilians (including Belgian citizens) the Belgian troops began to depart. After ONUC’s massive deployment was accomplished, air transport remained vital as almost all supplies had to be transported by air to ONUC troops dispersed across the vast country.6

During the first few months, UN troops were engaged in policing and training rather than fighting. As a result, the aerial contribution was limited to troop transport and supply. ONUC units succeeded in disarming many of the rebellious ANC troops,7 which helped restore a degree of law and order. At this early juncture, ONUC’s mandate forbade it to interfere in internal aspects of Congolese politics; thus, it did not undertake operations to force Katanga to end its secession. In fact, Secretary-General Hammarskjöld refused to comply with Prime Minister Lumumba’s demands that ONUC enter Katanga, subdue that province’s rebel forces, and compel the Katangan leaders to submit to the Congo’s central government. On 9 August 1960 Security Council Resolution 146 mentioned Katanga for the first time, allowing UN forces to enter Katanga, but not to “intervene in or influence the outcome of any internal conflict.”8 Further complicating matters, the Congolese leadership fell into disarray. Kasavubu managed to eject Lumumba from power. However, the international mood of “non-interventionism” did not change until after Lumumba’s murder on 17 January 1961 at the hands of his enemies in Katanga.

Phase II: The Fight for Katanga ^

Phase two of ONUC commenced with Security Council Resolution 161 of 21 February 1961. It authorized the UN operation to take “all appropriate measures” to prevent the occurrence of civil war in the Congo, including “the use of force, if necessary, in the last resort.”9 This resolution was used to justify UN military operations to end the Katangan secession. Ironically, Lumumba’s death triggered the fulfillment of his demand that the United Nations forcefully support his country’s campaign against the secession. Also looming large was the threat of intervention by the Soviet Union, which was emboldened and angered after Lumumba’s murder, and Moscow’s offer to provide the Congolese government with personnel and matériel to suppress the secession. These developments combined to mobilize the West to request the United Nations to fulfill that role.

Katanga’s leader, Moïse Tshombé, professed anti-Communism and was backed by powerful Belgian and other Western interests, especially the company Union Minière du Haute Katanga.10 Also Tshombé controlled the Katangan gendarmerie and a large cadre of mercenaries. The resolve of the secessionists hardened after some 1,500 of the central government’s troops reached North Katanga in January 1961 by truck and Soviet Ilyushin Il-14 aircraft. Until that initiation of hostilities, the neutral zone negotiated by the United Nations with Tshombé on 17 October 1960 had held up but “it all came apart as pro-Lumumba troops captured Manono” in Northern Katanga.11 After Manono, the situation deteriorated rapidly and negotiations broke down. In September 1961, the Indian-led UN forces in Katanga launched “Operation Morthor,” Hindi for “smash,” to round up foreign mercenaries and political advisers and to arrest Katangan officials. The “arrest” operation, which seemingly violated Hammarskjöld’s directions to ONUC, quickly escalated into open warfare.

Almost immediately, air power in Katanga was brought in as a game-changer—but not by the United Nations. At this early stage of the conflict, the Force Aérienne Katangaise (FAK) held air superiority, though it consisted of only three Fouga Magister jet trainers. Remarkably these aircraft were brought to Katanga in February 1961 aboard a Boeing Stratocruiser operated by the Seven Seas Charter Company, later identified as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor and possibly a front company. After UN officials observed the unloading of the aircraft, the mission grounded the company’s entire fleet of planes which the United Nations had earlier contracted to carry food. President John F. Kennedy decried the jet delivery and alleged in correspondence with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana that the transaction had taken place before the U.S. government could stop it.12 It was not the first time in the Congo that one branch of the U.S. government was carrying out activities at cross-purposes to another.13 In any case, the FAK fleet was quickly reduced in effectiveness: one Fouga Magister was lost when its pilot tried to fly under (rather than over) a power line, and UN forces captured another when they seized the airfield at Elisabethville, the Katangan capital, on 28 August 1961. This left the FAK with only one plane, but this single aircraft attained world renown during the hostilities of September by paralyzing UN supply efforts, which were mostly conducted by air transport aircraft. The single jet, flown by Belgian mercenary Joseph Deulin from Kolwezi airfield, strafed UN positions, including the UN headquarters in Katanga, and isolated a company of Irish troops who were then forced to surrender to Katangan forces. Furthermore, the Fouga jet destroyed several UN-chartered aircraft at the airport in Elisabethville.14 A U.S. State Department official, Wayne Fredericks, commented: “I have always believed in air power, but I never thought I’d see the day when one plane would stop the United States and the whole United Nations.”15

Deadlock prevailed, and the indecisive outcome of the UN’s August and September 1961 ground initiatives in Katanga (Operations Rumpunch and Morthor) spurred Hammarskjöld to try to negotiate a cease-fire with Tshombé. As the Secretary-General was flying to meet with the Katangan leader at the border town of Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, his plane crashed on the night of 17 September 1961, killing all onboard. Complicating the rescue effort, the plane had largely maintained radio silence and flew a circuitous route mostly at night in order to reduce the possibility of an attack by the “Lone Ranger” Fouga Magister. The Katangan jet had shot bullets into the UN aircraft only days before, but the damage was repaired by the time Hammarskjöld was flown in it. The cause of the UN plane crash was never determined with certainty, though a UN commission concluded that it was probably due to pilot error during the approach to Ndola.16

With Hammarskjöld’s death, the battle for Katanga entered a new phase. The new Secretary-General, U Thant, did not share Hammarskjöld’s belief that the United Nations should not interfere in Congolese internal politics. Moreover, the general escalation of events spurred the Security Council to pass Resolution 169 on 24 November 1961, strongly deprecating the secessionist activities of Katanga and authorizing ONUC to use “the requisite measure of force” to remove foreign mercenaries and “to take all necessary measures to prevent the entry or return of such elements.”17

Meanwhile, the United States, fearful of Communist encroachment on the continent, was resolved in the Congo to keep the Soviet Union out, the United Nations in, and Belgian interference down in the former colony.18 The Americans also wanted to stop the country from falling apart, viewing secession of mineral-rich Katanga as a threat to the economic vitality of the new country. In the background, decolonization was one of the great movements of the era, and the United States was keen to show newly independent countries that it supported integral, viable new states. The disintegration of the Congo was a major concern, as was Soviet intervention. So international (UN) intervention in Katanga was deemed necessary, even if it meant intervention into the internal affairs of a new state (at the request of that state). Thus the United States, which had previously refused Hammarskjöld’s requests to ferry UN troops within the Congo and had only brought troops to the Congo from abroad, now provided four transport planes without conditions. President Kennedy even offered to provide eight fighter jets if no other member nations were willing to do so.19 The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested these jets could “seek out and destroy, either on the ground or in the air, the Fouga Magister jets.”20 However, U Thant sought to avoid direct superpower involvement in combat. Having promises of fighter jets from other nations, the United Nations turned down the American offer.21 Instead, the United States provided over twenty large transport planes to ferry reinforcements and anti-aircraft guns into Katanga.

Before his death, Hammarskjöld had managed to obtain from several UN member states promises of combat aircraft, which were desperately needed for the field mission. In October 1961, Sweden provided five J-29 Tunnan (“flying barrel”) fighter jets, Ethiopia sent four F-86 Sabre jets, and India backed the mission with four Indian B(I)58 Canberra light bombers. These aircraft became what mission personnel dubbed the first “UN Air Force.”22 These aerial assets quickly joined the fray, attacking a military train east of Kolwezi, and the Katangan airfields at Jadotville and Kolwezi.23 The United Nations created havoc among Katangan forces in much the same way that the armed Fouga Magister had done to the UN mission. Charanjit Singh, one of the pilots, described a UN attack on 8 December 1961 in graphic terms in his diary:

On instructions from ACT [Air Contact Team], attacked an army police camp 2 km NE of old runway [Elisabethville]. Some vehicles were parked outside what looked like a headquarters building. I fired a full burst on those and saw them going up in smoke and flames. As I pulled out of the dive, I saw hundreds of men running out in utter panic. As I flashed past them, I gathered an image of men running in all directions, some in undies, others in halfpants, some in uniforms. I saw some enter a billet. Attacked the HQ building and vehicles again. Saw a vehicle turn over. At the end of four attacks, the whole thing looked like the Tilpat (air-to-ground practice firing range near Delhi) show. I went back to my old target in Kasenga road. The rain had increased: and I could carry out only one attack with difficulty. The visibility was poor in that rain. I aimed at a truck camouflaged behind a building. When I pressed the trigger, only one bullet went off. It hit the bonnet of the vehicle and it caught fire. What a lucky strike it was because during the dive and till the vehicle was hit, there was a hot argument going on between me and Anand [Flt. Lt. R. P. Anand, the navigator]. He was insisting that I was attacking a bush. But I must admit, [the] camouflage was pretty good.24

The net result of the UN buildup and its December 1961 offensive was that Katanga’s “air superiority” was temporarily ended.25 The fate of the infamous jet trainer became an object of much speculation. UN pilots claimed to have destroyed it on the ground in an air attack on the Kolwezi airfield, but they actually hit a carefully crafted dummy. It was then believed that the Katangan Fouga had crashed while its mercenary-pilot had parachuted to safety,26 but this too was later found to be false. The Fouga mystery was to remain until much later (see below).

But even the UN’s new aerial hardware was deemed insufficient for the robust mandate. The UN field mission pressed headquarters to obtain bombs for the Indian Canberra jets. “We need those bombs,” Secretary-General U Thant would insist to the British government.27 After weeks of stalling, the government of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan finally agreed on 7 December 1961 to supply twenty-four 1,000-pound bombs. But the offer came with the condition that they could be used only “against aircraft on the ground or [against] airstrips and airfields.”28 Even still, Macmillan worried that his government might fall over its handling of the Congo crisis, given the fierce support in some Conservative quarters for the anti-Communist Katanga regime.29 In the end, the United States transported bombs directly from India.30

Realizing what an enormous role a single Fouga jet had played in the success of Katangan operations in September 1961, Tshombé began purchasing new aircraft and hiring foreign mercenary pilots of various nationalities to fly them. Indeed, throughout 1962, UN Air Command desperately tried to monitor the Katangan aerial buildup through both aerial surveillance of Katangan airfields and intelligence gathered by ONUC’s Military Information Branch (MIB).31 The need for aerial reconnaissance (recce) in identifying Tshombé’s air assets became essential. On 23 January 1962 ONUC’s Chief of Military Intelligence lamented:

 

ONUC has not been provided with any facilities for air photo reconnaissance. By using the Canberras’ bombing equipment (their cameras are just meant to register the results of their own bombings) and some privately owned cameras from transport aircraft, we have tried to meet the most important photo recce demands. Obviously it can NOT be carried out as a normal function.32

 

In an attempt to procure immediate intelligence on Katanga’s air capability, a desper-ate ONUC on 9 March 1962 noted that aircrews from UN military air units and from its charter companies were making “important observations during their flights and stops at various airfields in the Congo.”33 The mission began mandatory debriefings of aircrews after landing. The mission also sought to create an air reconnaissance unit capable of meeting both long-term recce and immediate operational requirements. One memo dated 10 March 1962 stated: “it becomes imperative that the air recce unit should be allotted with both C-47s and jet recce aircraft such as J-29s or photo-recce Canberras.”34 ONUC’s Chief of Military Intelligence requested three C-47 aircraft “to check the Katangan air movements through systematic visual reconnaissance of their airfields.”35 On 6 June 1962 the ONUC Force Commander cabled Ralph Bunche, the Under-Secretary-General at UN headquarters responsible for peacekeeping operations, that “ONUC suffers from a grave lack of reconnaissance facilities. As a result even the photographs available may contain much more information which it is NOT possible to get because of inadequate facilities in equipment and personnel for interpretation.”36 In 1962, Sweden provided two J-29Cs, the photo reconnaissance versions of the J-29 jet aircraft, that proved of great worth.37 The mission consequently added personnel designated as air intelligence officers.

At the same time, the threat of re-emerging Katangan aerial capabilities was real. ONUC concluded in May 1962:

 

[M]ercenaries, fighting for money and receiving higher salaries as FAK pilots than even Generals receive in UN service, are ruthless, cunning, non-conventional, clever and inventive. They have war experience, and they know where, when and how to hit . . . there is no alternative but to consider FAK as a dangerous enemy in the air.38

 

ONUC had success uncovering the extent of Tshombé’s aircraft acquisitions through intelligence gathered by the MIB. Defectors and informants interviewed revealed a wealth of information about Katangan aircraft both in Katanga and neighboring countries. Lieutenant-General Kebbede Guebre (Ethiopia), the ONUC Force Commander, cabled Bunche at UN headquarters on 24 August 1962, referencing a report that Katangan-owned jet fighters were hidden in  Angola and/or Rhodesia. Kebbede requested Bunche to “check with Australia [about] the possibility of Australian trained jet [mercenary] pilots being available to Tshombe.”39 In another cable to Bunche dated 27 September, he stated that “a fully reliable source reported . . . that twelve Harvard aircraft have recently left South Africa, bound for Katanga . . . equipped with guns and French rockets  . . . [and that] an unspecified number of P-51 Mustangs may have left South Africa recently . . . intended for Katanga.”40 Clearly, an aerial arms race had begun between the United Nations and the Katangan government with the former trying to persuade its member states to provide aircraft and the latter purchasing them clandestinely wherever possible. The United States, which had helped Katanga get its original Fouga Magister aircraft, was now working desperately to prevent the FAK expansion.

General Kebbede again cabled Under-Secretary-General Bunche on 1 October 1962 comparing the air capabilities of the two protagonists. Katanga (FAK) was estimated to have acquired twelve Harvard single-propeller aircraft, eight or nine Fouga Magister trainer jets, four Vampire jet fighters, and a large number of P-51 Mustang single-propeller fighters (being delivered).41 The UN mission possessed six Canberra jet light bombers, four Saab J-29B fighter-bombers, and four Sabre F-86 jet fighters.42 At the time, the UN Air Division possessed no bombs—a serious deficiency, as it was considered the weapon needed to neutralize air bases and “enemy forces” on the ground.43 Great Britain was dithering on UN pleas for bombs for its Canberra aircraft. ONUC concluded once again that air resources were inadequate to meet the FAK threat. Due to serviceability problems, only about 60 to 70 percent of ONUC aircraft would be available for operations, which would make it impossible to keep even a section of fighters on readiness and thus impossible to simultaneously defend even one airfield, conduct offensive sweeps, and escort transport aircraft. Moreover, since ONUC was entirely dependent on supplies delivered by air, of which 95 percent were lifted by civil chartered companies, a Katangan air threat would ground essential supply planes in the absence of UN fighter escorts.44

In the same October 1962 report to Bunche, General Kebbede recommended immediate steps be taken to reinforce the UN Air Division. The first recommendation was for the acquisition of two J-29E photo-reconnaissance aircraft and a complete photo-interpretation unit to monitor developments and activities at Katangan air bases. The second was to increase the two UN fighter squadrons to eight fighters each (for a total of sixteen fighters). The third was the acquisition of two additional Canberra aircraft. Also recommended was the acquisition of anti-aircraft defences for UN air bases and radar for Elisabethville, as well as heavy calibre ammunition and napalm bombs for the Canberra bombers and additional communications equipment.45 These recommendations were considered to be the bare minimum necessary for the operation.

Things became even worse when Ethiopia abruptly withdrew its Sabre aircraft after losing one in an accident. Furthermore, India experienced an urgent need to repatriate its Canberra bombers to fight in the new border war with China.46 On the positive side, Sweden promised more Saab jets and Norway offered an anti-aircraft battery. New air surveillance radars were deployed at Kamina and Elisabethville.47 When Canada responded negatively to UN requests for napalm bombs, other supplies were sought and found.48 A few days following Kebbede’s requests, a cable from Robert Gardiner, the UN representative in the Congo, to Bunche reported that a South African aircraft company had offered Katanga forty Harvard aircraft, each equipped with forty rockets, for $27,000 each. The planes were to be brought into Katanga through Angola, a Portuguese colony. Moreover, intelligence reported that the same company had previously sold seventeen aircraft to Katanga.49 On 17 October, Gardiner cabled Bunche that aerial photography had confirmed the presence of six Harvard aircraft at Katanga’s Kolwezi-Kengere airfield.50

The UN mission was clamoring to increase its air force, particularly its fighter strength, despite UN Headquarters concerns about costs, having overcome earlier inhibitions on combat. Bunche cabled Kebbede on 10 November to report on progress made in New York in trying to acquire more fighters for ONUC. Bunche wrote:

We are painfully aware of ONUC’s fighter strength situation and are exerting every effort to correct it. We have urgently renewed our appeal to Sweden to provide four additional fighter aircraft and now have hopes that this appeal will be met. We have also made urgent approaches to Greece and the Philippines for fighter units

. . . We were informed by the US mission yesterday that they have definite assurances that the Ethiopian aircraft will be returning. A purely exploratory approach has also been made to Italy. You may be sure that we will keep after this.51

Intelligence evidence mounted regarding the acquisition of new aircraft by Katanga. The growing strength of Katanga’s air force relative to ONUC’s had immediate military and strategic consequences. Congolese troops were constantly bombed and harassed by Katangan aircraft.52 The UN Commander’s assessment was that:

Due to ONUC’s limited strength of four fighters, we have to confine our action to Recce the area in question as often as possible during daylight and attack any Katangese aircraft flying in that area. We are not attempting to destroy any aircraft found in the airfield in the vicinity of that area because if we do locate one or two aircraft and destroy them, we feel that FAK will react against [our] Kamina Base and also disperse their aircraft from Kolwezi to other airfields, thereby making our task of locating and destroying these aircraft on the ground very difficult. Please advise dates by which additional four Swedish fighters, as promised, will be available and if any additional aircraft [are] expected from other nations.53

The UN Commander’s strategy was to wait until the new aircraft gave ONUC a fighter force capable of destroying the bulk of Katanga’s air force on the ground in one overwhelming surprise assault. Another cable from Kebbede to Bunche on the same day (24 November 1962) stated that “on request from the ANC, air recce missions over Kongolo area are being provided by UN fighters . . . Missions will be confined to recce and destroying any Katangese aircraft if found flying over that area. Instructions have been issued NO repeat NO ground targets to be attacked.”54 The ONUC Commander did not want to give the Katangans any reason to disperse or hide their aircraft but rather wanted them to feel safe and secure when on the ground at their major airfields.

Meanwhile, efforts in New York had gained traction. Sweden sent two Saab photo-recce aircraft in November 1962, greatly facilitating the gathering of air intelligence which permitted a revised estimate of Katanga’s air capability. Doubts about FAK’s endurance were reinforced because many of the aircraft appeared to be unserviceable, and stockpiles of ammunition as well as petroleum, oil, and lubricants could be found only at a few airfields. Furthermore, aerial photos showed that previous reports of underground shelter construction at some airfields were incorrect, and that underground shelters at the Kolewezi-Kengere airfield were vulnerable. Concerns about possible anti-aircraft batteries at some Katangan airfields were also shown to be misplaced.55 This new appraisal of FAK’s capability coincided with the arrival of ONUC’s new fighters, and the bolstering of defences by a Norwegian anti-aircraft battery accompanied by 380 men.56

The ONUC Commander’s “wait until ready” strategy was near the point of fruition. The “UN Air Force” was poised to strike jointly with UN ground troops under a plan for an operation appropriately named “Grand Slam.” However, a massive airlift capability was required to deploy the UN troops simultaneously. Though the United Nations by now had sixty-five transport aircraft, the largest were propeller-driven DC-4s and ONUC could not move its forces without major support from the U.S. Military Air Transport Service. The details of the UN requirements were passed to the U.S. Department of Defense by Brigadier-General Indar Jit Rikhye, Thant’s military adviser, now stationed in the Congo. A few days later, the United States responded that the United Nations could count on U.S. support.57

The United States was again, as a year earlier, considering fighter support in addition to logistics and transport. In November, President Kennedy offered fighter planes without American pilots. Following that, the Pentagon went further, recommending a Composite Air Strike Unit to “destroy or neutralize” Katanga’s air capability.58 But the Joint Chiefs recommended the “direct commitment of US forces” only under dire circumstances. Kennedy asked his UN Ambassador, Adlai Stevenson, to determine if the United Nations desired the U.S.-piloted jet planes. In a meeting on 16 December, Thant expressed confidence that the UN mission would be able to resolve the situation without the U.S. fighter jets. Thant wanted to keep the veneer of UN impartiality, while trying to avoid a direct superpower clash in the Congo. He planned to enforce Security Council-mandated sanctions with forceful UN action from the air and on the ground. The Americans argued for an “overwhelming show of strength from the air.” Thant said that if the situation remained deadlocked in the spring of 1963, he would again consider the U.S. offer.59 This was not necessary, however, since the final fight over Katanga began just a few days later.

On Christmas Eve 1962, Katangan gendarmes shot at a UN observation helicopter, fatally wounding an Indian crewmember and forcing the aircraft to land. The crew was seized and beaten.60 Elsewhere, Katangan forces began firing continuously at UN positions, fatally wounding several soldiers. The United Nations sought a ceasefire, even escorting Tshombé himself to a point near the fighting. The Katangan leader had to agree that the firing was coming only from Katangan positions and the United Nations was not engaging in combat. After four days of ceasefire efforts, the UN commander in Elisabethville, Major-General Prem Chand of India, finally persuaded Thant to approve an offensive operation, designed to be decisive.61 The convincing argument came from radio intercepts that had revealed the Katangan commander had ordered his air force to bomb Elisabethville airport during the night of 29 December.62

Equipped with air transports and the newly acquired jet fighters, the United Nations launched Operation Grand Slam. The mission’s Air Division struck Katangan air assets with confidence, achieving the element of surprise. On 29 December 1962 at 0430 hours, ONUC’s J-29 fighters attacked the Kolwezi-Kengere airfield. They relied entirely upon their 20-mm cannons since the cloud ceiling was too low to use their 13.5-mm rockets.63 Three UN aircraft were hit by ground fire. One plane suffered two bullets through its canopy without, fortunately, hitting the pilot. The UN attacks continued throughout the day and expanded to other Katangan airfields. On that day seventeen fighter and three recce sorties were carried out by UN aircraft resulting in six Katangan aircraft destroyed on the ground and possibly one in the air. Five petrol dumps were set on fire at the Kolwezi (Kengere) airfield, where two hangars and the administrative building were also destroyed.64 Active patrolling of the skies by the Swedish J-29s effectively cut the air bridge between Katanga and its allies in Portuguese East Africa and Southern Africa, largely precluding the introduction of new aircraft.65 From 28 December 1962 to 4 January 1963, a total of seventy-six sorties were carried out by UN aircraft against Katanga’s airfields and aircraft.66

As a result of these coordinated attacks, most of Tshombé’s aircraft in Katanga were destroyed on the ground. The ONUC Commander’s strategy had succeeded against very little resistance. One ONUC summary of the attacks concluded triumphantly that the “Katang[an] Air Force as such is no longer in existence.” Out of the estimated dozen combat aircraft in the force (Harvards and Vampires), only one or possibly two Harvards were not confirmed destroyed. Moreover, all vital air installations at the Kolwezi airfield had been demolished. Evaluating the threat, the summary concluded confidently: “It is unlikely that any further offensive activity can be expected by Katangan aircraft in the near future. Should they, however, try to undertake any such action, the only [Katangan] course would be hit and run raids by individual aircraft from airfields outside KATANGA.”67 During Operation Grand Slam, seven UN fighter aircraft and one reconnaissance plane were hit by ground fire but no pilots were injured.68 In addition to kinetic action against Katangan air assets, UN fighter aircraft also provided close air support to UN ground forces.69 Though defeated militarily, Tshombé sought to cut deals, but the United Nations demanded that he surrender his remaining military strongholds, given that he had broken many agreements before. Tshombé finally capitulated on 15 January 1963, renouncing for good his secession.

An ONUC intelligence team subsequently learned that the Katangan air force still had some fifteen aircraft hidden in Angolan airfields,70 which was later confirmed by Angolan authorities in a radio broadcast on 9 February 1963. According to Belgian mercenaries interrogated in Kolwezi by the UN intelligence team, these aircraft were placed there for use “in the next fight for Katanga’s secession.”71 Moreover, when the December hostilities had begun, the Katangan air buildup had still been underway and at least some of Katanga’s leaders had believed that they could seriously challenge the United Nations. This was expressed to the UN intelligence team in the following manner:

If you had only given us four more weeks so that we could have got the Mustangs ready, you would have experienced the same disastrous surprise one early morning at your Kamina Base as we experienced at Kengere [Kolwezi] on 29 December.72

Clearly ONUC’s victory had come just in time; indeed, it may have been a very close call for the United Nations since the Mustang aircraft purchased by Tshombé were expected to arrive in Katanga in January 1963.73 (That month the United Nations received additional Sabre jets and pilots from Italy, the Philippines, and Iran,74 although these jets did not need to engage in combat.)

The United Nations confirmed that the Katangan air buildup in 1961–62 had been accomplished with the knowledge and assistance of the governments of Angola, South Africa, and Rhodesia. A UN study concluded: “the need for an efficient air intelligence service appears to have been confirmed even for a ‘peaceful’ operation such as that of the UN in the Congo.”75

The experience of robust, kinetic airpower in the Congo had raised some ethical dilemmas that required tough decision-making by the UN Secretary-General. The day before the surprise attack on the airfield, U Thant had cabled General Kebbede to forbid the use of napalm, which could be spread by both the Indian Canberras and Swedish Saab J-29s. Thant had stated: “We recognize that tactically napalm type bombs might have some special utility. But we are certain that the disadvantages, particularly as regards world opinion, outweigh the advantages. Therefore, it has been decided that they cannot be used.”76 This order came several years before the United States used napalm in Vietnam with such a negative impact on world opinion.

The minimization of UN and civilian fatalities was also extremely important for the United Nations. After the surprise attack, the United Nations could confirm that no UN personnel were killed or injured as a result of the air attacks on Kolwezi, Kamatanda, and Ngule airfields.77 Likewise there were no confirmed reports of civilian casualties during Operation Grand Slam. Thus a potential media relations disaster for ONUC was avoided, while the mission was accomplished. However, the number of Katangans and mercenaries killed is not known.

After the battle, ONUC’s intelligence organization (MIB) learned the fate of the original Fouga Magister that had attained such renown during the 1961 hostilities against ONUC. UN fighters did not destroy the Fouga, nor did it crash, as had been originally believed. The MIB pieced together the picture after the Katangan airfields had been secured by the United Nations:

The true story about this last Katangese Fouga is that it took off from Kolwezi-Kengere some few minutes prior to the first UN air attack . . . the Fouga eventually landed at a base outside Katanga where it remained the property of Tshombé pending an opportunity to again indulge in Katangese operations.78

That opportunity never came.


Phase III: Endgame in the Congo ^


The successful defeat of the Katangan secession in January 1963 did not end ONUC’s mission or the important role of UN air power. In January 1964, during the last phase of ONUC’s deployment, a revolt began in Kwilu province. This, however, was not initially clear to ONUC, which no longer comprised a 20,000-strong force but was down to only about 5,500 personnel. Word reached Leopoldville that villages were burning and the ANC was in full retreat. Missionaries were emerging from the jungle pleading for ONUC assistance. An organized Congolese force called the jeunesse (youth) seemed to be directly targeting them. The violence in Kwilu was followed by uprisings in Stanleyville and in other provinces. However, the bulk of ONUC forces were already occupied and there was inadequate air transport to deploy forces west to Kwilu in any case. As reports of atrocities against aid workers and missionaries mounted, ONUC’s Chief of Staff, Canadian Brigadier-General Jacques Dextraze, put together a small force initially comprised of two ten-man sections under Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel P. A. Mayer, whose orders were to “rescue as many missionaries as possible who wish to be rescued.”79

With a single-propeller Otter aircraft and two-to-four old S-55 helicopters, the teams followed an operational concept in which the Otter flew recce flights while two of the helicopters carried the infantry sections and the other two helicopters offered fire support. Several rescue missions were carried out, saving more than a hundred people, often under fire. After several missions, a standard operating procedure emerged. The command and control plane (usually the Otter) would conduct a general recce, identify the mission site(s), and assess the threat. It would continue to orbit and maintain watch over the situation. A second aircraft, usually a helicopter or another Otter, would conduct a close recce identifying people on the ground and possible landing sites. The single-engine T-6 (Harvard) fighters directed by the Otter would begin harassing the groups of jeunesse in the vicinity while the fire and support helicopter(s) would cover the transport helicopter that would directly come to the rescue.80 An air unit created by the CIA would sometimes provide air cover for UN helicopters as well.81

Often these UN attempts were conducted with large groups of jeunesse in the area. In one such operation, General Dextraze escaped only by firing his sub-machine gun at the jeunesse to keep them off his helicopter.82 In another operation, Lieutenant-Colonel Mayer was assaulted by the jeunesse, one of whom grabbed his pistol, stuck it in his stomach, and pulled the trigger. Fortunately there was “no round up the spout.”83

Throughout March and April 1964 the operation was expanded to include a C-47 transport aircraft, additional T-6 (Harvard) fighters, and a full ANC paracommando company.84 By July, however, the UN mission was withdrawn entirely, in accordance with the decision of the Security Council in Resolution 199 (1964).85 The UN mission had played a difficult role in a chaotic Congo. It had strengthened the hand of the central government and kept the country together.

 

Some Lessons with Examples ^

The Congo mission in the early 1960s was a pioneering multidimensional mission that offered significant though forgotten lessons on the benefits and challenges of air power in various roles.

Aerial reconnaissance: strengths and weaknesses

While the importance of air recce was shown in the mission, the limitations were also illustrated. In a major example, a UN aircraft was sent on 13 November 1961 to observe the situation at the Kindu airport after radio communications had been lost. The pilot did not observe or report anything abnormal or alarming. On the ground, however, the situation was anything but normal. There was a stand-off at the airport, with rebel Congolese forces demanding possession of two Italian aircraft that had just flown in, as well as fourteen Ferret Scout cars of the Malaysian Special Force. The Congolese forces surrounded the airport and, over the next eight hours, the Malaysian forces dug into defensive positions. The Malaysians, for their part, demanded the return of the thirteen Italian airmen who had been seized by rebel Congolese forces. The rebel forces had erroneously mistaken the Italians for despised Belgian military personnel.

After three days, a lieutenant colonel from the UN Air Force arrived at the airport to determine the situation on the ground. The UN mission quickly reinforced its presence with two additional rifle companies and Canberra bombers flying overhead. It made plans for a ground and air attack on Congolese rebel forces in three locations. The Indian bombers made three sorties but did not need to engage. The Congolese rebels withdrew in the face of such military power. Unfortunately, it was too late for the Italian airmen who had been taken hostage. As reported by Belgian civilians, all thirteen airmen suffered a gruesome death.86 This dire situation on the ground was not apparent in the quick recce fly-by on the first day. Apparently, the pilot saw the UN flags flying, the armored vehicles in good condition, and “deemed the situation on the ground normal”!87

Another situation also illustrated the limitations of air observation. In 1962, a Swedish transport aircraft was shot down by gunmen in the bush.88 To begin the search and rescue for survivors, the site of the crash was determined. A UN helicopter was to land close to the wreckage. An Indian Canberra, piloted by Squadron Leader Peter Wilson, provided cover for this operation. He reconnoitered the area and detected no hostile elements in the bush, and so radioed the “all clear” message. As the helicopter was landing, however, an estimated fifty people broke from cover and ran towards it. Wilson saw white Europeans in front but behind were Africans who were either following or chasing. The Indian Air Force website describes what happened:

Wilson did not want to fire, as it was not clear if the Africans were hostile, and they were anyway too close to the Swedes; but to warn them off he made several low passes over them; low enough so that they threw themselves to the ground as he passed over. The helicopter pilot called Wilson on the R/T, “IAF Canberra please stop, you are frightening these people!” The Africans turned out to be friendly local Congolese, who had helped and looked after the Swedish survivors, rather than hostile Katangan rebels.89

Air combat: the risks of using force

Prior to ONUC, all UN peacekeeping missions were either unarmed or used force only in self-defence. Though the Council did not explicitly invoke the UN Charter’s Chapter VII (Enforcement) in the Congo, ONUC was the first UN peacekeeping operation to put into effect a Security Council call for all “necessary” measures. The mission found itself in a de facto war with Katanga. ONUC’s Rules of Engagement (ROEs) were frequently amended due to changes in the circumstances in the Congo and in ONUC’s mission. Indeed, ONUC’s ROE were affected not only by the three successive Security Council resolutions but also by at least ten different operational directives, as described by the academic Trevor Findlay.90 Addressing the specifics and impact of each of these transitions is beyond the scope of this paper. However, some points merit attention both in general terms and due to their relevance to the use of airpower by a UN mission.

In ONUC’s early stages Secretary-General Hammarskjöld refused to interfere in Congolese internal politics and saw ONUC’s mission only in terms of restoring order and promoting stability. He would not take sides in the issue of Katanga’s secession and refused to authorize military force to prevent it, denying the mission’s early demands for air combat power. Even after Security Council Resolution 161 of 21 February 1961 authorized the UN operation to take “all appropriate measures to prevent the occurrence of civil war in the Congo, including . . . the use of force, if necessary, in the last resort,” Hammarskjöld’s instructions to ONUC of September 1961 included numerous limitations on the use of military measures.91

Several of Hammarskjöld’s qualifications were subsequently ignored and even broken by the Special Representative in Katanga, Conor Cruise O’Brien, especially in the launching of Operation Morthor in September 1961. This operation began without Hammarskjöld’s authorization. As Findlay put it: “It involved significant use of force, caused hundreds of casualties, and exponentially increased the dissent that had plagued the UN operation in the Congo from its inception.”92 However, it did not involve the use of UN air power for combat. Though Hammarskjöld cancelled the continuation of Morthor, he sought promises from several UN member states to provide aircraft for “defensive” purposes, notably against Katanga’s air assets, which had wreaked havoc on UN forces during the operation. After Hammarskjöld’s death, Secretary-General U Thant was more ready to use force. Though a Buddhist pacifist in personal theology,93 Thant believed that ONUC’s mandate to prevent civil war implied armed force, including combat air power, to suppress armed and secessionist activities.

The arrival of aircraft from Sweden, Ethiopia, and India led to the creation of ONUC’s air wing, which required explicit direction. Thant authorized ONUC to protect UN troops from Katangan actions that endangered the lives of peacekeepers, including Katangan efforts of “actually attacking them or by moving directly against them with hostile intent.”94 November 1961 marked the first time the United Nations issued ROEs for the use of combat air power. The instruction to engage in pre-emptive defensive action in the case of hostile intent added a new dimension to traditional self-defence rules of ground forces in peacekeeping operations. Subsequently, more detailed instructions on ONUC’s use of airpower were promulgated, placing strong command and control limitations:

 

The UN jet Air Force will not be used in a supporting role without the authority of the Air Commodore under instructions from Dr. Linnér [Special Representatives of the Secretary-General] and the Force Commander . . . The possible use of this Air Force will not be conveyed to the ANC in the form of a threat or otherwise except on authority from Dr. Linnér and the Force Commander . . . [aerial action] is to be taken as a last resort and should be limited to those measures clearly necessary to the defense of ONUC troops and other personnel. No action of this kind is to be ordered, however, without prior warning in ample time, to the authorities concerned. Due care should be exercised to avoid casualties among non-involved civilians.95

 

On 5 December 1961, with the launching of the UN’s military operation, Thant authorized “all counter-action—ground and aerial—deemed necessary to restore complete freedom of movement in the area.”96 Leaflets were dropped by air, telling the Katangans that the United Nations was a force of peace. The two-way air war commenced 5 December 1961 with the Katangan bombing of Elisabethville airfield. The next day, ONUC’s first airstrike occurred when Indian Canberra bombers attacked the Kolwezi airstrip. The Jadotville airstrip and other Katangan installations were also attacked and by 8 December, ONUC commanded the skies over Katanga.

There followed a year-long shaky truce during which time Tshombé steadily built a new and highly credible air force. In March 1962, during the buildup, Thant explained why the United Nations could not use force to end Katanga’s secession: “The UN has been authorized to use force only in three situations: one, to prevent civil war; two, to arrest foreign mercenaries; and three, to retaliate when attacked.”97

By October 1962, ONUC was again suffering from direct attacks by Katanga’s aircraft, as were the central government’s troops, civilians, and communications across the border in Kasai. As such aggression was tantamount to civil war, violating the 21 February 1961 Council resolution, ONUC ordered Katanga to ground all military aircraft and declared it would shoot down aircraft engaged in offensive operations.98 This was, in effect, a UN-mandated no-fly zone.

The escalation of events in December 1962, including the shooting down of an ONUC helicopter, led to UN warnings to Tshombé that unless firing against UN forces ceased, the mission would take “all necessary action in self-defense and to restore order.”99 Tshombé’s refusals to order his troops to stop firing, and radio intercepts that revealed that the Katangan commander had ordered his air force to bomb the Elisabethville airport during the night of 29 December, compelled Thant to acquiesce to requests from Special Representative Gardiner and Force Commander Prem Chand to commence military operations. On 27 December 1962 the UN air wing was issued Fighter Operations Order 16 to retaliate against (that is, “shoot down”) any Katangan aircraft that attacks “any target, whether belonging to UN or NOT.” Furthermore, any Katanga aircraft “carrying visible offensive weapons, such as bombs or rockets,” should be shot down.100 This strong aerial ROE could only be justified by the extreme circumstances that existed in late December 1962, as the fighting had started in earnest and continued for days. The success of the United Nations in destroying the Katangan air assets came at the conclusion of the preceding series of ROEs.

There were objections to the escalation of force, both among UN diplomats and service members on the ground. In 1961, Swedish pilots refused some requests for close air support to ground troops, reasoning that the risk of civilian casualties was too high. In November 1962, the Swedish air commander refused a direct order to shoot down Katangan aircraft. The UN Air Commander (an Indian) resigned in complaint and the American air attaché in New York lamented that concerted efforts by UN headquarters “can be nullified by the actions of one officer.”101 Nevertheless the decision was supported by the Swedish government, which wanted its aircraft to be used for purely defensive purposes only. This shows how national caveats can be as troublesome for UN missions as they are for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other multinational missions, even a half-century later in Afghanistan. Furthermore, finding the balance between defence and offense is difficult in any military mission, including those of the United Nations.


Conclusion ^

ONUC was a pioneering mission. It was the first UN mission to operate with government forces against rebels and mercenaries, and the first mission to implement a “no fly-zone” and an arms embargo—including by detaining aircraft and crews that were bringing arms and military supplies into the Congo. Most significantly, it was the first peacekeeping mission to use combat to carry out the decisions of the Security Council. Air power played a large role in its application of the operational mandate. Coordinated UN air-to-ground attacks were used for the first time in the history of peacekeeping (and one of the few missions to do so until the twenty-first century). Had ONUC’s air contingent failed to destroy Katanga’s considerable air assets at the outset of Operation Grand Slam, Katanga’s air capability would have made it impossible for the United Nations to resupply its ground troops, and ONUC would likely have failed in its mission. Many of the UN forces might even have been cut off and forced to surrender en masse, as the UN’s Irish troops had been forced to do a year earlier. In that instance, Katanga’s single Fouga jet had helped prevent their resupply and reinforcement.

The aim of this paper has been to examine the role of kinetic air power in ONUC, a forerunner of modern multidimensional missions, and to draw some lessons from this experience. It was demonstrated that initially air transport, mostly provided by the United States,102 was crucial in rapidly bringing troops to the Congo, and later to transport them to Katanga. Because of the absence of an air fighter contingent early in the mission, the whole endeavour was jeopardized. Just prior to his death, Secretary-General Hammarskjöld procured fighter aircraft— including from his native Sweden—as a deterrent to Katanga. One of the last acts of his legacy, as a result, was to create the “UN’s first Air Force.” When air operations began against Katangan forces, detailed surveillance from the air was key, especially of Katanga’s airfields. What enabled the UN Air Force to prevail was a viable air strategy. Notably the ONUC Commander ordered his forces to forgo attacks on Katanga’s airfields, thus giving the Katangans a false sense of security, until such time as the United Nations had adequate air assets to destroy almost all Katanga’s planes on the ground in an overwhelming surprise assault.

This mission also demonstrated that air power, while enabling the United Nations to project force at a relatively safe distance, can be quite politically sensitive in ways that force on the ground is not. Air power in the Congo had a strong offensive element, rather than the usual self-defence-only rules provided to peacekeepers. Thant’s decision to forbid the use of napalm not only resulted in less bloodshed, but likely averted a public relations disaster for the United Nations. By this time, ONUC had already attracted enormous criticism from member states and from the international media for its decision to side with the Congolese central government. Had the United Nations used napalm, the world might have viewed pictures of burn casualties from a UN-perpetrated atrocity. Thant wisely averted this when his military commanders could not foresee it.

Sadly, while air power played a crucial role in this UN operation, it was not without drawbacks and collateral damage. UN aircraft allegedly shot up a hospital at Shinkolobwe, northwest of Elisabethville,103 and the Lido Hotel in Elisabethville.104 It narrowly missed a building where, unbeknownst to the UN pilots, 150 to 200 European women and children had taken shelter. “It was only due to poor aiming that the bombs did not hit the building” containing the civilians, wrote the Canadian Consul General in Leopoldville. He also wrote that two Canberra aircraft were on their way to bomb Tshombé’s residence before Air Commander H. A. Morrison (from Canada) in Leopoldville managed to stop the attack.105 Despite these close calls, far more collateral damage was done by ONUC’s ground troops, including the alleged striking of a Katangan hospital by mortar fire.106

The Congo mission highlighted many organizational difficulties for the United Nations. As a mission of unprecedented complexity, cobbled together in a rush, it experienced difficulties with command and control, intelligence (at least initially), and the application of force. When the United Nations returned to the Congo four decades later, it faced many of the same problems. But by the time the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC) was created in 1999, the lessons of ONUC had been forgotten and the UN’s historical knowledge buried in its archives. The lessons and historical actions need to be explored, described, and revealed, especially as the United Nations re-engages in robust peacekeeping in that central African nation. The modern mission employs attack helicopters, though no fighter jets or bombers, to deal with the Congo’s “wild East,” especially the Kivu provinces bordering Rwanda and Uganda. Fortunately, the southern province of Katanga is relatively peaceful and has been integrated into a united Congo, thanks in part to the robust actions of UN peacekeepers in the 1960s.

 


Notes ^

1. In the Korean War, the “UN Command” utilized numerous combat aircraft but this was not a mission operated by the United Nations or its Secretary-General. The mission was authorized by the UN Security Council to engage in an enforcement action (war fighting), but it was under U.S. command with minimal direction from New York.
2. UN Security Council Resolution 161 (1961) of 21 February.
3. Carl Von Horn, Soldiering for Peace (New York: David McKay Company, 1967), 152.
4. United Nations, The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peacekeeping, 2nd ed., United Nations Publication (New York: United Nations Department of Public Information, 1990), 219.
5. Indar Jit Rikhye, Military Adviser to the Secretary-General: UN Peacekeeping and the Congo Crisis (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993), 193.
6. To head the air logistics, the United Nations appointed Canadian Group Captain (G/C) Bill Carr, later chief of the Canadian Forces Air Command. Rikhye, Military Adviser, 97. See also William (Bill) K. Carr, “The RCAF in the Congo, 1960: Among the Most Challenging Assignments Undertaken by Canadian Forces in the Peace Keeping Role,” Canadian Aviation Historical Society Journal 43, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 4–11, 31.
7. Von Horn, Soldiering for Peace, 172.
8. Ibid., 225. 
9. Ibid., 232.
10. Union Minière du Haute Katanga was “the single most important business enterprise in the Congo’s economy” because of its mines of copper, cobalt, tin, uranium, and other precious minerals. The Belgian company had, incidentally, provided the United States with most of the uranium ore used to make the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb. Now the giant mining company was paying its taxes to Moïse Tshombé instead of the central government, fearful that its assets would be seized by Prime Minister Lumumba. Nationalization took place in 1966 under President Mobutu Sese Seko. See Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History (London and New York: Zed Books, 2002), 29.
11. Rikhye, Military Adviser, 182.
12. “UN Grounds 6 Planes; Report Says Congo Charter Carrier Aided Katanga,” New York Times, 22 February 1961, 2. The CIA connection is described in Richard D. Mahoney, JFK: Ordeal in Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 81. Apparently, the agency at first saw the pro-West Katanga regime as a buttress against the pro-Communist Lumumba. Further references on early CIA support to Katanga are given in Kevin Spooner, Canada, the Congo Crisis and UN Peacekeeping, 1960–64 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009), 249 (footnote 8). In late 1962, when the United States was solidly against the secession of the Katanga province, the CIA put together an air combat unit to fight against the Katangans, with pilots from Cuba (anti-Castro exiles), but it did not engage in combat in the Congo until 1964 during the “Mulele Revolt.” Lief Hellström, The Instant Air Force: The Creation of the CIA Air Unit in the Congo, 1962 (Saarbrüucken: VDM Verlag, 2008), 34, 39.
13. In 1960–61, the CIA sought the assassination of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba by poison to make it look like Lumumba died of natural causes. At the same time, the United States was the main backer of ONUC which was guarding the prime minister to make sure he was safe from attack. Source: Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (the “Church Committee”), Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975), 33.
14. Robert Craig Johnson, “Heart of Darkness: the Tragedy of the Congo, 1960–67,” Chandelle: A Journal of Aviation History 2, no. 3 (October 1997): 11, available at http://worldatwar.net/chandelle/v2/v2n3/congo.html . In fact, Katanga had begun aerial attacks in this conflict on 30 January 1961 by using two converted commercial aircraft to bomb Manono and attack the UN garrison there, though the attack was not aimed at the United Nations but rather at the pro-Lumumba Congolese army that was forcefully entering Katanga. See Stephen R. Weissman, American Foreign Policy in the Congo (London: Cornell University Press, 1974), 183.
15. Quoted in Håvard Klevberg, “Logistical and Combat Air Power in ONUC,” in Use of Air Power in Peace Operations, ed. Carsten F. Ronnfeldt and Per Erik Solli (Oslo: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, 1997), 36–37.
16. The plane that Hammarskjöld flew in had been “shot up” by the Katangan Fouga Magister shortly before while it was leaving the Elisabethville airport but UN technicians had repaired the damage and considered the plane “air worthy” before Hammarskjöld’s departure. The plane crashed fifteen kilometres into its approach to Ndola airport. There are many theories and alleged conspiracies behind the crash. See Madeleine G. Kalb, The Congo Cables: The Cold War in Africa—From Eisenhower to Kennedy (New York: Macmillan, 1982), 298. See also Lawrence R. Devlin, Chief of Station, Congo: A Memoir of 1960–67 (New York: Public Affairs, 2007), 167–68.
17. United Nations, Resolution Adopted by the Security Council at its 982nd Meeting on 24 November 1961, Document S/5002, 24 November 1961. See also United Nations, The Blue Helmets, 247.
18. This type of formulation is borrowed from Lord Hastings Ismay, the first North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General, who described NATO’s purpose as: “to keep the Russians out; the Americans in; and the Germans down.” See David Reynolds, The Origins of the Cold War in Europe: International Perspective (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994), 13.
19. Kalb, Congo Cables, 303.
20. Quoted in Kalb, Congo Cables, 303. Apparently, the Katangan authorities had managed to obtain other Fouga Magister jets by this time.
21. Besides, the United States did not want to be directly involved in combat, in part to avoid giving the Russians a stronger reason to deploy.
22. Memorandum, “Command and Control—Fighter Operations Group,” 13 October 1961, in DAG-13/1.6.5.8.3.0:1 6600/F-OPS Policy, October 1961–March 1963, United Nations Archives, New York.
23. Rikhye, Military Adviser, 294. Descriptions of the Kolwezi attack by Indian Air Forces officers are provided in Pushpindar Singh, “Canberras in the Congo,” Bharat Rakshak website, available at http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/History/1960s/Congo01.html .
24. Charanjit Singh, “Congo Diary,” Air Power Journal 2, no. 3, MONSOON 2005 (July–September): 36, available at http://www.aerospaceindia.org/Air%20Power%20Journals/Monsoon%202005/The%20Congo%20Diary.pdf .The Air Contact Team controlled offensive air support missions in the battle zone. On 9 December 1961, ground forces put a bullet through the cockpit of Singh’s aircraft, missing his head by only a half-metre.
25. Annex A to MIL INFO 852, Leopoldville, 30 May 1962, Headquarters ONUC, “Katangese Air Capability, An Appreciation,” 6, paragraph 22 in S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
26. Ibid.
27. Kalb, Congo Cables, 315.
28. Kalb, Congo Cables, 315, quoting from Harold Macmillan, Pointing the Way (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), 449.
29. Kalb, Congo Cables, 315. The opposition Labour Party wanted the bombs delivered right away, while the Conservative Party wanted the U.K. to stop supporting ONUC altogether.
30. “Bomb Supply on Way,” New York Times, 2 January 1962, 2.
31. A. Walter Dorn and David J. H. Bell, “Intelligence in Peacekeeping: The UN Operation in the Congo 1960–64,” International Peacekeeping 2, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 11–33.
32. Memorandum MIL INT 4/D/5, 23 January 1962, “Air Recce Results,” paragraph 3 in S0829-3-11 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
33. Appendix 2 to Annex A, To MIL INT 121, 9 March 1962, “Debriefing of Aircrews,” paragraphs 1–2, in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
34. Memorandum, MIL INT 121, 10 March 1962 to Chief Fighter Operations Officer, “Air Reconnaissance,” 1, paragraph 3 in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
35. Memorandum, MIL INT 4/A/5, 16 March 1962 to Air Commander (through Chief of Staff), “Aerial Reconnaissance,” in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
36. MIL INFO 852, 6 June 1962, To Dr. Ralph Bunche, United Nations–New York, From Force Commander–ONUC, Leopoldville, “Katangese Air Capability,” 1, paragraph 4, in S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
37. “J 29 Tunnan,” available at http://historywarsweapons.com/page/15 .
38. Annex A to MIL INFO 852, Leopoldville, 30 May 1962, Headquarters ONUC, “Katangese Air Capability, An Appreciation,” 9, paragraph 32, in S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
39. Outgoing Code Cable to Dr. Bunche from General Kebbede, 24 August 1962, No. ONUC 5838, paragraph 1, in S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
40. Outgoing Code Cable to Dr. Bunche from Gardiner, Leopoldville, 27 September 1962, No. G-1307, in S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
41. AEQ/6600/5/1/F.OPS (Classified “Secret”), 1 October 1962 to Dr. Bunche, UN HQ from Lt. General Kebbede, Force Commander, ONUC, “Subject: Katangese Air Force (FAK) vis-à-vis UN Air Division,” 1, paragraph 3, in S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
42. To Dr. Bunche, UN HQ from Lt. General Kebbede [Force Commander, ONUC], “Subject: Katangese Air Force (FAK) vis-à-vis UN Air Division,” 2, paragraph 6, in AEQ/6600/5/1/F.
OPS (Classified “Secret”), 1 October 1962, S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
43. Ibid., 2–3, paragraph 7c.
44. Ibid., 2–3, paragraph 7.
45. Ibid., 3–4, paragraph 9.
46. Hellström, Instant Air Force, 23.
47. Dorn and Bell, “Intelligence in Peacekeeping,” 21.
48. Spooner, Canada, the Congo Crisis and UN Peacekeeping, 96.
49. Outgoing code cable, priority 743, to Dr. Bunche from Mr. Gardiner, 5 October 1962, No. G-1355, in S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
50. Outgoing cable, secret, to Bunche from Gardiner, 17 October 1962, No. G-1438, 1, S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), in UN Archives.
51. Incoming code cable, priority, to Kebbede, Leopoldville, from Bunche, New York, 10 November 1962, No. 7943, in S0829-1-13 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
52. Outgoing code cable, “most immediate,” from General Kebbede to Dr. Ralph Bunche, 24 November 1962, no. ONUC 7926, in S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
53. Ibid. (24 November 1962). Emphasis added.
54. Outgoing code cable, most immediate, to Dr. Ralph Bunche from General Kebbede, 24 November 1962, No. ONUC 7926, in S0829-1-14 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives. Italics added.
55. Annex C, HQ ONUC, MIL INFO 741, 22 February 1963, “Report of Visit to Kol-wezi and Jadotville Airfields 25–29 January 63,” 9, in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
56. Kalb, Congo Cables, 360.
57. Rikhye, Military Adviser, 302.
58. Kalb, Congo Cables, 362.
59. Ibid., 365.
60. Code Cable [Robert] Gardiner [Officer in Charge, ONUC] to Bunche, 24 December 1962, in S-0875-0006-06-00001, UN Archives.
61. Kalb, Congo Cables, 366–67.
62. Dorn and Bell, “Intelligence and UN Peacekeeping,” 20.
63. Appendix I, Annex C, HQ ONUC, MIL INFO 741, 22 February 1963, “Summary of Air Activity 28 December– 4 January 63,” 1, in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Ar-chives.
64. Appendix I, Annex C, HQ ONUC, MIL INFO 741, 22 February 1963, “Summary of Air Activity 28 December–4 January 63,” 1–2, in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
65. Johnson, “Heart of Darkness: the Tragedy of the Congo,” 11.
66. Appendix I, Annex C, HQ ONUC, MIL INFO 741, 22 February 1963, “Summary of Air Activity 28 December–4 January 63,” 2, paragraph 7, in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
67. Ibid., 3. Capitalization in the original.
68. U Thant, View from the UN (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1978), 145.
69 Rikhye, Military Adviser, 310.
70. Annex C, HQ ONUC, MIL INFO 741, 22 February 1963, “Report of Visit to Kolwezi and Jadotville Airfields 25–29 January 1963,” 8, in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
71. Ibid.
72. Ibid.
73. Ibid., 7.
74. Tim Cooper, “Congo, Part 1: 1960–63,” Air Combat Information Group, available at http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_182.shtml .
75. Annex C, HQ ONUC, MIL INFO 741, 22 February 1963, “Report of Visit to Kolwezi and Jadotville Airfields 25–29 January 1963,” 9, in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives. Italics added.
76. Incoming Code Cable, Priority, to Kebbede Leopoldville, from Secretary-General New York, 28 December 1962, Number 9153, in S0829-1-13 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
77. Annex C, HQ ONUC, MIL INFO 741, 22 February 1963, “Report of Visit to Kolwezi and Jadotville Airfields 25–29 January 63,” 8, in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
78. Annex C, HQ ONUC, MIL INFO 741, 22 February 1963, “Report of Visit to Kolwezi and Jadotville Airfields 25–29 January 63,” 7, in S0829-1-10 (DAG 13/1.6.5.8.4.0), UN Archives.
79. UN Archives, ONUC files, DAG 13/1.6.5.0.0 #3, FC/Ops/3025, file Ops Directives August 1960–January 1964 (26 January 1964) “Operation JADEX 1,” as cited in Sean M. Maloney, “‘Mad Jimmy’ Dextraze: The Tightrope of UN Command in the Congo,” in Warrior Chiefs: Perspectives on Senior Canadian Military Leaders, ed. Lieutenant-Colonel Bernd Horn and Ste-phen Harris (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2001), 211.
80. Paul Mayer, “Peacekeeping in the Congo: The Operation at Liembe,” The Canadian Guardsman, 1965, 136–41, as cited in Horn and Harris, Warrior Chiefs, 211.
81. Hellström, Instant Air Force, 39.
82. Maloney, “‘Mad Jimmy’ Dextraze,” 315.
83. Ibid., 313.
84. UN Archives, DAG 13/1.6.5.2.0: 26 HQ Mil ops Operation “Stayput” 6 March 1964, as cited in Maloney, “‘Mad Jimmy’ Dextraze,” 316.
85. For a good description of the aftermath of the mission and the convoluted events after 1964, see Johnson, “Heart of Darkness: the Tragedy of the Congo.” As the UN was withdrawing from the Congo in 1963–64, the Swedes blew up half of their “time-expired J-29s on the runway at Kamina.” Apparently, one of the remaining J-29s is on display at the Swedish Air Force Museum.
86. The thirteen Italian airmen were shot dead. Some were then allegedly “butchered and sold as meat at the market in Kindu.” N. H. Siebel and Maurice Lam, “Congo Kindu Airport,” available at http://www.thebluehelmets.ca/documents/Congo%20Kindu%20Airport.pdf .
87. “2Lt N. H. Siebel PGB and Captain Maurice Lam PGB in the Congo” [author un-specified], available at www.thebluehelmets.ca/documents/Congo%20Kindu%20Airport.pdf.
88. The UN investigation by the Board of Inquiry is described in UN Document S/5053/ Add.12 of 8 October 1962. The ONUC Dakota was engaged in reconnaissance operations when it was shot down near Kabongo. After evacuating the burning aircraft and extracting a dead colleague, the crew came under fire from ANC troops nearby who thought the flyers were from the Katangan forces, but when they realized the crew were UN personnel they provided full cooperation.
89. K. Sree Kumar, “Encounters with Veterans: Air Commodore P M Wilson,” Indian Air Force Veteran Histories, available at http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/History/1960s/Wilson01.html .
90. Trevor Findlay, The Use of Force in UN Peace Operations (Solna: SIPRI and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
91. Ibid., 74.
92. Ibid., 75.
93. A. Walter Dorn, “U Thant: Buddhism in Action,” in The UN Secretary-General and Moral Authority: Ethics and Religion in International Leadership, ed. Kent Kille (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2007), 143–86. Available at www.walterdorn.net/pdf/UThant-BuddhismInAction_Dorn_SG-MoralAuthority_2007.pdf .
94. Outgoing Code Cable, no. 8155, 20 November 1961, from the Acting Secretary-General to Linner, Yacob, Leopoldville, in DAG1/2.2.1, #10, UN Archives. The usual caveats were attached. Such action was only to be taken as a last resort and limited to those measures clearly necessary to the defence of ONUC troops and other personnel. No action was to be ordered without prior warning in ample time to the authorities concerned and due care was to be taken to avoid casualties among “non-involved civilians”; cited in Trevor Findlay, The Blue Helmets’ First War?, 116.
95. Fighter Operations Order No. 6, AHQ/66PP/1/F-OPS, undated, DAG13/1.6.5.0.0, #7, UN Archives, New York, cited in Findlay, The Blue Helmets’ First War?, 117.
96. Findlay, The Blue Helmets’ First War?, 118.
97. UN Press Services, Note No. 2548, “Note to Correspondents: Press Conference by the Acting Secretary-General at UN Headquarters on Tuesday, 27 March 1962”; also cited in Findlay, The Blue Helmets’ First War?, 124.
98. Findlay, The Blue Helmets’ First War?, 127, referring to Yearbook of the United Nations: Special Edition, UN Fiftieth Anniversary 1945–1995, 39.
99. E. W. Lefever and W. Joshua, United Nations Peacekeeping in the Congo, 1960–1964: An Analysis of Political, Executive, and Military Control, 1–4 (Washington: Brookings Institution for the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency [ACDA], 30 June 1966), 2, 108, as cited in Findlay, The Use of Force in UN Peace Operations, 129.
100. ONUC LEO (ONUC Headquarters Leopoldville), “Fighter OPS ORDER NO 16,” 27 December 1962, AHQ/6600/1/F-OPS, UN Archives DAG13/1.6.5.0.0, #9 (series 0787), paragraph 4, also cited in Findlay, The Blue Helmets’ First War?, 130.
101. Hellström, Instant Air Force, 24, citing the John F. Kennedy presidential archives.
102. The U.S. Air Force flew 2,310 missions, moving 63,884 personnel and 37,202 tons of material from thirty-three countries during three and a half years of service. See Captain Gilles K. Van Nederveen, “USAF Airlift into the Heart of Darkness, the Congo 1960–1978: Implications for Modern Air Mobility Planners,” Research Paper 2001-04, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, September 2001.
103. Solidarity and Defense: Sweden’s Armed Forces in International Peacekeeping Operations during the 19th and 20th Centuries, ed. Lars Ericson (Stockholm: Svenska Militärhistoriska Kommissioner/Swedish Military History Commission, 1995), 76, as cited in Findlay, The Blue Helmets’ First War? 155.
104. “Four UN Jets Bomb Elisabethville Hotel,” New York Times, 14 December 1961.
105. Canadian Consulate General Leopoldville to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs Ottawa, “Conduct of UN Troops During December Fighting in Elisabethville,” Cable of 16 January 1962, Library and Archives Canada, RG25, vol. 5224, file 6386-C-40, part 18, copy kindly provided by Kevin Spooner and referenced in Spooner, Canada, the Congo Crisis and UN Peacekeeping, 179.
106. Dennis Neeld, “UN Bombs Katanga Positions After Night of Heavy Action,” Washington Post, 15 December 1961.

* The author wishes to thank Robert Pauk, former soldier and peacekeeper, for his assistance and feedback during the research and drafting of this paper. The author also gratefully acknowledges the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre for the funds which made the research assistance possible.

 

Impréparés pour la Paix

Impréparés pour la Paix : une décennie de déclin du maintien de la paix canadien

A. Walter Dorn
Initialement publié dans “Les Nations Unies et le Canada: Ce que le Canada a apporté a l’ONU
et ce qu’il devrait faire aujord’hui,” John E. Trent (dir.), Mouvement Fédéraliste Mondial-Canada,
Ottawa, Septembre 2013, pp.14–15.(pdf) (anglais)
Résumé
La réputation internationale du Canada comme contributeur prolifique et efficace au maintien de la paix est en déclin depuis plus d’une décennie en raison du désengagement du pays à l’égard des opérations de maintien de la paix. Cette perte d’expérience à l’étranger est aggravée par la perte d’entrainement à domicile, ce qui laisse le Canada impréparé à tout réengagement dans des opérations de maintien de la paix à un niveau comparable au sien il y a quelques années. À mesure que les vété-rans du maintien de la paix des années 90 prennent leur retraite, et que les cours et exercices qui ont été élaborés pour préparer les officiers à faire face aux défis uniques des déploiements de maintien de la paix ont été coupés, les options fu-tures de politique étrangères du Canada sont affectées et offent moins d’options. Au cas où des impératifs nationaux ou internationaux, dans l’ère post-Afghani-stan, feraient revenir à des opérations de l’ONU, les Forces canadiennes et le gou-vernement doivent être prêts. Pour être bien préparées pour la paix, les Forces canadiennes auront besoin de change-ments majeurs dans leur formation et leur préparation de même que dans leur mode de pensée, dès lors qu’il s’agira de servir la cause du maintien de la paix d’une façon constructive et progressiste.

Le maintien de la paix occupe une place de choix dans l’histoire et l’identité canadienne. Les Canadiens savent que Lester B. Pearson a proposé la création de la première force de maintien de la paix, pour épargner au monde une guerre lors de la crise de Suez en 1956, ce qui lui valut le Prix Nobel de la Paix. Jusqu’au milieu des années 1990, le Canada était le plus grand contributeur de troupes de maintien de la paix pendant la Guerre Froide et le seul pays à avoir contribué à chaque mission de l’ONU. Du Cachemire au Congo, de la Bosnie à l’Éthiopie, les soldats canadiens ont été à l’avant-plan de l’ordre mondial, ayant concouru à la paix en des pays déchirés par la guerre. Cette contribution a été reconnue par la Médaille canadienne du maintien de la paix qu’ils ont le droit d’arborer. Le Monument national du maintien de la Paix (nommé « Réconciliation ») à Ottawa est un autre té-moignage de leurs contributions, de même que la silhouette d’une femme sur le billet de dix dollars arborant un béret bleu sous une bannière où l’on peut lire “Au Service de la Paix – In the Service of Peace.”

Mais qu’est-il advenu de cet héritage ‌ Le Canada est-il le contributeur prolifique de naguère au maintien de la paix ‌ Malheureusement, la réponse est non. Bien que le Canada ait jadis fourni jusqu’à 3000 soldats au maintien de la paix, il n’en fournit aujourd’hui que 60 – comme le dit un ami , juste de quoi remplir un autobus scolaire. Bien que les Nations Unies maintiennent plus de 80,000 soldats sur le terrain, le niveau le plus élevé à ce jour, le Canada a maintenu son con-tingent au niveau le plus bas depuis 2006. Deux mois après l’arrivée des conservateurs au pouvoir, le Canada a retiré ses 200 logisticiens des hauteurs du Golan alors que cette mission de l’ONU continue à servir de tampon important entre Israël et la Syrie, qui est en proie à une dangereuse guerre civile. Au lieu du maintien de la paix, le Canada s’est mis à faire la guerre, dépensant des milliards de dollars en Afghanistan pour essayer sans succès de vaincre les Talibans et d’apporter la stabilité au pays. Les Forces canadiennes se sont transformées en une force militaire avec une seule mis-sion et l’Afghanistan comme seul objet d’attention. En une décennie, opérant dans un seul pays, il y a eu plus de soldats canadiens tués qu’au cours de six décennies de maintien de la paix dans plus de 40 pays.

Pire encore, au cours de la dernière décennie, les Forces canadiennes (FC) ont permis un déclin majeur dans la formation et l’éducation en maintien de la paix – ce que l’on appelle les opérations en appui à la paix (OAP) dans la ter-minologie et la doctrine militaire canadienne. Le retrait par le gouvernement de l’appui au Centre Pearson du Maintien de la Paix a entraîné la fermeture de cette institution unique, ce qui signifie que les soldats ne pouvaient plus suivre une formation sur les opérations de paix multidimensionnelles en même temps que des civils et des officiers étrangers. Plus globalement, les FC n’offrent que la moitié des activités de formation en maintien de la paix par rapport à il y a dix ans. Il est à noter que dans les exercices et simulations de formation, les officiers canadiens ne jouent plus les rôles des forces onusiennes comme par le passé. Dans le programme pour le commandement conjoint et le personnel, les of-ficiers planifient et modèlent les opérations d’une alliance, parfois explicitement identifiée comme étant l’OTAN, mais on ne leur offre plus la possibilité de le faire du point de vue d’une mission de l’ONU ou de passer en revue les procé-dures et pratiques de l’ONU.

La mission de combat à Kandahar, en Afghanistan, de 2006 à 2011, a indubitablement donné au personnel des FC une expérience valable en termes d’opérations de combat et de contre-insurrection. Bien qu’il existe une certaine similitude entre ces types de mission et les opérations internationales de maintien de la paix, il y a aussi des dif-férences fondamentales dans la formation, la préparation et la pratique. Le maintien de la paix exige une formation spécialisée dans la mesure où c’est une tâche plus complexe et conceptuellement plus difficile que la guerre. La guerre et la contre-insurrection appellent une stratégie centrée sur l’ennemi, elles ont un caractère non-consensuel et sont essentiellement offensives, tandis que le maintien de la paix est fondé sur une triade de principes : impartialité, consente-ment des parties au conflit et approche défensive dans le recours à la force, même si des actions robustes d’imposition de la paix sont parfois nécessaires. Il faut donc un change-ment majeur de mentalité pour proprement préparer les FC post-Afghanistan à des opérations de paix futures. Des apti-tudes spéciales, distinctes de celles apprises en Afghanistan, sont nécessaires, y compris l’art de la négociation, la gestion et la résolution de conflit de même qu’une compréhension des procédures de l’ONU et de missions de maintien de la paix antérieures.

Ainsi, un effort concerté est nécessaire pour revitaliser les aptitudes des forces canadiennes en maintien de la paix, si elles doivent aider les Nations Unies de façon constructive dans un monde rempli de conflits. Comparativement au passé, il y a peu de chances dans les années à venir que l’on voie des coalitions dirigées par les États-Unis sur le terrain; les militaires canadiens n’ont donc guère d’alternatives pour rendre l’armée utile à l’avenir. Le maintien de la paix fait progresser aussi bien les valeurs que les intérêts du Canada pour l’instauration d’un ordre international stable, pacifique, fondé sur des règles. Il y a un besoin constant de forces de maintien de la paix bien entraînées et bien équipées. Le retour du Canada au maintien de la paix serait célébré par les Nations Unies et la communauté interna-tionale. Un tel développement pourrait aider notre pays à acquérir plus d’influence et de notoriété, y compris pour un futur siège au Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU, tout en donnant aux Canadiens quelque chose d’encore plus important : un sens renouvelé de fierté dans la contribution de leur nation à un monde meilleur et plus pacifique.

A. Walter Dorn est professeur en études de défense au Collège royal militaire et au Collège des forces canadiennes. Il enseigne à des officiers supérieurs et intermédiaires du Canada et d’une vingtaine d’autres pays. Dans le passé, il a travaillé au département des Opérations de maintien de la paix de l’ONU comme conseiller en formation et comme consultant, de même que comme membre du person-nel civil de l’ONU sur le terrain. Adresse courriel : dorn@rmc.ca.

Unprepared for peace

Unprepared for peace: A decade of decline in Canadian peacekeeping

A. Walter Dorn

Originally published in “The United Nations and Canada: What Canada has done and should be doing at the United Nations,” John E. Trent (Ed.), World Federalist Movement—Canada, Ottawa, September 2013, pp.14–15.  (pdf) (français)
(2014 version of paper, pdf: En, Fr)

Abstract
Canada’s international reputation as a prolific and proficient peacekeeper has been in decline for over a decade, owing to the country’s disengagement with peacekeeping operations. This loss of experience abroad is compounded by the loss of training at home, leaving Canada unprepared to re-engage with UN peacekeeping at the level it once did. As the peacekeeping veterans from the 1990’s retire, and as the courses and exercise that were developed to prepare officers for the unique challenges of peacekeeping deployment are cut, Canada’s future foreign policy options are being undermined and narrowed. In the event that national and international demands in the post-Afghanistan era shift back to UN operations, the Canadian Forces and government need to be ready. To be properly prepared for peace, Canada requires major changes to its training and preparations, as well as a mindset that is once again open to serving the cause of peacekeeping in a constructive and progressive fashion.

Peacekeeping has a place of pride in Canadian history and identity. Canadians know that Lester B. Pearson proposed the first peacekeeping force, which moved the world back from war in the 1956 Suez Crisis and won him the Nobel peace prize. Canada was the largest contributor of peacekeepers during the Cold War and the only country to have contributed to every UN mission until the mid-1990s. From Kashmir to the Congo, from Bosnia to Ethiopia, Canadian soldiers were at the forefront of world order, contributing to peace in war-torn lands. This was recognized by the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal that they are entitled to wear. The National Peacekeeping Monument (called “Reconciliation”) in Ottawa is another testament to their contributions, as is the female soldieron the ten-dollar bill who wears a blue beret under a banner that reads “Au Service de la Paix – In the Service of Peace.”

But what has become of that legacy? Is Canada the prolific peacekeeper it once was? Unfortunately, the answer is no. While Canada once contributed 3,000 military personnel to peacekeeping, it currently provides only 60 – as a friend says, just enough to fill a school bus. While the United Nations has maintained an all-time high of over 80,000 military in the field, Canada has kept its numbers at historical lows since 2006. Two months after the Conservative government came to power, Canada withdrew its 200 logisticians from the Golan Heights, even as the UN mission continues to serve as an important buffer between Israel and war-wrecked Syria. Instead of peacekeeping, Canada turned to war-fighting, spending billions on Afghanistan in an unsuccessful bid to defeat the Taliban and bring unattained stability. The Canadian Forces became a single-mission military with Afghanistan as the sole focus of attention.

In that one decade, operating in one country, more Canadian soldiers died than in six decades of peacekeeping in more than 40 countries. To make matters worse, over the past decade, the Canadian Forces (CF) permitted a major decline in training and education for peacekeeping – known as peace support operations (PSOs) in Canadian military parlance and doctrine. The government’s withdrawal of support to the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre caused the demise of that unique facility and meant that Canadian soldiers could no longer train on multidimensional peace operations alongside civilians and foreign officers. More broadly, the CF provides only half the peacekeeping training activities that it did 10 years ago. Significantly, in training exercises and simulations, Canadian officers no longer take on roles of UN peacekeepers as they once did. At the joint command and staff program, the officers plan and exercise operations of an alliance, sometimes explicitly identified as NATO, but they are no longer given the opportunity to look from within a UN mission or review UN procedures and practices.

The 2006–11 combat mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan, unquestionably gave CF personnel valuable experience in combat and counter-insurgency (COIN) operations. While there are some similarities between these types of missions and international peace operations, there are also fundamental differences in the training, preparation and practice. Peacekeeping requires specialized training as it is a more complex and conceptually challenging task than war-fighting. War and COIN missions are enemy-centric, non-consensual and primarily involve offensive strategy, whereas peacekeeping is based on a trinity of principles: impartiality; consent of conflicting parties; and the defensive approach on the use of force, though robust peace enforcement action is sometimes required. A major change in mentality would thus be needed to properly prepare the post-Afghanistan CF for future peace operations. Special skills, separate from those learned in Afghanistan, are needed, including negotiation, conflict management and resolution, as well as an understanding of UN procedures and past peacekeeping missions.

Thus, a concerted effort is needed to revitalize the peacekeeping skills of the Canadian Forces if it is to constructively help the United Nations in a conflict-ridden world. Since U.S.-led coalitions on the ground are unlikely in coming years, the Canadian military does not have many alternatives to make its army useful. Peacekeeping advances both Canada’s national values and interests in enhancing a stable, peaceful, and rules-based international order. There is a constant need for well-trained and well-equipped peacekeepers. Canada’s return to peacekeeping would be embraced by the United Nations and the international community. Such a development could help our country gain more influence and clout, including a future seat in the UN Security Council, and give Canadians something even more important: a sense of renewed pride in the nation’s contribution to a better, more peaceful world.

 

Further writings on the subject by the author:

“Canadian Peacekeeping: Proud Tradition, Strong Future?” Canadian Foreign Policy, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Fall 2005), pp.7-32, available at http://walterdorn.org/pub/32.

“Canadian Peacekeeping: No Myth But Not What It Once Was”, SITREP, Vol. 67, No. 2, Royal Canadian Military Institute, 2007, available at http://walterdorn.org/pdf/CanadianPeacekeeping-NoMyth_Dorn_SitRep_April2007.pdf.

 

Namibia 1989

TRUE OR FALSE WARNING?
The United Nations and Threats to Namibia’s Independence,1989

A. Walter Dorn, Robert Pauk, and Emily Cope Burton

Published in International Journal of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 507–529 (2013). (pdf)

The success of the Namibian independence plan in 1989–1990 is a high point in the history of the United Nations. The enormous challenge of Namibia even predated the organization, going back seven decades on the international agenda. South West Africa (Namibia) became a mandate under the League of Nations in 1920 after Germany lost that colonial territory to the then Union of South Africa during World War I. After World War II, the mandate continued as a UN trusteeship under South Africa, but Pretoria refused to accept the required international supervision. It governed Namibia as a colony, complete with the brutal racist institution of apartheid. In 1963, its trusteeship was officially terminated by the UN Security Council and, in 1966, the UN General Assembly declared that South Africa’s continued control of Namibia was illegal. Then, in 1978, in a push for Namibian independence, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 435 (1978), which outlined an implementation strategy for free elections. But another ten years elapsed before the United Nations and the United States gained South Africa’s cooperation.

 
Eventually, South Africa’s leaders realized that its border war against the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) had become a heavy burden, a harmful political liability, an anachronism in the Soviet Union’s Gorbachev era, and, perhaps most importantly, an unwinnable contest. Moreover, international pressure and UN-sponsored sanctions impelled South Africa to finally bargain seriously. A series of peace agreements, including the Geneva Protocol of 8 August 1988, also involved a commitment from Fidel Castro’s Cuba to withdraw its troops from neighboring Angola, where Cuba had been backing a Communist government fighting an insurgency. A UN peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG), was organized to launch formally on 1 April 1989 to facilitate elections in Namibia seven months later.
The United Nations’ mission to facilitate Namibian self-rule was strewn with many obstacles. Indeed, the whole process at times seemed headed for failure; had it not been for UNTAG’s ability to quickly recover from its initial weaknesses there would have been little hope for success. Two major crises during the Namibian independence process showed how vital it is for the mission and the UN Secretariat, which oversees the daily operation of peacekeeping missions, to have current information on developments in the field and how vulnerable it can be without an independent stream of intelligence. These two events also show how improvements were made over time in the field mission, thus enabling UNTAG to better react to unexpected events.

NO FOOLING ON 1 APRIL

After years of negotiations, SWAPO and South Africa finally agreed to institute self-rule in Namibia through democratic elections. The role of the United Nations and the international community became crucial and went through many phases. When the Security Council initially began to formulate the plan for UNTAG in the late 1970s, the common belief was that about 25,000 peacekeepers would be needed to monitor and mediate the peace in Namibia. But, as the situation along the border improved over the next few years, the number was reduced to 7,500 troops plus police and election personnel.1 Then, just prior to the implementation phase, the United Nations found itself under severe financial constraints due to heavy pressure from the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, led by the United States.2 In response, Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuéllar had to cut costs by further reducing the force to 4,650 troops without changing the force’s mission to keep the peace and monitor the elections. Sadly, the long arguments in New York among UN members over the size and cost of the mission ultimately led to a significant delay in its reduced deployment, which had tragic consequences. In fact, by 7 April 1989, one week after the start of the cease-fire, only 937 members of the force had been deployed and UNTAG did not reach its full strength until over a month after the cease-fire was to have begun.3 
 
In spite of bickering over force size and the resulting delays in deploying UNTAG, both SWAPO and South Africa wrote to Perez de Cuéllar in March 1989 to assure him of their dedication to the formal cease-fire, which was to begin at 4 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on 1 April 1989.4 During the early hours before and after, however, armed SWAPO guerrillas entered Namibia from neighboring Angola where they were supposed to have been confined to bases according to the independence plan. They were dressed in camouflage and carried weaponry but, by all accounts, did not fire the first shots.5 According to the South African Administrator General, 143 guerrillas had crossed the border and, in the course of the fighting, fifteen guerrillas were killed and one was captured, while eight South West African Police were wounded.6 
 

On the morning of 1 April, Pérez de Cuéllar sought an urgent update from the UNTAG head, Finland’s Martti Ahtisaari, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in Namibia, who could provide only very few details since the UN force had just begun to deploy. Some 300 monitors from 14 countries had arrived in Namibia, the bulk of them around 25 March, and they had been quickly positioned in their respective sectors by 28 March.7 However, none of UNTAG’s infantry battalions had yet arrived. Moreover, the SWAPO infiltration had taken place almost entirely in the North-West Sector, where UNTAG had only 61 monitors8 who were also responsible for monitoring the confinement of South African forces to bases, in accordance with the 1988 Geneva Protocol. In a subsequent briefing to the Security Council on 3 April, Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar reported: “While 280 of the 300 military monitors were in place throughout the territory on 1 April, their effectiveness, also, was seriously hampered by their limited mobility and restricted access to communications.”9 
 

In view of these limitations, Ahtisaari was unable to assess the situation with any accuracy. The UN officials knew only South Africa’s version of events, which included allegations that a full-scale SWAPO invasion was expected, with 4,000 to 6,000 guerrillas poised to cross the border from Angola. South Africa may have received information about SWAPO movements from its informants within SWAPO10 or from its ally, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), a rebel group fighting the Angolan government which frequently engaged in skirmishes with SWAPO inside Angola. Also, elements within the South African government may have fabricated evidence to exaggerate the extent of the incursion.
 
At noon on 1 April, the Secretary-General received a tense phone call from Roelof F. (Pik) Botha, South Africa’s Foreign Minister. Botha began with a veiled threat, saying that unless the “Secretary-General made his position clear,” he would have no choice but to ask for UNTAG’s withdrawal. He then said the South African Defence Forces (SADF) should be allowed to leave their bases and that he was authorizing them to “take guard on the border.”11 Faced with such an adamant position, combined with a significant lack of independent evidence of the alleged SWAPO armed flow across the border, the UN leader felt he had little choice but to give reluctant approval for a limited release of the SADF. Six battalions of South African soldiers were allowed to leave their bases in Namibia to actively engage in “protecting” the border.
 
The next day, 2 April, several UN officials journeyed to Northern Namibia to interview two SWAPO members who had been captured by South African forces. As the Secretary-General later told the Security Council, the captured guerillas explained that they had been told to enter Namibia:

 
Each said that he had been instructed not to engage the security forces, even if he saw them, because a cease-fire was to be in effect and there was to be no more fighting …. One said that he had been told by his detachment commander that he would be instructed in Namibia, where he should go, so that the United Nations would supervise him and his colleagues. The other said that … their purpose was to come and establish bases inside Namibia … and that United Nations personnel would then come and take care of them. Each reiterated several times that they had been told that the war was about to be over, and that they were to enter Namibia and help to establish a base which would then be under the United Nations.12
 

Cedric Thornberry, the chief UN interviewing official, believed them. A new view then developed within the United Nations that the purpose of the infiltration had not been aggressive, as the South Africans insisted, but rather a misunderstanding, perhaps deliberate, of the settlement plan involving SWAPO bases. Certainly the numbers of infiltrators had been totally inadequate to comprise an invading force, and the behavior of the guerillas had not been aggressive.

THE MYSTERY OF SWAPO’S INCURSION

Many people wondered in disbelief how the SWAPO leader, Sam Nujoma, could expose his troops to such danger, even slaughter, while his organization was on the cusp of victory. Nujoma had probably miscalculated the South Africans’ response in his zeal to make a blatant political show of his guerillas in Namibia and to prove to the people that the SWAPO fighters were their true liberators. Marrack Goulding, the then-Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, speculated in his 2002 memoirs that perhaps President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) had encouraged Nujoma to do this by telling him that the presence of his own robust ZANU-PF fighters inside Rhodesia had helped Mugabe win the 1980 elections and become Zimbabwe’s leader. Mugabe and Nujoma had been together in Harare in March during a summit of the Front Line States (against South African apartheid), providing ample opportunity for such influence.13Some suggest that Nujoma and his colleagues felt covered by a statement made ten years earlier by then UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim that “any SWAPO armed forces in Namibia at the time of the cease-fire will likewise be restricted to base at designated locations inside Namibia ….14
 
As commonly understood during the formative years of Resolution 435, if SWAPO had soldiers in Namibia, they would be allowed to stay under UN supervision, but the Geneva Protocol had changed this by requiring all SWAPO forces to be confined to Angola instead. But SWAPO had not signed the Geneva Protocol15 and argued ex post facto that the group’s forces needed only to abide by Resolution 435 and that those who had infiltrated from Angola should be allowed to stay. Notwithstanding this, Nujoma was certainly aware that the current UN policy did not provide for the entry of SWAPO fighters and sending such forces would contravene the agreement. One SWAPO officer later argued that the armed entry into Namibia was the result of an accidental skirmish with South African police forces that quickly escalated as more fighters crossed to defend their embattled comrades.16 In any case, the entire peace process stood in jeopardy on the first day of its implementation.
 
On 2 April, Nujoma issued a press release denying that his party had violated the cease-fire. He explained that the SWAPO soldiers had been in Namibia long before the cease-fire and were merely celebrating the beginning of the independence process when South African forces attacked them.17 Furthermore, he argued that if the South African forces had been following their part of the agreement, they would have been confined to their bases rather than searching for SWAPO infiltrators.18Meanwhile, Pérez de Cuéllar told South African Foreign Minister Botha over the telephone that UNTAG would send a team to investigate South Africa’s findings. He also urged his Special Representative and Force Commander to keep him “fully and promptly informed of any developments.”19

 

UN SHORTCOMINGS AND OPPOSITION FABLES

The United Nations still had no infantry in Namibia to patrol or investigate in areas of deadly conflict, and thus remained torn between the two accounts. South Africa claimed intelligence sources that contradicted Nujoma’s version of events. While the United Nations attempted to remain skeptical of South African claims, information clearly indicated that Nujoma had either lied or been mistaken when he argued that no cross-border movement had occurred. UN officials, accompanied by South African intelligence officers, had found convincing evidence, in the form of both eye-witness accounts and physical signs of movement, that at least 1,000 individuals had crossed into northern Namibia during the preceding days. Later estimates put the total number at about 1,600. It also became clear was that South Africa had exaggerated its reports of SWAPO plans for a full-scale armed invasion. In reality, the SADF had the situation well under control.20
 
Evidence mounted that South Africa was using the SWAPO incursion—which clearly lacked the numerical strength, means, or aggressiveness to be a military invasion or serious campaign—to kill as many People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN, SWAPO’s army) guerrillas as possible. An outgoing UN Code Cable from the Secretary-General’s Chief of Staff, Virendra Dayal, in New York to Ahtisaari in Windhoek (capital of Namibia) on 27 April referred to a television program South Africa Now that had aired in New York the previous evening and
 
showed footage of corpses of SWAPO fighters who, allegedly, had been shot through the head after being captured in Namibia. Expert witnesses stated that the wounds of those killed were not inflicted in battle but in captivity. According to the program, press articles on the subject of such ‘executions’ were first carried by the London Daily Telegraph from a correspondent in Namibia.21
 
Furthermore, a Guardian newspaper article of 25 April by Victoria Brittain, “Injuries Show SWAPO Dead ‘Must have been Executed,’ ” referred to the same television program in New York and stated the SWAPO injuries “could only have resulted from military-style execution after capture.”22

Another Guardian article stated that the Soviet Union was calling on the International Committee of the Red Cross to investigate what it termed “deliberate South African attempts to kill SWAPO guerillas rather than permit them to withdraw to Angola.”23 The truth about the SWAPO incursion was not really known until years later. In 1989, UN officials believed that no SWAPO fighters had initially been present inside Namibia and that they had all moved across the border to Angola, but evidence suggests that many of them were already in Namibia. A resident of Northern Namibia, Bishop Kleopas Dumeni later recalled: “Yes, they were there. You cannot see them because they were civilians. But their weapons were here. Maybe some crossed the border. But … some were already here.”24 Most likely, SWAPO fighters, both from Angola and within Namibia, had been openly gathering for political demonstrations with the expectation of eventually being supervised, demobilized, and protected by UNTAG, which was not yet fully deployed. Instead, they found themselves under attack by South West African Police and the anti-guerilla South African paramilitary force Koevoet (Afrikaans for crowbar). Koevoet members received a bounty for every SWAPO member killed.25 They used the situation to kill as many SWAPO fighters as possible under the pretext of resisting an invasion, while burying the bodies in mass graves. The exact number of SWAPO dead will never be known.26 

Without clear forewarning, the United Nations proved unable to prevent the tragedy. No UNTAG infantry had deployed at this point. Moreover, the risk of injury during the violence caused UNTAG observers to be confined to South African bases in Namibia.27 Without infantry support the unarmed monitors could not defend themselves and, in accordance with standard UN policy, they were withdrawn from areas of combat. Had UNTAG’s infantry been in place, it could have provided first-hand witness of the conflict and even served as a deterrent to the South African slaughter.

NEGOTIATING A CEASE-FIRE AT MT. ETJO

SWAPO was desperate to stop the massacre. On 3 April, at a meeting between an UNTAG liaison officer and a joint Angolan/SWAPO delegation, Hidipo Hamutenya, SWAPO’s secretary for information and publicity, proposed that “UNTAG, in the name of the Secretary-General, issue an immediate order for a cease-fire between SWAPO and South African security forces.”28 He stated that SWAPO was prepared to dispatch commanders to the troubled areas to stop the fighting and “to go on Angolan radio to give instructions concerning the cease-fire and to send emissaries to Windhoek to pass on the word.”29
 
On 5 April, the Secretary-General’s proposal included the restoration of the cease-fire, establishment of temporary assembly points under UNTAG for SWAPO fighters in Namibia, and the return of the SADF to its base. Yet, the next day, South Africa released even more troops from their bases, claiming the SWAPO infiltration was actually increasing. Then, on 7 April, Nujoma finally announced at a news conference in Zimbabwe that SWAPO would cooperate with the UN plan to get Resolution 435 back on track. He said: “SWAPO and the Namibian people have nothing to gain by further loss of lives and the collapse of the UN independence plan for our country … we have come to this decision because we are aware of the historic responsibility that we have to our people and to humanity as a whole.”30 Nujoma announced that SWAPO would move all its soldiers out of Namibia within 72 hours once a procedure was agreed upon. They would later be permitted to return in an orderly fashion prior to the November election.
 
On 9 April, a joint commission consisting of Angolan, Cuban, and South African representatives formulated the withdrawal procedure known as the Mt. Etjo Declaration, named after the town 200 kilometers north of Windhoek where it was negotiated. It called for a total withdrawal within six days of enactment and a major role for the United Nations in the whole process, set to begin on 15 April. Nine assembly points were to be set up at various locations in northern Namibia, all manned by UN forces. SWAPO fighters could return to these check points and then be escorted by UN personnel to SWAPO bases at least 90 miles inside Angola. Also, a large number of churches were designated as safe havens where guerrillas could be assured a safe escort back to Angola. Although most SWAPO soldiers crossed the border on their own, some did take advantage of UN assistance and, by mid-May, most, if not all, of the fighters had found their way back to Angola.
 
The speed with which the Mt. Etjo Declaration was suddenly achieved has been attributed to the external leverage exerted on both sides to compromise. Specifically, Angola, Cuba, and Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union pressed Nujoma. Similarly, the United States—with its capacity to strengthen sanctions in the Security Council—pressed South Africa.31 Nujoma’s reversal was abrupt, going from consistent demands for an end to the fighting, but with his guerillas remaining in Namibia, to suddenly agreeing to withdraw them all to Angola. Similarly, South Africa seemed suddenly willing to stop its on-sight slaughter of SWAPO guerillas. Another element might have been present in South Africa’s decision to stop inflicting as many SWAPO casualties as possible. On 6 April, South Africa had been releasing more troops from its bases, claiming that the SWAPO infiltration was increasing. Then, suddenly, the South Africans were ready to stop the violence and negotiate at Mt. Etjo. While much attention has been given to Nujoma’s sudden compromise, not much has been given to the suddenness of South Africa’s reversal immediately after 6 April.

The Cuba Factor

UNTAG documents suggest that another factor in this reversal was a major change in South Africa’s assessment of the military situation. The UNTAG Situation Report for 7 April describes the sighting of “Cuban infantry supported by tanks located in area Namacu[n]de near common border in Angola.”32 The subsequent weekly situation report elaborated: “SWAPO infiltration into Namibia were reported by SADF to be between 1,800–1,900 pers. Follow up by SADF/SWAPOL resulted in numerous clashes during period 03–08 April 89. Situation led to movement of Cuban infantry supported by tanks toward south of Angola.33
 
Clearly, the advance of Cuban troops and tanks to within 15 minutes of the Namibian border comprised a major military enhancement of SWAPO forces, one beyond the ability of South Africa to repel. South Africa was certainly aware of this threat. On 6 April, a South African delegation told UNTAG’s Ahtisaari and UNTAG Force Commander General Dewan Prem Chand that “now being prepared for re-entry to Namibia [are] three mixed SWAPO/Cuban battalions just north of the Namibian border. They had some armour.”34 Then South Africa’s Administrator General of Namibia reported on 7 April: “The mixed PLAN/Cuban Battalion supported by tanks in Namacunde/Oshikango area have an offensive capability and poses a direct threat to the Central Owambo.”35

The lethal South African response to SWAPO’s initial incursion evidently triggered this Cuban advance towards the Angolan border with Namibia. The PLAN guerillas had probably sought not military but political gain through public demonstrations in uniform within Namibia. But, after the ruthless slaughter, even mass executions of SWAPO guerillas, the Cubans advanced their infantry and tanks to allow for a possible retaliation.

The Cuban advance is not given importance in the literature on Namibian independence possibly because it was generally believed that the Cubans were in the process of withdrawing from Angola in accordance with the Brazzaville agreement, and their presence was viewed as a solved problem. Their withdrawal, however, was gradual, beginning 1 November 1988 at a rate of 3,000 troops a month. Under this plan, all Cuban troops were to depart Angola by 31 October 1990.36 Thus, in early April 1989, some 50,000 Cuban troops were still in Angola and elements of the Cuban army were advancing with tanks to Namibia. Their location, Namacunde, was a mere 15-minute drive from the Namibian border. This Cuban advance was likely a significant factor in South Africa’s decision to desist from the slaughter and negotiate. Ironically, the Cuban military threat likely provided a major boost to the peace process.
 
The April “incursion” entailed a significant loss of life. An UNTAG Assessment Report for April 1989 estimated the total killed through April was 312 SWAPO and 30 security forces,37 though some say that figure is an underestimate. The casualties were asymmetrical probably because South Africa’s elite and experienced troops and Koevoet members were possibly aided by the SA Air Force. A few days later, by 4 May, the full complement of 4,540 UN peacekeepers had arrived in Namibia and, by 13 May, the South African forces had returned to their bases.

On 15 May, the UN’s final verification reassured South Africa as a prelude to the election phase that all the guerrillas were gone. This verification was not an exacting or scientific undertaking since relatively little data was available to work with. The SWAPO/PLAN fighters had come across the border at a time when no UN troops had been in place, so no one really knew how many had already been inside the nascent country. Less than two weeks later, they were instructed to return to Angola, with UNTAG offering safe meeting points for them. Had the guerrillas actually reported there, the United Nations could then have at least counted the number returning to Angola, but South African forces were also present at each of these nine stations and most SWAPO fighters felt threatened by the SADF presence. Most snuck back over the border into Angola rather than report to the UNTAG meeting points. Despite this lack of information, all parties agreed after 15 May that most of the SWAPO contingent was now in Angola and that moving ahead with the elections could be done safely.

FALSE WARNING ON 1 NOVEMBER

Exactly seven months after the first crisis, on 1 November, a few days prior to the elections, South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha called a hasty press conference and dramatically announced that “the same sources” that had given him information about the 1 April events had informed him that several hundred SWAPO fighters were again about to cross the border into Namibia. As evidence, he produced copies of alleged UN radio messages intercepted by South Africa. He assured the media that he had “no doubt about the authenticity of the transmissions” and that “the information was consistent with information received from other sources.”38 
 
Approximately one hour earlier, Botha had called the UN’s Martti Ahtisaari but, unable to reach him, he then unsuccessfully attempted to contact Secretary-General Perez de Cuéllar, and left a message for him. Technically, then, the United Nations had been informed prior to the media, although not until after the press conference did Botha speak personally with both Ahtisaari, who replied with disbelief, and Perez de Cuéllar, who had a similar response. The radio messages in question were supposedly transmitted on UN wavelengths between monitors at the border. Botha had concluded from them that the United Nations knew of the planned incursion and had made no attempt to stop it. According to his sources, UNTAG felt intimidated by SWAPO and was therefore unwilling to intervene.39 
 
United Nations officials and others soon dismissed the messages as a hoax. UNTAG leaders had their communications specialists examine copies of the radio messages and they determined that the messages had neither the form, content, nor style of UN communications and were therefore fraudulent. But this was not the only indication of falsehood. Botha himself had a credibility problem because of similar though smaller scares earlier, none of which had turned out to be true.40 After several times “crying wolf” about SWAPO aggression, when little danger was apparent, his claims no longer commanded credibility.
 
SWAPO officials, understandably furious about the November allegations, argued that Botha was attempting to influence or disrupt the upcoming elections with false accusations. Further, according to SWAPO’s Hamutenya, fewer than 600 SWAPO fighters were left in Angola. Recently, nearly all had legally returned to Namibia since, under Resolution 435 (and new understandings), they were entitled to participate in Namibia’s elections if they had either resided in the country longer than four years or if their parents had been born in Namibia. Quite simply, had a plan for infiltration existed, no one was left to carry it out.41 Monitors searched the border for signs of a build-up but failed to uncover any evidence. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard described the situation on the border as “extremely peaceful.” On 4 November, even Botha had to concede that the messages had been a hoax, although from where they had originated was not ascertained.42 Most likely, they had been the work of spoilers within the South African government opposed to Namibian independence.

MISSING OPPORTUNITY FOR EARLY WARNING

The United Nations acted quickly on the 1 November charges, saving the election, but its response on 1 April needs further examination and comparison. Given that the 1 April incursion resulted in over 300 deaths, asking whether the United Nations could have foreseen the tragedy becomes important. Some signs of potential conflict were clear prior in retrospect. On 23 March, Under-Secretary-General Goulding met with SWAPO president Sam Nujoma. According to Perez de Cuéllar’s memoir, during that meeting:

 
Nujoma referred immediately to a working paper that had been drafted earlier in the month for talks among the parties on implementation of Resolution 435 on the monitoring by Angola of the confinement to their bases in Angola of the SWAPO fighters. He insisted forcefully that this was wrong. … Goulding then said that he was compelled to make absolutely clear that the plan approved by the Security Council did not allow for either SWAPO bases or gathering centers for SWAPO guerrillas inside Namibia. Nujoma again insisted that the 1982 plan was unacceptable to SWAPO.43 
 

This meeting took place in Zimbabwe, where President Mugabe likely told Nujoma that his fighters had helped him win the first Zimbabwean election in 1980. As mentioned, this could well have convinced Nujoma to make a similar display with SWAPO guerrillas in Namibia. Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar admitted that these factors “should have warned us of a possible intent to infiltrate fighters into Namibia.”44 But a delay of five days occurred before the report reached the Secretary-General in New York, and Goulding has been blamed for not passing on the information quickly. In his own memoirs, Goulding countered that he was well aware of the need to pass this information to New York, but because he had no secure communications in Harare, he immediately sent Colonel Michael Moriarity, UNTAG’s Chief Liaison Officer, to Windhoek with a letter to UNTAG Force Commander Lt.-Gen. Prem Chand, asking him to fax the details of the meeting to Ahtisaari in New York. Prem Chand did indeed fax the information on 25 March, but because it was the Saturday before Easter the information did not reach the Secretary-General until Tuesday, 28 March,45 which was by then, according to Pérez de Cuéllar, too late to do much about it.46 

 
Other fragments of evidence for early warning escaped the UN’s notice, or at least were not acted upon. For example, according to informal remarks made by Pérez de Cuéllar to the Security Council during the week of 5 April, Botha told Martti Ahtisaari on 31 March 1989 that 150 armed SWAPO members had entered into Namibia in the past week-and-a-half and that possibly more were coming.47
 
Pérez de Cuéllar stated that he was not informed until at least six hours after the 1 April fighting began that something was seriously wrong with the Namibian peace process. Conversely, by several accounts, his Special Representative had received reports from Pretoria about a potential for violence along the border, and that South African intelligence officials had known of a build-up of SWAPO guerrillas in Angola weeks in advance.
 
In addition, a potential early warning appeared in a New York Times opinion article by Sam Nujoma himself that was widely read at the United Nations. In the 31 March op-ed, he stated:
We will reserve the full celebration until the outcome of free and fair election in November certified under United Nations Security Council Resolution 435. … The path will be strewn with obstacles. … We expect violence. [emphasis added]

Whether this reflected Nujoma’s actual intentions or merely his extreme apprehension over the tactics of South Africa and his firmly-held belief that Pretoria was unwilling to engage in fair play cannot be ascertained. Nevertheless, Goulding’s remarks are illuminating: “I had been on the receiving end of many Nujoma tantrums during my time in Luanda, with the result that I took this latest diatribe less seriously than I should have done.”48 That the UN officials simply could not believe that almost a year into the “unofficial” cease-fire Nujoma would embark on such a reckless undertaking is understandable. Hindsight now points to a pattern of clues, but at the time the only discernible pattern was Nujoma’s outbursts.

The main problem for real-time warning on 1 April was the inadequate number of UN officers positioned to observe SWAPO’s recklessly sending its fighters from Angola into Namibia. Had the United Nations force been fully deployed it might have detected the warning signs in the field. Still, the fault did not lie with UNTAG, whose headquarters staff and 280 observers without troops (infantry) were quite helpless as the conflict grew into a week-long raging fire. Rather, the main fault lay with the nations serving on the Security Council who dithered over UNTAG’s size, delaying its full deployment until well after 1 April, the date the cease-fire was to officially commence.
 

UNTAG’S LIMITATIONS

Under pressure to reduce costs, the United Nations significantly downsized the envisioned UNTAG from 25,000 to 4,650 plus some election personnel.49  But its task remained the same: to keep the peace and monitor the elections. UNTAG did not reach full strength until over a month later.50 
 
Besides the delayed deployment and inadequate strength on 1 April, another limitation imposed on UNTAG was Angola’s long-standing refusal to allow UNTAG monitors into the country to ensure that SWAPO fighters were confined to their bases there. The pro-Communist Angolan government, aligned with SWAPO, insisted that it alone be responsible for monitoring SWAPO bases in Angola, adamantly refusing all UN entry until the last day of the Mt. Etjo summit. And even then it agreed to only 28 UNTAG observers to “monitor the [Angolan] monitors.”51 This was a point of dispute for Pik Botha and other South African officials who knew that the Angolan government forces were lax in their duties and partial to SWAPO. Had UNTAG gained access to the bases in Angola in April while Botha was claiming a build-up of SWAPO forces along the border, the United Nations might have had important counter-information on the number of guerrillas in Angola and their motivations. A well-orchestrated UN monitoring presence in Angola might even have prevented the tragic SWAPO acts on 1 April or at least exposed the false South African pretext, but the Angolans had refused UN entry.
 
The United Nations was wiser the second time. By November, the whole environment surrounding the peace process had changed, mainly because the fully-deployed UNTAG was now confident of its own information rather than reliant upon Pretoria. South African forces had been confined to base since mid-May and UNTAG was effectively monitoring the border. Part of the reason the United Nations was so quick to dismiss Botha’s November accusations was because it could now be more certain that no legitimate warning signs had appeared. There had been no build-up on the Angolan border, no sign of recent crossings, no skirmishes or sightings; in fact, all reports indicated the situation on the border was “extremely peaceful.”52  Even Louis Pienaar, Namibia’s South African Administrator-General, had to admit that “the over-all situation is calm … there is no reason for alarm.”53 Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar then issued a report to the Security Council stating that the situation in Namibia was calm.54 
 
Because UNTAG now had a better sense of SWAPO’s numbers, it could be certain that South Africa’s nightmarish claims of “thousands of SWAPO guerrillas, supported by 14 tanks” within five miles of the border were completely unsound.55 With the full UNTAG force in place, the United Nations considered its own assessment of the situation to be more accurate than that of South African intelligence, whose motives were in any case suspect.

 

OTHER ALLEGATIONS AND INVESTIGATIONS

At various other times before the elections, UN Headquarters ordered on-the-spot investigations to foster transparency and to eliminate unwarranted suspicions from both sides. Observers who were sent to trouble spots around Namibia could sense the prevailing conditions, especially by speaking with locals.56 The United Nations also accepted information indirectly through allegations and complaints from Namibian residents, as well as affidavits, statements, and depositions compiled by third parties such as the Council of Churches. Forensic reports obtained from police forces also provided considerable insight into the security and electoral situation.
 
The UN’s response to Botha’s 1 November allegations provides another example of the intelligence (information analysis) techniques the United Nations employed in Namibia. The organization’s technical specialists first reviewed the United Nations intercepted messages with South African communication experts and then sent a verification team into the field consisting of United Nations, South African, and Angolan representatives. Their task was to search the border for signs, such as footprints, fires, or food that might indicate a build-up of guerrilla forces or their recent crossings. UNTAG officials felt it important to involve the parties themselves in investigations whenever possible so that South Africa, SWAPO, and Angola could all be sure that UNTAG was remaining impartial.
 
Also, UNTAG pioneered the use of UN civilian police (CIVPOL). This component eventually consisted of 1,500 police monitors, involved in tasks ranging from monitoring political gatherings to guarding ballot boxes during the elections. They were hampered in their ground patrols, however, by the late arrival of their mine-resistant vehicles and by problems in maintaining the vehicles. The UN police officers frequently had to rely on hitching rides with the South West African Police to get a sense of activities in the field.57 The CIVPOL also had the difficult task of observing and identifying the activities of the Koevoet, the dreaded South African paramilitary “police” unit in pre-independence Namibia, which carried out many of its activities covertly. Nevertheless, the CIVPOL served as an important reminder to local residents of the UN’s impartial presence in Namibia as the eyes and ears of the international community.

 

FROM INFORMATION TO INTELLIGENCE

One troubling aspect of the UN peacekeeping mission in Namibia was the lack of analyzed information. Not only were few UN personnel available to gather data early on, but even after full deployment, very few people were tasked to analyze the gathered information. The United Nations seemed to have forgotten that UNTAG’s largest predecessor in peacekeeping, the UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC, 1960–1964), had developed a large Military Information Branch (MIB) to warn and inform of threats to the mission. The MIB gathered information from an impressive array of sources, including radio intercepts, aerial reconnaissance, and human sources such as UN personnel, locals and informers. Its analysts corroborated information, built scenarios, and passed the resulting “intelligence” (i.e., analyzed information relating to security) to the Force Commander.58 But in Namibia no analysis section was created at mission headquarters to do such work. Regular military sections were set up (J1 for personnel, J3 for operations, and J4 for logistics) but none for J2 (intelligence). In fact, only one “information officer” was stationed at force headquarters and he had no personnel or other assets in the field which he could direct. Only later in the mission did national battalions include “intelligence cells” to overcome the operational deficiency.59
 
In the 1990s and particularly in the 2000s, the United Nations began to incorporate dedicated intelligence bodies into its missions. In 2006, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations adopted a policy to incorporate a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) and Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC) into all its field missions.60 The JOCs dealt with operational information and the JMACs were mandated to prepare longer-term analyses. As the United Nations came to realize through the travails of its multidimensional peacekeeping operations from 1989 onwards, information gathering must be complemented with information analysis in order to develop hard, actionable intelligence. In 1989, a substantial amount of detailed information was provided in the letters from the South African Foreign Minister, but the information strongly reflected South Africa’s biases and was at times factually flawed in its favor. The United Nations had the responsibility of processing and analyzing what it was given by the South African government and assessing its value in light of other information. While the data was useful, a detailed knowledge was needed of leaders’ personality traits and a history of behavior, a sense of context and influences (both positive and negative), and other subtleties before a real appraisal of the data’s worth could be made. This was not carried out systematically.
 
Also in New York, the UN Secretariat had trouble sorting through the conflicting information and myriad voices in 1989. The UN’s membership was deeply divided about the truth of the SWAPO incursion in early April. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which represented the majority of the UN membership, felt that the United Nations had made an unforgivable blunder. Its members expressed their “shock and dismay at the brutal and genocidal campaign of the illegal occupation regime of South Africa” and their disappointment in the United Nations for its “irresponsibility,” “naivety,” and “poor judgment.”61 In the Namibian Council, South Africa lied about the size of the incursion and then used the falsity to massacre SWAPO prisoners.
 
Given these tensions and the varied information sources (SWAPO, South Africa, and the NAM), the United Nations had a difficult time processing information in such a charged political climate. While the best solution to this dilemma would have been an independent source of information, the next best option would have been to analyze the raw information, remove the biases and political motivations, and refine it into something that could be of use to an impartial UN peacekeeping force. In November, this was less important because the crisis proved to be a false alarm with little chance of escalation, and because UNTAG was fully deployed in the North. When Foreign Minister Botha sounded his alarm, the United Nations had communications specialists, as well as officials on the border, who could examine the intercepted messages and declare them fraudulent.

FAVORABLE RESULTS

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Namibia ended as a great success. The democratic elections, won by SWAPO, were widely regarded as free and fair. The turnout in the five-day election period, 7–11 November 1989, was a remarkable 97 percent of registered voters, 57 percent of whom voted for SWAPO.62  While the victory was not decisive enough to grant SWAPO a two-thirds majority, the outcome was probably for the best because SWAPO was then forced to engage with other parties in drafting a new constitution. UNTAG’s involvement contributed to the high election turnout by ensuring that the voting would be free and secure, and therefore worthwhile for the people of Namibia. The United Nations had the responsibility of registering voters, namely people over the age of 18 who had lived in Namibia for four years or who had a parent born there. This made registration difficult, as it included many people in South Africa, plus nearly all the SWAPO fighters in Angola. The second step was to regulate campaigning practices, which UNTAG accomplished by negotiating a code of conduct for all parties. UNTAG also organized voting procedures to ensure the utmost secrecy and impartiality. After the successful elections of November 1989 Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar inaugurated the new President, Sam Nujoma, on 21 March 1990.
 
The independence ceremony itself was one of the high points of Pérez de Cuéllar’s career. He recalled:

 
In the joy of the occasion the bitter struggle of the past appeared forgotten. Pride and hope had replaced hatred and violence … UNTAG truly served as midwife for the birth of this new country. It had arrived poorly equipped for the job at hand with near-disastrous results. Its recovery was, under the circumstances, remarkably swift. … UNTAG’s job was to monitor, to be the impartial chaperone and to ensure that the police respected the human rights of the population, the election and procedures were fair, and that the cease-fire was properly observed.63
 
Indeed, the United Nations deserves much of the credit for the successful independence process in Namibia, despite its rocky start.

LESSONS LEARNED AND NOT

The Namibian experience provides valuable lessons for UN peacekeeping. The crisis of 1 April 1989 resulted in a tragic loss of life, the near collapse of the peace process, and substantial UN embarrassment as it was caught unaware of the true situation on the ground. Had UNTAG been fully deployed at the beginning of the cease-fire on 1 April, as the original UN plan had envisaged, much of this might have been avoided. The presence of UNTAG’s mobilized infantry battalions would have enabled the UN to rapidly investigate South Africa’s allegations and contain its brutal units that perpetrated the slaughter. The delay in UNTAG’s deployment until after the commencement of the cease-fire, resulting from the Security Council’s bickering over the expense and size of UNTAG, was the principal cause of the April disaster. But UN headquarters did not offset this shortcoming through adequate information collection and analysis.
 
In contrast, UNTAG’s response in November was rapid, facilitated both by the force’s full deployment and the experience the mission had gained. Among crucial improvements to UNTAG during the summer and fall of 1989 was the fostering of independent information sources. An important lesson clearly drawn from the April fiasco was the realization that the United Nations was decidedly handicapped in decisionmaking by its reliance on South African intelligence sources. Both in the field and at UN Headquarters it was (and remains) essential to corroborate, synthesize, and summarize information from a variety of sources.64 The use of a Military Information Branch, a JMAC, or similar body with trained “intelligence” personnel on the ground, can help to secure the proper intelligence/information on UN peacekeeping missions.
 
Another valuable lesson that was reflected in changes between April and November 1989 was the need, not just for information, but for its context. Raw data has its uses, but peacekeeping involves an intensely human element that is unpredictable. Pik Botha, like Sam Nujoma, was given to emotional alarm and overstatement. Thus, when Botha announced another impending incursion just before the elections, the UN officials had something beyond counter-evidence to disprove his theory. They had his history of such behavior, a sense of South African biases, and an awareness of the tension surrounding the pending elections, all of which comprised motivations for intentional deception and a false alarm by South Africa. UNTAG had graduated from information-gathering to intelligence.
 
Beyond these lessons are others that still need to be learned and adopted by the United Nations over two decades later to help achieve efficient and effective peace missions. First, a system for early warning must be developed, especially since most conflicts are easier to stop before they start than when they have begun to rage. Rarely does a crisis arise without some kind of warning signals, so the United Nations must be more vigilant in its efforts to recognize signs of impending conflict. Part of the solution is to disseminate information more quickly and efficiently. Under-Secretary-General Goulding’s report, with its tell-tale early warning signals for 1 April, did not reach decisionmakers in a timely fashion, thus hampering chances to anticipate the April infiltration. New and improved technologies, such as more rapid and convenient means of communications (e.g., satellite phones, secure e-mail, video teleconferencing), are helping facilitate the exchange information with the field.
 
Technologies can also assist greatly with monitoring. But, over two decades after UNTAG, the United Nations remains highly deficient in the use of monitoring technologies, especially compared to modern military organizations like NATO.65 Satellite and airborne imagery could have proven extremely useful in Namibia, including spotting the movement of Cuban tanks. Ground radars and night vision could have been key technologies to monitoring the movement of guerillas, South African forces, and Cuban troops. The advance of Cuban infantry and tanks within Angola to the Namibian border dramatically changed the strategic picture for South Africa, and likely affected its behavior. The United Nations needed to know about such movements in detail, even if it did not have personnel in Angola or on the border. Information about some movements was provided to UN headquarters but without detail.66
 
  
Another major lesson, yet to be learned and implemented, is for an intelligence capacity at UN Headquarters in New York. In 1989, a modest unit, the Office for Research and the Collection of Information, was supposed to provide early warnings but it was not functional in that regard, being overwhelmed with other tasks. In 1992, the UN did create a Situation Room for the transmission of reports in a timely manner, and attached to it a small intelligence unit composed of a half-dozen intelligence officers on secondment, but that effort could not be sustained beyond the decade.67
 
 
Despite the setbacks and deficiencies, the Namibia mission was nevertheless a great achievement for the United Nations. Though the independence process was nearly derailed, the efforts of the UN mission, combined with the fundamental willingness of the parties and the population to support the electoral process, gave rise to a remarkable accomplishment which was itself a stepping stone to what perhaps became an even greater achievement. The successful transition to an independent and democratic Namibia helped to secure the end of the apartheid regime and to establish interracial democracy in South Africa in 1994. The United Nations can look back at the challenges it met in Namibia and see them as stepping stones to not only a new nation but to a better region and world.

REFERENCES

1.^The Economist, “Namibia’s Birthday Fiasco,” 8 April 1989, pp.  45–46.

2.^ Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Pilgrimage for Peace: A Secretary General’s Memoir (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997), pp. 306–308.

3.^ “Friday Highlights Press Release,” UN Doc. DH/386, 7 April 1989.

4.^ “Further Report of the Secretary-General Concerning the Implementation of Security Council Resolutions 435 (1978) and 439 (1978) Concerning the Question of Namibia,” Addendum to UN Doc. S/20412/Add.2, 30 March 1989.

5.^ “Monday Highlights Press Release,” UN Doc. DH/382, 3 April 1989. Also, S. C. Saxena, Namibia and the World: The Story of the Birth of a Nation (Delhi: Kalinga Publications), 1991.

6.^ Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Pilgrimage for Peace, p. 310.

7.^ UN Archives, New York, S-0308–12-19 (Acc-93–141) Military Matters—Namibia/Observers 6/4/89–26/10/89, “Periodic Report,” (01 April–15 June, 89) p. 5 of 16, paragraph, 2.

8.^ UN Archives, New York, S-0308–12-19 (Acc-93–141) “Military Matters—Namibia/Observers 6/4/89–26/10/89,” “Periodic Report (01 April–15 June, 89),” pp. 5 and 12 of 16 (Initial Deployment of Monitors/Observers 01 April 1989). See top left portion of map entitled “NW Sector.” See also p. 2 of the report, paragraph 5b.

9.^ UN Archives, New York, S308–13-14 (Acc-93–141) Namibia (Marrack Goulding’s “Keep” File, 2/2/89–27/4/89, “Remarks by the Secretary General at Informal Consultations in the Security Council Today (Namibia),” Monday, 3 April 1989, p. 4.

10.^ According to Marti Ahtisaari: “They [South Africa] may have had an advance notice of what was going to happen because they had infiltrated SWAPO—I’m sure they had … people were really vulnerable because people could be blackmailed through the South Africans … people were under detention.” As reported in the Yale—UN Oral History, Martti Ahtisaari, 23 April 1999, New York. Interviewed by James Sutterlin.

11.^ Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Pilgrimage for Peace, p. 310.

12.^ UN Archives, New York, S308–13-14 (Acc-93–141) Namibia—Marrack Goulding’s “Keep” File, 2/2/89–27/4/89, p. 6.

13.^ Marrack Goulding, Peacemonger (London: John Murray, 2002), pp. 158 and 150.

14.^ “Report of the Secretary-General Concerning the Implementation of Security Council Resolutions 435 (1978) and 439 (1978),” UN Doc. S/13120, 26 February 1979.

15.^ In 1988 Sam Nujoma wrote to the Secretary-General expressing SWAPO’s willingness to remain committed to the “letter and spirit of Security Council resolutions 385 and 435” as well as to the “spirit” (but omitted the word “letter”) of the Geneva Protocols. “Letter dated 12 August 1988 from the President of the South West Africa People’s Organization addressed to the Secretary-General,” Annex to UN Doc. S/20129, 17 August 1988.

16.^ Interview with Col. John N. Nakaambo, Namibian Defence Force, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, Cornwallis, Canada, 26 November 1998. Col. Nakamambo served as chief of vehicle and equipment maintenance for SWAPO/PLAN forces in 1989.

17.^ UN Doc. DH/382, 3 April 1989.

18.^ S. C. Saxena, Namibia and the World, p. 278.

19.^ UN Doc. DH/382, 3 April 1989.

20.^ Lionel Cliffe, The Transition to Independence in Namibia (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1994), p. 88.

21.^ UN Archives, New York, S-0307–5-6 (Acc-93–126) Code Cables Outgoing from Marrack Goulding’s Office, 19/4/89–28/4/89, “Outgoing Code Cable to Ahtisaari, Windhoek from Dayal, New York, dated 27 April 1989, Number: UNTAG 153.”

22.^ Victoria Brittain, “Injuries Show SWAPO Dead ‘Must Have Been Executed,’ ” The Guardian, 25 April 1989, p. 2.

23.^ Jonathan Steele, “Russians Want Red Cross Checks on Namibia Deaths,” The Guardian, 25 April 1989, p. 2.

24.^ Yale–UN Oral History Interview with Bishop Kleopas Dumeni, 17 March 1999, 15; as cited in: Jean Krasno, Bradd C. Hayes, and Donald C. F. Daniel, eds., Leveraging for Success in United Nations Peace Operations (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003), p. 38.

25.^ Brian Harlech-Jones, A New Thing?: The Namibian Independence Process, 1989–1990 (Windhoek, Namibia: EIN Publishers, 1997), p. 40, as cited in: Jean Krasno, Bradd C. Hayes, and Donald C. F. Daniel, eds., Leveraging for Success in United Nations Peace Operations, pp. 38–39.

26.^ David Lush, Last Steps to Uhuru: An Eye-Witness Account of Namibia’s Transition to Independence, (Windhoek, Namibia: New Namibian Books, 1993), pp. 147–148. Also see the photo insert of Lush’s book “The bodies of PLAN combatants killed during the April 1989 incursion being dumped into a mass grave outside Oshakati,” as cited in: Jean Krasno, Bradd C. Hayes, and Donald C. F. Daniel, eds., Leveraging for Success in United Nations Peace Operations, p. 39.

27.^ UNTAG’s Weekly Situation Summary No. 3 states: “situation in north western area between Ruacona, Oshakati, and Okongo still tense. SADF/SWATF [South West African Territorial Force] mobilized to the area. Our monitors instructed to carry out their duties within SADF bases but not accompany SADF/SWATF leaving bases for ops.” UN Archives, New York, S-0307–54 (Acc-93–126) Code Cables Incoming from Marrack Goulding’s Office, 1/4/89–16/4/89, From HQ UNTAG to UN/New York, Subject Weekly Situation Summary No. 3 Covering 0500 Z March 25 to 0500 Z 3 April 89, paragraph 2.

28.^ UN Archives, New York, S-0307–55 (Acc-93–126) Code Cables (Outgoing from Marrack Goulding’s Office) 3/4/89–18/4/89, “Outgoing Fax Number 157, dated 3 April 1989, to FC UNTAG from CLO UNTAG (A), Attention Goulding UN, NY,” p. 1.

29.^Ibid., p. 2.

30.^ Christopher S. Wren, “Terms Fixed for Pullout of Guerrillas from Namibia,” The New York Times, 10 April 1989, p. A3.

31.^ Jean Krasno, Bradd C. Hayes, and Donald C. F. Daniel, eds., Leveraging for Success in United Nations Peace Operations, p. 41.

32.^ UN Archives, New York, S-0307–18-21 (Acc-93–126) SITREPS 10/3/89–31/5/89, “From HQ UNTAG to UN New York, Situation Report No. 026, Time from 07 April 0500 Z to 08 April 0500 Z,” p. 2, paragraph 5 Alpha.

33.^ UN Archives, New York, S-0307–18-21 (Acc-93–126) SITREPS 10/3/89–31/5/89, “From HQ UNTAG to UN New York, Weekly Situation Report no. 4 covering the period from 030500 Z to 170500 Z April 89,” p. 2, paragraph 5 Alpha. [Emphasis added.] SWAPOL is the acronym for South West African Police.

34.^ UN Archives, New York, S-0308–18-2 (Acc 93/141) Secretary General/Security Council—Secretary General’s Statements 4/3/89–21/7/89, “Background Points for an Oral Report by the Secretary General to the Security Council, 7 April, 1989,” paragraph 2, pp. 1–2.

35.^ UN Archives, New York, S-0308–18-2 (Acc 93/141) Secretary General/Security Council—Secretary General’s Statements 4/3/89–21/7/89, “Annex given to Mr. Ahtisaari by the Administrator General,” 1400 hours, 7 April, 1989, paragraph 4b, p. 2.

36.^ Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Pilgrimage for Peace, p. 306.

37.^ UN Archives, New York, S-1030–91 (Acc-1990–0226) UNTAG Intelligence & Information Summaries, 27 March 89–31 January 90, “SMIO April 1989 Assessment Report General Political Situation in Namibia,” p. 6.

38.^ “Letter Dated 89/11/04 from the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General,” UN Doc. S/20947, 3 November 1989.

39.^ Allister Sparks, “Rebels Said to Cross Border from Angola,” The Washington Post, 2 November 1989, p. A47.

40.^ Oakland Ross, “SWAPO Trades War-Scare Charges with South Africa,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), 19 July 1989, Section A, p. 3.

41.^ Allister Sparks, “UN Force Says Messages Are Phony,” The Washington Post, 3 November 1989, Section 1, p. A35.

42.^ Heidi Von Egidy, “South African Official Now Says No Military Threat in Namibia,” Associated Press, 4 November 1989; British Broadcasting Company, “Namibia: Pik Botha in Windhoek, Admits Allegations of SWAPO Activity were False,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 6 November 1989.

43.^ Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Pilgrimage for Peace, p. 309.

44.^ Ibid., p. 310.

45.^ Marrack Goulding, Peacemonger, pp. 151–152.

46.^ Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Pilgrimage for Peace, p. 310.

47.^ Bill Schiller, “UN Alerted Night Before Namibia War,” The Toronto Star, 5 April 1989.

48.^ Marrack Goulding, Peacemonger, p. 152.

49.^The Economist, “Namibia’s Birthday Fiasco.”

50.^ UN Doc. DH/386, 7 April 1989.

51.^ Marrack Goulding, Peacemonger, p. 161.

52.^ Christopher S. Wren, “Pretoria Playing Down Namibia ‘Infiltration,’ ” The New York Times, 3 November 1989, p. 5.

53.^ Okland Ross, “Botha’s Namibian Invasion Charges Refuted,” The Globe and Mail, 3 November 1989, p. A9.

54.^ “Daily Highlights Press Release,” UN Doc. DH/525, 6 November 1989.

55.^ Allister Sparks, “UN Force Says Messages Are Phony.”

56.^ “Tuesday Highlights Press Release,” UN Doc. DH/388, 11 April 1989.

57.^ Private communication from Douglas Anglin, Ottawa, 24 October 1999.

58.^ A. Walter Dorn and J. H. Bell, “Intelligence and Peacekeeping: The UN Operation in the Congo, 1960–1964,” International Peacekeeping, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995, pp. 11–33.

59.^ Interview on 10 June 2000 with Lt. Col. Lucas Tumbo, who served as Deputy Personnel Officer in UNTAG.

60.^ United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), “DPKO Policy Directive: Joint Operations Centres and Joint Mission Analysis Centres,” Ref. POL/2006/3000/4, 1 July 2006 (New York: United Nations 2006).

61.^ “Communique Issued on 6 April 1989 by the Co-ordinating Bureau of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries,” Annex of UN Doc. S/20595, 17 April 1989.

62.^ “Further Report of the Secretary-General Concerning the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 435 (1978) Concerning the Question of Namibia,” UN Doc. S/20976, 14 November 1989.

63.^ Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Pilgrimage for Peace, p. 317.

64.^ In the twenty-first century, the United Nations has taken a more sophisticated approach to information-gathering in the field. For example, it employed paid informants in its mission in Haiti. See A. Walter Dorn, “Intelligence-Led Peacekeeping: The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH),” Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 24, No. 6, December 2009, pp. 805–835.

65.^ A. Walter Dorn, Keeping Watch: Monitoring, Technology and Innovation in UN Peace Operations (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2011).

66.^ “Situation Regarding The SWAPO (Plan) Infiltration: 0708008 April 1989,” Given to Mr. Ahtisaari by the Administrator-General 1400, 7 April 1989, found in “Code Cable From Ahtisaari/Prem Chand, Windhoek, ‘Background Points for an Oral Report by the Secretary-General to the Security Council,’ ” UN Archives, New York, S-0308–18-2, “Secretary General/Security Council/-SecGeneral’s Statements.”

67.^ A. Walter Dorn, “Intelligence at UN headquarters? The Information and Research Unit and the Intervention in Eastern Zaire 1996,” Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 20, No. 3, September 2005, pp. 440–465.

 

Contents

NO FOOLING ON 1 APRIL
THE MYSTERY OF SWAPO’S INCURSION
UN SHORTCOMINGS AND OPPOSITION FABLES
NEGOTIATING A CEASE-FIRE AT MT. ETJO
FALSE WARNING ON 1 NOVEMBER
MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR EARLY WARNING
UNTAG’S LIMITATIONS
OTHER ALLEGATIONS AND INVESTIGATIONS
FROM INFORMATION TO INTELLIGENCE
FAVORABLE RESULTS
LESSONS LEARNED AND NOT

Just Wars Unjust Wars and Everything In Between

Just Wars, Unjust Wars, and Everything In Between

By Walter Dorn

Originally published in Peace Magazine, Vol. 29, No.1 (January–March 2013), pp.6-9.
(For images see pdf version or PPT pdf, 650 KB)

 

When I teach officers at the Canadian Forces College, I sometimes ask them: Under what circumstances would you pull the trigger? Almost all of their replies turn out to be in line with what has developed over the centuries as the “Just War Criteria.” These include just cause, right intent, legitimate authority, last resort, net benefit, proportionality and right conduct.

Though there are no absolute pacifists among the students—pacifists assert that no war is just and that there can never be any excuse to use force. In a sense, I admire this highly principled approach; if the whole world consisted of absolute pacifists, there could not be a war. But the world is not like that and, along with many other people, I believe that sometimes force is needed to constrain force.

The people at the opposite extreme from absolute pacifists believe in force that is not morally constrained. Fortunately, few Canadian military officers would subscribe to that view. Such persons would prefer an anarchical world in which there would be no limit on the capability of a nation or even an individual to use force.

Just War Theory applies to neither extreme: pacifism or anarchism. But in between those two extremes there are many reasons for judging when force is justifiable, and that’s where Just War Theory comes in.

When Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he referred to Just War criteria, saying that war is justified only when it meets certain pre-conditions. For example, it must be used only as a last resort or in self-defence; the force used must be proportional, and, whenever possible, civilians must be spared from violence. Those are just a few of the Just War criteria mentioned above, but the president`s statement encourages us to think in new ways about Just War and the imperatives of a “just peace.”

The Just War Theory has at its base a “presumption of peace”—meaning that you should not use force except under certain preconditions. In the literature, there are four to eight conditions that are typically cited. I usually choose seven because they answer quite satisfactorily the basic questions about the use of force: Why? Who? When? What? Where? and How?

 

Why? Who? When? What? Where? How?

Why use force? Just War theory insists that you need a just cause —a good reason. You need the right intent —you can’t have ulterior motives behind your action that are not consonant with your declared cause. And you need to have a net benefit. If the end result of your fighting is going to be negative, then it does not meet the net benefit criterion.

Who should authorize force? The theory says that it should be a legitimate authority. The modern interpretation of that principle is that the authority should be legitimate under international law—which means the UN Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter.

What level of force? The theory requires proportional means. You must not use nuclear weapons after someone steps on your foot! You should use weapons and means that are proportional to the atrocity that was committed or to the action that must be corrected.

When should you use force? Only as a last resort, which means after all peaceful options have been exhausted. That criterion may be hard to meet, since there are always some peaceful options left, but let’s say that reasonable options must have been exhausted, or that any remaining ones are clearly unlikely to succeed.

Where can you use force? Only on military targets, not on civilian ones. That is specified by the Just War tradition and modern international laws regarding armed conflict.

How to use force? With right conduct, including obeying all the laws of armed conflict.

Applying those criteria to specific conflicts can be challenging but the theory is quite practical. In a test of the theory I explored assessments by experts of the wars fought by Canada and by the United States. I asked them to evaluate the “justness” of the wars on a scale. Instead of merely stating “This war is just,” or “That war is unjust,” I asked them to quantify the justness from -3 to +3. Nature is rarely binary; most things in nature are on a spectrum. So it is with most moral issues. You rarely have a completely just war or a completely unjust war; most wars are in between.

In our survey, we defined each of the criteria for the experts. While some people define “right intent” as meaning that you must intend to create peace, we defined it in a different but compatible way—as the degree to which the actual motivation behind the use of force is the same as the declared motivation. We also asked them what they consider a “just cause” in general.

The experts ranked the justice of various possible causes in descending order of their acceptability to our survey respondents, with the following results:

  1. The most accepted cause was “to defend one’s country against an attack that has already begun”—pure self-defence.
  2. The second most accepted cause was “to defend against an imminent attack that is certain.”
  3. Next, “to protect the lives of others threatened by violence”—i.e. a humanitarian intervention. (The respondents who identified themselves on the right of the political spectrum gave lower rank to this criterion than those on the left.)
  4. Fourth in acceptability was “to show solidarity,” which was higher to the right-wingers than to the left.
  5. Next came “to prevent an attack on one’s country that is thought to be probable”—a pre-emptive attack. (It was much less acceptable, and the right and left were about equally reluctant to accept it.)
  6. Sixth most accepted: “To avenge an attack.” Here, the right-wing respondents were considerably more favorable to that than the left.
  7. Finally, the least acceptable cause by far was “to acquire territory or resources from another country.” The right-wing respondents were marginally more accepting of that cause than the left, but fortunately very few people accepted it at all.

That was our analysis of the “Right Cause” criterion. Then we asked the respondents to apply all seven criteria to particular wars that had been fought. They were to appraise each war on a scale running from minus three (the least just) to plus three (the most just) war, with zero representing the neutral score. We did that for all seven criteria and then averaged them for each war. That average is the “just war index” for that particular war.

 

Comparing Gulf War I and Gulf War II

Let me give an example of how I think about these matters before I show the respondents’ results. I’ll compare my assessment of Gulf War I (George H. W. Bush or Bush Senior’s 1991 war) to that of Gulf War II (George W. Bush or Bush Jr.‘s 2003 war).1

Right Cause? The cause for which Gulf War I was fought was to expel Iraq out of Kuwait, which it had annexed. The declared cause for Gulf War II was the presumption that there were weapons of mass destruction that needed to be disarmed, as well as the presumption that there were terrorists inside Iraq that had to be taken down. I gave Gulf War I a score of +2, since its cause was to repel a serious case of aggression. But Gulf War II? At best it would be a pre-emptive attack based on the assumption that WMD, presumed to be in Iraq, might be used sometime. That’s a weak justification, so the highest score I could give it was a – 1. It was a rather unjust cause.

Right intent? Gulf War I wasn’t perfect. We know that George Bush Senior was an oil man and may well have had a selfish motive. But on the other hand, we wouldn’t want to see Kuwait’s oil reserves stay in Saddam Hussein’s hands, allowing him manipulate the oil market, so there is some justification there. I gave it a +2. The intent of the United States was to reverse a wrong by expelling Iraq from Kuwait, so I gave it a +2. As for Gulf War II, I question the intent of Bush Junior and the most I could give it was a 0.

Net benefit? The war in 1991 resulted in the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait, with the Kuwaitis getting back their own government and their own oil. There was only a slight improvement in the democracy of Kuwait but at least they were not under a dictator and were not still annexed to Iraq, so I gave it a +2. By contrast, the net result of Gulf War II was highly questionable. There were so many deaths! For example, more American soldiers died in Iraq than civilians died in the September 11 attack, plus over 100,000 Iraqi civilians died in the invasion and its aftermath.2 The internal fighting is still going on, with 50 to 100 people being killed in some bombings. So the net benefit is strongly negative (-2). Yes, there were democratic elections there but the current government is not interested in sharing power.

Legitimate authority? The Security Council authorized Bush Senior’s invasion of Iraq through Resolution 678. The international community supported the United States when they attacked Iraq. It was not unanimous but there were no vetoes. So it gets +3. In Gulf War II, on the other hand, Bush Junior saw that he was not going to get a resolution from the Security Council authorizing invasion, so he declared that he did not need a resolution. His administration reasoned (weakly) that their authorization comes from the resolutions after Gulf War I that made certain demands on Iraq. In terms of international law, that is not nearly enough, so I gave it a – 2.

Last resort? Gulf War II was an optional war. There was no sense that it had to be done immediately or that it would be too late. There were allegations that weapons of mass destruction existed but there had been a very thorough investigation and the UN’s commission had destroyed over 3,000 tons of chemical weapons. The IAEA had carried out inspections and had found no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. Maybe there were some biological weapons in a suitcase somewhere but they were not militarily significant. So I gave the “last resort” criterion a – 2.

Proportionality of means? In 1991 the military means used to expel Iraq from Kuwait were not perfect. On the “Highway of Death” the US bombed any vehicle leaving Kuwait to Iraq, creating kilometers of blown-up vehicles. Those were not proportional means. However, the United States did not proceed into Iraq. US forces stayed within the boundaries of Kuwait, so I gave it a +2 in proportionality of means. In Gulf War II, however, the US actually invaded and took over the entire country. Invasion is about the strongest possible measure in warfare. It was so disproportional that I gave it a – 2.

Right conduct? There were embarrassments in both Gulf Wars where the wrong sites were bombed and so on. I now believe I shouldn’t have given them the same score because Gulf War II had Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the Falluja massacres, and lots of other terrible incidents. There were abominable attacks by Americans on civilians.

In any case, I averaged the scores for both wars both wars over all the criteria and came up with +2 for Gulf War I and – 1.1 for Gulf War II.

Now let’s see what my survey respondents thought. Their opinion resembled mine when it came to comparing Gulf Wars I and II. They gave an average of +1.5 to Gulf War I and – 1.2 to Gulf War II.

 

Eighteen US Wars

I also asked them to appraise the 18 conflicts in which the United States had fought since 1900. In their judgment, the most “just” war of all was World War II, which scored almost +2. However, the Right Conduct criterion was not very high in that war, perhaps because of the fire bombing of cities and the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima/Nagasaki.

Then in descending order of the “Just War” index, the respondents assigned positive scores to the current anti-piracy mission in Somalia; then to Gulf War I; World War I; Bosnia; the Kosovo War (which didn’t have Security Council authorization); the Korean War of 1950-53; the Iraqi No-Fly Zone to protect the Kurds in the north; the Haiti intervention of 1993 (in which hardly a shot had to be fired to get the junta to step down and bring Aristide back to power);3 George W. Bush’s Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; the NATO mission to Afghanistan (the experts rated both Afghanistan operations as equally just, but I disagree). Though they differed, all of these wars were given ratings as “just” (positive on the scale).

When it comes to the Global War on Terror, however, there were negative scores on some criteria, such as Right Conduct and Proportionality. It scored overall at about zero—neither quite just nor quite unjust.

Then we get a series of six wars to which the experts assigned negative scores, getting progressively worse, one after the other. One was President Ronald Reagan’s intervention in Lebanon in 1983, where over 200 hundred marines were blown up in barracks; then the unauthorized 1986 Libya bombing, also by Reagan, in 1986 where the US bombed Gadhafi’s compound, killing one of his children; the Panama intervention to overthrow Noriega; the 1984 Grenada intervention to prevent its turning into a socialist state; the Vietnam war, where over 60,000 American lives were lost, along with countless Vietnamese; and finally George W. Bush’s Iraq War, which was the worst of all the 18 wars they rated.

 

Right and Left judgments

When we compare the right and left-wing experts, they both tended to agree about the relative ranking of the various wars, but the right-wingers were generally more likely to see any war as justified than were the left-wingers. Since all of the respondents were academics, it is not surprising that about 80 percent of them described themselves as on the left rather than the right. When it came to the negatively rated wars, the left and right diverged markedly in the score (though not so much in the rank). Right-wing American scholars tended to see almost any US war as just, whereas the experts on the left were much more critical (negative) about the unjust wars.

Peace Magazine adds: It would be interesting to compare these opinions to the appraisals of a sample of Canadian peace activists. Feel free to score these wars yourself and post your comments on Peace Magazine’s website: peacemagazine.org.

 

Walter Dorn teaches military officers and civilian students in Toronto at the Canadian Forces College and also in Kingston at the Royal Military College of Canada. He is chair of the Canadian Pugwash Group.

The author gives special thanks to Metta Spencer for converting the lecture he gave at the University of Toronto into this article. He also thanks his co-researchers on the Just War project: Dr. David Mandel of Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) Toronto and Ryan Cross of the University of British Columbia. An academic paper on this work will be forthcoming. [How Just Were America’s Wars? A Survey of Experts Using a Just War IndexA Survey of Experts Using a Just War Index]

 

 

Notes

1 The name “Gulf War” has been applied to three modern conflicts, all involving Iraq: the 1982-88 war with Iran; the 1990-1991 international military intervention to force Iraq out of Kuwait; and the 2003 US-led intervention to depose Saddam Hussein. Current usage is to call them the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War respectively, but there are a range of alternative names in English and in other languages. [ed.]

2 Associated Press and the Iraq Body Count project recorded slightly over 100,000 violent deaths of civilians between 2003-2011. A somewhat lower figure (66,000) appears in the classified logs published by WikiLeaks. Three surveys which used statistical sampling and/or mortality projections had higher figures: 151,000 from the Iraq Family Health Survey, 601,000 in the Lancet, and over 1.03 million from Opinion Research Business (ORB). The methodology of the latter two surveys has been disputed by most independent experts. [ed.]

3 US forces were on their way to Haiti when the junta led by Raoul Cedras, which had overthrown President Jean-Bertand Aristide, agreed to step down. US forces remained in Haiti for six months in a peacekeeping capacity; their intervention was much less controversial, and less violent, than was the case with 2004’s coup and its aftermath. [ed.]

World Order for a New Millennium – Contents

WORLD ORDER FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM:WorldOrder_BookCover_169K

Political, Cultural and Spiritual Approaches to Building Peace

A. Walter Dorn, editor

Palgrave Macmillan, New York and London 
ISBN-13: 978-0312216351
1999
288 pp.

World Order for a New Millennium examines one of the major issues of our age: how humanity should organize itself on the highest levels of governance – the global level. World Order for a New Millennium provides an overview of the various types of world order, based on the three strategies of coercion, exchange and integration. It then reviews the development of international law and the current means of promoting and enforcing it, in the absence of an international police force. The essays look at the role of the military in the Cold War and after, and review the prospects for war and peace in the next century.” (front flap)

Back Cover Endorsements

 

Table of Contents:

Message from the Secretary-General of the United Nations / Kofi Annan
Foreword / Daisaku Ikeda
Acknowledgements
Introduction / A. Walter Dorn

PART I. POLITICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL APPROACHES

The Evolution of World Order
Conceptions of world order / Anatol Rapoport
The historical development of international law / Jennie Hatfield-Lyon
Carrots, sticks and bombs: securing disarmament treaty compliance without a world police / A. Walter Dorn
Economic bases for world order: corporate capitalism and/or market socialism? / Myron J. Gordon
World order by trade and investment decree: the global corporate system / John McMurtry

The Military
A Cold War retrospective: mishaps that might have started accidental nuclear war / Alan Phillips
The decline of international war / Leonard V. Johnson
Indicators of Militarization: Coping with the Specter of Praetorianism / Brian S. MacDonald

The United Nations
Challenges for the world and for the United Nations / Christopher Spencer
Recent United Nations agreements: a force for change (annex: The Earth charter) / Rosalie Bertell
Monitoring the rules: the United Nations and Iraq / D. Marc Kilgour
The creation of an independent and effective international criminal court / Fergus Watt
The United Nations in the twenty-first century: a vision for an evolving world order / A. Walter Dorn

PART II. CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL APPROACHES

Developing a Culture of Peace
The evolution of diplomacy: coordinating tracks I and II / Cynthia J. Chataway
Quality of life and a culture of peace / Shirley Farlinger
UNESCO Declarations and Appeals
Building Peace through a New Ethics: An Educational Task / Guy Bourgeault

Spiritual Dimensions
World order: verbalized or operational concept? (a Christian commentary) / Edward W. Scott
A Christian statement of faith on “peace in the Nuclear Age” / United Church of Canada
Pursuing opportunities for shalom in the world: a Jewish view / Martin I. Lockshin
From inner peace to world peace: a Buddhist perspective / Yoichi Kawada
Creating inner peace: a Buddhist view / Daniel Vokey
Toward a “new world” order: a native perspective / Gawitrha
World religion for the coming age / Hanna Newcombe
The Baháí̓ conception of world order / Cheshmak Farhoumand and Charles O. Lerche
The inner role of the United Nations / Sri Chinmoy
The Caledon declaration on building a foundation for peace in the third millennium

 

CWC Nears Ratification

CWC Nears Ratification

The nations of the world are on the verge of signing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which provides for a comprehensive ban on these weapons of mass destruction and the most comprehensive and intrusive verification system of any global treaty in history. It includes challenge Inspections “anytime anywhere without the right of refusal.” To implement the treaty, it will establish the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The OPCW will be responsible for overseeing and verifying both the prohibition against producing chemical weapons and the destruction of existing stocks. It will also have the power to declare non-compliance and recommend action against violators, a significant advance in arms control.

The implementation of the CWC will require more parliamentary action than any other arms control treaty in history. Parliaments must 1) ratify the convention, 2) enact penal legislation, 3) provide funds for a new international authority (the OPCW), 4) establish a National Authority to communicate with the OPCW and 5) review relevant export controls. MPs must also appropriate funds for the destruction of the stockpiles and production, facilities in those states possessing chemical weapons.

ThE CWC will be a model for future arms control treaties. As such, it must be implemented so as to provide a standard for the development of meaningful and effective arms control and international organisations in the post-Cold War world.

 

Reproduced from the Newsletter of Parliamentarians for Global Action.

Technologies for Peace: Canada Proceeds Cautiously

Technologies for Peace: Canada Proceeds Cautiously

Walter Dorn
Published in SfP Bulletin, March 1990

 

It appears that the Canadian government is beginning along a path which Science for Peace has long recommended: the development of technologies (especially airborne and satellite surveillance) for UN peace-keeping and verification.

In his address to the UN General Assembly in September, 1989, the Secretary of State for External Affairs, the Right Honorable Joe Clark, said:

Mr President …In April of this year, Canada completed a comprehensive study the purpose of which was to explore the utility of all forms of aerial surveillance to the peacekeeping tasks now before the international community. The conclusion of the study was that these overhead technologies — satellite or airborne — could significantly increase the efficiency of peacekeeping operations and related verification endeavors. This study will be submitted to the UN for its consideration …It is the sort of pragmatic, concrete work necessary to allow the UN to handle its ever-expanding peacekeeping responsibilities more effectively. It also symbolizes one of the fundamental purposes of the Organization: harmonizing the wonders of modern technology to the tasks of peace-building and not war-making.

It would be timely to recall some of the statements and recommendations made to the Canadian Government by Science for Peace on this subject over the years.

The 1986 Science for Peace ‘Workshop on Peace-Keeping Satellites’ came out with a Statement which included the following remarks:

Airborne surveillance and Canada’s expertise in specialized sensing … could be used to excellent advantage, both in the Canadian forces (UN) peace-keeping duties and in new roles of international arms control verification and crisis monitoring.

(We recommend that) Canada, unilaterally, initiate the use of aerospace surveillance technology for supplying the Canadian UN ground force contingent with a day-night, all-weather aerial surveillance system capability.

Over the years, we encouraged the further development of Canadian capabilities in satellite monitoring. For instance, in 1986 we urged that Canada proceed with the RADARSAT satellite when the program was in doubt. RADARSAT is now scheduled for launch in 1994 and will be able to observe the earth day and night and in all weather conditions using synthetic aperture radar.

Along a similar vein, our second workshop (‘Satellite and Airborne Surveillance for Arms Control Verification, Peace-Keeping, Crisis Monitoring and Sovereignty Purposes’), held in 1987, put forward the proposal that

The mandate for research and development of technologies for arms control verification and crisis monitoring should be included as part of the mandate of the Canadian space agency.

We have also presented briefs to various parliamentary committees on the subject of UN monitoring. The following sections from our 1987 brief to the Standing Committee on Research, Science and Technology were quoted in the Committee’s final report (entitled ‘Canada’s Space Program: A Voyage to the Future’, June 1987):

Canada possesses outstanding technical capabilities in remote sensing and surveillant instrumentation which, with a certain amount of political will, could be put to excellent use in the fields of international airborne and satellite surveillance for peace-keeping and arms verification.

The need for this technology is now coming into international prominence as more arms limitation treaties are expected to be made and as the United Nations is being called upon more and more to undertake peace-keeping and arms-verification activities.

In their final report the Committee also recommended that

… should an alternative to the Space Station Project become necessary, the Federal Government should consider expanding the RADARSAT program to incorporate an arms-control surveillance and verification role in collaboration with other interested and appropriate countries.

In 1982 a delegation from Science for Peace (consisting of Eric Fawcett, Franklin Griffiths, T.C. Clarke, John C. Polanyi and the late George Ignatieff) submitted a brief to the Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defence (SCEAND). They spoke about developing a United Nations satellite monitoring capability:

We urge the government of Canada to seize the opportunity afforded by the proposal for a United Nations Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA) and to bring to bear all Canada’s diplomatic and technical skills to further the crisis prevention and disarmament capabilities of the United Nations through this means …We understand a Canadian reluctance to disagree with such an important ally and trading partner as the United States. But in so important a matter as world security, we would hope Canada would speak to the greater benefit of the larger number of nations.

Members of Science for Peace (including Professors John Polanyi and Lynn Trainor) met with officials at External Affairs as early as 1981 to press upon them the opportunities for satellite monitoring and forms of international verification. Articles in the Globe and Mail were written by John Polanyi (including ‘Arms Monitoring by Satellite — Will Canada Lead?’). Government officials, as well as representatives from industry and the peace movement, attended all our workshops on the subject.

To its credit, Canada is now leading the development of an Open Skies regime for aerial observation. This plan was the main subject of discussion at a February meeting in Ottawa of the foreign ministers of the NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries (an unprecedented occasion in North America). Under the plan, unarmed planes from the two alliances would be allowed to fly over and photograph any part of each other’s territory. A trial flight was conducted in January, 1990, with a Canadian Forces plane flying a huge figure-8 over Hungary, viewing Hungarian and Soviet military bases. A Warsaw Pact plane is expected to fly through Canadian airspace soon. Perhaps, the Warsaw Pact would like to fly a plane behind a US stealth cruise missile in its next test over Alberta?

The Open Skies proposal was first made in 1955 by President Eisenhower, and had its origin in a nongovernmental arms control session in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This shows how non-governmental proposals can be adopted by governments but must sometimes require a bit of time to be realized. The official 1955 proposal was given an immediate and cold rebuff by Khrushchev, who called it a ‘bald espionage plot.’

A completely different response was given by Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze to the more recent Open Skies proposal; he said he would like to expand the idea to include ‘open land, open seas and open space.’ But at the moment the US will not discuss naval disarmament and still harbours plans for weapons in space.

The Soviet Union’s chief disarmament official, Viktor Karpov, recent said: ‘We know Canadian scientists have many ideas about verification. Why not a bilateral Soviet-Canadian project that could study ways to verify arms reductions in outer space?’

The Soviet Union also proposed that the UN operate the fleet of aircraft required for Open Skies, but this idea was immediately and flatly refused by the United States. It seems we will have to wait for political will to mature in the West until these countries can agree to such a good idea.

In short, the remarks by Joe Clark, the studies by the Canadian government, and the development of an Open Skies regime are most laudable. They represent a significant step to the ends that Science for Peace has been promoting since its inception. However, we have asked for even more and we must continue to do so.

As East-West relations are being remoulded and as a new international climate develops, it is essential that the United Nations play a central role, be strengthened as an effective international security body and be given the tools to carry out its important work. This is the best, and perhaps the only, way to build a peace that can last throughout the twenty-first century. We now have an opportunity not seen since the end of the Second World War.

The involvement of the peace movement and concerned citizens is as vital as ever. It is no longer the Soviet veto in the Security Council and other fora that is holding back the development or operation of an effective world-wide security system, but a reluctance on the part of the NATO countries to create new UN capabilities and organs (such as a UN verification agency and a UN capability to implement Open Skies). Now that the Warsaw Pact is not the menace it was once proclaimed to be, it is the UN, not an outmoded NATO, to which we now must turn to build global security. I sincerely hope that Canada displays more boldness and leadership, commensurate with this new era which we are now entering.

Two decades ago, people used to sing ‘give peace a chance.’ Now peace has a chance and we have to do our best to make sure that it succeeds.

 

Science for Peace is accredited with the United Nations as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). Walter Dorn, our UN representative, makes bimonthly visits to the United Nations to attend meetings of UN bodies, to speak with delegates and to work with other NGO representatives in the field of international security and disarmament.

Ramayana and Just War

Violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa:
Just War Criteria in an Ancient Indian Epic

Raj Balkaran and A. Walter Dorn*

Originally published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Volume 80, Issue 3 (July 2012), pp.659–690.
Available as pdf and online at jaar.oxfordjournals.org. Crown Copyright retained.

 

When is armed force considered justified in Hinduism? How do Hindu legitimizations of warfare compare with those of other religions? The Just War framework, which evolved from Roman and early Christian thought, stipulates distinct criteria for sanctioning the use of force. Are those themes comparable to the discourse on violence of ancient India? This article examines the influential Sanskrit epic Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa in order to broach these questions. This analysis demonstrates the presence in the ancient work of all seven modern Just War criteria—namely (1) Just Cause, (2) Right Intent, (3) Net Benefit, (4) Legitimate Authority, (5) Last Resort, (6) Proportionality of Means, and (7) Right Conduct. This study also shows the extent to which the criteria and the larger discourse in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa are distinctly couched within Indic ethical parameters, drawing particularly upon the moral precept of ahiṃsā (nonviolence). This article identifies both similarities and differences between the epic’s criteria for warfare and those of the Just War framework. By comparing representations of violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa to modern Western legitimizations of force, this study advances the inclusion of Hindu thought into the global discourse on the ethics of war and peace.


THE MONUMENTAL SANSKRIT epic Rāmāyaṇa functions as an ancient repository of social and moral values which are very much alive today in the Hindu world. The Rāmāyaṇa portrays the legendary exploits of the virtuous warrior-prince Rāma. The story has undergone innumerable interpolations, redactions, vernacular translations, and local retellings throughout its vast and dynamic receptive history. The themes thereof, however, have remained quintessential aspects of Hindu thought and culture over the centuries, inspiring art, dance, narrative, and moral instruction, not only in India but across South and Southeast Asia to this day.1 Rāma is regarded within the Hindu tradition as the exemplar of social and moral conduct, serving to define and perpetuate South Asian social values. As Robert Goldman notes, “few works of literature produced at any time have been as popular and influential as the great and ancient Sanskrit epic poem, the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa [which has] entertained, moved, enchanted, and uplifted untold millions of people in India and much of Southeast Asia” (1984: 4).

The most ancient and influential rendition of the exploits of Rāma is ascribed to the primordial poet-sage figure Vālmı̄ki, and serves as the culmination of a long bardic tradition resulting from an oral composition originating over two millennia ago. Vālmı̄ki is lauded by the Hindu religious tradition as its ādi kavi (first poet). We are told that Vālmı̄ki, while tranquilly engaged in his ritual bath at the banks of a river one morning, was admiring two beautiful krauñca birds engaged in the act of mating. The scene is sullied when an arrow from a hunter (niṣāda) pierces the breast of the male of the pair, leaving the female to wail in grief for her fallen mate. Vālmı̄ki is so overwhelmed with pity at the sorrowful sight that the following curse spontaneously springs from his unknowing lips:2 “Since, niṣāda, you killed one of this pair of krauñcas, distracted at the height of passion, you shall not live very long!” (mā niṣāda pratiṣṭāṃ tvam agamaḥ śāśvatı̄ḥ samāḥ, yat krauñcamithunād ekam avadhı̄ḥ kāmamohitam, I.2.16). This verse is not only indicative of the aesthetic mood of the work, but is also revered as the very first instance of poetry within the Indian subcontinent. It is telling, for our purposes, that poetry itself is derived from grief, and grief born of violence. The sight of wanton violence affronts the sage’s moral sensibilities, and though he returns it with an act of violence of his own (albeit an arguably more refined variety), the violence of the hunter is condemned by the text, yet that committed by the sage is not: rather, the violent moment occasioning the hunter’s retribution occasions, too, the genesis of poetic verse, and thus constitutes cause for celebration. In a like fashion, Vālmı̄ki’s Rāmāyaṇa functions to contrast proper and improper uses of force. While the epic speaks to many lasting ethical considerations, this study confines itself to one such concern: the legitimization of violence.

When is violent force justified? This question, especially when concerned with the large-scale loss of human life, has rightly occupied religious discourse worldwide over the centuries. A Just War framework evolved from Roman and early Christian thinkers (e.g. Cicero and St. Augustine) and has played a key role in the formation of modern international law. It remains the dominant Western approach, providing straightforward criteria to address some of the most basic question about the use of force. Its criteria can be grouped as follows:

Why use force? Just War requires:
(1) A just cause (2) The right intent (3) A net benefit
Who should authorize force?
(4) A legitimate authority
When can force be used?
(5) As a last resort
What level of force?
(6) Proportional means of force
How and where to apply force?
(7) With right conduct3

To what extent does the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa include the criteria of the Just War model? In order to address this question, we performed a manual sweep of the epic and isolated all episodes and passages explicitly pertaining to armed force as well as violence more generally. These passages naturally congealed into groups strikingly similar to those of the Just War framework. The vast majority of the ethical conditions relating to violence were directly comparable to at least one of the criteria comprising the Just War model. Furthermore, while our examination of the epic retrieved no explicit discourse corresponding to the Just War framework’s “presumption of peace,” we did find significant material lauding ahiṃsā (nonviolence) and correlated values, such as patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and compassion.

While this examination serves only as one step toward understanding Hindu approaches to armed force, it supports the notion that the themes espoused in the Just War tradition are common to long-standing indigenous Indian deliberations on the ethics of warfare. Rather than an imposition of Western Just War themes, this study shows how very similar ethical considerations assume a distinctly Indian character in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa. In doing so, the study also indicates the inadequacy of the Just War model to fully address the epic’s complex affirmation of peace, a theme which ironically abounds in an epic largely concerned with the legitimization of warfare. This article serves to further incorporate the Hindu ethics of violence into the broader modern global discourse on war and peace.

RELATED SCHOLARSHIP

Despite the recent rise in scholarship on Hinduism and Just War (Clooney 2003; Subedi 2003; Allen 2006; Brekke 2006; Patton 2007; Roy 2009),4 this collective enterprise pales in comparison to work done on other religious traditions (Dorn 2010), including Christianity (Johnson 1981), Islam (Kelsay 2007), and Buddhism (Bartholomeusz 2002). Francis Clooney (2003: 109–126) acknowledges that the discussion of a Hindu Just War is still in its infancy; however, he manages to establish the importance in Hinduism of one key Just War criteria: right intention when going to war (jus ad bellum 5). Similarly, Nick Allen focuses his insightful study of the Mahābhārata on Just Cause, in addition to discussing the epic’s ample supply of parameters for rules of engagement and briefly touching upon issues of Right Authority and Last Resort. But what of the other criteria? Torkel Brekke observes that the Hindu tradition has produced an extensive code of ethics for combat during war (jus in bello) but a relatively meager discourse on jus ad bellum criteria, while the Christian tradition exhibits an inverse emphasis.6 Is jus ad bellum discourse truly scarce in the Hindu context, or is it merely more subtly voiced? It is our task to probe narratives as richly didactic as the Rāmāyaṇa in search of the ethical discourses encoded within.

This study contends that, Brekke’s observation notwithstanding, the absence of ample comparison between the war ethics of India and the West results in large part from the degree to which the Indian discourse is embedded in narratives such as the Rāmāyaṇa, narratives understudied throughout the history of Indological scholarship. While more overtly didactic strata of the Hindu corpus (e.g., Vedānta) have enjoyed far more probing and sustained scholarly attention than narrative texts (especially the purāṇas), it is worth noting that the vast and ongoing career of the Rāmāyaṇa has proved enormously more far-reaching than strands of philosophy intended for, and preserved by, India’s social and religious elite.

The discourses on violence embedded in epic narrative, while far less succinct and direct than, for example, Dharmaśāstra literature, nevertheless constitute powerful avenues of insight into lasting ethical concerns within Hinduism. Though narrative is often considered descriptive, it is also prescriptive in the Indian context, particularly since the epics are replete with social and moral ideologies (Dhand 2002). This is especially the case with the Rāmāyaṇa since, as Laurie Patton remarks, the work attempts to integrate violence with Rāma’s moral perfection (2007). Given the epic’s preoccupation with the legitimization of violence, and its enormous clout as a source of social and moral guidance, it serves as an excellent text to help bridge the lacuna in scholarship regarding the intersection of Just War discourse and Hindu ethics pertaining to armed force.

A work as popular and influential as the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa has, of course, been subject to modification (interpolation, redaction) from one milieu to another across the sweep of its vast geographical and historical transmission. While historicist and philological analysis has by and large dominated the study of Sanskrit texts, “often occupied with excavating texts for the purpose of reconstructing the chronology of identifiably distinct textual layers” (Black and Geen 2011: 9), this study employs primarily a literary mode of engagement (similar to that of Black 2011; Geen 2011; Lindquist 2011; Patton 2011); that is, we are interested in the epic in its current form, embracing the ideological and creative enterprises of the text’s numerous interpolators and redactors. The search for a pristine, “original” text may be as futile as it is unimportant to the concerns of the living tradition which has sculpted the narrative to its current shape in accordance with prevailing values. While little can be certain about the intentions of Vālmı̄ki (or even of his historical existence), it is clear that the narrative fabric of the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa readily lends itself to discussion of the ethics of violence. Since Hinduism preserves ahiṃsā (nonviolence) as an ethical imperative, it is no wonder that the Rāmāyaṇa exhibits so marked an anxiety regarding the use of force, an anxiety which the epic competently addresses through its characterization and dialogue. It is these literary elements to which we turn in search of counsel on the legitimate use of force.

 

THE JUST WAR CRITERIA

Just Cause

This first Just War criterion is arguably the most significant to the model as a whole: there must be an appropriate cause to justify violence. If this is also true of the Rāmāyaṇa, then what specific causes for warfare are cited therein? Vālmı̄ki informs us very early in the epic that the world is imperiled by evil rākṣasas—i.e., demons—who, by means of violence and magical spells, threaten the sanctity and well-being of the other inhabitants of the planet. Their effort is spearheaded by the demon-king Rāvaṇa, who has come to represent the personification of evil against whose vice Rāma’s virtue is stanchly contrasted. Rāvaṇa and his entourage terrorize ascetics, interrupting their rituals, thereby causing imbalance in the cosmic order. The Hindu pantheon of gods implore the god Viṣṇu to take incarnation on earth in order to “kill Rāvaṇa in battle, that mighty thorn in the side of the world, for he is … a terror to ascetics and a source of lamentation to the world” (pravṛddhaṃ lokakaṇṭakam … samare jahi rāvaṇam … tad … virāvaṇaṃ tapasvinām taṃ bhayāvaham, I.14.17–I.14.21). Violence is condoned in this context, given the necessity of combating the force of evil. Viṣṇu descends during King Daśaratha’s ritual sacrifice for progeny, and takes human birth as the warrior-prince Rāma.7 Viṣṇu’s ultimate mission (as manifest in the Rāma avatāra, i.e., his divine descent) is clear: the defeat of evil and restoration of cosmic balance. The welfare of the world is, undoubtedly, viewed as just cause for violent action. Rāma, we are told, is driven by the goal of defending the welfare of all beings.

Born into the kṣatriya (ruler-warrior) caste as the son of King Daśaratha, Rāma is authorized to wield violent force in order to combat evil and protect righteousness. Violent means is the privilege, and indeed the duty, of the kṣatriya class, to whom, among the four castes, social governance is entrusted. Both protection and punishment are deemed equally vital to social welfare, without which society would decay. Both are accepted as noble causes for violence, as exemplified at several junctures throughout the text.

During his exile, Rāma encounters forest-dwelling sages who remind him of his kṣatriya duty, declaring that “a king who protects his subjects … acquires [a quarter] of the supreme righteousness amassed by a sage who lives on nothing but roots and fruit” (yat karoti paraṃ dharmaṃ munir mūlaphalāśanaḥ tatra rājñaś caturbhāgaḥ … rakṣataḥ, III.5.13). They implore him to carry out his duty and protect them from the menacing rākṣasas. By wielding violence, Rāma becomes the sages’ refuge from persecution and annihilation, which the text presents as ample cause for the exercise of armed force. Similarly, at the onset of the war between Rāma and Rāvaṇa, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa, Rāvaṇa’s brother and court minister, defects to Rāma’s army due to the demon-king’s arrogance and ethical depravity. Though several of Rāma’s advisors are suspicious, Rāma accepts Vibhı̄ṣaṇa without hesitation because “it is a serious transgression to fail to protect those who come seeking shelter” (evaṃ doṣo mahān atra prapannānām arakṣaṇe); indeed, one should protect the vulnerable “even at the cost of his own life” (prāṇān parityajya) (VI.12.15–VI.12.18). As per the dictates of dharma (righteousness), Rāma openly welcomes Vibhı̄ṣaṇa: the warrior-prince is sworn to “grant protection to all beings who come to [him] for shelter” (sakṛd eva prapannāya tavāsmı̄ti ca yācate abhayaṃ sarvabhūtebhyo dadāmy etad vrataṃ mama, VI.12.20). Protection is privileged over passivity.

By extension, self-preservation is a valid justification for the resort to violence. One must protect oneself against annihilation, especially in order to protect others. An example of this arises in a later episode, in which Hanumān, Rāma’s staunch simian devotee, is captured in Laṅkā by Rāvaṇa and his entourage. Hanumān cleverly cites self-defense as his justification for killing several of the demon-king’s warriors (V.48.13), though his official mission in Laṅkā is only one of reconnaissance. Similarly, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa defends Rāma’s killing of the demon Khara by invoking self-defense, stating that “all living creatures must strive to the limit of their strength to save their own lives” (avaśyaṃ prāṇināṃ prāṇā rakṣitavyā yathābalam, VI.9.14). Clearly, protection (of both the self and other) warrants the execution of violence. Recall that on the cosmological level, Rāma’s very incarnation takes place in order to protect his fellow creatures, and to protect dharma itself.

In keeping with the theme of protection, the safety of the collective often trumps other ethical considerations. For example, although the slaughter of a female is highly stigmatized in Sanskrit epic culture (see the “Right Conduct” section), Rāma is required to destroy the she-demon Tāṭakā (I.24.13–I.24.19), who poses a threat to the great sage Viśvāmitra, one of Rāma’s early mentors. The sage urges Rāma to slaughter the she-demon without reservation, although doing so is generally considered morally reprehensible and against the code of the warrior. The fact that the text so explicitly argues against the slaying of a woman indicates that violence in the text is far from haphazard, but rather is executed deliberately and thoughtfully, with proper cause. Sage Viśvāmitra urges Rāma to kill her and not be “soft-hearted about killing a woman” (strı̄vadhakṛte ghṛṇā, I.24.15). Viśvāmitra proceeds to cite precedents of great men who killed females for a greater cause (I.24.17–I.24.18), declaring in summation that “many other great and excellent men killed women who were set in the ways of unrighteousness” (etaiś cānyaiś ca bahubhı̄ rājaputramahātmabhiḥ adharmaniratā nāryo hatāḥ puruṣasattamaiḥ, I.24.19). The threat that Tāṭakā poses toward other beings outweighs considerations of gender with respect to kṣatriya dharma. Viśvāmitra commands him to “kill this utterly dreadful and wicked yakṣa [demon] woman whose valor is employed for evil purposes” (enām duvṛttām yakṣı̄ṃ paramadāruṇām jahi duṣṭaparākramām, I.24.13), especially given the immemorial responsibility of “a king’s son [to] act for the welfare of the four great social orders” (cāturvarṇyahitārthāya kartavyaṃ rājasūnunā, I.24.15). It is worth noting that this specific responsibility (i.e., collective welfare) does not belong exclusively to sovereigns. The text later instructs that social harmony is a responsibility of the entire collective, stating that “all [should] unite to destroy [the] one whose deeds are brutal and perverse” (karma lokaviruddhaṃ tu kurvāṇaṃ … tı̄kṣṇaṃ sarvajano hanti, III.28.4). But the text does not call the whole of society to arms: kṣatriyas alone may exercise force, and only when presented with reasonable cause.

Violence is sanctioned as a means of punishment as well as a means of protection and self-defense. For example, Rāma executes the monkey-king, Vālin, for the sake of upholding righteousness. He metes out punishment to Vālin for his adulterous transgressions as well as to fulfill a promise to his ally Sugrı̄va. In a lengthy speech, Rāma declares that “the right of punishing and rewarding” (nigrahānugrahāv api IV.18.6) belongs to the kings of the earth, who retain the right to “duly chastise whoever strays from the path of righteousness” (te vayaṃ mārgavibhraṣṭaṃ … nigṛhṇı̄mo yathāvidhi IV.18.11). Yet this does not appear to constitute license for rulers to issue punishment on a whim. Rāma is careful to invoke the law which states that Vālin’s crime—specifically, adultery with his brother’s wife—was a crime punishable by death. As Rāma declares, “death is the punishment prescribed for a man who out of lust approaches his daughter, sister, or younger brother’s wife” (aurası̄ṃ bhaginı̄ṃ vāpi bhāryāṃ vāpy anujasya yaḥ pracareta naraḥ kāmāt tasya daṇḍo vadhaḥ smṛtaḥ, IV.18.22). Rāma consoles the dying Vālin that neither he who punishes nor he who is punished truly perishes, since “each serves the due process of justice” (kāryakāraṇasiddhārthāv) (IV.18.53–IV.18.55). Thus, punishment of gross ethical transgressions validates the application of lethal force.

Even the ideal kingdom requires arms. In Book II, Vālmı̄ki portrays a utopia in Ayodhyā, the capital city of the idyllic kingdom of Kośala; yet it is described as well armed. Though Ayodhyā is prosperous, refined, and peaceful, we are told that it contained every implement and weapon (I.5.10) and its king, Daśaratha, had thousands of great chariot warriors with great fighting skills. Even a utopia must be protected from external threat; similarly, internal threats must be met with punishment, but in a reasonable and humane manner. We are told that in Ayodhyā, the king’s administrators would, “if the occasion demanded, punish their own sons” (prāpta kālaṃ yathā daṇḍaṃ dhārayeyuḥ suteṣv api, I.7.7) and that they “were constant protectors of all honest inhabitants of the realm” (śucı̄nām rakṣitāraś ca nityaṃ viṣayavāsinām, 1.7.9). The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa asserts that protection and punishment, when alloyed with reason, represent sanctioned and necessary expressions of violence.

 

Right Intent

The second criterion comprising the Just War framework is Right Intent, which can be interpreted as having a pure motivation to support righteousness, independent of selfish desires. Another interpretation in the Just War tradition is that war be implemented only for the sake of peace. The demon Rāvaṇa’s “rationale” for violence is thoroughly condemned insofar as it is senselessly self-serving and conflict-provoking.8 By contrast, what can we gage about the intention of the noble warrior Rāma? On the day of his would-be coronation, upon being wrongfully sentenced to fourteen years of forest exile, Rāma had ample opportunity to exercise force for the sake of his own self-interest. He is even urged to do so by his brother, the passionate Lakṣmaṇa, who insists that they should right the wrong by forcefully seizing the throne. However, Rāma rejects this advice and gracefully acquiesces to his sentence of exile, seemingly disinterested in personal comfort or entitlement. For Rāma, the loss of kingship and all of its amenities does not constitute right intent for the use of force.

The prince regent’s motives appear consistently noble overall, but are not without blemish. The episode narrating Rāma’s slaughter of Vālin is far more questionable, specifically regarding the selflessness of Rāma’s intentions. In Book IV, Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa, Rāma defeats Vālin, having forged an alliance with Vālin’s brother, Sugrı̄va. Rāma and Sugrı̄va had pledged mutual allegiance and aid in the recovery of their respective wives. Thus, Rāma is clearly motivated by self-interest. However, clearly conscious of the ethical conundrum, Vālmı̄ki articulates intentions on Rāma’s behalf which transcend the sphere of self-interest. Vālin himself, on the verge of death, inquires about Rāma’s motivation for killing him, wondering what possible merit could be gained thereby. Vālmı̄ki, speaking through the dying lord of the monkey-men, indicates that kings must act in accordance with noble intentions, including “conciliation, generosity, forbearance, righteousness, truthfulness, steadiness, and courage, as well as punishment of wrongdoers” (sāma dānaṃ kṣamā dharmaḥ satyaṃ dhṛtiparākramau pārthivānāṃ guṇā rājan daṇḍaś cāpy apakāriṣu, IV.17.25) and that they “must not act capriciously” (na nṛpāḥ kāmavṛttayaḥ, IV.17.28). At this juncture, Rāma maintains that he acted in the interest of his duty to punish evil-doers. That the text anticipates and defends against the charge that Rāma’s motives are solely self-serving bespeaks an insistence on nobility of intent whilst engaging in violent force.

 

Net Benefit

The third Just War criterion asks: is the fighting worth the cost? During their forest exile, Sı̄tā cautions Rāma against the overall use of arms, highlighting the delusion that can arise from the possession of weaponry. She seems to be asking whether or not violence, however justified, is worth the risk it poses. She relays the tale of an ascetic who, upon receiving a sword as a gift, becomes obsessed with the weapon, carrying it everywhere. He eventually turns violent, forgetting his ascetic vow of ahiṃṣā. Delighting in wanton violence, his barbaric tendencies serve to rupture his virtue and amassed merit (tapas), causing him to eventually end up in hell (III.8.13–III.8.19). Hence, nothing good came of the weapon. Sı̄tā relays the tale to question the benefit of violence. For the sage, there was no benefit, and only detriment. Ironically, Rāma employs violence to secure, rather than to compromise, the religiosity of the sages. It is the rākṣasas who thwart their work by desecrating their sacrificial altars. The benefit of protecting the sages is clear, and well worth the exercise of force.

Vālmı̄ki also considers the benefits and drawbacks of battle through Hanumān, who wonders aloud what intelligent person would haphazardly engage in an affair such as warfare whose outcome is so uncertain (V.28.35)—indeed, none can predict the outcome of combat. Nevertheless, the valiant Hanumān pledges allegiance to Rāma, an act signifying for him that the potential benefit of the war outweighs its cruel uncertainly. Hanumān’s musings occur long before the onset of battle, when there is great margin for speculation. However, soon into the war, the demise of the rākṣasas becomes easily foreseeable, and on this basis Rāvaṇa’s great-uncle and minister, Mālyavān, reminds him that “a king who is weaker than his rival or equal to him in strength should sue for peace [and] only one who is stronger should make war, but even he must never underestimate his enemy” (hı̄yamānena kartavyo rājñā sandhiḥ samena ca na śatrum avamanyeta jyāyān kurvı̄ta vigraham, VI.26.8). Mālyavān’s concern is a pragmatic one. What is to be gained from continuing the war? In the case of the rākṣasas, where defeat is inevitable, a sensible ruler heeding the net benefit argument would have happily surrendered.

Rāma, on the other hand, engages in violent combat not only for the rescue of his cruelly imperiled wife, but for the sake of righteousness (dharma) itself. As the avatāra of the god Viṣṇu, Rāma’s earthly purpose is to destroy Rāvaṇa and his entourage who threaten the rituals of the ascetics, rituals which maintain the welfare of the world. It is important to bear in mind the inextricability of the “cosmic” and “human” narratives in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa.

Sheldon Pollock argues on the basis of the epic’s narrative logic (particularly with respect to the tale’s boon motif) that Rāma must simultaneously be a divine and human being, and so, too, must the concerns of each setting be intertwined (1984). While at face value, the tale of Rāma easily appears to fit the ancient trope of a prince recapturing his princess from the clutches of evil, the details are dependent upon the necessities of the grander narrative, whereby Rāma must destroy Rāvaṇa in the interest of cosmic balance. For example, we are told that during Rāvaṇa’s assault on Sı̄tā, “perfected beings cried out ‘This is the end of Rāvaṇa!’” (etad anto daśagrı̄va iti siddhās tadābruvan, III.52.10); furthermore, Sı̄tā explicitly voices the same during her captivity: “I know for certain I could never have been stolen away from the wise Rāma, were it not that Fate had destined it—to bring about your death!” (nāpahartum ahaṃ śakyā tasya rāmasya dhı̄mataḥ vidhis tava vadhārthāya vihito nātra saṃśayaḥ, V.20.21). It is through the backdrop of this cosmic narrative that one appreciates the ultimate benefit of Rāma’s cause.

 

Legitimate Authority

The fourth Just War criterion concerns the following question: can force be rightfully decided upon and implemented by anyone? The society of the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa accepts both filial piety and the authority of the king. Elders are invariably respected. Rāma even renounces his right to kingship and agrees to dwell in the wilderness merely because his father (also his king) asks him to do so. In obeying his father’s command, he cites the precedents of two noble individuals committing deplorable acts. The first one slays a cow, a highly revered animal in Indian culture, and the second slays his own mother, both at the behest of their father (II.18.27–II.18.29). These abhorrent and shocking acts are justified in the name of obedience and respect for authority. When later confronted by the impassioned Lakṣmaṇa, Rāma instructs his younger brother that their father’s command “is based on righteousness and is absolute” and that “having once heard a father’s command, a mother’s, or a Brahman’s, one must not disregard it” (dharmasaṃśritam etac ca pitur vacanam uttamam saṃśrutya ca pitur vākyaṃ mātur vā brāhmaṇasya vā na kartavyaṃ vṛthā, II.18.34) under any circumstances. On the familial level, one must obey one’s parents and elders. Lakṣmaṇa imposes fourteen years of exile upon himself in order to accompany and serve his elder brother. Similarly, wives respect the authority of their husbands, and Sı̄tā insists upon the same fourteen-year sentence out of reverence for her husband.

Obedience also extends from the social level to the priestly class. Rāma declares to the dying monkey-king, Vālin, that for righteousness to be in effect, “an older brother, a father, and a bestower of learning—these three are to be regarded as father [and furthermore that] a younger brother, one’s own son, and also a pupil with good qualities—these three are to be thought of as one’s sons” (jyeṣṭho bhrātā pitā caiva yaś ca vidyāṃ prayacchati trayas te pitaro jñeyā … yavı̄yān ātmanaḥ putraḥ śiṣyaś cāpi guṇoditaḥ putravat te trayaś cintyā, IV.18.13–IV.18.14). Human society is stratified according to gender, age, and caste. In ancient India, the kṣatriya caste is the only one that can wield weapons and apply force for protection and punishment.

Upon entering into the wilderness, Rāma encounters a community of ashrams where ascetics of various kinds dwell. The hermitages comprised religious virtuosos who, having themselves renounced violence, implore Rāma to exercise his authority to protect them against the deadly malice of the rākṣasas (III.5.7–III.5.20). Kings (part of the kṣatriya caste) are referred to as guardians of righteousness, possessing legitimate authority to exercise power. The king rightfully uses force to protect his subjects and “wields the staff of punishment” (daṇḍadharo, III.1.17). To again refer to Rāma’s address to the dying vānara-king, he declares, in his own defense, that a ruler’s duty is to “duly chastise whoever strays from the path of righteousness” (te vayaṃ mārgavibhraṣṭaṃ svadharme parame sthitāḥ bharatājñāṃ puraskṛtya nigṛhṇı̄mo yathāvidhi, IV.18.11). Clearly, the use of force is contingent upon authority in this cultural context, or else all castes within society would be permitted to wield arms.

However, we ought to note that the text offers a highly idealized portrayal of kingship, where the king is self-composed, true to his word, and attentive to moral precepts. It is unclear whether kings should be allotted this authority categorically, or whether they do so by their inherent merit. That Rāma is portrayed as personage of great virtue could be read as the basis of legitimization of his authority. The text in no way, for example, repudiates Vibhı̄ṣaṇa for defecting to his king’s (Rāvaṇa) enemy in the midst of war. The authority of the king is arguably inextricable from his presumed virtue.

 

Last Resort

The fifth Just War criterion stipulates that all possible attempts at peace must be exhausted prior to engagement in warfare. Rāma is described as one who is not quick to anger; he therefore does not readily rely on violent means. He is by nature kind and compassionate, prepared to “ignore a hundred injuries, so great [is] his self-control” (na smaraty apakārāṇām śatam apy ātmavattayā, II.1.16). As mentioned above, when he is sentenced to exile on the very day of his would-be coronation, he peacefully and graciously accepts his fate. By contrast, Lakṣmaṇa, his younger, rasher brother, emphatically suggests that they violently “seize control of the government” (tāvad eva mayā sārdham ātmasthaṃ kuru śāsanam, II.18.8) since “leniency always ends in defeat” (mṛdur hi paribhūyate, II.18.11). Lakṣmaṇa’s youth, brashness, and passion are consistently juxtaposed with Rāma’s equanimity, wisdom, and poise. Rāma refuses to heed his brother’s exhortations, and insists on going peacefully. Violence is never a first recourse for Rāma. He addresses the idea of violent action against his father, the king, by directly denouncing it, construing violence as action opposed to righteousness (dharma) itself and urging Lakṣmaṇa to relinquish his “ignoble notion that is based on the code of the kṣatriya [and instead to] base his actions on righteousness, not violence” (tad enāṃ visṛjānāryāṃ kṣatradharmāśritāṃ matim dharmam āśraya mā taikṣṇyaṃ madbuddhir anugamyatām, II.18.36). So distant is violence from Rāma’s first recourse that he goes so far as to publicly repudiate the very duty of the warrior.

Ironically, once Sı̄tā, Rāma’s beloved wife, is abducted, it is Rāma who becomes uncharacteristically enraged and unsound, and it is Lakṣmaṇa who reminds him that he has “always been mild in the past, self-restrained, and dedicated to the welfare of all creatures” (purā bhūtvā mṛdur dāntaḥ sarvabhūtahite rataḥ, III.61.4). He then urges Rāma to maintain composure since “lords of the earth must be gentle and cool-headed, and must mete out just punishment” (yuktadaṇḍā hi mṛdavaḥ praśāntā vasudhādhipāḥ, III.61.9). Vālmı̄ki here voices his sage counsel on the ethics of force through Lakṣmaṇa, who counsels his elder brother to first resort to “peaceful means, by conciliation, tact, or diplomacy” and to resort to violence only if these fail (śı̄lena sāmnā vinayena sı̄tāṃ nayena na prāpsyasi cen narendra tataḥ samutsādaya hemapuṅkhair mahendra vajrapratimaiḥ śaraughaiḥ, III.61.16).

Later in the text, when it is Lakṣmaṇa who is enraged, Rāma advises him to destroy evil by virtue, and to first exhaust “affection and friendship” using “conciliatory words, avoiding harshness” (sāmopahitayā vācā rūkṣāṇi parivarjayan vaktum arhasi sugrı̄vaṃ vyatı̄taṃ kālaparyaye, IV.30.8). Although martial valor is extolled in the text, violence is by no means the “higher ground.” Whoever is the mouthpiece—whether Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa, or even the rākṣasas—Vālmı̄ki’s criteria for the legitimate execution of armed force is derived from an esteem for peace that resounds throughout the work.

The text at several junctures explicitly insists that one must exhaust peaceful means prior to relying upon force. Hanumān, upon arriving in Laṅkā on his quest to find Sı̄tā, considers various options but rejects them as unworkable in that situation. He states that “when it comes to the rākṣasas, there is no scope for conciliation, nor is there any scope for bribery, sowing dissention, or open warfare” (avakāśo na sāntvasya rākṣaseṣv abhigamyate na dānasya na bhedasya naiva yuddhasya dṛśyate, V.2.27). The four traditional escalatory steps (upāyas) found in the Indian epics are: sāma (conciliation), dāna (gifts), bheda (dissention), and daṇḍa (punishment).9 As Hanumān is leaving Sı̄tā (who is held captive in the demon capital), he thinks to himself (V.39.3–V.39.4): Conciliation does not yield good results in the case of the rākṣasas, nor are gifts appropriate in the case of those who have amassed great wealth. Dissension can have no effect on people who are proud of their strength. Physical force alone presents itself to me in this case. Indeed, no resolution other than physical force will be possible in this matter.10

That Hanumān considers nonviolent approaches to deal with demonic instigators underlines an insistence that violence be pursued only as a last resort. Hanumān concludes that he should engage the rākṣasa forces to test their strength and to make them more pliant (V.39.5). After allowing his tail to be lit on fire at Rāvaṇa’s order, Hanumān uses it to set fire to buildings in Laṅkā.

Last Resort even has a place among the rākṣasas. During the great war to regain Sı̄tā, Rāvaṇa is chastized by his own brother, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa, who at the first war counsel reminds the lord of the rākṣasas that “the learned have prescribed as appropriate the use of force only on those occasions where one’s objective cannot be achieved by means of the other three stratagems” (apy upāyais tribhis tāta yo ‘rthaḥ prāptuṃ na śakyate tasya vikramakālāṃs tān yuktān āhur manı̄ṣiṇaḥ, VI.9.8). Similarly, another of Rāvaṇa’s brothers, the giant, Kumbhakarṇa, informs us that “the self-possessed monarch should consult with his ministers concerning the timely use of bribery, conciliation, sowing dissension, coercive force, or any combination of these means, as well as the proper and improper ways of applying them” (upapradānaṃ sāntvaṃ vā bhedaṃ kāle ca vikramam yogam ca rakṣasāṃ śreṣṭha tāv ubhāu ca nayānayau, VI.51.11). Like Vibhı̄ṣaṇa, he makes reference to the three other classical means for conflict resolution. All of Vibhı̄ṣaṇa’s attempts to avert the war fail as the utterly self-engrossed rākṣasa lord refuses to heed his advice. Rāvaṇa returns the sage counsel with insults, causing Vibhı̄ṣaṇa to defect to Rāma’s army. Vibhı̄ṣaṇa’s actions dually signify that warfare should be averted wherever possible, and furthermore, if warfare becomes inevitable, it is imperative to fight on the side of the righteous. The text clearly prioritized peaceful means over violent conflict, when possible.

 

Proportionality of Means

This criterion suggests that one should exert force only to a degree commensurate with the assault or crime. The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa offers an idyllic portrayal of the kingdom of Kośala, where the authorities “would not harm even a hostile man, if he had done no wrong” (ahitaṃ cāpi puruṣaṃ na vihiṃsyur adūṣakam, I.7.8) and meted out strict punishment “only after considering the relative gravity of a man’s offense” (sutı̄kṣṇadaṇḍāḥ saṃprekṣya puruṣasya balābalam, I.7.10). This esteem for proportionality is mirrored even in the demon kingdom. Rāvaṇa’s advisors caution him against slaying the emissary Hanumān (V.56.126–V.56.127), stating that only when an emissary has committed some grave offence may punishment be dispensed. Punishment in such a case may include disfigurement but may never rightfully entail execution. Rāvaṇa relents to Vibhı̄ṣaṇa’s counsel, admitting that “to kill a messenger is indeed reprehensible” (dūtavadhyā vigarhitā, V.51.2) and decides instead to merely punish Hanumān. He devises a punishment which he deems commensurate to the crime, declaring (V.51.3–V.51.4): It is said that the tail is the monkey’s most cherished possession … therefore let his [tail] be set alight immediately … let all his kinsmen and relations, his friends and those dear to him, see him dejected and drawn by the disfigurement of his tail.11

Rāvaṇa seeks to shame and disfigure Hanumān, though he refrains from taking his life. That Rāvaṇa seeks to distort the prized possession of the monkey-man without inflicting fatal harm on him is congruent with an element of proportionality of the means of force, though it also suggests malicious intent. Ironically, Hanumān suffers no permanent disfigurement and even employs his flaming tail as an instrument to set fire to the city of Laṅkā.

Proportionality of means is also demonstrated in Rāma’s encounter with the she-demon Śūrpaṇakhā, the sister of Rāvaṇa. Because of her lust for Rāma, Śūrpaṇakhā becomes greatly envious of Sı̄tā, who is the sole object of Rāma’s romantic affection, and threatens to devour Sı̄tā before Rāma’s very eyes to procure his attention. As she pounces upon Sı̄tā, Rāma forcefully restrains her and instructs Lakṣmaṇa to disfigure her. Note that Rāma does not call for her execution. Lakṣmaṇa proceeds to cut off her ears and nose (III.17.15–III.17.23). Unlike the killing of the monkey-king, Vālin, Śūrpaṇakhā’s life was spared, presumably due to the relative levity of her offence. Sı̄tā, after all, remained unscathed throughout the ordeal. Soon thereafter the maimed Śūrpaṇakhā appears before her brother’s court and manipulates him to avenge her mutilation. She cunningly conveys the allure of Sı̄tā so as to incite her brother’s uncontrollable desire, thus causing Rāvaṇa’s abduction of Sı̄tā, which results in the war with Laṅkā and the demon’s fateful demise.

 

Right Conduct

Criterion seven pertains to ethics during actual fighting. The warrior’s code of honor is paramount throughout the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa. Though Rāma’s ethical conduct is largely considered exemplary, it is not unblemished. Among Rāma’s controversial actions is the slaughter of the she-demon, Tāṭakā, an act which outright violates the warrior’s code since females are generally not to be killed. For example, Bharata, outraged at his mother’s malicious conniving to deprive Rāma of the throne in order to give it to her son, states, “if any creature is not to be slain, it is a woman. Forbear! I would kill this woman myself, this evil, wicked Kaikeyı̄, were it not that righteous Rāma would condemn me for matricide” (avadhyāḥ sarvabhūtānāṃ pramadāḥ kṣamyatām iti hanyām aham imāṃ pāpāṃ kaikeyı̄ṃ duṣṭacāriṇı̄m yadi māṃ dhārmiko rāmo nāsūyen mātṛghātakam, II.72.20–II.72.21). Similarly, the slaughter of his warrior-son Indrajit so angered Rāvaṇa that he threatened the life of the captive Sı̄tā. His minister Supārśva succeeds in diffusing his wrath, invoking proper conduct to dissuade him from the heinous crime of killing a woman (VI.80.52–VI.80.56).

Other episodes exemplify key elements of proper conduct as advanced in the text. The kṣatriya code of conduct is breached in Kiṣkindhā, the realm of the monkey-men. Rāma, highly sympathetic to Sugrı̄va’s loss of kingdom and wife, forges an alliance with him against his brother Vālin. Rāma agrees to slay Vālin. However, he does so by shooting his arrows from the bushes, where he is concealed at the sidelines, while Vālin and Sugrı̄va are engaged in combat. Rāma’s conduct, engaging an enemy while being concealed, highly problematizes the warrior’s code which he so staunchly upholds throughout the epic. He is reproached at great length by the dying Vālin who considers it a cruel act, bereft of discretion. Rāma provides a lengthy rationale for his act but in no way claims that this justifies his questionable method. He makes no argument against the necessity of the accepted ethics of combat, but rather argues that those ethics do not apply while humans engage with animals. He reminds Vālin that men “in hiding or out in the open” (narāḥ praticchannāś ca dṛśyāś ca) attack various beasts whether they “run away terrified or confidently stand still” (mṛgān pradhāvitān vā vitrastān visrabdhān ativiṣṭhitān), whether “attentive or inattentive or even facing the other way” and that there is “nothing wrong with this” (pramattān apramattān vā narā māṃsārthino bhṛśam vidhyanti vimukāṃś cāpi na ca doṣotra vidyate, IV.18.34–IV.18.35). By regarding Vālin as subhuman in this context, Rāma cleverly defends against his breach of warrior conduct, which is stringently adhered to by himself and other warriors throughout the epic.

Once Vālin is executed, months pass and Sugrı̄va neglects to fulfill his end of his bargain; he fails to dispatch a search party for Sı̄tā. Rāma becomes exceedingly worried and agitated, and sends Lakṣmaṇa to deliver a message threatening to slay Sugrı̄va, along with his family, if he does not honor their pact. He urges the newly reinstated lord of monkey-men to heed “the immemorial code of righteous conduct” (pratiśrutaṃ dharmam avekṣya śāśvataṃ IV.29.51). Promise-keeping is a major obligation in the warrior’s code of honor. Recall that Rāma’s entire ordeal—his acceptance of life in the forest, and all of his subsequent hardships—stem from the importance of obeying his father’s word in granting the misguided boons to Rāma’s youngest step-mother, Kaikeyı̄.

At the court of Laṅkā, Vibhı̄ṣana—who is described as “always committed to proper conduct” (kāryavidhau sthitaḥ, V.50.3)—counsels Rāvaṇa against the execution of the emissary Hanumān since it would be “contrary to righteousness” (dharmaviruddhaṃ, V.50.5); indeed, “the virtuous do not advocate killing an emissary” (na dūtavadhyāṃ pravadanti santo, V.50.6) since “a messenger never deserves death” (na dūto vadham arhati, V.50.11). While Rāvaṇa agrees to a lesser punishment, Vibhı̄ṣana becomes frustrated by Rāvaṇa’s insistence on rejecting virtuous counsel.

Warriors abided by the rules of warfare as prescribed by śāstric injunctions. For example, the warriors at Ayodhyā “would never loose their arrows upon a foe who is isolated from his comrades, the sole support of his family, in hiding, or in flight” (ye ca bāṇair na vidhyanti viviktam aparāparam śabdavedhyaṃ ca vitataṃ laghuhastā viśāradāḥ, I.5.20) Also, during the great war in Laṅkā, Rāma proclaims to Lakṣmaṇa that “a foe who does not resist, is in hiding, cups his hands in supplication, approaches seeking refuge, is fleeing, or is caught off guard—[one] must not slay any of these” (ayudhyamānaṃ pracchannaṃ prāñjaliṃ śaraṇāgatam palāyantaṃ pramattaṃ vā na tvaṃ hantum ihārhasi, VI.67.38). Engagement in battle is a highly systematized endeavor in these contexts. The Rāmāyaṇa definitely upholds the necessity for appropriate conduct whilst engaging in battle.

 

THE UNJUST WAR: SAGE COUNSEL AT THE COURT OF RĀVAṆA

Vālmı̄ki’s overwhelming concern for just warfare, as evidenced by the inclusion of the seven criteria, is especially apparent in Book VI, Yuddhakāṇḍa, “The Book of War.” Given that several dialogues in Laṅkā contained in this book deal explicitly with the themes of statecraft and warfare, they have been given their own section in this article. The material therein serves to bolster several Just War considerations, particularly the criterion upon which the ethical system hinges: Just Cause. Goldman notes in the introductory essay that:

The Yuddhakāṇḍa is not entirely devoted to the strategies and conduct of war … the Book’s narrative offers many opportunities for discussions of statecraft, [and] moral and ethical debates… . The principal junctures for the exposition and discussion of ethical and expedient conduct are the councils … when the leaders, Rāma and Rāvaṇa, are confronted with crises and calamities and are forced to make critical decisions. (van Nooten 2009: 28)

At three of these critical decision-making junctures—the two councils at the court of Laṅkā and in Rāvaṇa’s encounter with Kumbhakarṇa—Vālmı̄ki demonstrates the irrefutable unrighteousness of the villain’s cause, and, by contrast, the righteousness inherent in the cause of the hero Rāma. Vālmı̄ki reinforces Rāvaṇa’s villainous nature throughout the book by repeatedly calling attention to the injustice of so unethical a motive for waging war as forcefully coveting the wife of another. Ironically, at these pivotal junctures, the poet delivers his sage counsel on the nature of war and peace by using three of the demon-king’s closest kinsmen as mouthpieces. The three are: his brother, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa; his great-uncle Mālyavān; and another of his brothers, the giant warrior Kumbhakarṇa. These three exchanges articulate a concern underscored throughout the epic, i.e., that violence never be deployed in the absence of just cause, and conversely, that it must be readily deployed in defense of righteousness.

The first of the two rākṣasa war councils takes place before Rāma and his army cross the ocean, well before the deployment of weapons. The very existence of a prewar council is significant: war ought not to arise from rashness or impulse, but, rather, from careful and methodical consideration. So great is the necessity for counsel in times of war that even the self-absorbed Rāvaṇa respectfully requests his ministers’ advice, declaring that “those who are venerable and wise say that counsel is the cornerstone of victory.” If it is ironic that the rash and self-absorbed monarch would humble himself before his ministers for deliberation about the prospect of war, the allegedly sagacious “advice” he receives from among that congregation is also befittingly ironic. While the rākṣasa council enthusiastically assure Rāvaṇa of his prowess and inevitable victory—thus further inciting his arrogance and misguided sense of invincibility—Rāvaṇa’s own brother, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa, dares to offer sensible counsel (VI.9.12–VI.9.13, 15–16, 19–20, 22):

By no means, night roaming rākṣasas, should we rashly underestimate our foes; for their forces and valor are immeasurable. And what offence had Rāma previously committed against the king of the rākṣasas that the latter should have abducted that illustrious man’s wife?12 … Vaidehı̄13 constitutes a grave danger to us. She who has been abducted must be surrendered. There is no point in acting merely to provoke a quarrel. It would therefore not be appropriate for us to engage in pointless hostility with this powerful and righteous man. You must give Maithilı̄ back to him … .14 If you do not of your own free will give back Rāma’s beloved wife, the city of Laṅkā and all of its valiant rākṣasas will surely perish. As your kinsman, I beseech you. Do as I say. What I am telling you is both salutary and beneficial ….15 Give up your wrath, so destructive of both happiness and righteousness. Practice righteousness, which is conducive to pleasures and fame. Calm yourself, that we may survive together with our sons and kinsmen. You must give Maithilı̄ back to Dāśaratha.16

Vibhı̄ṣaṇa advises his king to surrender Sı̄tā, who is being sought by both sides. Insofar as she is the object of dispute, she is also the proximate cause of the war. The war does not begin with Rāma’s siege of Laṅkā, but rather originates from Rāvaṇa’s malicious abduction of Sı̄tā, which we are told is the mundane impetus for Rāma’s cosmic conquest of Rāvaṇa, evil personified. It is that very misdeed which Vibhı̄ṣaṇa addresses as an unjust cause for warfare. He argues that Sı̄tā’s abduction was unwarranted, and that Rāma had committed no previous offence against the lord of the rākṣasas, save for the slaying of the demon Khara, which according to Vibhı̄ṣaṇa was in self-defense, and thus justified. This confirms the twin notions that violence must be sanctioned by just cause, and that self-defense is a legitimate cause for the use of force.

Once the war is underway and Rāma and his troops have made headway toward Laṅkā, Rāvaṇa holds another council. Yet again his rākṣasa ministers assure him that victory is inevitable and prod him to continue on his path of destruction. However, reason is again voiced by one of Rāvaṇa’s kinsmen. Similar to Vibhı̄ṣaṇa’s courageous challenge, Mālyavān (the paternal uncle of Rāvaṇa’s mother) challenges the ethical foundation of the war (VI.26.6–VI.26.8)

Your majesty, a king who is well versed in the traditional branches of learning and who acts in accordance with sound policy will long exercise sovereignty and bring his foes under his power. And if he makes peace or war with his enemies at the appropriate times and strengthens his own side, he will thus enjoy broader sovereignty. A king who is weaker than his rival or equal to him in strength should sue for peace. Only one who is stronger should make war, but even he must never underestimate his enemy.17

Mālyavān launches an argument based on the inevitability of defeat and a consideration of net benefit. Just as Vibhı̄ṣaṇa insisted upon the return of Sı̄tā to avert the war, so too does Mālyavān insist upon her return to avert further destruction and salvage what is left of the city of Laṅkā. Thus, they both recommend that Rāvaṇa make peace with Rāma. While Vibhı̄ṣaṇa offered his counsel when war was a mere possibility and not yet a reality, emphasizing the unrighteousness of their cause, Mālyavān somewhat sidesteps the question of righteousness at this later stage of the game. Given that armed conflict has already arisen, he focuses on the necessity for survival, emphasizing the inevitability of defeat. This is reminiscent of the category of Net Benefit and the component “reasonable prospect of success,” for which there is little chance for the rākṣasas.

The third and final juncture examined here occurs after much destruction has taken place. Rāvaṇa, desperate for aid, decides to awaken his brother, the giant Kumbhakarṇa who sleeps for six-month intervals. Upon lamenting his dire predicament (for the war has taken several turns for the worse since the second council), he sues for the giant’s assistance in the war. Kumbhakarṇa delivers a lengthy speech in which he severely chastizes Rāvaṇa for not heeding the advice of his ministers and for being blinded by arrogance and committing wicked acts without reflection. Kumbhakarṇa condemns such rash, selfish disregard for counsel as “unsound policy” since it is opposed to “the texts on polity.” Such wanton passion is unbefitting the ideal monarch. The giant informs us that (VI.51.12–VI.51.13; VI.51.20): He who … practices righteousness, profit, and pleasure at their appropriate times never comes to grief in this world. And the king who, together with ministers who understand the true nature of things and have this interest at heart, deliberates over what he ought and ought not to do in this world in order to achieve a beneficial result thrives… . And so a king who underestimates his enemy and fails to protect himself meets with calamities and falls from his lofty state.18

The giant rebukes Rāvaṇa not only for ignoring the sage advice offered in the war councils, but also for his “wicked deed” that caused the calamity, i.e., the fateful abduction of Sı̄tā. However, unlike both Vibhı̄ṣaṇa and Mālyavān, Kumbhakarṇa appears oblivious to or unconcerned with the inevitability of Rāvaṇa’s defeat, though he eventually submits to Rāvaṇa’s request and agrees to fight on his behalf. Interestingly, he in no way appeals to Rāvaṇa to end the conflict, and, unlike his two fellow interlocutors, makes no plea for Rāvaṇa to return the wife of Rāma. Perhaps his omission is indicative that the conflict has escalated to a point of no return. Instead, he rebukes the lord of the rākṣasas for having gone to war in the first place. He also invokes three of the four puruṣārthas, the aims of human life sanctioned in classical Hindu philosophy,19 harshly criticizing Rāvaṇa for not “taking to heart” which of these aims deserves priority in dharma or righteousness. Since the war being waged presents Rāvaṇa with no economic gain, he must not be motivated by artha. That leaves only kāma, which is pleasure, and desire. Rāvaṇa was desirous of Rāma’s wife, and his desire threatened to destroy him. Kumbhakarṇa’s central critique of the lord of the rākṣasas is his selfish lack of awareness and foresight. Blinded by kāma, Rāvaṇa remains heedless to śāstric injunctions and is deaf to the advice of his learned ministers. He wages a war born of desire, which by its very hedonistically selfish nature precludes concern for righteousness, or the welfare of the kingdom at large.20

With respect to his ultimate indifference to the dictates of dharma, Rāvaṇa is the antithesis of the self-composed Rāma, who effortlessly surrenders his own throne for fourteen years for the sake of dharma. Rāvaṇa, on the other hand, would not even sacrifice the ill-begotten wife of another for the sake of protecting his entire kingdom and his multitude of rākṣasa subjects. Thus, the diatribes of Kumbhakarṇa, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa, and Mālyavān constitute a thematic triangulation of critique: Rāvaṇa, drunk with desire, demonstrates his moral depravity by waging a war entirely ungrounded in śāstra (scriptural authority), lacking just cause, and detrimental to the fabric of dharma. His vice also serves to define by contrast Rāma’s unblemished virtue. Vālmı̄ki’s concern for just warfare as exemplified in Yuddhakāṇḍa is evident, and rings true centuries later, as victory in the battle of Rāma over Rāvaṇa is celebrated to this day.

 

CONCLUSIONS ON THE APPLICATION OF JUST WAR CRITERIA

The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa is an epic tale of a warrior-prince’s valorous rescue of his abducted wife. It is also a tale of the descent of divinity to destroy cosmic evil on earth. Yet it is by no means a tale that celebrates unbridled force. Violence is permissible only under specific conditions. All of the Just War criteria are present in the text, though not consolidated in one place. In order for violence to be just in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa, there must be adequate cause. These include restoration of cosmic order, punishment of evil doers, protection of those under attack, and self-defense. Although other key Hindu texts go so far as to permit force for the purpose of conquest (Dorn et al. 2010), the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa does not give righteous examples of such.

As in Just War, there must be the right intention, namely preservation of the welfare of others and society in general. The force must be authorized and applied by proper authority, in this case, the ruling members of the kṣatriya class. There must also be a net benefit for society or at least the absence of senseless loss. The text expresses the need for proportionality between the amount of force wielded and the gravity of the offense. Also, violence must be the last resort, occurring only once peaceful stratagems (three are commonly cited) have been exhausted. Additionally, a warrior must not harm civilians, a norm which is increasingly being asserted in Western military circles.

There are, of course, differences between the Just War model and the treatment of violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa, incongruities which are compounded by the fact that the Just War tradition includes various interpretations of its criteria. Four differences can be clearly identified. First, the epic tells us that kṣatriyas (the ruler and warrior caste) may wield weapons and apply force for punishment as well as protection. By contrast, contemporary Just War thinking (National Conference of Catholic Bishops 1983) and international law (United Nations Charter) do not make provisions for punishment per se.21 Secondly, international law disallows conquest but allows for self-defense when an armed attack has occurred on a state (UN Charter, Article 51). However, in modern Just War discourse, the legitimacy of preemptive self-defense is highly debatable, though the Charter provisions speak against it. The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa offers no examples of preemptive self-defense, but it does allow for wars of conquest, though Rāmā does not avail himself of that right. Thirdly, legitimate authority under contemporary Just War thinking can be either the national authority, the international authority, or both. Under the UN Charter, the international authority that has a monopoly on the use of force is the UN Security Council. Obviously, there is no equivalent organizational body in the world of the Rāmāyaṇa; however, the use of counsels therein might be considered analogous to national authorities (parliaments). The ruler and counselors are determined by caste in the rules of that system, though this would be taboo today. Fourthly, the rules of combat represented in the epic differ from their modern counterpart insofar as only combatants of equal advantage may rightly engage one another, whereas modern warfare stipulates no such standards. Indeed, in epic warfare, one could not even engage a combatant from aboard a chariot unless he is similarly mounted, yet modern Just War discourse does not even prohibit the air launch of missiles on ground targets.

This study nevertheless demonstrates the remarkable affinity between the Just War criteria and the sanction of violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa. The ancient Indian justifications for force found therein, which may very well prefigure their Western counterparts, appear quite compatible with modern Western notions on morally acceptable force. The fact that all seven Just War criteria are traceable in the ancient Sanskrit epic strongly suggests that elements inherent in the Just War model are not as culturally defined as one might think. The counter-examples found in the text (e.g., the hero Rāma’s harsh slaying of Vālin) are presented in a way that shows the moral tension and does not obviate the concern. These examples actually reinforce the value of the Just War criteria. The authors of the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa, from so distant historical, geographical, and cultural spheres, exert so much effort on specifying the conditions legitimizing warfare, suggesting a universality to the human anxiety concerning the ancient enterprise of organized violence.

Despite its remarkable compatibility with the components of Just War ideology, the text evades a categorical “presumption of peace” for the warrior class, whose caste duty is to fight. However, this is not to say that the maintenance of peace is presumed to be of no value in the text. It would be impossible to be so concerned with the justification and systemization of violence without an underlying interest in peace. Why else would the authors of the text exert so much effort discoursing on the justification for violence had peace not been of great value?

 

AHIṂSĀ: THE RĀMĀYAṆA’S “PRESUMPTION OF PEACE”

John Brockington (2004) notes that the word ahiṃsā appears only twice in the text of the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa. The absence of the term ahiṃsā, however, in no way denotes the absence of an esteem for nonviolence. Sı̄tā is the primary but not exclusive proponent of nonviolence within the text. At one point, she describes Rāma as possessing all virtues, including “ahiṃsā” (VI.23.31). In the forest, she requests that Rāma not harm the rākṣasas unless he is provoked. Moreover, once the great war is over and Hanumān recovers her from Rāvaṇa’s private grove, Hanumān asks permission to slaughter the she-demons who have been tormenting Sı̄tā over the past year (VI.101.23–VI.101.25). The compassionate Sı̄tā refuses to consent, seeking neither vengeance nor punishment of her tormenters. She rather embodies an ideal of peace and forbearance, sagaciously invoking śāstric injunctions in her speech to Hanumān as follows (VI.101.34–VI.101.37): There is an ancient verse in keeping with righteousness that a bear once recited in the presence of a tiger… . “A superior person never requites evil on the part of evildoers with evil”… . A noble person must act compassionately whether people are wicked, virtuous, or even deserving of death. For, leaping monkey, no one is entirely innocent. One should not harm rākṣasas, who can take on any form at will and take pleasure in injuring people, even when they do evil.22

While punishment is well within the parameters of her dharma, Sı̄tā instead espouses the loftier moral precept of ahiṃsā. Sı̄tā, however, is not alone in her esteem for nonviolence. Rāma also expresses qualms about the use of violent force, which is especially remarkable given his duty as a warrior. Despite his right of succession, Rāma eschews Lakṣmaṇa’s suggestion of using force to seize the throne.23 At the conclusion of Book II (Ayodhyākāṇḍa), when we find Rāma at the outskirts of Ayodhyā about to commence his exile, the Brahmin Jābāli presents Rāma with a harsh critique of ascetic values, arguing that they are mere conceits contrived by the priestly class. He urges Rāma to relinquish his superstitious notions and return to society and pursue a life of worldly enjoyment at the court of Ayodhyā (II.100.2–II.100.17). Rāma, in turn, explicitly declares that he rejects the kṣatriya code where “righteousness and unrighteousness go hand in hand, a code that only debased, vicious, covetous and evil men observe” (kṣātraṃ dharmam ahaṃ tyakṣye hy adharmaṃ dharmasaṃhitam kṣudrair nṛśaṃsair lubdhaiś ca sevitaṃ pāpakarmabhiḥ, II.101.20). In denouncing the warrior code, Rāma implicitly extols nonviolence. His restraint and passivity are valorized, despite the threat they pose for his social caste duty as a warrior. Rāma does not even consider defending his own throne with force while at Ayodhyā.

Rāma openly engages in violence only while away from “civilization,” far from Ayodhyā and the sphere of utopian human order. In exile, he regularly employs violence in order to protect sages, slay several demons, slaughter a usurper monkey-king, and wage war against the rākṣasas in order to regain his abducted wife. Rāma is valorized for defeating his wife’s captor, Rāvaṇa, who is the embodiment of evil. Violence never erupts in Ayodhyā, nor does Rāma ever engage in combat with human beings. The warrior-king only exercises the use of force away from Ayodhyā. He only combats rākṣasas and vānaras and these encounters occur only in the wilderness: in Kiṣkindhā, which is the city of the vānaras, and in Laṅkā, the city of the rākṣasas. Violence becomes a recourse for dealing with the demonic and the animal, “quite literally, the strategy of the inhuman” (Pollock 1986: 20). However, the values that Vālmı̄ki articulates through Rāma’s interaction with the rākṣasas and vānaras are obviously meant to apply equally (if not more so) to the human world. Recall that Vālmı̄ki voices sage war counsel via the demons at the court of Laṅkā, which itself is described as possessing a highly sophisticated and refined social culture. Also, Rāma holds the vānaras accountable to human social values, to which they themselves appear to adhere; Rāma rebukes Sugrı̄va for not keeping true to his word, and Vālin for adultery. The epic consistently holds these nonhuman characters to highly refined human standards. They are not mere ogres and apes living in depravity: both species of nonhuman foils are described as living highly civilized lives, particularly the rākṣasas. Furthermore, the use of nonhuman interlocutors serves to preserve the idyllic status of Ayodhyā, of which peace is a crucial element.

Vālmı̄ki portrays Rāma as the ideal human even at the expense of being the ideal warrior, since at times nonviolence takes ethical priority over sanctioned violence. At the very onset of the epic, Vālmı̄ki questions the great sage Nārada about the ideal man, i.e., one “who is benevolent to all creatures” (sarvabhūteṣu ko hitaḥ, I.1.3), yet “who when his fury is aroused in battle is feared even by the gods” (kasya bibhyati devāś ca jātaroṣasya saṃyuge, I.1.4). Nārada responds with a glowing description of Rāma, whom he describes as “the protector of all living things and the guardian of righteousness [and] versed in the science of arms” (rakṣitā jı̄valokasya dharmasya parirakṣitā … dhanurvede ca niṣṭhitaḥ, I.1.13). Rāma is extolled as a great warrior, a champion of the underprivileged, and a defender of the devout, yet he is also described as “always even-tempered and kind-spoken, [and as one who] would ignore a hundred injuries, so great was his self-control” (sa hi nityaṃ praśāntātmā mṛdupūrvaṃ ca bhāṣate ucyamānopi paruṣaṃ nottaraṃ pratipadyate; kathaṃcid upakāreṇa kṛtenaikena tuṣyati na smaraty apakārāṇāṃ śatam apy ātmavattayā, II.1.15–16). Yet the text unambiguously states that Rāma’s martial prowess is unequalled: indeed, we are told that “in his wrath he resembles the fire [of destruction] at the end of time” (kālāgnisadṛśaḥ krodhe, I.1.17). He conquers many foes throughout his legendary career. Yet he advocates passivity on several important occasions, subverting his social duty in favor of the doctrine of nonviolence. The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa extols sagacious equanimity in tandem with martial prowess. Thus, the formidable prince-regent is content to live in the forest in ascetic garb for fourteen years. The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa celebrates Ayodhyā as the ideal state and Rāma as the ideal warrior who engages in combat for a righteous cause, in a righteous fashion. However, Rāma is well-endowed with moral ideals of nonviolence, tolerance, equanimity, self-restraint, forgiveness, etc., thereby rendering our hero an intriguing champion of peace. The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa engages the tension between legitimizing and reproaching the use of force. This dichotomy is at the heart of the tradition as enshrined in the tensions between ascetics and kings, and brāhmaṇas and kṣatriyas. The text is consciously both world-affirming and world-denying, which helps to account for its poignant social relevance for twenty-five centuries: Hinduism to this day preserves both ideals, and thus preserves this tale which speaks to both.

The presumption of peace, expressed through the motif of ahiṃsā, dominates the epic’s vision of the ideal society. The ultimate state is a peaceful one, as symbolized by the utopic Ayodhyā. Combat occurs only under certain conditions, the foremost of which is Just Cause, including the restoration of dharma (righteousness). It is this very prerequisite which defines the valor of the hero of the Rāmāyaṇā, since Rāma fights for righteousness, dharma itself, fulfilling his function as avatāra by quelling the demonic forces and restoring cosmic balance. This rebalancing of cosmic and social order entails the establishment of peace, corresponding to the Just War notion of fighting only in order to achieve peace. Given the concerns entertained by the authors of the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa regarding the legitimization of violence, this ancient Indian epic exhibits a remarkable adherence to both the spirit and criteria of the modern Just War model. It is our hope that this is one of many possible contributions toward rendering audible Hindu voices in the global conversation on the justifications for the use of force.

 

Endnotes

1 A. K. Ramanujan comments on the astonishing number of retellings of the story of Rāma and their vast range of influence over South Asia and South-East Asia. The list of languages in which at least one telling is found is as follows: Annamese, Balinese, Bengali, Cambodian, Chinese, Gujarati, Hindi, Javanese, Kannada, Kashmiri, Khotanese, Laotian, Malaysian, Marathi, Oriya, Prakrit, Sanskrit, Santali, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, and Tibetan (Ramanujan 1991: 24).

2 “Then in the intensity of this feeling of compassion (karuṇa), the Brahman thought, ‘This is wrong.’ Hearing the krauñca hen wailing, he uttered these words:” (tataḥ karuṇaveditvād adharmo ‘yam iti dvijaḥ | niśāmya rudatı̄ṃ krauñcı̄m idaṃ vacanam abravı̄t, I.2.13). All translations in this study are taken from the “Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa Translation Project” based at Berkeley University (California, USA), of which Robert Goldman is the director and general editor. This project marks a superb and unprecedented effort at yielding a scholarly English translation of the critical edition of the ancient masterpiece. The six volumes and the respective translators are I: Bālakāṇḍa (Goldman 1984), II: Ayodhyākāṇḍa (Pollock 1986), III: Araṇyakāṇḍa (Pollock 1991), IV: Ki⋅kindhakāṇḍa (Lefeber 2005), V: Sundarakāṇḍa (Goldman 2005), VI: Yuddhakāṇḍa (van Nooten 2009) and VII: Uttarakāṇḍa (forthcoming).

3 These include the distinction between military and civilian targets. While there is no single definitive source for a statement of the Just War criteria, the principal elements are described in Dorn and Cation (2009), Reichberg et al. (2006), National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1983), Johnson (1981), and Walzer (1977). For further reading on the development and application of the Just War tradition, see Elshtain (1992) and Johnson and Kelsay (1990).

4 Though these authors frequently refer to “the epics” as a whole, they rely much more heavily on analysis of the Mahābhārata in order to bolster their arguments, largely neglecting the Rāmāyaṇa. At least one article in the literature is devoted entirely to the Just War in the Mahābhārata (Allen 2006), while none give such treatment to the Rāmāyaṇa.

5 The Just War (bellum justum) tradition uses Latin terminology in order to distinguish between two types of concerns: jus ad bellum pertains to the decision to go to war, whereas jus in bello pertains to the ethics of actual combat. Typically, jus ad bellum concerns the first five Just War categories (Just Cause, Right Intent, Legitimate Authority, Net Benefit, and Last Resort), whereas jus in bello corresponds to the last two (Proportionality of Means and Right Conduct).

6 In a separate article titled “The Ethics of War and the Concept of War in India and Europe,” Brekke (2005) argues that since, in the epic tradition, “war is never properly differentiated from the private duel between heroes,” the distinction between “bellum and duellum, which is so important to the Just War tradition, is not made.” This phenomena, he concludes, accounts (at least partially) for why “an Indian jus ad bellum comparable to the European tradition never existed” (Brekke 2005: 83).

7 In actuality, Viṣṇu’s incarnation peculiarly occurs among Daśaratha’s four sons, since his essence is transmitted via a magical porridge from which Daśaratha’s three wives eat, in varying proportions, in order to conceive.

8 See the “The Unjust War: Sage Counsel at the Court of Rāvaṇa” section.

9 See, for example, Mahābhārata V.148.8–V.148.16; Manu Smṛti 7.107–7.108.

10 na sāma rakṣaḥsu guṇāya kalpate na dānam arthopaciteṣu vartate; na bhedasādhyā baladarpitā janāḥ parākramas tv eṣa mameha rocate; na cāsya kāryasya parākramād ṛte viniścayaḥ kaścid ihopapadyate.

11 kapı̄nāṃ kila lāṅgūlam iṣṭaṃ bhavati bhūṣaṇam, tad asya dı̄pyatāṃ śı̄ghraṃ tena dagdhena gacchatu. tataḥ paśyantv imaṃ dı̄nam aṅgavairūpyakarśitam samitrā jñātayaḥ sarve bāndhavāḥ sasuhṛjjanāḥ.

12 balāny aparimeyāni vı̄ryāṇi ca niśācarāḥ pareṣāṃ sahasāvajñā na kartavyā kathaṃcana; kiṃ ca rākṣasarājasya rāmeṇāpakṛtaṃ purā ājahāra janasthānād yaysa bhāryā yaśasvinaḥ.

13 Vaidehı̄ and Maithilı̄ are common epithets for Sı̄tā, implemented interchangeably throughout the narrative.

14 etān nimittaṃ vaidehı̄ bhayaṃ naḥ sumahad bhavet āhṛtā sā parityājyā kalahārthe kṛte na kiṃ; na naḥ kṣamaṃ vı̄ryavatā tena dharmānuvartinā vairaṃ nirarthakaṃ kartuṃ dı̄yatām asya maithilı̄.

15 vinaśyed dhi purı̄ laṅkā sūrāḥ sarve ca rākṣasāḥ rāmasya dayitā patnı̄ na svayaṃ yadi dı̄yate; prasādaye tvāṃ bandhutvāt kuruṣva vacanaṃ mama hitaṃ pathyaṃ tv ahaṃ brūmi dı̄yatām asya maithilı̄.

16 tyajasva kopaṃ sukhadarmanāśanaṃ bhajasva dharmaṃ ratikı̄rtivardhaṇaṃ, prası̄da jı̄vema saputrabāndhavāḥ pradı̄yatāṃ dāśarathāya maithilı̄.

17 Vidyāsv abhivinı̄to yo rājā rājan nayānugaḥ sa śāsti ciram aiśvaryam arı̄ṃś ca kurute vaśe; saṃdadhāno hi kālena vigṛhṇaṃś cāribhiḥ saha svapakṣavardhanaṃ kurvan mahad aiśvaryam aśnute; hı̄yamānena kartavyo rājñā saṃdhiḥ samena ca na śatrum avamanyeta jyāyān kurvı̄ta vigraham.

18 kāle dharmārthakāmānyaḥ saṃmantrya sacivaiḥ saha niṣevetātmavāṃlloke na sa vyasanam āpnuyāt; hitānubandham ālokya kāryakāryam ihātmanaḥ rājā sahārthatattvajñaiḥ sacivaiḥ saha jı̄vati (VI.51.12–VI.51.13); yo hi śatrum avajñāya nātmānam abhirakṣati avāpnoti hi so ‘narthān sthānācca vyavaropyate (VI.51.20).

19 These are profit (artha), pleasure (kāma), righteousness (dharma), and mokṣa, emancipation from the wheel of saṃsāra, rebirth, a concept about which the epic is conspicuously silent. There is much debate about whether the author(s) of the epic were aware of this classical Hindu worldview, which is exemplified quite clearly in the Mahābhārata.

20 Anantanand Rambachan (2003: 116) differentiates dharma-yuddha (the righteous war, for example, as waged by Rāma and the heroes of the Mahābhārata) from the kāma-yuddha (war based on desire) and the artha-yuddha (war undertaken for material gain).

21 Torkel Brekke (2004) makes a notable contribution to the relationship between war and punishment in the context of classical Indian tradition of statecraft, as represented in Kauṭilya’s Arthaśāstra. It is noteworthy, however, that whereas the ethics of prudence is valorized in this tradition, the epic tradition, in stark contrast, stanchly valorizes the ethic of chivalry over prudence.

22 ayaṃ vyāgrasamı̄pe tu purāṇo dharmasaṃhitaḥ ṛkṣeṇa gı̄taḥ śloko me taṃ nibodha plavaṃgama; na paraḥ pāpam ādatte pareṣāṃ pāpakarmaṇām samayo rakṣitavyas tu santaś cāritrabhūṣaṇāḥ; pāpānāṃ va śubhānāṃ vā vadhārhāṇāṃ plavaṃgama kāryaṃ kāruṇyam āryeṇa na kaścinnāparādhyati; lokahiṃsāvihārāṇāṃ rakṣasāṃ kāmarūpiṇām kurvatām api pāpāni naiva kāryam aśobhanam.

23 Unlike the heroes of the Mahābhārata, for example, Rāma remains entirely unwilling to combat his kin for worldly rewards. Rāma, on the other hand, asks incredulously, “How, after all, could a son kill his father, whatever the extremity, or a brother his brother, Saumitri, his very own breath of life?” (kathaṃ nu putrāḥ pitaraṃ hanyuḥ kasyāṃ cid āpadi bhrātā vā bhrātaraṃ hanyāt saumitre prānam ātmanaḥ II.91.6).

 

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Bartholomeusz Tessa J. In Defense of Dharma: Just-War Ideology in Buddhist Sri LankaLondon, UKRoutledge Critical Studies in Buddhism2002
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Black Brian, and Geen JonathanThe Character of ‘Character’ in Early South Asian Religious Narratives: An Introductory EssayJournal of the American Academy of Religion 2011;79/1:632
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BrekkeTorkelBetween Prudence and Heroism: Ethics of War in the Hindu Tradition. In: BrekkeTorkel, editor. The Ethics of War in Asian Civilization: A Comparative PerspectiveOxon, UKRoutledge2006. p. 113144
Brockington JohnThe Concept of Dharma in the RāmāyaṇaJournal of Indian Philosophy 2004;32:56
Clooney Francis Xavier . Pain but Not Harm: Some Classical Resources toward a Hindu Just War Theory. In: Robinson P., editor. Just War in Comparative Perspective, Hampshire, UKAshgate Publishing Limited2003. p. 109126
Dhand ArtiThe Dharma of Ethics, the Ethics of Dharma: Quizzing the Ideals of HinduismJournal of Religious Ethics 2002;30/3:347372
Dorn A. WalterDefence Research ReportsDefence Research and Development Canada2010The Justifications for War and Peace in World Religions. Part III: Comparison of Scriptures from Seven World Religions; p. 46CR 2010–036 Available at http://walterdorn.org/religions-on-war-and-peace Accessed January 23, 2012
Dorn A. WalterCation A. Frances. Defence Research ReportsDefence Research and Development Canada2009The Justifications for War and Peace in World Religions. Part I: Abrahamic Religions; p. 151CR2009–125 Available at http://walterdorn.org/religions-on-war-and-peace Accessed January 23, 2012
Dorn A. W.Balkaran R.Feldman S.Gucciardi S. Defence Research ReportsDefence Research and Development Canada2010The Justifications for War and Peace in World Religions. Part II: Religions of Indic Origin; p. 179CR 2010–034 Available at http://walterdorn.org/religions-on-war-and-peace Accessed January 23, 2012
Elshtain Jean Bethke, editor. Just War Theory, Oxford, UKBasil Blackwell Ltd1992
Geen Jonathan . Fair Trade and Reversal of Fortune: Kṛṣṇa and Mahāvı̄ra in the Hindu and Jaina traditionsJournal of the American Academy of Religion 2011;79/1:5889
Goldman Robert P. The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmı̄ki: An Epic of Ancient India (Vol I: Bālakāṇḍa)Princeton, NJPrinceton University Press1984
Goldman Robert P. The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmı̄ki: An Epic of Ancient India (Vol V: Sundarakāṇḍa)Princeton, NJPrinceton University Press2005
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Johnson James TurnerKelsay John, editors. Cross, Crescent, and SwordWestport, CTGreenwood Press1990
Kelsay JohnArguing the Just War in Islam, Cambridge, MAHarvard University Press2007
Lefeber RosalindThe Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmı̄ki: An Epic of Ancient India (Vol IV: Ki⋅kindhakāṇḍa) Princeton, NJPrinceton University Press2005
Lindquist Steven E. Literary Lives and Literal Death: Yājñavalkya, Śākalya, and an Upaniṣadic Death SentenceJournal of the American Academy of Religion 2011;79/1:3357
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Patton LaurieTelling Stories about Harm: An Overview of Early Indian Narratives. In: Hinnells J. R.King R., editors. Religion and Violence in South Asia: Theory and Practice. New York, NYRoutledge2007. p. 1140
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* Raj Balkaran, Department of Religious Studies, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4. E-mail: rbalkara@ucalgary.ca. A. Walter Dorn, Department of Defence Studies, Royal Military College of Canada and the Canadian Forces College, 215 Yonge Blvd, Toronto, ON, Canada M5M 3H9. E-mail: dorn@cfc.dnd.ca. We offer our gratitude to Dr. Christopher Framarin and Dr. Elizabeth Rohlman (both Hindu studies faculty at the University of Calgary), as well as the two anonymous JAAR reviewers, for their insightful comments and suggestions which served to enrich this article.
 

Ramayana and Just War – NoBreaks

Violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa:
Just War Criteria in an Ancient Indian Epic

Raj Balkaran and A. Walter Dorn

Originally published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Volume 80, Issue 3 (July 2012),
available online at jaar.oxfordjournals.org and in pdf.

When is armed force considered justified in Hinduism? How do Hindu legitimizations of warfare compare with those of other religions? The Just War framework, which evolved from Roman and early Christian thought, stipulates distinct criteria for sanctioning the use of force. Are those themes comparable to the discourse on violence of ancient India? This article examines the influential Sanskrit epic Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa in order to broach these questions. This analysis demonstrates the presence in the ancient work of all seven modern Just War criteria—namely (1) Just Cause, (2) Right Intent, (3) Net Benefit, (4) Legitimate Authority, (5) Last Resort, (6) Proportionality of Means, and (7) Right Conduct. This study also shows the extent to which the criteria and the larger discourse in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa are distinctly couched within Indic ethical parameters, drawing particularly upon the moral precept of ahiṃsā (nonviolence). This article identifies both similarities and differences between the epic’s criteria for warfare and those of the Just War framework. By comparing representations of violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa to modern Western legitimizations of force, this study advances the inclusion of Hindu thought into the global discourse on the ethics of war and peace.

 

THE MONUMENTAL SANSKRIT epic Rāmāyaṇa functions as an ancient repository of social and moral values which are very much alive today in the Hindu world. The Rāmāyaṇa portrays the legendary exploits of the virtuous warrior-prince Rāma. The story has undergone innumerable interpolations, redactions, vernacular translations, and local retellings throughout its vast and dynamic receptive history. The themes thereof, however, have remained quintessential aspects of Hindu thought and culture over the centuries, inspiring art, dance, narrative, and moral instruction, not only in India but across South and Southeast Asia to this day.1 Rāma is regarded within the Hindu tradition as the exemplar of social and moral conduct, serving to define and perpetuate South Asian social values. As Robert Goldman notes, “few works of literature produced at any time have been as popular and influential as the great and ancient Sanskrit epic poem, the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa [which has] entertained, moved, enchanted, and uplifted untold millions of people in India and much of Southeast Asia” (1984: 4). The most ancient and influential rendition of the exploits of Rāma is ascribed to the primordial poet-sage figure Vālmı̄ki, and serves as the culmination of a long bardic tradition resulting from an oral composition originating over two millennia ago. Vālmı̄ki is lauded by the Hindu religious tradition as its ādi kavi (first poet). We are told that Vālmı̄ki, while tranquilly engaged in his ritual bath at the banks of a river one morning, was admiring two beautiful krauñca birds engaged in the act of mating. The scene is sullied when an arrow from a hunter (niṣāda) pierces the breast of the male of the pair, leaving the female to wail in grief for her fallen mate. Vālmı̄ki is so overwhelmed with pity at the sorrowful sight that the following curse spontaneously springs from his unknowing lips:2 “Since, niṣāda, you killed one of this pair of krauñcas, distracted at the height of passion, you shall not live very long!” (mā niṣāda pratiṣṭāṃ tvam agamaḥ śāśvatı̄ḥ samāḥ, yat krauñcamithunād ekam avadhı̄ḥ kāmamohitam, I.2.16). This verse is not only indicative of the aesthetic mood of the work, but is also revered as the very first instance of poetry within the Indian subcontinent. It is telling, for our purposes, that poetry itself is derived from grief, and grief born of violence. The sight of wanton violence affronts the sage’s moral sensibilities, and though he returns it with an act of violence of his own (albeit an arguably more refined variety), the violence of the hunter is condemned by the text, yet that committed by the sage is not: rather, the violent moment occasioning the hunter’s retribution occasions, too, the genesis of poetic verse, and thus constitutes cause for celebration. In a like fashion, Vālmı̄ki’s Rāmāyaṇa functions to contrast proper and improper uses of force. While the epic speaks to many lasting ethical considerations, this study confines itself to one such concern: the legitimization of violence. When is violent force justified? This question, especially when concerned with the large-scale loss of human life, has rightly occupied religious discourse worldwide over the centuries. A Just War framework evolved from Roman and early Christian thinkers (e.g. Cicero and St. Augustine) and has played a key role in the formation of modern international law. It remains the dominant Western approach, providing straightforward criteria to address some of the most basic question about the use of force. Its criteria can be grouped as follows:

Why use force? Just War requires: (1) A just cause (2) The right intent (3) A net benefit
Who should authorize force? (4) A legitimate authority
When can force be used? (5) As a last resort
What level of force? (6) Proportional means of force
How and where to apply force? (7) With right conduct3

To what extent does the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa include the criteria of the Just War model? In order to address this question, we performed a manual sweep of the epic and isolated all episodes and passages explicitly pertaining to armed force as well as violence more generally. These passages naturally congealed into groups strikingly similar to those of the Just War framework. The vast majority of the ethical conditions relating to violence were directly comparable to at least one of the criteria comprising the Just War model. Furthermore, while our examination of the epic retrieved no explicit discourse corresponding to the Just War framework’s “presumption of peace,” we did find significant material lauding ahiṃsā (nonviolence) and correlated values, such as patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and compassion. While this examination serves only as one step toward understanding Hindu approaches to armed force, it supports the notion that the themes espoused in the Just War tradition are common to long-standing indigenous Indian deliberations on the ethics of warfare. Rather than an imposition of Western Just War themes, this study shows how very similar ethical considerations assume a distinctly Indian character in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa. In doing so, the study also indicates the inadequacy of the Just War model to fully address the epic’s complex affirmation of peace, a theme which ironically abounds in an epic largely concerned with the legitimization of warfare. This article serves to further incorporate the Hindu ethics of violence into the broader modern global discourse on war and peace.

RELATED SCHOLARSHIP Despite the recent rise in scholarship on Hinduism and Just War (Clooney 2003; Subedi 2003; Allen 2006; Brekke 2006; Patton 2007; Roy 2009),4 this collective enterprise pales in comparison to work done on other religious traditions (Dorn 2010), including Christianity (Johnson 1981), Islam (Kelsay 2007), and Buddhism (Bartholomeusz 2002). Francis Clooney (2003: 109–126) acknowledges that the discussion of a Hindu Just War is still in its infancy; however, he manages to establish the importance in Hinduism of one key Just War criteria: right intention when going to war (jus ad bellum5). Similarly, Nick Allen focuses his insightful study of the Mahābhārata on Just Cause, in addition to discussing the epic’s ample supply of parameters for rules of engagement and briefly touching upon issues of Right Authority and Last Resort. But what of the other criteria? Torkel Brekke observes that the Hindu tradition has produced an extensive code of ethics for combat during war (jus in bello) but a relatively meager discourse on jus ad bellum criteria, while the Christian tradition exhibits an inverse emphasis.6 Is jus ad bellum discourse truly scarce in the Hindu context, or is it merely more subtly voiced? It is our task to probe narratives as richly didactic as the Rāmāyaṇa in search of the ethical discourses encoded within. This study contends that, Brekke’s observation notwithstanding, the absence of ample comparison between the war ethics of India and the West results in large part from the degree to which the Indian discourse is embedded in narratives such as the Rāmāyaṇa, narratives understudied throughout the history of Indological scholarship. While more overtly didactic strata of the Hindu corpus (e.g., Vedānta) have enjoyed far more probing and sustained scholarly attention than narrative texts (especially the purāṇas), it is worth noting that the vast and ongoing career of the Rāmāyaṇa has proved enormously more far-reaching than strands of philosophy intended for, and preserved by, India’s social and religious elite. The discourses on violence embedded in epic narrative, while far less succinct and direct than, for example, Dharmaśāstra literature, nevertheless constitute powerful avenues of insight into lasting ethical concerns within Hinduism. Though narrative is often considered descriptive, it is also prescriptive in the Indian context, particularly since the epics are replete with social and moral ideologies (Dhand 2002). This is especially the case with the Rāmāyaṇa since, as Laurie Patton remarks, the work attempts to integrate violence with Rāma’s moral perfection (2007). Given the epic’s preoccupation with the legitimization of violence, and its enormous clout as a source of social and moral guidance, it serves as an excellent text to help bridge the lacuna in scholarship regarding the intersection of Just War discourse and Hindu ethics pertaining to armed force. A work as popular and influential as the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa has, of course, been subject to modification (interpolation, redaction) from one milieu to another across the sweep of its vast geographical and historical transmission. While historicist and philological analysis has by and large dominated the study of Sanskrit texts, “often occupied with excavating texts for the purpose of reconstructing the chronology of identifiably distinct textual layers” (Black and Geen 2011: 9), this study employs primarily a literary mode of engagement (similar to that of Black 2011; Geen 2011; Lindquist 2011; Patton 2011); that is, we are interested in the epic in its current form, embracing the ideological and creative enterprises of the text’s numerous interpolators and redactors. The search for a pristine, “original” text may be as futile as it is unimportant to the concerns of the living tradition which has sculpted the narrative to its current shape in accordance with prevailing values. While little can be certain about the intentions of Vālmı̄ki (or even of his historical existence), it is clear that the narrative fabric of the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa readily lends itself to discussion of the ethics of violence. Since Hinduism preserves ahiṃsā (nonviolence) as an ethical imperative, it is no wonder that the Rāmāyaṇa exhibits so marked an anxiety regarding the use of force, an anxiety which the epic competently addresses through its characterization and dialogue. It is these literary elements to which we turn in search of counsel on the legitimate use of force.

THE JUST WAR CRITERIA Just Cause This first Just War criterion is arguably the most significant to the model as a whole: there must be an appropriate cause to justify violence. If this is also true of the Rāmāyaṇa, then what specific causes for warfare are cited therein? Vālmı̄ki informs us very early in the epic that the world is imperiled by evil rākṣasas—i.e., demons—who, by means of violence and magical spells, threaten the sanctity and well-being of the other inhabitants of the planet. Their effort is spearheaded by the demon-king Rāvaṇa, who has come to represent the personification of evil against whose vice Rāma’s virtue is stanchly contrasted. Rāvaṇa and his entourage terrorize ascetics, interrupting their rituals, thereby causing imbalance in the cosmic order. The Hindu pantheon of gods implore the god Viṣṇu to take incarnation on earth in order to “kill Rāvaṇa in battle, that mighty thorn in the side of the world, for he is … a terror to ascetics and a source of lamentation to the world” (pravṛddhaṃ lokakaṇṭakam … samare jahi rāvaṇam … tad … virāvaṇaṃ tapasvinām taṃ bhayāvaham, I.14.17–I.14.21). Violence is condoned in this context, given the necessity of combating the force of evil. Viṣṇu descends during King Daśaratha’s ritual sacrifice for progeny, and takes human birth as the warrior-prince Rāma.7 Viṣṇu’s ultimate mission (as manifest in the Rāma avatāra, i.e., his divine descent) is clear: the defeat of evil and restoration of cosmic balance. The welfare of the world is, undoubtedly, viewed as just cause for violent action. Rāma, we are told, is driven by the goal of defending the welfare of all beings. Born into the kṣatriya (ruler-warrior) caste as the son of King Daśaratha, Rāma is authorized to wield violent force in order to combat evil and protect righteousness. Violent means is the privilege, and indeed the duty, of the kṣatriya class, to whom, among the four castes, social governance is entrusted. Both protection and punishment are deemed equally vital to social welfare, without which society would decay. Both are accepted as noble causes for violence, as exemplified at several junctures throughout the text. During his exile, Rāma encounters forest-dwelling sages who remind him of his kṣatriya duty, declaring that “a king who protects his subjects … acquires [a quarter] of the supreme righteousness amassed by a sage who lives on nothing but roots and fruit” (yat karoti paraṃ dharmaṃ munir mūlaphalāśanaḥ tatra rājñaś caturbhāgaḥ … rakṣataḥ, III.5.13). They implore him to carry out his duty and protect them from the menacing rākṣasas. By wielding violence, Rāma becomes the sages’ refuge from persecution and annihilation, which the text presents as ample cause for the exercise of armed force. Similarly, at the onset of the war between Rāma and Rāvaṇa, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa, Rāvaṇa’s brother and court minister, defects to Rāma’s army due to the demon-king’s arrogance and ethical depravity. Though several of Rāma’s advisors are suspicious, Rāma accepts Vibhı̄ṣaṇa without hesitation because “it is a serious transgression to fail to protect those who come seeking shelter” (evaṃ doṣo mahān atra prapannānām arakṣaṇe); indeed, one should protect the vulnerable “even at the cost of his own life” (prāṇān parityajya) (VI.12.15–VI.12.18). As per the dictates of dharma (righteousness), Rāma openly welcomes Vibhı̄ṣaṇa: the warrior-prince is sworn to “grant protection to all beings who come to [him] for shelter” (sakṛd eva prapannāya tavāsmı̄ti ca yācate abhayaṃ sarvabhūtebhyo dadāmy etad vrataṃ mama, VI.12.20). Protection is privileged over passivity. By extension, self-preservation is a valid justification for the resort to violence. One must protect oneself against annihilation, especially in order to protect others. An example of this arises in a later episode, in which Hanumān, Rāma’s staunch simian devotee, is captured in Laṅkā by Rāvaṇa and his entourage. Hanumān cleverly cites self-defense as his justification for killing several of the demon-king’s warriors (V.48.13), though his official mission in Laṅkā is only one of reconnaissance. Similarly, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa defends Rāma’s killing of the demon Khara by invoking self-defense, stating that “all living creatures must strive to the limit of their strength to save their own lives” (avaśyaṃ prāṇināṃ prāṇā rakṣitavyā yathābalam, VI.9.14). Clearly, protection (of both the self and other) warrants the execution of violence. Recall that on the cosmological level, Rāma’s very incarnation takes place in order to protect his fellow creatures, and to protect dharma itself. In keeping with the theme of protection, the safety of the collective often trumps other ethical considerations. For example, although the slaughter of a female is highly stigmatized in Sanskrit epic culture (see the “Right Conduct” section), Rāma is required to destroy the she-demon Tāṭakā (I.24.13–I.24.19), who poses a threat to the great sage Viśvāmitra, one of Rāma’s early mentors. The sage urges Rāma to slaughter the she-demon without reservation, although doing so is generally considered morally reprehensible and against the code of the warrior. The fact that the text so explicitly argues against the slaying of a woman indicates that violence in the text is far from haphazard, but rather is executed deliberately and thoughtfully, with proper cause. Sage Viśvāmitra urges Rāma to kill her and not be “soft-hearted about killing a woman” (strı̄vadhakṛte ghṛṇā, I.24.15). Viśvāmitra proceeds to cite precedents of great men who killed females for a greater cause (I.24.17–I.24.18), declaring in summation that “many other great and excellent men killed women who were set in the ways of unrighteousness” (etaiś cānyaiś ca bahubhı̄ rājaputramahātmabhiḥ adharmaniratā nāryo hatāḥ puruṣasattamaiḥ, I.24.19). The threat that Tāṭakā poses toward other beings outweighs considerations of gender with respect to kṣatriya dharma. Viśvāmitra commands him to “kill this utterly dreadful and wicked yakṣa [demon] woman whose valor is employed for evil purposes” (enām duvṛttām yakṣı̄ṃ paramadāruṇām jahi duṣṭaparākramām, I.24.13), especially given the immemorial responsibility of “a king’s son [to] act for the welfare of the four great social orders” (cāturvarṇyahitārthāya kartavyaṃ rājasūnunā, I.24.15). It is worth noting that this specific responsibility (i.e., collective welfare) does not belong exclusively to sovereigns. The text later instructs that social harmony is a responsibility of the entire collective, stating that “all [should] unite to destroy [the] one whose deeds are brutal and perverse” (karma lokaviruddhaṃ tu kurvāṇaṃ … tı̄kṣṇaṃ sarvajano hanti, III.28.4). But the text does not call the whole of society to arms: kṣatriyas alone may exercise force, and only when presented with reasonable cause. Violence is sanctioned as a means of punishment as well as a means of protection and self-defense. For example, Rāma executes the monkey-king, Vālin, for the sake of upholding righteousness. He metes out punishment to Vālin for his adulterous transgressions as well as to fulfill a promise to his ally Sugrı̄va. In a lengthy speech, Rāma declares that “the right of punishing and rewarding” (nigrahānugrahāv api IV.18.6) belongs to the kings of the earth, who retain the right to “duly chastise whoever strays from the path of righteousness” (te vayaṃ mārgavibhraṣṭaṃ … nigṛhṇı̄mo yathāvidhi IV.18.11). Yet this does not appear to constitute license for rulers to issue punishment on a whim. Rāma is careful to invoke the law which states that Vālin’s crime—specifically, adultery with his brother’s wife—was a crime punishable by death. As Rāma declares, “death is the punishment prescribed for a man who out of lust approaches his daughter, sister, or younger brother’s wife” (aurası̄ṃ bhaginı̄ṃ vāpi bhāryāṃ vāpy anujasya yaḥ pracareta naraḥ kāmāt tasya daṇḍo vadhaḥ smṛtaḥ, IV.18.22). Rāma consoles the dying Vālin that neither he who punishes nor he who is punished truly perishes, since “each serves the due process of justice” (kāryakāraṇasiddhārthāv) (IV.18.53–IV.18.55). Thus, punishment of gross ethical transgressions validates the application of lethal force. Even the ideal kingdom requires arms. In Book II, Vālmı̄ki portrays a utopia in Ayodhyā, the capital city of the idyllic kingdom of Kośala; yet it is described as well armed. Though Ayodhyā is prosperous, refined, and peaceful, we are told that it contained every implement and weapon (I.5.10) and its king, Daśaratha, had thousands of great chariot warriors with great fighting skills. Even a utopia must be protected from external threat; similarly, internal threats must be met with punishment, but in a reasonable and humane manner. We are told that in Ayodhyā, the king’s administrators would, “if the occasion demanded, punish their own sons” (prāpta kālaṃ yathā daṇḍaṃ dhārayeyuḥ suteṣv api, I.7.7) and that they “were constant protectors of all honest inhabitants of the realm” (śucı̄nām rakṣitāraś ca nityaṃ viṣayavāsinām, 1.7.9). The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa asserts that protection and punishment, when alloyed with reason, represent sanctioned and necessary expressions of violence. Right Intent The second criterion comprising the Just War framework is Right Intent, which can be interpreted as having a pure motivation to support righteousness, independent of selfish desires. Another interpretation in the Just War tradition is that war be implemented only for the sake of peace. The demon Rāvaṇa’s “rationale” for violence is thoroughly condemned insofar as it is senselessly self-serving and conflict-provoking.8 By contrast, what can we gage about the intention of the noble warrior Rāma? On the day of his would-be coronation, upon being wrongfully sentenced to fourteen years of forest exile, Rāma had ample opportunity to exercise force for the sake of his own self-interest. He is even urged to do so by his brother, the passionate Lakṣmaṇa, who insists that they should right the wrong by forcefully seizing the throne. However, Rāma rejects this advice and gracefully acquiesces to his sentence of exile, seemingly disinterested in personal comfort or entitlement. For Rāma, the loss of kingship and all of its amenities does not constitute right intent for the use of force. The prince regent’s motives appear consistently noble overall, but are not without blemish. The episode narrating Rāma’s slaughter of Vālin is far more questionable, specifically regarding the selflessness of Rāma’s intentions. In Book IV, Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa, Rāma defeats Vālin, having forged an alliance with Vālin’s brother, Sugrı̄va. Rāma and Sugrı̄va had pledged mutual allegiance and aid in the recovery of their respective wives. Thus, Rāma is clearly motivated by self-interest. However, clearly conscious of the ethical conundrum, Vālmı̄ki articulates intentions on Rāma’s behalf which transcend the sphere of self-interest. Vālin himself, on the verge of death, inquires about Rāma’s motivation for killing him, wondering what possible merit could be gained thereby. Vālmı̄ki, speaking through the dying lord of the monkey-men, indicates that kings must act in accordance with noble intentions, including “conciliation, generosity, forbearance, righteousness, truthfulness, steadiness, and courage, as well as punishment of wrongdoers” (sāma dānaṃ kṣamā dharmaḥ satyaṃ dhṛtiparākramau pārthivānāṃ guṇā rājan daṇḍaś cāpy apakāriṣu, IV.17.25) and that they “must not act capriciously” (na nṛpāḥ kāmavṛttayaḥ, IV.17.28). At this juncture, Rāma maintains that he acted in the interest of his duty to punish evil-doers. That the text anticipates and defends against the charge that Rāma’s motives are solely self-serving bespeaks an insistence on nobility of intent whilst engaging in violent force. Net Benefit The third Just War criterion asks: is the fighting worth the cost? During their forest exile, Sı̄tā cautions Rāma against the overall use of arms, highlighting the delusion that can arise from the possession of weaponry. She seems to be asking whether or not violence, however justified, is worth the risk it poses. She relays the tale of an ascetic who, upon receiving a sword as a gift, becomes obsessed with the weapon, carrying it everywhere. He eventually turns violent, forgetting his ascetic vow of ahiṃṣā. Delighting in wanton violence, his barbaric tendencies serve to rupture his virtue and amassed merit (tapas), causing him to eventually end up in hell (III.8.13–III.8.19). Hence, nothing good came of the weapon. Sı̄tā relays the tale to question the benefit of violence. For the sage, there was no benefit, and only detriment. Ironically, Rāma employs violence to secure, rather than to compromise, the religiosity of the sages. It is the rākṣasas who thwart their work by desecrating their sacrificial altars. The benefit of protecting the sages is clear, and well worth the exercise of force. Vālmı̄ki also considers the benefits and drawbacks of battle through Hanumān, who wonders aloud what intelligent person would haphazardly engage in an affair such as warfare whose outcome is so uncertain (V.28.35)—indeed, none can predict the outcome of combat. Nevertheless, the valiant Hanumān pledges allegiance to Rāma, an act signifying for him that the potential benefit of the war outweighs its cruel uncertainly. Hanumān’s musings occur long before the onset of battle, when there is great margin for speculation. However, soon into the war, the demise of the rākṣasas becomes easily foreseeable, and on this basis Rāvaṇa’s great-uncle and minister, Mālyavān, reminds him that “a king who is weaker than his rival or equal to him in strength should sue for peace [and] only one who is stronger should make war, but even he must never underestimate his enemy” (hı̄yamānena kartavyo rājñā sandhiḥ samena ca na śatrum avamanyeta jyāyān kurvı̄ta vigraham, VI.26.8). Mālyavān’s concern is a pragmatic one. What is to be gained from continuing the war? In the case of the rākṣasas, where defeat is inevitable, a sensible ruler heeding the net benefit argument would have happily surrendered. Rāma, on the other hand, engages in violent combat not only for the rescue of his cruelly imperiled wife, but for the sake of righteousness (dharma) itself. As the avatāra of the god Viṣṇu, Rāma’s earthly purpose is to destroy Rāvaṇa and his entourage who threaten the rituals of the ascetics, rituals which maintain the welfare of the world. It is important to bear in mind the inextricability of the “cosmic” and “human” narratives in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa. Sheldon Pollock argues on the basis of the epic’s narrative logic (particularly with respect to the tale’s boon motif) that Rāma must simultaneously be a divine and human being, and so, too, must the concerns of each setting be intertwined (1984). While at face value, the tale of Rāma easily appears to fit the ancient trope of a prince recapturing his princess from the clutches of evil, the details are dependent upon the necessities of the grander narrative, whereby Rāma must destroy Rāvaṇa in the interest of cosmic balance. For example, we are told that during Rāvaṇa’s assault on Sı̄tā, “perfected beings cried out ‘This is the end of Rāvaṇa!’” (etad anto daśagrı̄va iti siddhās tadā ‘bruvan, III.52.10); furthermore, Sı̄tā explicitly voices the same during her captivity: “I know for certain I could never have been stolen away from the wise Rāma, were it not that Fate had destined it—to bring about your death!” (nāpahartum ahaṃ śakyā tasya rāmasya dhı̄mataḥ vidhis tava vadhārthāya vihito nātra saṃśayaḥ, V.20.21). It is through the backdrop of this cosmic narrative that one appreciates the ultimate benefit of Rāma’s cause. Legitimate Authority The fourth Just War criterion concerns the following question: can force be rightfully decided upon and implemented by anyone? The society of the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa accepts both filial piety and the authority of the king. Elders are invariably respected. Rāma even renounces his right to kingship and agrees to dwell in the wilderness merely because his father (also his king) asks him to do so. In obeying his father’s command, he cites the precedents of two noble individuals committing deplorable acts. The first one slays a cow, a highly revered animal in Indian culture, and the second slays his own mother, both at the behest of their father (II.18.27–II.18.29). These abhorrent and shocking acts are justified in the name of obedience and respect for authority. When later confronted by the impassioned Lakṣmaṇa, Rāma instructs his younger brother that their father’s command “is based on righteousness and is absolute” and that “having once heard a father’s command, a mother’s, or a Brahman’s, one must not disregard it” (dharmasaṃśritam etac ca pitur vacanam uttamam saṃśrutya ca pitur vākyaṃ mātur vā brāhmaṇasya vā na kartavyaṃ vṛthā, II.18.34) under any circumstances. On the familial level, one must obey one’s parents and elders. Lakṣmaṇa imposes fourteen years of exile upon himself in order to accompany and serve his elder brother. Similarly, wives respect the authority of their husbands, and Sı̄tā insists upon the same fourteen-year sentence out of reverence for her husband. Obedience also extends from the social level to the priestly class. Rāma declares to the dying monkey-king, Vālin, that for righteousness to be in effect, “an older brother, a father, and a bestower of learning—these three are to be regarded as father [and furthermore that] a younger brother, one’s own son, and also a pupil with good qualities—these three are to be thought of as one’s sons” (jyeṣṭho bhrātā pitā caiva yaś ca vidyāṃ prayacchati trayas te pitaro jñeyā … yavı̄yān ātmanaḥ putraḥ śiṣyaś cāpi guṇoditaḥ putravat te trayaś cintyā, IV.18.13–IV.18.14). Human society is stratified according to gender, age, and caste. In ancient India, the kṣatriya caste is the only one that can wield weapons and apply force for protection and punishment. Upon entering into the wilderness, Rāma encounters a community of ashrams where ascetics of various kinds dwell. The hermitages comprised religious virtuosos who, having themselves renounced violence, implore Rāma to exercise his authority to protect them against the deadly malice of the rākṣasas (III.5.7–III.5.20). Kings (part of the kṣatriya caste) are referred to as guardians of righteousness, possessing legitimate authority to exercise power. The king rightfully uses force to protect his subjects and “wields the staff of punishment” (daṇḍadharo, III.1.17). To again refer to Rāma’s address to the dying vānara-king, he declares, in his own defense, that a ruler’s duty is to “duly chastise whoever strays from the path of righteousness” (te vayaṃ mārgavibhraṣṭaṃ svadharme parame sthitāḥ bharatājñāṃ puraskṛtya nigṛhṇı̄mo yathāvidhi, IV.18.11). Clearly, the use of force is contingent upon authority in this cultural context, or else all castes within society would be permitted to wield arms. However, we ought to note that the text offers a highly idealized portrayal of kingship, where the king is self-composed, true to his word, and attentive to moral precepts. It is unclear whether kings should be allotted this authority categorically, or whether they do so by their inherent merit. That Rāma is portrayed as personage of great virtue could be read as the basis of legitimization of his authority. The text in no way, for example, repudiates Vibhı̄ṣaṇa for defecting to his king’s (Rāvaṇa) enemy in the midst of war. The authority of the king is arguably inextricable from his presumed virtue. Last Resort The fifth Just War criterion stipulates that all possible attempts at peace must be exhausted prior to engagement in warfare. Rāma is described as one who is not quick to anger; he therefore does not readily rely on violent means. He is by nature kind and compassionate, prepared to “ignore a hundred injuries, so great [is] his self-control” (na smaraty apakārāṇām śatam apy ātmavattayā, II.1.16). As mentioned above, when he is sentenced to exile on the very day of his would-be coronation, he peacefully and graciously accepts his fate. By contrast, Lakṣmaṇa, his younger, rasher brother, emphatically suggests that they violently “seize control of the government” (tāvad eva mayā sārdham ātmasthaṃ kuru śāsanam, II.18.8) since “leniency always ends in defeat” (mṛdur hi paribhūyate, II.18.11). Lakṣmaṇa’s youth, brashness, and passion are consistently juxtaposed with Rāma’s equanimity, wisdom, and poise. Rāma refuses to heed his brother’s exhortations, and insists on going peacefully. Violence is never a first recourse for Rāma. He addresses the idea of violent action against his father, the king, by directly denouncing it, construing violence as action opposed to righteousness (dharma) itself and urging Lakṣmaṇa to relinquish his “ignoble notion that is based on the code of the kṣatriya [and instead to] base his actions on righteousness, not violence” (tad enāṃ visṛjānāryāṃ kṣatradharmāśritāṃ matim dharmam āśraya mā taikṣṇyaṃ madbuddhir anugamyatām, II.18.36). So distant is violence from Rāma’s first recourse that he goes so far as to publicly repudiate the very duty of the warrior. Ironically, once Sı̄tā, Rāma’s beloved wife, is abducted, it is Rāma who becomes uncharacteristically enraged and unsound, and it is Lakṣmaṇa who reminds him that he has “always been mild in the past, self-restrained, and dedicated to the welfare of all creatures” (purā bhūtvā mṛdur dāntaḥ sarvabhūtahite rataḥ, III.61.4). He then urges Rāma to maintain composure since “lords of the earth must be gentle and cool-headed, and must mete out just punishment” (yuktadaṇḍā hi mṛdavaḥ praśāntā vasudhādhipāḥ, III.61.9). Vālmı̄ki here voices his sage counsel on the ethics of force through Lakṣmaṇa, who counsels his elder brother to first resort to “peaceful means, by conciliation, tact, or diplomacy” and to resort to violence only if these fail (śı̄lena sāmnā vinayena sı̄tāṃ nayena na prāpsyasi cen narendra tataḥ samutsādaya hemapuṅkhair mahendra vajrapratimaiḥ śaraughaiḥ, III.61.16). Later in the text, when it is Lakṣmaṇa who is enraged, Rāma advises him to destroy evil by virtue, and to first exhaust “affection and friendship” using “conciliatory words, avoiding harshness” (sāmopahitayā vācā rūkṣāṇi parivarjayan vaktum arhasi sugrı̄vaṃ vyatı̄taṃ kālaparyaye, IV.30.8). Although martial valor is extolled in the text, violence is by no means the “higher ground.” Whoever is the mouthpiece—whether Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa, or even the rākṣasas—Vālmı̄ki’s criteria for the legitimate execution of armed force is derived from an esteem for peace that resounds throughout the work. The text at several junctures explicitly insists that one must exhaust peaceful means prior to relying upon force. Hanumān, upon arriving in Laṅkā on his quest to find Sı̄tā, considers various options but rejects them as unworkable in that situation. He states that “when it comes to the rākṣasas, there is no scope for conciliation, nor is there any scope for bribery, sowing dissention, or open warfare” (avakāśo na sāntvasya rākṣaseṣv abhigamyate na dānasya na bhedasya naiva yuddhasya dṛśyate, V.2.27). The four traditional escalatory steps (upāyas) found in the Indian epics are: sāma (conciliation), dāna (gifts), bheda (dissention), and daṇḍa (punishment).9 As Hanumān is leaving Sı̄tā (who is held captive in the demon capital), he thinks to himself (V.39.3–V.39.4): Conciliation does not yield good results in the case of the rākṣasas, nor are gifts appropriate in the case of those who have amassed great wealth. Dissension can have no effect on people who are proud of their strength. Physical force alone presents itself to me in this case. Indeed, no resolution other than physical force will be possible in this matter.10 That Hanumān considers nonviolent approaches to deal with demonic instigators underlines an insistence that violence be pursued only as a last resort. Hanumān concludes that he should engage the rākṣasa forces to test their strength and to make them more pliant (V.39.5). After allowing his tail to be lit on fire at Rāvaṇa’s order, Hanumān uses it to set fire to buildings in Laṅkā. Last Resort even has a place among the rākṣasas. During the great war to regain Sı̄tā, Rāvaṇa is chastized by his own brother, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa, who at the first war counsel reminds the lord of the rākṣasas that “the learned have prescribed as appropriate the use of force only on those occasions where one’s objective cannot be achieved by means of the other three stratagems” (apy upāyais tribhis tāta yo ‘rthaḥ prāptuṃ na śakyate tasya vikramakālāṃs tān yuktān āhur manı̄ṣiṇaḥ, VI.9.8). Similarly, another of Rāvaṇa’s brothers, the giant, Kumbhakarṇa, informs us that “the self-possessed monarch should consult with his ministers concerning the timely use of bribery, conciliation, sowing dissension, coercive force, or any combination of these means, as well as the proper and improper ways of applying them” (upapradānaṃ sāntvaṃ vā bhedaṃ kāle ca vikramam yogam ca rakṣasāṃ śreṣṭha tāv ubhāu ca nayānayau, VI.51.11). Like Vibhı̄ṣaṇa, he makes reference to the three other classical means for conflict resolution. All of Vibhı̄ṣaṇa’s attempts to avert the war fail as the utterly self-engrossed rākṣasa lord refuses to heed his advice. Rāvaṇa returns the sage counsel with insults, causing Vibhı̄ṣaṇa to defect to Rāma’s army. Vibhı̄ṣaṇa’s actions dually signify that warfare should be averted wherever possible, and furthermore, if warfare becomes inevitable, it is imperative to fight on the side of the righteous. The text clearly prioritized peaceful means over violent conflict, when possible. Proportionality of Means This criterion suggests that one should exert force only to a degree commensurate with the assault or crime. The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa offers an idyllic portrayal of the kingdom of Kośala, where the authorities “would not harm even a hostile man, if he had done no wrong” (ahitaṃ cāpi puruṣaṃ na vihiṃsyur adūṣakam, I.7.8) and meted out strict punishment “only after considering the relative gravity of a man’s offense” (sutı̄kṣṇadaṇḍāḥ saṃprekṣya puruṣasya balābalam, I.7.10). This esteem for proportionality is mirrored even in the demon kingdom. Rāvaṇa’s advisors caution him against slaying the emissary Hanumān (V.56.126–V.56.127), stating that only when an emissary has committed some grave offence may punishment be dispensed. Punishment in such a case may include disfigurement but may never rightfully entail execution. Rāvaṇa relents to Vibhı̄ṣaṇa’s counsel, admitting that “to kill a messenger is indeed reprehensible” (dūtavadhyā vigarhitā, V.51.2) and decides instead to merely punish Hanumān. He devises a punishment which he deems commensurate to the crime, declaring (V.51.3–V.51.4): It is said that the tail is the monkey’s most cherished possession … therefore let his [tail] be set alight immediately … let all his kinsmen and relations, his friends and those dear to him, see him dejected and drawn by the disfigurement of his tail.11 Rāvaṇa seeks to shame and disfigure Hanumān, though he refrains from taking his life. That Rāvaṇa seeks to distort the prized possession of the monkey-man without inflicting fatal harm on him is congruent with an element of proportionality of the means of force, though it also suggests malicious intent. Ironically, Hanumān suffers no permanent disfigurement and even employs his flaming tail as an instrument to set fire to the city of Laṅkā. Proportionality of means is also demonstrated in Rāma’s encounter with the she-demon Śūrpaṇakhā, the sister of Rāvaṇa. Because of her lust for Rāma, Śūrpaṇakhā becomes greatly envious of Sı̄tā, who is the sole object of Rāma’s romantic affection, and threatens to devour Sı̄tā before Rāma’s very eyes to procure his attention. As she pounces upon Sı̄tā, Rāma forcefully restrains her and instructs Lakṣmaṇa to disfigure her. Note that Rāma does not call for her execution. Lakṣmaṇa proceeds to cut off her ears and nose (III.17.15–III.17.23). Unlike the killing of the monkey-king, Vālin, Śūrpaṇakhā’s life was spared, presumably due to the relative levity of her offence. Sı̄tā, after all, remained unscathed throughout the ordeal. Soon thereafter the maimed Śūrpaṇakhā appears before her brother’s court and manipulates him to avenge her mutilation. She cunningly conveys the allure of Sı̄tā so as to incite her brother’s uncontrollable desire, thus causing Rāvaṇa’s abduction of Sı̄tā, which results in the war with Laṅkā and the demon’s fateful demise. Right Conduct Criterion seven pertains to ethics during actual fighting. The warrior’s code of honor is paramount throughout the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa. Though Rāma’s ethical conduct is largely considered exemplary, it is not unblemished. Among Rāma’s controversial actions is the slaughter of the she-demon, Tāṭakā, an act which outright violates the warrior’s code since females are generally not to be killed. For example, Bharata, outraged at his mother’s malicious conniving to deprive Rāma of the throne in order to give it to her son, states, “if any creature is not to be slain, it is a woman. Forbear! I would kill this woman myself, this evil, wicked Kaikeyı̄, were it not that righteous Rāma would condemn me for matricide” (avadhyāḥ sarvabhūtānāṃ pramadāḥ kṣamyatām iti hanyām aham imāṃ pāpāṃ kaikeyı̄ṃ duṣṭacāriṇı̄m yadi māṃ dhārmiko rāmo nāsūyen mātṛghātakam, II.72.20–II.72.21). Similarly, the slaughter of his warrior-son Indrajit so angered Rāvaṇa that he threatened the life of the captive Sı̄tā. His minister Supārśva succeeds in diffusing his wrath, invoking proper conduct to dissuade him from the heinous crime of killing a woman (VI.80.52–VI.80.56). Other episodes exemplify key elements of proper conduct as advanced in the text. The kṣatriya code of conduct is breached in Kiṣkindhā, the realm of the monkey-men. Rāma, highly sympathetic to Sugrı̄va’s loss of kingdom and wife, forges an alliance with him against his brother Vālin. Rāma agrees to slay Vālin. However, he does so by shooting his arrows from the bushes, where he is concealed at the sidelines, while Vālin and Sugrı̄va are engaged in combat. Rāma’s conduct, engaging an enemy while being concealed, highly problematizes the warrior’s code which he so staunchly upholds throughout the epic. He is reproached at great length by the dying Vālin who considers it a cruel act, bereft of discretion. Rāma provides a lengthy rationale for his act but in no way claims that this justifies his questionable method. He makes no argument against the necessity of the accepted ethics of combat, but rather argues that those ethics do not apply while humans engage with animals. He reminds Vālin that men “in hiding or out in the open” (narāḥ praticchannāś ca dṛśyāś ca) attack various beasts whether they “run away terrified or confidently stand still” (mṛgān pradhāvitān vā vitrastān visrabdhān ativiṣṭhitān), whether “attentive or inattentive or even facing the other way” and that there is “nothing wrong with this” (pramattān apramattān vā narā māṃsārthino bhṛśam vidhyanti vimukāṃś cāpi na ca doṣo ‘tra vidyate, IV.18.34–IV.18.35). By regarding Vālin as subhuman in this context, Rāma cleverly defends against his breach of warrior conduct, which is stringently adhered to by himself and other warriors throughout the epic. Once Vālin is executed, months pass and Sugrı̄va neglects to fulfill his end of his bargain; he fails to dispatch a search party for Sı̄tā. Rāma becomes exceedingly worried and agitated, and sends Lakṣmaṇa to deliver a message threatening to slay Sugrı̄va, along with his family, if he does not honor their pact. He urges the newly reinstated lord of monkey-men to heed “the immemorial code of righteous conduct” (pratiśrutaṃ dharmam avekṣya śāśvataṃ IV.29.51). Promise-keeping is a major obligation in the warrior’s code of honor. Recall that Rāma’s entire ordeal—his acceptance of life in the forest, and all of his subsequent hardships—stem from the importance of obeying his father’s word in granting the misguided boons to Rāma’s youngest step-mother, Kaikeyı̄. At the court of Laṅkā, Vibhı̄ṣana—who is described as “always committed to proper conduct” (kāryavidhau sthitaḥ, V.50.3)—counsels Rāvaṇa against the execution of the emissary Hanumān since it would be “contrary to righteousness” (dharmaviruddhaṃ, V.50.5); indeed, “the virtuous do not advocate killing an emissary” (na dūtavadhyāṃ pravadanti santo, V.50.6) since “a messenger never deserves death” (na dūto vadham arhati, V.50.11). While Rāvaṇa agrees to a lesser punishment, Vibhı̄ṣana becomes frustrated by Rāvaṇa’s insistence on rejecting virtuous counsel. Warriors abided by the rules of warfare as prescribed by śāstric injunctions. For example, the warriors at Ayodhyā “would never loose their arrows upon a foe who is isolated from his comrades, the sole support of his family, in hiding, or in flight” (ye ca bāṇair na vidhyanti viviktam aparāparam śabdavedhyaṃ ca vitataṃ laghuhastā viśāradāḥ, I.5.20) Also, during the great war in Laṅkā, Rāma proclaims to Lakṣmaṇa that “a foe who does not resist, is in hiding, cups his hands in supplication, approaches seeking refuge, is fleeing, or is caught off guard—[one] must not slay any of these” (ayudhyamānaṃ pracchannaṃ prāñjaliṃ śaraṇāgatam palāyantaṃ pramattaṃ vā na tvaṃ hantum ihārhasi, VI.67.38). Engagement in battle is a highly systematized endeavor in these contexts. The Rāmāyaṇa definitely upholds the necessity for appropriate conduct whilst engaging in battle.

THE UNJUST WAR: SAGE COUNSEL AT THE COURT OF RĀVAṆA

Vālmı̄ki’s overwhelming concern for just warfare, as evidenced by the inclusion of the seven criteria, is especially apparent in Book VI, Yuddhakāṇḍa, “The Book of War.” Given that several dialogues in Laṅkā contained in this book deal explicitly with the themes of statecraft and warfare, they have been given their own section in this article. The material therein serves to bolster several Just War considerations, particularly the criterion upon which the ethical system hinges: Just Cause. Goldman notes in the introductory essay that: The Yuddhakāṇḍa is not entirely devoted to the strategies and conduct of war … the Book’s narrative offers many opportunities for discussions of statecraft, [and] moral and ethical debates… . The principal junctures for the exposition and discussion of ethical and expedient conduct are the councils … when the leaders, Rāma and Rāvaṇa, are confronted with crises and calamities and are forced to make critical decisions. (van Nooten 2009: 28) At three of these critical decision-making junctures—the two councils at the court of Laṅkā and in Rāvaṇa’s encounter with Kumbhakarṇa—Vālmı̄ki demonstrates the irrefutable unrighteousness of the villain’s cause, and, by contrast, the righteousness inherent in the cause of the hero Rāma. Vālmı̄ki reinforces Rāvaṇa’s villainous nature throughout the book by repeatedly calling attention to the injustice of so unethical a motive for waging war as forcefully coveting the wife of another. Ironically, at these pivotal junctures, the poet delivers his sage counsel on the nature of war and peace by using three of the demon-king’s closest kinsmen as mouthpieces. The three are: his brother, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa; his great-uncle Mālyavān; and another of his brothers, the giant warrior Kumbhakarṇa. These three exchanges articulate a concern underscored throughout the epic, i.e., that violence never be deployed in the absence of just cause, and conversely, that it must be readily deployed in defense of righteousness. The first of the two rākṣasa war councils takes place before Rāma and his army cross the ocean, well before the deployment of weapons. The very existence of a prewar council is significant: war ought not to arise from rashness or impulse, but, rather, from careful and methodical consideration. So great is the necessity for counsel in times of war that even the self-absorbed Rāvaṇa respectfully requests his ministers’ advice, declaring that “those who are venerable and wise say that counsel is the cornerstone of victory.” If it is ironic that the rash and self-absorbed monarch would humble himself before his ministers for deliberation about the prospect of war, the allegedly sagacious “advice” he receives from among that congregation is also befittingly ironic. While the rākṣasa council enthusiastically assure Rāvaṇa of his prowess and inevitable victory—thus further inciting his arrogance and misguided sense of invincibility—Rāvaṇa’s own brother, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa, dares to offer sensible counsel (VI.9.12–VI.9.13, 15–16, 19–20, 22): By no means, night roaming rākṣasas, should we rashly underestimate our foes; for their forces and valor are immeasurable. And what offence had Rāma previously committed against the king of the rākṣasas that the latter should have abducted that illustrious man’s wife?12 … Vaidehı̄13 constitutes a grave danger to us. She who has been abducted must be surrendered. There is no point in acting merely to provoke a quarrel. It would therefore not be appropriate for us to engage in pointless hostility with this powerful and righteous man. You must give Maithilı̄ back to him … .14 If you do not of your own free will give back Rāma’s beloved wife, the city of Laṅkā and all of its valiant rākṣasas will surely perish. As your kinsman, I beseech you. Do as I say. What I am telling you is both salutary and beneficial … .15 Give up your wrath, so destructive of both happiness and righteousness. Practice righteousness, which is conducive to pleasures and fame. Calm yourself, that we may survive together with our sons and kinsmen. You must give Maithilı̄ back to Dāśaratha.16 Vibhı̄ṣaṇa advises his king to surrender Sı̄tā, who is being sought by both sides. Insofar as she is the object of dispute, she is also the proximate cause of the war. The war does not begin with Rāma’s siege of Laṅkā, but rather originates from Rāvaṇa’s malicious abduction of Sı̄tā, which we are told is the mundane impetus for Rāma’s cosmic conquest of Rāvaṇa, evil personified. It is that very misdeed which Vibhı̄ṣaṇa addresses as an unjust cause for warfare. He argues that Sı̄tā’s abduction was unwarranted, and that Rāma had committed no previous offence against the lord of the rākṣasas, save for the slaying of the demon Khara, which according to Vibhı̄ṣaṇa was in self-defense, and thus justified. This confirms the twin notions that violence must be sanctioned by just cause, and that self-defense is a legitimate cause for the use of force. Once the war is underway and Rāma and his troops have made headway toward Laṅkā, Rāvaṇa holds another council. Yet again his rākṣasa ministers assure him that victory is inevitable and prod him to continue on his path of destruction. However, reason is again voiced by one of Rāvaṇa’s kinsmen. Similar to Vibhı̄ṣaṇa’s courageous challenge, Mālyavān (the paternal uncle of Rāvaṇa’s mother) challenges the ethical foundation of the war (VI.26.6–VI.26.8): Your majesty, a king who is well versed in the traditional branches of learning and who acts in accordance with sound policy will long exercise sovereignty and bring his foes under his power. And if he makes peace or war with his enemies at the appropriate times and strengthens his own side, he will thus enjoy broader sovereignty. A king who is weaker than his rival or equal to him in strength should sue for peace. Only one who is stronger should make war, but even he must never underestimate his enemy.17 Mālyavān launches an argument based on the inevitability of defeat and a consideration of net benefit. Just as Vibhı̄ṣaṇa insisted upon the return of Sı̄tā to avert the war, so too does Mālyavān insist upon her return to avert further destruction and salvage what is left of the city of Laṅkā. Thus, they both recommend that Rāvaṇa make peace with Rāma. While Vibhı̄ṣaṇa offered his counsel when war was a mere possibility and not yet a reality, emphasizing the unrighteousness of their cause, Mālyavān somewhat sidesteps the question of righteousness at this later stage of the game. Given that armed conflict has already arisen, he focuses on the necessity for survival, emphasizing the inevitability of defeat. This is reminiscent of the category of Net Benefit and the component “reasonable prospect of success,” for which there is little chance for the rākṣasas. The third and final juncture examined here occurs after much destruction has taken place. Rāvaṇa, desperate for aid, decides to awaken his brother, the giant Kumbhakarṇa who sleeps for six-month intervals. Upon lamenting his dire predicament (for the war has taken several turns for the worse since the second council), he sues for the giant’s assistance in the war. Kumbhakarṇa delivers a lengthy speech in which he severely chastizes Rāvaṇa for not heeding the advice of his ministers and for being blinded by arrogance and committing wicked acts without reflection. Kumbhakarṇa condemns such rash, selfish disregard for counsel as “unsound policy” since it is opposed to “the texts on polity.” Such wanton passion is unbefitting the ideal monarch. The giant informs us that (VI.51.12–VI.51.13; VI.51.20): He who … practices righteousness, profit, and pleasure at their appropriate times never comes to grief in this world. And the king who, together with ministers who understand the true nature of things and have this interest at heart, deliberates over what he ought and ought not to do in this world in order to achieve a beneficial result thrives… . And so a king who underestimates his enemy and fails to protect himself meets with calamities and falls from his lofty state.18 The giant rebukes Rāvaṇa not only for ignoring the sage advice offered in the war councils, but also for his “wicked deed” that caused the calamity, i.e., the fateful abduction of Sı̄tā. However, unlike both Vibhı̄ṣaṇa and Mālyavān, Kumbhakarṇa appears oblivious to or unconcerned with the inevitability of Rāvaṇa’s defeat, though he eventually submits to Rāvaṇa’s request and agrees to fight on his behalf. Interestingly, he in no way appeals to Rāvaṇa to end the conflict, and, unlike his two fellow interlocutors, makes no plea for Rāvaṇa to return the wife of Rāma. Perhaps his omission is indicative that the conflict has escalated to a point of no return. Instead, he rebukes the lord of the rākṣasas for having gone to war in the first place. He also invokes three of the four puruṣārthas, the aims of human life sanctioned in classical Hindu philosophy,19 harshly criticizing Rāvaṇa for not “taking to heart” which of these aims deserves priority in dharma or righteousness. Since the war being waged presents Rāvaṇa with no economic gain, he must not be motivated by artha. That leaves only kāma, which is pleasure, and desire. Rāvaṇa was desirous of Rāma’s wife, and his desire threatened to destroy him. Kumbhakarṇa’s central critique of the lord of the rākṣasas is his selfish lack of awareness and foresight. Blinded by kāma, Rāvaṇa remains heedless to śāstric injunctions and is deaf to the advice of his learned ministers. He wages a war born of desire, which by its very hedonistically selfish nature precludes concern for righteousness, or the welfare of the kingdom at large.20 With respect to his ultimate indifference to the dictates of dharma, Rāvaṇa is the antithesis of the self-composed Rāma, who effortlessly surrenders his own throne for fourteen years for the sake of dharma. Rāvaṇa, on the other hand, would not even sacrifice the ill-begotten wife of another for the sake of protecting his entire kingdom and his multitude of rākṣasa subjects. Thus, the diatribes of Kumbhakarṇa, Vibhı̄ṣaṇa, and Mālyavān constitute a thematic triangulation of critique: Rāvaṇa, drunk with desire, demonstrates his moral depravity by waging a war entirely ungrounded in śāstra (scriptural authority), lacking just cause, and detrimental to the fabric of dharma. His vice also serves to define by contrast Rāma’s unblemished virtue. Vālmı̄ki’s concern for just warfare as exemplified in Yuddhakāṇḍa is evident, and rings true centuries later, as victory in the battle of Rāma over Rāvaṇa is celebrated to this day.

CONCLUSIONS ON THE APPLICATION OF JUST WAR CRITERIA

The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa is an epic tale of a warrior-prince’s valorous rescue of his abducted wife. It is also a tale of the descent of divinity to destroy cosmic evil on earth. Yet it is by no means a tale that celebrates unbridled force. Violence is permissible only under specific conditions. All of the Just War criteria are present in the text, though not consolidated in one place. In order for violence to be just in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa, there must be adequate cause. These include restoration of cosmic order, punishment of evil doers, protection of those under attack, and self-defense. Although other key Hindu texts go so far as to permit force for the purpose of conquest (Dorn et al. 2010), the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa does not give righteous examples of such. As in Just War, there must be the right intention, namely preservation of the welfare of others and society in general. The force must be authorized and applied by proper authority, in this case, the ruling members of the kṣatriya class. There must also be a net benefit for society or at least the absence of senseless loss. The text expresses the need for proportionality between the amount of force wielded and the gravity of the offense. Also, violence must be the last resort, occurring only once peaceful stratagems (three are commonly cited) have been exhausted. Additionally, a warrior must not harm civilians, a norm which is increasingly being asserted in Western military circles. There are, of course, differences between the Just War model and the treatment of violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa, incongruities which are compounded by the fact that the Just War tradition includes various interpretations of its criteria. Four differences can be clearly identified. First, the epic tells us that kṣatriyas (the ruler and warrior caste) may wield weapons and apply force for punishment as well as protection. By contrast, contemporary Just War thinking (National Conference of Catholic Bishops 1983) and international law (United Nations Charter) do not make provisions for punishment per se.21 Secondly, international law disallows conquest but allows for self-defense when an armed attack has occurred on a state (UN Charter, Article 51). However, in modern Just War discourse, the legitimacy of preemptive self-defense is highly debatable, though the Charter provisions speak against it. The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa offers no examples of preemptive self-defense, but it does allow for wars of conquest, though Rāmā does not avail himself of that right. Thirdly, legitimate authority under contemporary Just War thinking can be either the national authority, the international authority, or both. Under the UN Charter, the international authority that has a monopoly on the use of force is the UN Security Council. Obviously, there is no equivalent organizational body in the world of the Rāmāyaṇa; however, the use of counsels therein might be considered analogous to national authorities (parliaments). The ruler and counselors are determined by caste in the rules of that system, though this would be taboo today. Fourthly, the rules of combat represented in the epic differ from their modern counterpart insofar as only combatants of equal advantage may rightly engage one another, whereas modern warfare stipulates no such standards. Indeed, in epic warfare, one could not even engage a combatant from aboard a chariot unless he is similarly mounted, yet modern Just War discourse does not even prohibit the air launch of missiles on ground targets. This study nevertheless demonstrates the remarkable affinity between the Just War criteria and the sanction of violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa. The ancient Indian justifications for force found therein, which may very well prefigure their Western counterparts, appear quite compatible with modern Western notions on morally acceptable force. The fact that all seven Just War criteria are traceable in the ancient Sanskrit epic strongly suggests that elements inherent in the Just War model are not as culturally defined as one might think. The counter-examples found in the text (e.g., the hero Rāma’s harsh slaying of Vālin) are presented in a way that shows the moral tension and does not obviate the concern. These examples actually reinforce the value of the Just War criteria. The authors of the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa, from so distant historical, geographical, and cultural spheres, exert so much effort on specifying the conditions legitimizing warfare, suggesting a universality to the human anxiety concerning the ancient enterprise of organized violence. Despite its remarkable compatibility with the components of Just War ideology, the text evades a categorical “presumption of peace” for the warrior class, whose caste duty is to fight. However, this is not to say that the maintenance of peace is presumed to be of no value in the text. It would be impossible to be so concerned with the justification and systemization of violence without an underlying interest in peace. Why else would the authors of the text exert so much effort discoursing on the justification for violence had peace not been of great value?

AHIṂSĀ: THE RĀMĀYAṆA’S “PRESUMPTION OF PEACE”

John Brockington (2004) notes that the word ahiṃsā appears only twice in the text of the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa. The absence of the term ahiṃsā, however, in no way denotes the absence of an esteem for nonviolence. Sı̄tā is the primary but not exclusive proponent of nonviolence within the text. At one point, she describes Rāma as possessing all virtues, including “ahiṃsā” (VI.23.31). In the forest, she requests that Rāma not harm the rākṣasas unless he is provoked. Moreover, once the great war is over and Hanumān recovers her from Rāvaṇa’s private grove, Hanumān asks permission to slaughter the she-demons who have been tormenting Sı̄tā over the past year (VI.101.23–VI.101.25). The compassionate Sı̄tā refuses to consent, seeking neither vengeance nor punishment of her tormenters. She rather embodies an ideal of peace and forbearance, sagaciously invoking śāstric injunctions in her speech to Hanumān as follows (VI.101.34–VI.101.37): There is an ancient verse in keeping with righteousness that a bear once recited in the presence of a tiger… . “A superior person never requites evil on the part of evildoers with evil”… . A noble person must act compassionately whether people are wicked, virtuous, or even deserving of death. For, leaping monkey, no one is entirely innocent. One should not harm rākṣasas, who can take on any form at will and take pleasure in injuring people, even when they do evil.22 While punishment is well within the parameters of her dharma, Sı̄tā instead espouses the loftier moral precept of ahiṃsā. Sı̄tā, however, is not alone in her esteem for nonviolence. Rāma also expresses qualms about the use of violent force, which is especially remarkable given his duty as a warrior. Despite his right of succession, Rāma eschews Lakṣmaṇa’s suggestion of using force to seize the throne.23 At the conclusion of Book II (Ayodhyākāṇḍa), when we find Rāma at the outskirts of Ayodhyā about to commence his exile, the Brahmin Jābāli presents Rāma with a harsh critique of ascetic values, arguing that they are mere conceits contrived by the priestly class. He urges Rāma to relinquish his superstitious notions and return to society and pursue a life of worldly enjoyment at the court of Ayodhyā (II.100.2–II.100.17). Rāma, in turn, explicitly declares that he rejects the kṣatriya code where “righteousness and unrighteousness go hand in hand, a code that only debased, vicious, covetous and evil men observe” (kṣātraṃ dharmam ahaṃ tyakṣye hy adharmaṃ dharmasaṃhitam kṣudrair nṛśaṃsair lubdhaiś ca sevitaṃ pāpakarmabhiḥ, II.101.20). In denouncing the warrior code, Rāma implicitly extols nonviolence. His restraint and passivity are valorized, despite the threat they pose for his social caste duty as a warrior. Rāma does not even consider defending his own throne with force while at Ayodhyā. Rāma openly engages in violence only while away from “civilization,” far from Ayodhyā and the sphere of utopian human order. In exile, he regularly employs violence in order to protect sages, slay several demons, slaughter a usurper monkey-king, and wage war against the rākṣasas in order to regain his abducted wife. Rāma is valorized for defeating his wife’s captor, Rāvaṇa, who is the embodiment of evil. Violence never erupts in Ayodhyā, nor does Rāma ever engage in combat with human beings. The warrior-king only exercises the use of force away from Ayodhyā. He only combats rākṣasas and vānaras and these encounters occur only in the wilderness: in Kiṣkindhā, which is the city of the vānaras, and in Laṅkā, the city of the rākṣasas. Violence becomes a recourse for dealing with the demonic and the animal, “quite literally, the strategy of the inhuman” (Pollock 1986: 20). However, the values that Vālmı̄ki articulates through Rāma’s interaction with the rākṣasas and vānaras are obviously meant to apply equally (if not more so) to the human world. Recall that Vālmı̄ki voices sage war counsel via the demons at the court of Laṅkā, which itself is described as possessing a highly sophisticated and refined social culture. Also, Rāma holds the vānaras accountable to human social values, to which they themselves appear to adhere; Rāma rebukes Sugrı̄va for not keeping true to his word, and Vālin for adultery. The epic consistently holds these nonhuman characters to highly refined human standards. They are not mere ogres and apes living in depravity: both species of nonhuman foils are described as living highly civilized lives, particularly the rākṣasas. Furthermore, the use of nonhuman interlocutors serves to preserve the idyllic status of Ayodhyā, of which peace is a crucial element. Vālmı̄ki portrays Rāma as the ideal human even at the expense of being the ideal warrior, since at times nonviolence takes ethical priority over sanctioned violence. At the very onset of the epic, Vālmı̄ki questions the great sage Nārada about the ideal man, i.e., one “who is benevolent to all creatures” (sarvabhūteṣu ko hitaḥ, I.1.3), yet “who when his fury is aroused in battle is feared even by the gods” (kasya bibhyati devāś ca jātaroṣasya saṃyuge, I.1.4). Nārada responds with a glowing description of Rāma, whom he describes as “the protector of all living things and the guardian of righteousness [and] versed in the science of arms” (rakṣitā jı̄valokasya dharmasya parirakṣitā … dhanurvede ca niṣṭhitaḥ, I.1.13). Rāma is extolled as a great warrior, a champion of the underprivileged, and a defender of the devout, yet he is also described as “always even-tempered and kind-spoken, [and as one who] would ignore a hundred injuries, so great was his self-control” (sa hi nityaṃ praśāntātmā mṛdupūrvaṃ ca bhāṣate ucyamāno ‘pi paruṣaṃ nottaraṃ pratipadyate; kathaṃcid upakāreṇa kṛtenaikena tuṣyati na smaraty apakārāṇāṃ śatam apy ātmavattayā, II.1.15–16). Yet the text unambiguously states that Rāma’s martial prowess is unequalled: indeed, we are told that “in his wrath he resembles the fire [of destruction] at the end of time” (kālāgnisadṛśaḥ krodhe, I.1.17). He conquers many foes throughout his legendary career. Yet he advocates passivity on several important occasions, subverting his social duty in favor of the doctrine of nonviolence. The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa extols sagacious equanimity in tandem with martial prowess. Thus, the formidable prince-regent is content to live in the forest in ascetic garb for fourteen years. The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa celebrates Ayodhyā as the ideal state and Rāma as the ideal warrior who engages in combat for a righteous cause, in a righteous fashion. However, Rāma is well-endowed with moral ideals of nonviolence, tolerance, equanimity, self-restraint, forgiveness, etc., thereby rendering our hero an intriguing champion of peace. The Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa engages the tension between legitimizing and reproaching the use of force. This dichotomy is at the heart of the tradition as enshrined in the tensions between ascetics and kings, and brāhmaṇas and kṣatriyas. The text is consciously both world-affirming and world-denying, which helps to account for its poignant social relevance for twenty-five centuries: Hinduism to this day preserves both ideals, and thus preserves this tale which speaks to both. The presumption of peace, expressed through the motif of ahiṃsā, dominates the epic’s vision of the ideal society. The ultimate state is a peaceful one, as symbolized by the utopic Ayodhyā. Combat occurs only under certain conditions, the foremost of which is Just Cause, including the restoration of dharma (righteousness). It is this very prerequisite which defines the valor of the hero of the Rāmāyaṇā, since Rāma fights for righteousness, dharma itself, fulfilling his function as avatāra by quelling the demonic forces and restoring cosmic balance. This rebalancing of cosmic and social order entails the establishment of peace, corresponding to the Just War notion of fighting only in order to achieve peace. Given the concerns entertained by the authors of the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa regarding the legitimization of violence, this ancient Indian epic exhibits a remarkable adherence to both the spirit and criteria of the modern Just War model. It is our hope that this is one of many possible contributions toward rendering audible Hindu voices in the global conversation on the justifications for the use of force.

Footnotes

↵1 A. K. Ramanujan comments on the astonishing number of retellings of the story of Rāma and their vast range of influence over South Asia and South-East Asia. The list of languages in which at least one telling is found is as follows: Annamese, Balinese, Bengali, Cambodian, Chinese, Gujarati, Hindi, Javanese, Kannada, Kashmiri, Khotanese, Laotian, Malaysian, Marathi, Oriya, Prakrit, Sanskrit, Santali, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, and Tibetan (Ramanujan 1991: 24). ↵2 “Then in the intensity of this feeling of compassion (karuṇa), the Brahman thought, ‘This is wrong.’ Hearing the krauñca hen wailing, he uttered these words:” (tataḥ karuṇaveditvād adharmo ‘yam iti dvijaḥ | niśāmya rudatı̄ṃ krauñcı̄m idaṃ vacanam abravı̄t, I.2.13). All translations in this study are taken from the “Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyaṇa Translation Project” based at Berkeley University (California, USA), of which Robert Goldman is the director and general editor. This project marks a superb and unprecedented effort at yielding a scholarly English translation of the critical edition of the ancient masterpiece. The six volumes and the respective translators are I: Bālakāṇḍa (Goldman 1984), II: Ayodhyākāṇḍa (Pollock 1986), III: Araṇyakāṇḍa (Pollock 1991), IV: Ki⋅kindhakāṇḍa (Lefeber 2005), V: Sundarakāṇḍa (Goldman 2005), VI: Yuddhakāṇḍa (van Nooten 2009) and VII: Uttarakāṇḍa (forthcoming). ↵3 These include the distinction between military and civilian targets. While there is no single definitive source for a statement of the Just War criteria, the principal elements are described in Dorn and Cation (2009), Reichberg et al. (2006), National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1983), Johnson (1981), and Walzer (1977). For further reading on the development and application of the Just War tradition, see Elshtain (1992) and Johnson and Kelsay (1990). ↵4 Though these authors frequently refer to “the epics” as a whole, they rely much more heavily on analysis of the Mahābhārata in order to bolster their arguments, largely neglecting the Rāmāyaṇa. At least one article in the literature is devoted entirely to the Just War in the Mahābhārata (Allen 2006), while none give such treatment to the Rāmāyaṇa. ↵5 The Just War (bellum justum) tradition uses Latin terminology in order to distinguish between two types of concerns: jus ad bellum pertains to the decision to go to war, whereas jus in bello pertains to the ethics of actual combat. Typically, jus ad bellum concerns the first five Just War categories (Just Cause, Right Intent, Legitimate Authority, Net Benefit, and Last Resort), whereas jus in bello corresponds to the last two (Proportionality of Means and Right Conduct). ↵6 In a separate article titled “The Ethics of War and the Concept of War in India and Europe,” Brekke (2005) argues that since, in the epic tradition, “war is never properly differentiated from the private duel between heroes,” the distinction between “bellum and duellum, which is so important to the Just War tradition, is not made.” This phenomena, he concludes, accounts (at least partially) for why “an Indian jus ad bellum comparable to the European tradition never existed” (Brekke 2005: 83). ↵7 In actuality, Viṣṇu’s incarnation peculiarly occurs among Daśaratha’s four sons, since his essence is transmitted via a magical porridge from which Daśaratha’s three wives eat, in varying proportions, in order to conceive. ↵8 See the “The Unjust War: Sage Counsel at the Court of Rāvaṇa” section. ↵9 See, for example, Mahābhārata V.148.8–V.148.16; Manu Smṛti 7.107–7.108. ↵10 na sāma rakṣaḥsu guṇāya kalpate na dānam arthopaciteṣu vartate; na bhedasādhyā baladarpitā janāḥ parākramas tv eṣa mameha rocate; na cāsya kāryasya parākramād ṛte viniścayaḥ kaścid ihopapadyate. ↵11 kapı̄nāṃ kila lāṅgūlam iṣṭaṃ bhavati bhūṣaṇam, tad asya dı̄pyatāṃ śı̄ghraṃ tena dagdhena gacchatu. tataḥ paśyantv imaṃ dı̄nam aṅgavairūpyakarśitam samitrā jñātayaḥ sarve bāndhavāḥ sasuhṛjjanāḥ. ↵12 balāny aparimeyāni vı̄ryāṇi ca niśācarāḥ pareṣāṃ sahasāvajñā na kartavyā kathaṃcana; kiṃ ca rākṣasarājasya rāmeṇāpakṛtaṃ purā ājahāra janasthānād yaysa bhāryā yaśasvinaḥ. ↵13 Vaidehı̄ and Maithilı̄ are common epithets for Sı̄tā, implemented interchangeably throughout the narrative. ↵14 etān nimittaṃ vaidehı̄ bhayaṃ naḥ sumahad bhavet āhṛtā sā parityājyā kalahārthe kṛte na kiṃ; na naḥ kṣamaṃ vı̄ryavatā tena dharmānuvartinā vairaṃ nirarthakaṃ kartuṃ dı̄yatām asya maithilı̄. ↵15 vinaśyed dhi purı̄ laṅkā sūrāḥ sarve ca rākṣasāḥ rāmasya dayitā patnı̄ na svayaṃ yadi dı̄yate; prasādaye tvāṃ bandhutvāt kuruṣva vacanaṃ mama hitaṃ pathyaṃ tv ahaṃ brūmi dı̄yatām asya maithilı̄. ↵16 tyajasva kopaṃ sukhadarmanāśanaṃ bhajasva dharmaṃ ratikı̄rtivardhaṇaṃ, prası̄da jı̄vema saputrabāndhavāḥ pradı̄yatāṃ dāśarathāya maithilı̄. ↵17 Vidyāsv abhivinı̄to yo rājā rājan nayānugaḥ sa śāsti ciram aiśvaryam arı̄ṃś ca kurute vaśe; saṃdadhāno hi kālena vigṛhṇaṃś cāribhiḥ saha svapakṣavardhanaṃ kurvan mahad aiśvaryam aśnute; hı̄yamānena kartavyo rājñā saṃdhiḥ samena ca na śatrum avamanyeta jyāyān kurvı̄ta vigraham. ↵18 kāle dharmārthakāmānyaḥ saṃmantrya sacivaiḥ saha niṣevetātmavāṃlloke na sa vyasanam āpnuyāt; hitānubandham ālokya kāryakāryam ihātmanaḥ rājā sahārthatattvajñaiḥ sacivaiḥ saha jı̄vati (VI.51.12–VI.51.13); yo hi śatrum avajñāya nātmānam abhirakṣati avāpnoti hi so ‘narthān sthānācca vyavaropyate (VI.51.20). ↵19 These are profit (artha), pleasure (kāma), righteousness (dharma), and mokṣa, emancipation from the wheel of saṃsāra, rebirth, a concept about which the epic is conspicuously silent. There is much debate about whether the author(s) of the epic were aware of this classical Hindu worldview, which is exemplified quite clearly in the Mahābhārata. ↵20 Anantanand Rambachan (2003: 116) differentiates dharma-yuddha (the righteous war, for example, as waged by Rāma and the heroes of the Mahābhārata) from the kāma-yuddha (war based on desire) and the artha-yuddha (war undertaken for material gain). ↵21 Torkel Brekke (2004) makes a notable contribution to the relationship between war and punishment in the context of classical Indian tradition of statecraft, as represented in Kauṭilya’s Arthaśāstra. It is noteworthy, however, that whereas the ethics of prudence is valorized in this tradition, the epic tradition, in stark contrast, stanchly valorizes the ethic of chivalry over prudence. ↵22 ayaṃ vyāgrasamı̄pe tu purāṇo dharmasaṃhitaḥ ṛkṣeṇa gı̄taḥ śloko me taṃ nibodha plavaṃgama; na paraḥ pāpam ādatte pareṣāṃ pāpakarmaṇām samayo rakṣitavyas tu santaś cāritrabhūṣaṇāḥ; pāpānāṃ va śubhānāṃ vā vadhārhāṇāṃ plavaṃgama kāryaṃ kāruṇyam āryeṇa na kaścinnāparādhyati; lokahiṃsāvihārāṇāṃ rakṣasāṃ kāmarūpiṇām kurvatām api pāpāni naiva kāryam aśobhanam. ↵23 Unlike the heroes of the Mahābhārata, for example, Rāma remains entirely unwilling to combat his kin for worldly rewards. Rāma, on the other hand, asks incredulously, “How, after all, could a son kill his father, whatever the extremity, or a brother his brother, Saumitri, his very own breath of life?” (kathaṃ nu putrāḥ pitaraṃ hanyuḥ kasyāṃ cid āpadi bhrātā vā bhrātaraṃ hanyāt saumitre prānam ātmanaḥ II.91.6). Published by Oxford University Press, on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, 2012. Previous Section REFERENCES ↵Sorabji R., Rodin D. Allen Nick. Just War in the Mahābhārata. In: Sorabji R., Rodin D., editors. The Ethics of War: Shared Problems in Different Traditions. Hants, UK: Ashgate Publishing Limited; 2006. p. 138-149. ↵Bartholomeusz Tessa J.In Defense of Dharma: Just-War Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka. London, UK: Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism; 2002. ↵Black Brian. Ambaṭṭa and Śvetaketu: Literary Connections between the Upaniṣads and Early Buddhist Narratives. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2011;79/1:135-161. ↵Black Brian, Geen Jonathan. The Character of ‘Character’ in Early South Asian Religious Narratives: An Introductory Essay. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2011;79/1:6-32. ↵Brekke Torkel. Wielding the Rod of Punishment: War and Violence in the Political Science of Kautilya. Journal of Military Ethics 2004;3/1:40-52. ↵Brekke Torkel. The Ethics of War and the Concept of War in India and Europe. Numen 2005;52:59-86. CrossRef↵Brekke Torkel Brekke Torkel. Between Prudence and Heroism: Ethics of War in the Hindu Tradition. In: Brekke Torkel, editor. The Ethics of War in Asian Civilization: A Comparative Perspective. Oxon, UK: Routledge; 2006. p. 113-144. ↵Brockington John. The Concept of Dharma in the Rāmāyaṇa. Journal of Indian Philosophy 2004;32:5-6. ↵Robinson P. Clooney Francis Xavier. Pain but Not Harm: Some Classical Resources toward a Hindu Just War Theory. In: Robinson P., editor. Just War in Comparative Perspective. Hampshire, UK: Ashgate Publishing Limited; 2003. p. 109-126. ↵Dhand Arti. The Dharma of Ethics, the Ethics of Dharma: Quizzing the Ideals of Hinduism. Journal of Religious Ethics 2002;30/3:347-372. ↵Dorn A. Walter. Defence Research Reports. Defence Research and Development Canada; 2010. The Justifications for War and Peace in World Religions. Part III: Comparison of Scriptures from Seven World Religions; p. 46. CR 2010–036 Available at http://walterdorn.org/religions-on-war-and-peace Accessed January 23, 2012. ↵Dorn A. Walter, Frances Cation A.Defence Research Reports. Defence Research and Development Canada; 2009. The Justifications for War and Peace in World Religions. Part I: Abrahamic Religions; p. 151. CR2009–125 Available at http://walterdorn.org/religions-on-war-and-peace Accessed January 23, 2012. ↵Dorn A. W., Balkaran R., Feldman S., Gucciardi S.Defence Research Reports. Defence Research and Development Canada; 2010. The Justifications for War and Peace in World Religions. Part II: Religions of Indic Origin; p. 179. CR 2010–034 Available at http://walterdorn.org/religions-on-war-and-peace Accessed January 23, 2012. ↵Elshtain Jean Bethke, editor. Just War Theory. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell Ltd; 1992. ↵Geen Jonathan. Fair Trade and Reversal of Fortune: Kṛṣṇa and Mahāvı̄ra in the Hindu and Jaina traditions. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2011;79/1:58-89. ↵Goldman Robert P.The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmı̄ki: An Epic of Ancient India (Vol I: Bālakāṇḍa). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 1984. Goldman Robert P.The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmı̄ki: An Epic of Ancient India (Vol V: Sundarakāṇḍa). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 2005. ↵Johnson James Turner. Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 1981. ↵Johnson James Turner, Kelsay John, editors. Cross, Crescent, and Sword. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press; 1990. ↵Kelsay John. Arguing the Just War in Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 2007. ↵Lefeber Rosalind. The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmı̄ki: An Epic of Ancient India (Vol IV: Ki⋅kindhakāṇḍa) Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 2005. ↵Lindquist Steven E.Literary Lives and Literal Death: Yājñavalkya, Śākalya, and an Upaniṣadic Death Sentence. 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  1. A. Walter Dorn*
  1. *Raj Balkaran, Department of Religious Studies, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4. E-mail: rbalkara@ucalgary.ca. A. Walter Dorn, Department of Defence Studies, Royal Military College of Canada and the Canadian Forces College, 215 Yonge Blvd, Toronto, ON, Canada M5M 3H9. E-mail: dorn@cfc.dnd.ca. We offer our gratitude to Dr. Christopher Framarin and Dr. Elizabeth Rohlman (both Hindu studies faculty at the University of Calgary), as well as the two anonymous JAAR reviewers, for their insightful comments and suggestions which served to enrich this article.