Ambrose Bierce on War Theory Essay

Ambrose Bierce on War Theory Essay

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Brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor. The Civil War set a new precedent of warfare. One of the Union solders, Ambrose Bierce, wrote a collection of short stories based on his personal experience. Do his writings reflect that the Civil War was a just war by following just war theory? Bierce’s writings help reflect that the Civil War was unjust because the war was not conducted by a legitimate authority, the war was not conducted with the right attitude, and the war was not a last resort.
Just war theory is treated with a “prima facie” basis. That is, not all standards have to be met for any war to be declared just or unjust. To examine Bierce’s writing, a general knowledge of just war theory is needed. Just war theory follows five main rules. The first rule is that war must be conducted for a just cause. The second rule is that war must be carried out with a right attitude. The third rule is that war must be conducted by a legitimate authority. The fourth rule is that military means must be carefully related to the moral and political ends being sought. The fifth and final rule is the principle of discrimination. One important note about the principle of discrimination; to follow the principle of discrimination, conducting war must only be used as a last resort.
Bierce’s writings reflect that the war was not conducted by a legitimate authority. In the Union government, you had Lincoln who was the Commander-in-Chef. He was a legitimate authority. However, there was a breakdown in leadership and legitimate authority as power worked its way down through the ranks.
Bierce was one to criticize multiple Union generals and commanders, with the exception of General Don Carlos Buell. In one such instance, he questions t...


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... Writings of Ambrose Bierce, edited by Russell Duncan and David Klooster, 51-56. Boston: University of Massachusetts Printing Press, 2002.
Bierce, Ambrose. “From What I Saw of Shiloh.” In Phantoms of a Blood-Stained Period: The Complete Civil War Writings of Ambrose Bierce, edited by Russell Duncan and David Klooster, 93-110. Boston: University of Massachusetts Printing Press, 2002.
Description of The Battle of Shiloh. Civil War Home. Last modified February 7, 2002. http://www.civilwarhome.com/shilohdescription.htm
Schmidt, William, Special to the New York Times. "Barrage at Fort Sumter still Echoes in the South." New York Times, April 12, 1986., 6, TOPICsearch, EBSCOhost (accessed November 5, 2011).
Wilt, Napier. "Ambrose Bierce and the Civil War." American Literature 1, no. 3 (November 1929): 260. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed November 5, 2011).

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