03/28/12 — Author takes look at 'War and Morality'

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Author takes look at 'War and Morality'

By Kelly Corbett
Published in News on March 28, 2012 1:46 PM

The amount of money spent and the number of troops killed are not determining factors of whether or not a war is a just war, writes Dr. Michael Cavanagh, in his new book "War and Morality: Citizens' Rights and Duties."

The 200-page analysis will come out this spring, and Cavanagh, a psychology professor at Mount Olive College, said he wrote the book to educate and empower ordinary citizens to make moral decisions about wars.

"It's a book that I don't think has ever been written," Cavanagh said.

Decisions about wars are normally in the hands of politicians and people in the military, he said.

Instead, Cavanagh said, in a democratic society like the United States, the power should be with the people.

"We have a stake in this. These wars are waged in our name," Cavanagh said.

The public is not asked about going to war, he said, but citizens can voice their moral decisions by voting, being involved in demonstrations and writing letters to Congress, he said.

"We're told, 'Next week we're going to war,'" Cavanagh said.

One thing the book does not include is his personal views on wars. Instead, he said, the book sticks to the theme of ordinary citizens and helping them make moral decisions about wars, both past and present.

A just war is determined by several principles, Cavanagh said. It is not an economic decision, and it is not about revenge or being tired of a war, he added.

A just war is not fought for the purpose of nation building, getting revenge or getting oil, he said. If the nation is being threatened, that is a just cause to begin a war, he added.

"Our intentions have to be good," Cavanagh said, adding that just war principles have been around for thousands of years.

One of the principles of a just war is that it must be a necessary war.

"It must be a last resort," Cavanagh said. "We must try everything possible first."

But a lot of wars begin with a just cause, he said, but over the years, can evolve into unjust conflicts.

"Americans have to start owning the wars that they're waging," Cavanagh said, which is the main point of the book.

He said he has always been interested in war and decided to finally write about the topic after researching for about two to three years.

"I started with the title of the book, then I went to the research," Cavanagh said.

Cavanagh has degrees in psychology, theology and philosophy. His interest in war, along with his personal ties to World War II and the Vietnam War, are what led him to write the book.

"I grew up during the second World War," Cavanagh said.

His uncle was killed in WWII, and he had friends who served in the Vietnam War.

Even though Cavanagh was did not serve in the military while he was in graduate school, he interned at two Veterans Administration hospitals during the Vietnam War while earning his master and doctorate degrees.

He began the book during a recent sabbatical, and he is currently going through the last draft before the book is published by McFarland in April or May.

The soft-cover book will be available online and in the campus bookstore for $45.