Friday, 21 February 2014

Casus belli - The Case for War

The invasion underwat, a German bomber flies over a Polish city
A German medium bomber flies over a Polish city

CASUS BELLI

Noun phrase. Plural same. Mid-19th century.
[from Latin casus CASE noun + belli genitive of bellum war.]

An act or situation justifying or precipitating war.

Countries (generally) need a damn good reason to go to war, a reason that will motivate its fighting forces, galvanise support from its allies, undermine support for its enemy, and mollify critics and its own civilian population. Where there is no reasonable justification, however, governments haven't been above artfully orchestrating them: Nazi Germany staged an attack on its own Sender Gleiwitz radio station by Germans dressed in Polish uniforms, an "act of aggression" that was subsequently used to justify its catalytic invasion, and later that same year, the Soviet Union shelled the Russian village of Mainila and blamed it on Finland, using that as an excuse to invade and start the 'The Winter War'. Interestingly, while Germany's invasion of Poland was technically the casus belli for Britain and France to declare war, this is more correctly termed a casus foederis, a 'case for the alliance', which is when the terms of a military alliance trigger a declaration of war. Of course, in the age of media and democracy, the importance of a convincing casus belli has never been greater - alleging the development of WMDs or links to Al Qaeda have been particularly useful in this regard.

Do feel free to leave any comments in the box below.

11 comments:

  1. I'm a little reticent commenting today, given the NSA's tentacles and what happened to Snowden, but I do have to ask how could anybody suspect the Finns? They gave us Nokia and saunas.

    -NOT clueless. Different IP. (I flippin' love democracy.)

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    1. I don't think anyone did suspect the Finns; I certainly didn't. Anyway, it's kind of satisfying to know (if one is the type to celebrate the wholesale slaughter of conscripted, largely teenage troops) that the white-suited Finns gave those Ruskies a damn good thrashing. It doesn't matter how good your casus belli is - if you've got tanks and they've got skis, you're in for a slippery kicking.

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  2. But are you a Big-Endian or a Little-Endian, Diff IP?

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    1. I've never even been to Lilliput Sally.

      -c.

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    2. I've got no idea what either of you are talking about.

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    3. Gulliver!
      Traditionally, Lilliputians broke boiled eggs on the larger end; a few generations ago, an Emperor of Lilliput, the Present Emperor's great-grandfather, had decreed that all eggs be broken on the smaller end after he cut himself breaking the egg on the larger end. The differences between Big-Endians (those who broke their eggs at the larger end) and Little-Endians had given rise to "six rebellions... wherein one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown".

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    4. Well, in fairness I recognised the Lilliput reference, but the various endians had me thoroughly lost. I did attempt to read Gulliver's Travels when I was little, but all I remember about it is that I found it interminably boring, and I've never gone back for a second attempt.

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  3. Oddly enough, big and little endianness also refers to different ways binary data can be organised.

    However, since we're going off-topic Sally (which could lead to both of us losing our lives or crowns in Lexicolaria) I'm declaring war on you for daring to question how I tackle my boiled eggs.

    -c.

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    1. Had I know about the endian schism, it could have been illustrative of some of the dafter historical casus belli, such as "The Football War" between El Salvador and Honduras (my reading on this is that, despite there being a lot of reasons for this war, a football match was the de facto casus belli), and "The War of the Golden Stool" between the British and the Ashanti Empire.

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    2. As the last thing I want is to end up with egg on my face, I hereby surrender.

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    3. I no longer know what any of us are on about now so I'm going to move on to the next one because I think it's about cats.

      I flippin' love cats.

      -c.

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