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It's not like a lot of civilians would not also have been killed if the bombs weren't used. And the important point is that military actions by a nation's military against another nation that they are at war with fall under a different moral code than actions by some guy against random people.
Why is it more okay to kill civilians during war to save lives but not during peace? Because it's official?
Because even if they are civilians they are not innocents. Whether by working for the war effort directly in factories or what not, or simply by paying taxes, they are part of their country's military activities and thus have fewer absolute rights than people not engaging in a war.
This is apparently a shocking and confusing statement to some people.
Basically, the idea is that a citizenry bears some responsibility for the actions of the state and thus, for example, in a war the civilian population is not void of all responsiblity for what their military does. And thus, for example, nuking a city of a nation you are at war with is morally distinct, and more justifiable, then nuking a city of a nation you are not at war with.
A simple though experiment to make the case:
Suppose you buy a gun and give it to someone knowing that they are going to use it to shoot someone. Are you not also responsible for the result?
Now suppose a hundred people all got together and pulled their money to buy someone a gun knowing that they are going to use it to shoot someone. Are they not all responsible for the result?
Now suppose there is a nation of people who are paying taxes which are used to arm an army which then engages in various military activities generally involving shooting people. Are they not all responsible for the result?
And now for some name dropping, I mean, scholarly refrence:
Apart from this primitive contract, the vote of the majority always binds all the rest. This follows from the contract itself. But it is asked how a man can be both free and forced to conform to wills that are not his own. How are the opponents at once free and subject to laws they have not agreed to?
I retort that the question is wrongly put. The citizen gives his consent to all the laws, including those which are passed in spite of his opposition, and even those which punish him when he dares to break any of them. The constant will of all the members of the State is the general will; by virtue of it they are citizens and free. When in the popular assembly a law is proposed, what the people is asked is not exactly whether it approves or rejects the proposal, but whether it is in conformity with the general will, which is their will. Each man, in giving his vote, states his opinion on that point; and the general will is found by counting votes. When therefore the opinion that is contrary to my own prevails, this proves neither more nor less than that I was mistaken, and that what I thought to be the general will was not so. If my particular opinion had carried the day I should have achieved the opposite of what was my will; and it is in that case that I should not have been free.
Finally, I think Goumindong made a very good post that should be attached here:
Comparing WWII with modern war morality is not a simple matter. Our generation has never faced a total war, where one side will only stop at the complete political dissolution of the other. In such situations there is no difference from the civilians of the political system and the factories of war. They pay its taxes, fund its army, hold the will to keep fighting. Its even more so in a democratic or republican system where the people have the power to stop said action and, at some point enabled the action to continue. If we were in a court of law, and discussing two people where one enabled the other to commit a murder with the knowledge it might happen, they would both go to jail for murder as well.
To put it in todays terms. We, as tax payers, hold direct responsibility for the actions that the U.S. is taking. Our taxes pay for Israeli weapons which subjugate Palestinians. Our taxes pay for bombs which we drop in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is by our political will or inaction that these acts are allowed to continue. We are then culpable for the actions that we enable and allow.
By "modern standards" in "modern wars" said culpability is typically abjugated. But this is more because both sides wish the conflict to be small and contained. Commensurate risk for commensurate gain. It is not because they feel the people are not morally responsible, but because theirs are as well.
While racing light mechs, your Urbanmech comes in second place, but only because it ran out of ammo.