Tensions in a certain conception of just war as law enforcement

Res Publica 14 (4):303-311 (2008)
Many just war theorists (call them traditionalists) claim that just as people have a right to personal self-defense, so nations have a right to national-defense against an aggressive military invasion. David Rodin claims that the traditionalist is unable to justify most defensive wars against aggression. For most aggressive states only commit conditional aggression in that they threaten to kill or maim the citizens of the nation they are invading only if those citizens resist the occupation. Most wars, then, claimed to be justified by the traditionalist fail to meet the proportionality criterion. Thus, a just war, for Rodin, is best conceived of as a punitive war of law enforcement, not as a war of national-defense. I argue that Rodin does not have a case against the traditionalist. If national-defense is a disproportionate response to conditional aggression, then punitive war is a disproportionate response as well. Furthermore, the belief that punitive war is a proportionate response to conditional aggression underscores the traditionalist’s view that self-determination, cultural identity and the like are of sufficient value to defend by means of lethal force. I end the paper by very briefly sketching an account, different from that of Rodin’s, of how individual nations can be justified in waging wars of law enforcement.
Keywords Conditional aggression  Law enforcement  National-defense  Proportionality  Punishment  Self-defense
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 13,022
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Jeff McMahan (2006). On the Moral Equality of Combatants. Journal of Political Philosophy 14 (4):377–393.
Jeff McMahan (2004). War as Self-Defense. Ethics and International Affairs 18 (1):75–80.
David Rodin (2004). Beyond National Defense. Ethics and International Affairs 18 (1):93–98.

View all 7 references

Citations of this work BETA
Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

19 ( #101,121 of 1,410,275 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #107,949 of 1,410,275 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.