Waging defensive war: The idea and its normative importance

Journal of Military Ethics 10 (3):148-159 (2011)
Abstract
Abstract During the 20th century some versions of just war doctrine came to restrict the condition of just cause to defense, that is, these just war doctrines now hold it to be a necessary condition for the moral justifiability of any war that it be undertaken for defensive purposes. These purposes need not be self ? defensive but may be defensive of the welfare and legitimate rights of other polities and groups. Some reasons for war are obviously not defensive, for example, the acquisition of territory or the assertion of imperialist control. But the boundaries of defensive warfare are unclear. I will consider two important cases in which this lack of clarity is proving to be morally significant: namely, preventive and punitive warfare undertaken for the sake of the goal of defense. I will argue that the normative rationale for limiting just cause to defense does not allow these as legitimate forms of defense. That rationale moves towards the view that one should not intend the deaths of enemies but only the restraint of their wrongdoing, and preventive and punitive warfare appear to involve intending the deaths of enemies
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