The metaethical paradox of just war theory

The traditional requirements upon the waging of a just war are ostensibly independent, but in actual practice each tenet is subject ultimately to the interpretation of a legitimate authority, whose declaration becomes the necessary and sufficient condition. While just war theory presupposes that some acts are absolutely wrong, it also implies that the killing of innocents can be rendered permissible through human decree. Nations are conventionally delimited, and leaders are conventionally appointed. Any group of people could band together to form a nation, and any person could, in principle, be appointed the leader of any nation. Because the just war approach assumes absolutism while implying relativism, the stance is paradoxical and hence rationally untenable.
Keywords absolutism  relativism  just war theory  collateral damage  legitimate authority
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DOI 10.1023/A:1011440213213
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