Proportionality, just war theory and weapons innovation

Science and Engineering Ethics 15 (1):25-38 (2009)
Just wars are supposed to be proportional responses to aggression: the costs of war must not greatly exceed the benefits. This proportionality principle raises a corresponding ‘interpretation problem’: what are the costs and benefits of war, how are they to be determined, and a ‘measurement problem’: how are costs and benefits to be balanced? And it raises a problem about scope: how far into the future do the states of affairs to be measured stretch? It is argued here that weapons innovation always introduces costs, and that these costs cannot be determined in advance of going to war. Three examples, the atomic bomb, the AK-47 and the ancient Greek catapult, are given as examples. It is therefore argued that the proportionality principle is inapplicable prospectively. Some replies to the argument are discussed and rejected. Some more general defences of the proportionality principle are considered and also rejected. Finally, the significance of the argument for Just War Theory as a whole is discussed.
Keywords Just War Theory  Proportionality  Weapons research  Costs and benefits  Uncertainty
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DOI 10.1007/s11948-008-9088-z
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References found in this work BETA
Thomas Hurka (2005). Proportionality in the Morality of War. Philosophy and Public Affairs 33 (1):34–66.
Jeff McMahan & Robert McKim (1993). The Just War and the Gulf War. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 23 (4):501 - 541.

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