The Justification of Noncombatant Casualties in Wartime

As the United States is currently prosecuting two wars, it is important to consider whether those wars, and the resulting noncombatantcasualties, can be morally justified. Such consideration can be initiated by considering some of Alan Donagan’s work in his book The Theory of Morality. In that book Donagan sets out to develop, as a philosophical system, that part of the common morality according to the Hebrew-Christian tradition, which does not depend on any theistic beliefs. According to that tradition it is sometimes morally permissible to resort to war. This poses a problem because also part of the tradition is a near absolute prohibition on harming innocent people. Since innocent people die in war, there is a tension here.Donagan claims that this problem can be solved by assigning the blame for some such deaths to the aggressor, thereby permitting (some) resorts to war. This paper shows that this solution is inadequate; and defends a more plausible (and more traditional) justification for some innocent deaths. This justification is consistent with the system Donagan develops, and thus may have application in the consideration of the justification of the two wars currently being prosecuted by the United States
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DOI 10.5840/ijap200923112
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