Journal of Military Ethics 11 (4):2012 (2012)

Authors
Graham Parsons
United States Military Academy
Abstract
Following Hugo Grotius, a distinction is developed between private and public war. It is argued that, contrary to how most contemporary critics of the moral equality of combatants construe it, the just war tradition has defended the possibility of the moral equality of combatants as an entailment of the justifiability of public war. It is shown that contemporary critics of the moral equality of combatants are denying the possibility of public war and, in most cases, offering a conception of just war as exclusively private war. The work of Jeff McMahan is used to exemplify this. Against these contemporary critics, it is argued that the reasons McMahan and others offer against the possibility of the moral equality of combatants undermine not only public war but also the possibility of fully realized and effective political authority.
Keywords public war  moral equality of combatants  Hugo Grotius  Jeff McMahan
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DOI 10.1080/15027570.2012.758403
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