Public War and the Moral Equality of Combatants

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

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.

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Author's Profile

Graham Parsons
United States Military Academy

References found in this work

The Ethics of Killing in War.Jeff McMahan - 2004 - Ethics 114 (4):693-733.
The Ethics of Killing in War.Jeff McMahan - 2006 - Philosophia 34 (1):693-733.
Innocence, Self-Defense and Killing in War.Jeff McMahan - 1994 - Journal of Political Philosophy 2 (3):193–221.
War as Self-Defense.Jeff McMahan - 2004 - Ethics and International Affairs 18 (1):75-80.

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