Rights, Liability, and the Moral Equality of Combatants

The Journal of Ethics 16 (4):339-366 (2012)

Authors
Uwe Steinhoff
University of Hong Kong
Abstract
According to the dominant position in the just war tradition from Augustine to Anscombe and beyond, there is no "moral equality of combatants." That is, on the traditional view the combatants participating in a justified war may kill their enemy combatants participating in an unjustified war - but not vice versa (barring certain qualifications). I shall argue here, however, that in the large number of wars (and in practically all modern wars) where the combatants on the justified side violate the rights of innocent people ("collateral damage"), these combatants are in fact liable to attack by the combatants on the unjustified side. I will support this view with a rights-based account of liability to attack and then defend it against a number of objections raised in particular by Jeff McMahan. The result is that the thesis of the moral equality of combatants holds good for a large range of armed conflicts while the opposing thesis is of very limited practical relevance.
Keywords collective action  just cause  liability to attack  McMahan, Jeff  moral equality of combatants  rights  Thomson, Judith Jarvis  war
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DOI 10.1007/s10892-012-9120-z
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References found in this work BETA

Killing in War.Jeff McMahan - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
The Ethics of Killing in War.Jeff McMahan - 2004 - Ethics 114 (4):693-733.

View all 26 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Just Cause and 'Right Intention'.Uwe Steinhoff - 2014 - Journal of Military Ethics 13 (1):32-48.
The Contingent Morality of War: Establishing a Diachronic Model Ofjus Ad Bellum.Marcus Schulzke - 2015 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 18 (3):264-284.
The Contingent Morality of War: Establishing a Diachronic Model of Jus Ad Bellum.Marcus Schulzke - 2015 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 18 (3):1-21.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

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