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Chapter

Killing in War, McMahan

5 Pages
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Department
Philosophy
Course Code
Philosophy 2083F/G
Professor
Frank Cameron

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THE ETHICS OF KILLING IN WAR JEFF MCMAHAN
ABSTRACT
This paper argues that certain central tenets of the traditional theory of the just war
cannot be correct advances an alternative account grounded in the same
considerations of justice that govern self defense at the individual level
THE TRADITIONAL THEORY OF THE JUST WAR
A just cause is an aim that can contribute to the justification for war and that may
permissibly be pursued by means of jus in bello is independent of jus ad bellum is that it
makes no difference to the permissibility of an unjust combatants conduct in war that
he fights without a just cause
So the moral position of unjust combatants is indistinguishable from that of just
combatants
Both just and unjust combatants have an equal right to kill
Combatants are permitted to kill only opposing combatants
THE PRESUMED PERMISSIBILITY OF DEFENSIVE FORCE
According to the traditional theory, we are all initially morally immune to attack
In the context of war, the innocent are those who do not contribute to the prosecution
of the war
Just combatants are also permitted for the same reason, to attack the unjust
combatants who threaten them
If all necessary and proportionate defensive force is permissible, the fact that you now
pose a threat to your attacker makes it permissible for him to attack you even to kill
you if your defensive counterattack threatens his life
But if your attacker has no right of self-defense, then not all defensive force is
permissible
Walzer believes that there is no right to self defense in the course of criminal activity
The idea of necessity doesn’t apply to criminal activity: it was not necessary to rob the
bank in the first place
Personal choice he contends effectively disappears as soon as fighting becomes a legal
obligation and a patriotic duty
These claims about the necessity of participation in an unjust war support the
contention that such participation differs in permissibility from ordinary criminal activity
only if they provide a basis for claiming that participation is justified
ARE UNJUST COMBATANTS JUSTIFIED IN FIGHTING
There are instititutions that are necessary to achieve certain important social goods
Military institutions themselves may thus demand that only those with the assigned
authority should make decisions pertaining to jus ad bellum
By participating in such institutions as the legal system and the military, individuals risk
becoming instruments of injustice
Thus when unjust combatants are compelled by governments or military organizations
that lack legitimacy to fight in wars that lack democratic authorization, they have no
institutional obligations that can justify their fighting
The importance of the individuals contribution to the survival and integrity of the
institution
The individual to do what would otherwise be wrong and may be unjust to those who
are the victims of the action
Some types of act are so seriously objectionable that they cannot become permissible
even if they are demanded by institutions that are both just and important
Acts are beyond the limits of what can be made permissible by a person’s institutional
obligations
Just combatants do nothing to lose their right not to be attacked or killed or to make
themselves morally liable to attack; they are innocent in the relevant sense.
Merely posing a threat not enough to make them liable
Yet the consequences of just institutions of people refusing to fight in unjust wars are
unlikely to be calamitous
Victory in an unjust war may serve the national interest but is likely on balance to have a
corrupting effect on just institutions
JUS IN BELLO INDEPENDENT
This requirement holds that for an act of war to be permissible its bad effects must not
be out of proportion to its good effects
For goods that may not legitimately be pursued by means of war cannot contribute to
the justification of an act of war and thus cannot figure in the proportionality calculation
for that act of war
Just combatants may act wrongly in fighting. One is too pursue their just cause by
wrongful means
The other is to pursue a subordinate aim that is unjust within a war that is just overall
because its guiding aims are just
It would be permissible if necessary for unjust combatants to use military force against
the just combatants to prevent this

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Description
THE ETHICS OF KILLING IN WARJEFF MCMAHAN ABSTRACTThis paper argues that certain central tenets of the traditional theory of the just war cannot be correctadvances an alternative account grounded in the same considerations of justice that govern self defense at the individual level THE TRADITIONAL THEORY OF THE JUST WARA just cause is an aim that can contribute to the justification for war and that may permissibly be pursued by means of jus in bello is independent of jus ad bellum is that it makes no difference to the permissibility of an unjust combatants conduct in war that he fights without a just causeSo the moral position of unjust combatants is indistinguishable from that of just combatantsBoth just and unjust combatants have an equal right to killCombatants are permitted to kill only opposing combatants THE PRESUMED PERMISSIBILITY OF DEFENSIVE FORCEAccording to the traditional theory we are all initially morally immune to attackIn the context of war the innocent are those who do not contribute to the prosecution of the warJust combatants are also permitted for the same reason to attack the unjust combatants who threaten themIf all necessary and proportionate defensive force is permissible the fact that you now pose a threat to your attacker makes it permissible for him to attack youeven to kill you if your defensive counterattack threatens his lifeBut if your attacker has no right of selfdefense then not all defensive force is permissibleWalzer believes that there is no right to self defense in the course of criminal activityThe idea of necessity doesnt apply to criminal activity it was not necessary to rob the bank in the first placePersonal choice he contends effectively disappears as soon as fighting becomes a legal obligation and a patriotic dutyThese claims about the necessity of participation in an unjust war support the contention that such participation differs in permissibility from ordinary criminal activityonly if they provide a basis for claiming that participation is justified
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