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Killing in War, McMahan

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Philosophy 2083F/G
Frank Cameron

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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