Friday, June 19, 2009

Americans in Unjust Wars Cannot Morally Kill Resisters

David Gordon reviews Jeff McMahan's Killing in War, which contains a unique take on just-war theory:

Jeff McMahan has written a genuinely revolutionary book. He has uncovered a flaw in standard just-war theory. The standard view sharply separates the morality of going to war, jus ad bellum, from the morality of warfare, jus in bello. Whether or not a war is just does not affect the morality of how war is to be conducted. Soldiers are forbidden to violate the laws of war; but no greater restrictions are imposed on those who fight in an unjust cause than on those whose cause meets the requirements of jus ad bellum. This is exactly what McMahan rejects. Soldiers in an unjust cause have, for the most part, no right at all to engage in violent action against soldiers in a just cause. Not only do they lack moral standing to engage in aggressive warfare; they cannot legitimately even engage in defensive war, in most circumstances.

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