Morally Empowering Combatants

Sisson, Logan, Philosophy - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Brewer, Talbot, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia

The prevailing view of just war theory leaves little room for combatants to evaluate the justice of the particular wars in which they are ordered to fight. If combatants do, and determine that they cannot in good conscience participate, state policies limit recourse by threatening imprisonment, and the just war tradition regards such threats as wholly legitimate. Recently a few theorists have raised objections to these elements of the just war tradition. They have generally argued from the bottom-up, grounding their case on individual rights and focusing primarily on individual duties in support of those rights. These bottom-up arguments are often met with the top-down objection that empowering combatants will endanger state rights or make it difficult to fulfill the duty incumbent on a state to defend its citizens. While I affirm the bottom-up arguments, I hope to bring something new to this debate by arguing for the empowerment of combatants from the top-down, grounding my case on state rights and focusing on both the state and individual duties required to uphold those rights. Ultimately, I hope to show that combatants must have, and indeed must exercise, the prerogative to refuse to fight in an unjust war.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
philosophy, just war theory, selective conscientious objection, moral equality of combatants
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