Evaluating the Revisionist Critique of Just War Theory

Daedalus 146 (1):113-124 (2017)
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Abstract
Modern analytical just war theory starts with Michael Walzer's defense of key tenets of the laws of war in his Just and Unjust Wars. Walzer advocates noncombatant immunity, proportionality, and combatant equality: combatants in war must target only combatants; unintentional harms that they inflict on noncombatants must be proportionate to the military objective secured; and combatants who abide by these principles fight permissibly, regardless of their aims. In recent years, the revisionist school of just war theory, led by Jeff McMahan, has radically undermined Walzer's defense of these principles. This essay situates Walzer's and the revisionists’ arguments, before illustrating the disturbing vision of the morality of war that results from revisionist premises. It concludes by showing how broadly Walzerian conclusions can be defended using more reliable foundations.
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