Unjust War and a Soldier's Moral Dilemma

Journal of Military Ethics 12 (4):325-340 (2013)
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This paper explores the central question of why soldiers in democratic societies might decide to fight in wars that they may have reason to believe are objectively or questionably unjust. First, I provide a framework for understanding the dilemma caused by an unjust war and a soldier's competing moral obligations; namely, the obligations to self and state. Next, I address a few traditional key thoughts concerning soldiers and jus ad bellum. This is followed by an exploration of the unique and contradicting moral problems that confront modern soldiers and their officers. I argue that although traditional positions such as invincible ignorance provide a rather dangerous ‘head-in-the-sand’ mentality, soldiers serving a democratic government are nonetheless very limited in their legal and moral ability to interpret what is a justifiable war. However, a very few select senior officers are in positions to make such legal and moral decisions concerning jus ad bellum.

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Jeff Montrose
Catholic University Of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt


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