Rodin on Self-Defense and the "Myth" of National Self-Defense: A Refutation

Philosophia 41 (4):1017-1036 (2013)
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David Rodin denies that defensive wars against unjust aggression can be justified if the unjust aggression limits itself, for example, to the annexation of territory, the robbery of resources or the restriction of political freedom, but would endanger the lives, bodily integrity or freedom from slavery of the citizens only if the unjustly attacked state actually resisted the aggression. I will argue that Rodin's position is not correct. First, Rodin's comments on the necessity condition and its relation to an alleged "duty to retreat" misinterpret the law, and a correct interpretation of the law is not only compatible with, but implies a permission to resist the "bloodless invader," and this is also the correct view from the perspective of morality. Second, Rodin's remarks on the proportionality of self-defense against conditional threats focus on physical or material harm but implausibly ignore the severity of the violations of autonomy and of the socio-legal or moral order that such conditional threats involve. Third, I will address Rodin's claim that defensive wars against "political aggression" are disproportionate because they risk the lives of those defended in an attempt to secure lesser interests. I will argue that this take on proportionality misses the point in an important respect, namely by confusing wide and narrow proportionality, and makes unwarranted assumptions about the alleged irrationality or impermissibility of incurring or imposing lethal risks to safeguard less vital interests. Next, I will also show that while Rodin talks of a "myth of national self-defense" and of the necessity of moving beyond traditional just war theory and international law, it is actually his interpretation of just war theory and international law that weaves myths. Finally, I will argue that Rodin's views on national self-defense on the one hand, and "war as law enforcement" on the other, are incoherent.
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