payers might be morally liable for example to the effects of certain kinds of

Payers might be morally liable for example to the

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payers might be morally liable, for example, to the effects of certain kinds of economic sanction, they would not be appropriate targets for military force. This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that, in contrast to unjust combatants, even morally responsible noncombatants normally make only a very slight causal contribution to their country’s unjust war, so that attacking them would do little to diminish the threat their coun- try poses or to advance the just cause. A second objection is that, just as it is normally impossible to have accurate information about an unjust combatant’s responsibility for the threat he poses, so it is normally impossible to have detailed information about whether and to what extent a particular noncombatant is re- sponsible for her country’s unjust war. Again, this is true. But it does not show that noncombatants cannot be liable, but only that just com- batants can seldom know which ones are responsible or to what extent they are responsible. And this drastically restricts the practical signifi- cance of the responsibility criterion’s implication that some noncom- batants may be legitimate targets in war. For, while a few noncombatants may bear a high degree of responsibility for their country’s unjust war, and many may be responsible to a much weaker degree, there are also many others who are not responsible at all. Because one cannot normally distinguish among the highly responsible, the minimally responsible, and those who are not responsible at all, just combatants should in general err on the side of caution by acting on the presumption that noncombatants are innocent, that is, devoid of responsibility for their country’s unjust war (just as just combatants must act on the presump- tion that unjust combatants are responsible for the threat they pose). And even if, on some occasions, just combatants were to have sufficient information to be able to distinguish between responsible and nonres- ponsible noncombatants, the responsible ones would normally be in- termingled among the nonresponsible, making it impossible to direct force, or even economic sanctions, against the responsible ones only. And this is a further reason why military action can very rarely if ever be proportionate against civilian targets. In this respect, attacks on ci- vilian populations are again importantly different from attacks against groups of unjust combatants, for all of the latter are (or may reasonably be presumed to be) to some degree liable to defensive force. I have thus far tried to show that the responsibility criterion is in fact highly restrictive in its implications for the permissibility of attacking noncombatants in war. But it does imply that it can be permissible, on occasion, to attack and even to kill noncombatants—and not just, as nonabsolutist versions of the traditional requirement of discrimination concede, because the prohibition against intentionally attacking non- combatants may in extreme circumstances be overridden, but also be- cause noncombatants are in some cases morally liable to force or vio-
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  • Spring '14
  • JeffreyStephenson
  • Test, Laws of war, jus ad bellum, Michael Walzer, Jeff McMahan

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