Ethics & International Affairs Volume 18.1 (Winter 2004): Symposium: War and Self-Defense: Beyond National Defense [Abstract]

Feb 3, 2004

In War and Self-Defense I attempt to generate a dilemma for the just war theory by arguing that the right of national defense cannot be reduced to personal rights of self-defense, nor can it be explained through an analogy with them. Jeff McMahan, David Mapel, and Fernando Tesón doubt this conclusion. In response I argue, first, that their objections are not as opposed to my basic project as they may at first appear. This is because they are premised on a conception of national defense that differs substantially from mainstream just war theory and international law. Second, I argue that McMahan’s and Mapel’s defense of the reductive argument is unconvincing because (among other things) it is premised on an inadequate view of the norm of proportionality. On the other hand Tesón’s defense of the analogical view, based on a conception of the moral value of the just institutions of a legitimate state, cannot account for certain basic features of the international legal and moral order. These include the presumption that even unjust states can possess the right of self-defense against aggression and that it is impermissible for one just state to conquer and rule another just state. Finally I argue that the attempt to bolster the right of national defense through the concept of punishment is inappropriate because it ignores the crucial requirement for proper moral authority in the agent of punishment.

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