Ethics & International Affairs Volume 18.1 (Winter 2004): Symposium: War and Self-Defense: Self-Defense and the Obligations to Kill and to Die [Abstract]

Feb 3, 2004

David Rodin’s book, War and Self Defense, is a subtle and provocative analysis of the claim of self-defense and its relation to modern war. Building on his analysis, I raise some further issues about self-defense as a justification of modern nation state war. Principal among these is what I call the conscription paradox: if the state’s right to make war is grounded in the right of its citizens to self-defense, how do we explain the right of modern states to conscript its citizens into the military -- and order them to die, if need be? This problem has been acknowledged by liberal individual thinkers over the years, but not solved. It raises questions of whether a coherent account of current nation state military practice can be grounded in individual self-defense.

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