Combatant moral equality in historical and practical context.


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Enemy soldiers in war are permitted to kill one another without moral blame. This permission, though, is limited by rules specifically constructed for war. These rules apply symmetrically to both sides of war and independently of the justice of their causes. This feature of the morality of war is called the moral equality of combatants (MEC). The current concept of MEC emerged as a property of the laws of war in the modern era, though its development is traceable in the history of just war. The morality of the concept has been questioned by revisionist scholars who seek to replace it with a system of morality strictly grounded in individual morality. This dissertation contends that such efforts neglect the morally relevant contexts of those who must apply the morality of war—statesmen and soldiers. It argues that combatant moral equality is warranted because it is well-suited for the complexities of anarchy among statesmen and duty among soldiers, and it is morally better than its revisionist alternative because it moderates, rather than exacerbates, the already escalatory tendency of war.



Just war. Walzer. McMahan. Moral equality. MEC.