Asymmetrical wars

Cécile Fabre

in Cosmopolitan War

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199567164
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746055 | DOI:
Asymmetrical wars

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Chapter 7 focuses on the principle of non-combatant immunity, in the context of military asymmetry between belligerents. Wars are often asymmetrical both militarily and morally: that is, weaker belligerents (from a military point of view) are now increasingly resorting to means of warfare which are in violation of the rules of jus in bello (most notably the deliberate targeting of innocent non-combatants), and are exploiting their adversary's unwillingness similarly to violate those rules. Asymmetrical wars are of particular concern for the cosmopolitan theory of the just war which this book defends. For the requirement of legitimate authority as reinterpreted in Chapters 3 and 4 confers the status of lawful combatants and/or belligerents on small groups of individuals, indeed individuals as such — actors, in other words, who are unlikely to be in a position to further their ends by conventional means. The chapter scrutinizes three tactics which weaker belligerents typically employ: the direct targeting of non-combatants (terror-bombing), the use of non-combatants as human shields, and the use of deception. The chapter argues that terror-bombing is generally impermissible, that the use of human shields is sometimes permissible, and that deceitful tactics are largely unproblematic from a moral point of view. It examines and rejects the view that belligerents act unfairly to the enemy by using those tactics even when they have a just cause.

Keywords: asymmetrical wars; non-combatant immunity; deliberate targetting; human shields; deception; treachery; fairness

Chapter.  22930 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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