5. Is Non‐Combatant Immunity Absolute?

David Fisher

in Morality and War

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199599240
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725692 | DOI:
5. Is Non‐Combatant Immunity Absolute?

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The principle of non‐combatant immunity forbids deliberate attacks on civilians. Yet civilians are regularly killed in war. So are all wars unjust? Just‐war commentators have resisted this conclusion, distinguishing between intended and foreseen consequences. The role of double effect is examined both in just‐war thinking and in supporting moral absolutism. Double effect marks an important distinction, but this is not sufficient to support moral absolutism. Other gradations of mental state are also relevant to the attribution of moral responsibility. Absolutism oversimplifies the nature of moral reasoning and leads to implausible conclusions. The principle of non‐combatant immunity cannot be held absolute. But to minimize the suffering caused by war there are strong reasons for holding it as near absolute a principle as we can. The application of the principle is examined against two case studies: the 2008–9 conflict in Gaza and NATO air operations in Kosovo in 1999.

Keywords: absolutism; civilians; double effect; foresight; Gaza Conflict; intention; Kosovo; mental states; NATO; moral reasoning; moral responsibility; non‐combatant immunity

Chapter.  9821 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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