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Weighing Lives in War$
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Jens David Ohlin, Larry May, and Claire Finkelstein

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198796176

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198796176.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 January 2022

The Equality of Combatants in Asymmetric War

The Equality of Combatants in Asymmetric War

(p.241) 10 The Equality of Combatants in Asymmetric War
Weighing Lives in War

Claire Finkelstein

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the relationship between the principle of distinction and the idea that combatants are “morally equal” on the battlefield. This relationship is of particular interest, as well as complexity, in so-called asymmetric warfare, namely warfare between traditional state actors and non-state actors such as ISIS or al-Qaeda. It argues that an essential concept for understanding the moral equality principle is that of role responsibility. The notion of role responsibility, where it applies, has the effect of isolating the rights and duties that pertain to the actor from other segments of morality and enables morality to be discontinuous across its various domains. The result is that two principles of right may conflict with one another across the various domains to which they apply. This explains how a combatant can be on the wrong side of a conflict and yet have the right to kill an opposing combatant in war. The idea is challenging to extend to asymmetric war.

Keywords:   moral equality of combatants, principle of distinction, role responsibility, non-state actors, just war theory

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