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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

Humanity, Necessity, and the Rights of Soldiers

Humanity, Necessity, and the Rights of Soldiers

(p.77) 3 Humanity, Necessity, and the Rights of Soldiers
Weighing Lives in War

Larry May

Oxford University Press

In both morality and law, it is still common to say that soldiers’ lives do not count for very much in assessments of whether or not a particular war or armed conflict is justifiably initiated and conducted. I argue that soldiers should be acknowledged to have the humanitarian right not to be killed unnecessarily. Also, I argue that military necessity is best conceived as a form of practical necessity. I argue for a strengthening of the principle of military necessity, so that a soldier’s life can only be taken if it is practically necessary to achieve a needed military objective. I then set out a new way to understand humanitarian norms that is in keeping with the idea that the humans who are soldiers should be treated with at least minimal dignity. I support an expanded view of humanitarian rights that takes account of soldiers’ unique vulnerabilities.

Keywords:   humanitarianism, human rights, rights of soldiers, necessity, dignity, vulnerability, civilians

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