Deontology, Consequentialism and Reciprocity in Contemporary Just War Thinking

In: European Review of International Studies
Chris Brown Department of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK,

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There has always been a degree of tension between, on the one hand, the writings of philosophers, theologians and lawyers on the ethics of war, and, on the other, the moral approach of soldiers, those actually engaged in combat. The former base their thinking on deontological reasoning, albeit with occasional reluctant gestures towards notions such as ‘military necessity’, while the latter are by temperament consequentialist, stressing, in particular, the importance of reciprocity. This tension is controllable in the implausible context of war between liberal, Western European countries, but comes to the surface in situations where regular Western armies are in combat with the armed forces of non-liberal states, or in situations of asymmetric warfare. The question is posed – can the notion of a just war survive in the absence of reciprocity?

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