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Helen Frowe, "Resisting Conditional Force"

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Published on May 2, 2013

This paper addresses the question of whether it is permissible to resist an aggressive invasion by a state that will use force only if its aggression is met with resistance. Some writers have suggested that these wars of conditional aggression are especially problematic for just war theorists who ascribe to the reductivist individualist view - that is, the view that the moral rules governing killing in war are simply the rules governing killing between individuals. It is a premise of this suggestion that the sorts of goods threatened by conditional aggression, such as political integrity, are not vital interests. If it is disproportionate for individuals to kill to defend their non-vital interests, including their political interests, it seems that it cannot be proportionate for the members of a state to kill to defend their political interests. I argue that there are internal problems with this view as it is put forward by its main proponent, David Rodin. I also undermine the idea that political interests cannot be defended with lethal force. I then argue that showing that an individual ought not to resist conditional aggression does not entail that third parties may not assist them in the event that they engage in such resistance.

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