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Keywords:

  • just war;
  • pacifism;
  • Paul Ramsey;
  • James Childress;
  • just intention;
  • noncombatant immunity

ABSTRACT

This essay challenges a “meta-theory” in just war analysis that purports to bridge the divide between just war and pacifism. According to the meta-theory, just war and pacifism share a common presumption against killing that can be overridden only under conditions stipulated by the just war criteria. Proponents of this meta-theory purport that their interpretation leads to ecumenical consensus between “just warriors” and pacifists, and makes the just war theory more effective in reducing recourse to war. Engagement with the new meta-theory reveals, however, that these purported advantages are illusory, made possible only by ignoring fundamental questions about the nature and function of political authority that are crucial to all moral reflection on the problem of war.