Self-Defense, Proportionality, and Defensive War against Mitigated Aggression

International Journal of Applied Philosophy 27 (2):207-224 (2013)
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A nation commits mitigated aggression by threatening to kill the citizens of a victim nation if and only if they do not submit to being ruled in a non-egregiously oppressive way. Such aggression primarily threatens a nation’s common way of life . According to David Rodin, a war against mitigated aggression is automatically disproportionate, as the right of lethal self-defense only extends to protecting against being killed or enslaved. Two strategies have been adopted in response to Rodin. The first strategy grants that CWL is insufficiently valuable to lethally defend, however, other considerations can satisfy the proportionality requirement. I argue that this strategy is not persuasive. The second strategy argues for the sufficient value of CWL. This, however, fails to answer the forceful ‘benign dictator’ objection. I respond to this objection by grounding the proportionality of a defensive war in the value of what Phillip Pettit calls ‘anti-power’.

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Jacob Blair
California State University, Hayward

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