Targeting Human Shields

Philosophical Quarterly 68 (271):328-348 (2018)
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In this paper, we are concerned with the morality of killing human shields. Many moral philosophers seem to believe that knowingly killing human shields necessarily involves intentionally targeting human shields. If we assume that the distinction between intention and foresight is morally significant, then this view would entail that it is generally harder to justify a military operation in which human shields are knowingly killed than a military operation in which the same number of casualties result as a merely foreseen side effect. We argue, however, that only some cases of knowingly killing human shields should be regarded as intentionally targeting human shields, and thus only those cases face higher bars of justification. We shall formulate different principles that help us to distinguish between cases where a military operation involves the deliberate harming of human shields and cases where it does not. As we shall see, these principles are relevant in scenarios that are all too realistic and common, such as the bombing of legitimate military targets located amid civilian populations.



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Author Profiles

Amir Saemi
University of California, Santa Barbara (PhD)
Philip Atkins
Temple University

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References found in this work

Just And Unjust Wars.Michael Walzer - 1977 - New York: Basic Books.
The Ethics of Killing.Jeff Mcmahan - 2002 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71 (2):477-490.
War and massacre.Thomas Nagel - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (2):123-144.

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