Violating the principle of non-combatant immunity..

… is pretty clear when it comes to standard ways of fighting wars..

Killing people who aren’t shooting at you, who have no formal connection to the war itself is generally considered to be wrong.  The war is taking place in their territory and they are often called “colateral dammage” … or “casualties of war”.  Of course, figuring out who is or is not a combatant has grown more difficult in the past decade or so — but that’s not the purpose of this post.

It seems to me that there are many ways that a war can impact non-combatants.  Most of these ways don’t rise to the level of a violation of non-combatant immunity, which raises the question of when does an action become a violation of non-combatant immunity?  For example, it’s clearly the case that the family of a soldier killed in combat is impacted by the war — they’ve lost a loved one and their lives will be forever changed by that loss.  That’s not what I’m thinking about — instead, the question is how far down the chain of cause and effect can we call an impact a violation and how severe do the impacts have to be before they are a violation of NCI (non-combatant immunity)?

In other words, is it the case that the principle of NCI can be violated without it being the case that the person receiving the harm is bodily injured or killed?  It seems intuitively plausible that it is, but what are the limits and conditions of that violation?  The limits / borders of the violation are quite important because they guide action.. if a country doesn’t want to take actions that violate NCI, then they have to refrain from a whole host of tactics that they might otherwise use.

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Filed under Applied Ethics, Philosophy in progress

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