Thursday, March 04, 2010

Diminished moral responsibility of many enemy combatants

The straightforward examples used in my baseline argument for the moral justification for killing in war are not representative of many of the enemy combatants that we kill in the current wars. Many of those attackingIndigenous Security Forces or Coalition Forces (the good guys) are doing so solely to pay the bills, to put food on the table; others are uneducated and misinformed about the goals of each side in the wars. In other words, many of the attackers are not fully morally responsible for their actions. In terms of domestic self defense, they are more like: a drug addict who commits armed robbery and murder to finance his addiction; or a mentally disabled person who watched a violent movie, came across a loaded weapons, and is now “living the fantasy” by shooting innocent people; or like a man who mistakenly thinks that you raped and killed his mother and is coming to kill you.

In such cases, I think, we would say that using lethal force to stop the attack and protect the lives of innocent people is indeed still morally justified…but it is not satisfying, and is even tragic. When an attacker is not completely responsible for his life-threatening actions, it is sad—but nonetheless necessary and morally justified—to use lethal force in defense of the innocent.