Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Should military personnel (“soldiers”) become selective conscientious objectors to an unjust war? This chapter argues, first, that in most cases the fog of war and politics makes it unreasonable to expect soldiers to make fact-intensive judgments about whether the war is just. Second, it argues that even a justwar tribunal, of the sort proposed by Jeff McMahan, will not do the job. It will inevitably lack the legitimacy and fact-finding capacity necessary to reassure soldiers in such a weighty decision. Third, the moral importance of maintaining civilian control of the military means that soldiers should generally obey orders to deploy. Fourth, however, absolute deference to leaders and commanders is morally unacceptable. The chapter defends an intermediate view advanced centuries ago by Cajetan, Suárez, and Vitoria: soldiers must not fight in an unjust war, but only when the injustice is manifest.

Publication Citation

David Luban, OXFORD HANDBOOK OF THE ETHICS OF WAR (Helen Frowe & Seth Lazar, ed.) (forthcoming)