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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 18, Issue 2, July 2017

War and Moral Psychology

Andrew Fiala
Pages 281-294

Moral Injury, Jus Ad Bellum, and Conscientious Refusal

Although jus in bello violations create transgressive acts that cause moral injury, the primary consideration in thinking about moral injury should be jus ad bellum. If one is fighting in an ad bellum just war, then transgressive acts can be rationalized in a way that allows for consolation. But for morally sensitive combatants engaged in an ad bellum unjust war, consolation is more difficult since there is no way to justify or rationalize morally problematic deeds committed in defense of an unjust cause. Morally serious combatants should consider the question of jus ad bellum as they struggle to deal with moral injury, along with other values such as obedience and loyalty. Such an inquiry can produce further trauma when the justness of the war is called into question. The paper examines moral injury and justice in war, grounding the discussion in concrete examples: the Second World War, the Vietnam War, and the U.S. war in Iraq. It concludes that in a democracy, ordinary citizens should demonstrate solidarity with combatants suffering moral injury, since those combatants serve in wars—even unjust wars—authorized by us and fought in our names.

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