International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 26, Issue 2, Fall 2012

Evan Feinauer, Nir Eisikovits
Pages 165-180

Noncombatant Immunity in Asymmetrical Warfare

The principle of noncombatant immunity (NCI) lies at the heart of jus in bello or the moral rules governing the conduct of war. This paper takes up the status of NCI in asymmetrical wars (AW). The argument proceeds in six parts. In the first we present a skeptical or realist position about the feasibility of NCI in AW. Part two surveys the development of the idea of NCI. Part three provides an account of the logic and dynamics of AW. Part four lays out a set of objections to the realist position. Part five imagines a realist rejoinder. In the final part we examine the moral and political implications of assuming that the realists are right about NCI in AW. We argue that even if they are, this does not imply the realist conclusion that “anything goes” in AW. In fact, we suggest that difficulties upholding NCI in AW may give rise to a special argument for conscientious objection.