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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 44, Issue 4, October 2018

Adam Thomas Betz
Pages 507-538
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract201891346

Epistemic Authority, Sovereignty, and Selective Conscientious Objection
A Critical Revision of McMahan’s Jus Ad Bellum Court

This paper discusses some of the practical difficulties confronting Jeff McMahan’s proposal of a jus ad bellum court of experts for deciding the justice of war, and recommends two revisions. First, following the earlier proposals of Vitoria, Suarez, and Grotius, leaders could have a say in appointing judges to the ad bellum court; second, the court could be an organ of the International Criminal Court. Though significant practical challenges remain, these revisions make McMahan’s proposal fairer to democratic governments, and give the court a better chance for successful implementation in the prevailing Westphalian system of state sovereignty.