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Accountability for KillingMoral Responsibility for Collateral Damage in America's Post-9/11 Wars$
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Neta Crawford

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199981724

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199981724.001.0001

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Public Conscience and Responsibility for War

Public Conscience and Responsibility for War

Chapter:
(p.431) 8 Public Conscience and Responsibility for War
Source:
Accountability for Killing
Author(s):

Neta C. Crawford

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199981724.003.0009

recalls the perennial disputes about the role and public responsibility for war. At least in democracies, militaries only fight the wars “we” tell them to fight and in broad outlines, only use the weapons we buy for them and, in theory, only follow the strategies that we approve. But that is only in theory. When it is argued that the public has some moral responsibility for undertaking war (jus ad bellum), most observers stop there, leaving the oversight of military conduct in war (jus in bello) to the military and civilian political leadership. But, although the public often exercises little interest in or oversight of war, I argue that their causal, and moral responsibility extends to the conduct of war. When the military fails to adequately protect non-combatants, the political public has moral responsibilities to monitor civilian casualties and to constrain the military. Because it is difficult for the general public to take responsibility for war — to move beyond moral bystander-ship — it is essential to lower the barriers to participation in this most crucial of public policy areas. The chapter offers suggestions for how the public can increase its capacities for moral agency and discusses the public’s duties to U.S. soldiers. Principals (civilian leaders and the public) have the duty to ensure that their agents (soldiers and private security contractors) are not put at undue risk.

Keywords:   democratic public, public moral responsibility, moral bystandership, public moral agency

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