War may very well be a strange domain in which to be examining the morality of it. USMC, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard are fighting in it. They are all decorated for doing it. Yet, we also recognize strong moral differences even in wartime killing. Killing enemies is nothing new. It is more than ever, morally condemnable but it also is as always morally accepted and permissible. What exactly justifies this moral judgement of killing of combatants? Even more non-combatants? There must be a difference between combatants and non-combatants and the difference must make it morally permissible to kill one and not the other.
Robert K. Fullwinder, author of a article called War and Violence begins his article by conmsidering one traditional and influential answer to this question. He says the principle to intentionally kill an innocent is seriously morally wrong . Noncombatants and even enemy noncombatants should not be killed according to Fullwinder.
All combatants in a wartime situation are guilty of creating a war against each others country and only should be the ones that are killed. This is a bit of a stretch because a single combatant does not go against a whole army, a team works together to achieve the effect of an army. Any one non-combatant however, can cause a major war just by even promoting his or her self defense to what is theirs.
Consider the case of Jones and Smith in Fullwinder’s essay. Fullwinder argues that Jones has the major right to self defense to kill Smith because his life was at stake.
Jones can only kill Smith, Fullwinder argues, but not the mobsters that wanted Jones dead if they were unarmed because “the threat to Jones’ life is removed”. Lawrence Alexander, his critic, does not believe this and believes that Jones can take out either, but is smarter taking out the mob.
This same analogy applies to US combatants for say in Guantanomo Bay, Cuba. It is morally permissible for a US soldier to kill a Cuban in self defense. If a riot happened in Cuba with guns and ammunition that threatened US soldiers it is morally permissable to fight back in self defense as well. The American soldiers now in a war time situation are in a immediate threat for their own survival. However if the Cubans are unarmed, for any US soldier to fight would just be provoking a war with non combatants.
Lawrence Alexander replies to Fullwinder in a total paramount thesis in his “Self defense and the killing of Non-Combatants.” In his article he explains the story of Smith and Jones in another light. He basically disagrees with Fullwinder when he says “the threat to Jones’ life is removed.” Alexander says that his hypothethical would not work in the case of an on-going war because of the single analogy of Jones, Smith and mobsters to that of combatants, non-combatants and enemy combatants.
Alexander’s point of Fullwinder’s analogy shows is that in a war time situation, the non-combatants which could be seen as the government among many things will just get killed anyway by combatants to remove any threat each side of combatants has. This is similar to the idea of self defense. Alexander says that Jones also may evoke the principal of self defense towards the noncombatants, the mobsters who are masquardeing this whole environment out to get Jones in the first place. Eliminating the mobsters will also eliminate Smith’s motives for killing Jones.
I believe that in a wartime situation, no one is safe and everyone would most likely be killed if they were a threat to each others country and their prize.