In this post, Lars Christie discusses his recent article in the Causation in War Symposium in Journal of Applied Philosophy on why causal responsibility is not a requirement for individual liability to defensive harm.
The traditional view in just war theory has been to distinguish sharply between combatants and non-combatants, holding that the latter group is immune from intentional targeting in war, whereas the former can be targeted without further discrimination. A new revisionist position in contemporary just war theory rejects this view and the underlying concept of collective liability on which it rests. According to the revisionist view, whether a person is liable to attack depends solely on their individual moral responsibility for causally contributing to an unjust threat.
A familiar criticism of the revisionist view is that it is too permissive. Since many non-combatants are responsible for individual contributions to the war the revisionist view counterintuitively rules many non-combatants liable to attack. In my article, I present a new and different worry. If causal responsibility is a requirement on individual liability, then many combatants will escape liability to defensive harm, because their actions do not in fact causally contribute to the war. This implication makes the revisionist view too restrictive, or so I argue.