Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Title

Nonviolence: Critiquing Assumptions, Examining Frameworks

First Page


Last Page




Following international humanitarian law, soldiers who are authorized by their states to fight wars of aggression have a legal right to kill enemy soldiers, and (indirectly) even enemy civilians, as long as they respect such jus in bello norms as discrimination and proportionality. I criticize a variety of arguments in support of this “combatant’s privilege” of aggressor soldiers that maintain that these soldiers have a moral right to kill or are not culpable for their wrongful killing. I also contest some arguments in support of the view that even though soldiers executing wars of aggression may be morally liable for their wrongful killing, it is impractical or dangerous to seek to change international law so that they would also be held legally liable. In conclusion, I cautiously articulate some conditions under which combatant’s privilege should not be legally granted and those who fight unjust wars should be prosecuted.


This is a post-print version of the chapter, Questioning Combatant’s Privilege in Unjust Wars, in Nonviolence: Critiquing Assumptions, Examining Frameworks, all rights reserved. Version of record available through:

Brown, M., & Gray Brown, K. (Eds.). (2018). Nonviolence: Critiquing Assumptions, Examining Frameworks. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill | Rodopi. doi: