Ethics Discussion at PEA Soup: Patrick Tomlin’s “Proportionality in War: Revising Revisionism,” with a critical précis by Gerald Lang

Welcome to what we expect will be a very interesting and productive discussion of Patrick Tomlin‘s “Proportionality in War: Revising Revisionism.” The paper is published in the most recent issue of Ethics, and is available here. Gerald Lang kindly agreed to contribute a critical précis, and it appears immediately below. Please join in the discussion!

Gerald Lang writes:

Patrick Tomlin’s “Proportionality in War: Revising Revisionism” (Ethics, 2020) provides subtle and significant challenges to some revisionist axioms in just war theory. Everyone working in these complex debates will want to read and study this paper. I have learned a great deal from it. However, I do have doubts about some of the moves Patrick makes, and this seems like the place to rehearse them.

  1. Introduction

I start with some stage-setting and basic exposition. Just war theory has two central dimensions: “jus ad bellum”, which is concerned with the morality of going to war, and “jus in bello”, which is concerned with the morality of fighting in war. In traditional or orthodox just war theory, the evaluations of these dimensions are entirely independent from each other: if ad bellum has already condemned country A for going to war against country B, but A goes to war anyway against B, it is still an open question whether A’s combatants fight permissibly or impermissibly at the level of in bello. We will therefore have to budget for the possibility that A’s combatants, who ought not to be fighting in the first place, might nonetheless be fighting permissibly. How can that be? Haven’t A’s combatants already lost the case for participating in this war? True, if you have already cleared the ad bellum bar, there is no guarantee that you will then clear the in bello bar. But it is tempting to think that, if you have already failed the ad bellum test, there is nothing you can do to achieve success under in bello. It is too late for that. 

Revisionist just war theory, spearheaded by the pioneering work of Jeff McMahan, is troubled by such discrepancies. It wishes to bring these dimensions of assessment into productive contact with each other by insisting that the same critical standards must govern both ad bellum verdicts and in bello verdicts. Moreover, these standards, for McMahan, are drawn from ordinary morality. There are no sui generis standards of moral assessment for war. Revisionism is thus usually coterminous with reductionism. Once we commensurate critical standards in this way, drawing in each case on the tenets of ordinary morality, the verdicts on in bello will not risk getting out of alignment with the verdicts of ad bellum, at least at the level of deep morality. 

Patrick provides a more fine-grained analysis of these revisionist critical interventions. On his view, the traditional ad bellum proportionality exercise has a number of functions: (1) it helps to determine whether the resort to war is permissible; (2) it assesses the war as a whole; and (3) it offers a moral assessment. By contrast, traditional in bello proportionality assessment pursues the following tasks: (4) it helps to determine whether acts of war are permissible; (5) it assesses individual acts of war, rather than the war as a whole; and (6) it offers a non-moral assessment (p. 36).

Patrick thinks that, of these various claims, it is (6) in particular which the revisionist literature has targeted. On his view, revisionists wish to replace (6) with the following claim (p. 37):

Revisionist in Bello Proportionality

(6*) is a moral assessment (of the same kind as the ad bellum proportionality assessment). 

Important corollaries of this revisionist programme are these (pp. 39-40):

(7) If every act of war is proportionate, then the war as a whole must be proportionate.

(8) If every act of war is disproportionate, then the war as a whole must be disproportionate.

And the more general versions of these claims—with (7) and (8) counting as more specific instances of them—are these (p. 41):

(7*) If each individual act within a harmful course of action is proportionate, then the course of action must be proportionate.

(8*) If each individual act within a harmful course of action is disproportionate, then the course of action must be disproportionate.

McMahan thinks these claims are obvious, and that their truth is more or less guaranteed when we commensurate standards for evaluating ad bellum questions and in bello questions. If there is just one single set of standards for assessing ad bellum and in bello, then the various verdicts we reach in these sub-domains cannot fail to be mutually consistent.

One of Patrick’s central aims, which takes up the bulk of his paper, is to show how each pair of claims—(7) and (7*), and (8) and (8*)—is actually false. Some of the cases he uses to argue for these conclusions may be on the outlandish side, but the results still have real news value, since most revisionists will be in little doubt that (7) and (8) are true on broadly conceptual grounds.

Patrick appeals to two cases, or two sets of cases. His Bombing Campaign case is deployed mainly against (7), though he also suggests that a variant of it can be deployed against (8). His Faulty Guns case, which exploits the non-identity problem, is deployed mainly against (8), though, once more, he thinks that a variant of it can also be deployed against (7). I will examine these cases in turn. 

  • Bombing Campaign

In Bombing Campaign, A has just cause, and is waging war against B (p. 41). There are 100 bombing raids, and these are disproportionate overall: more people are killed than are saved. In more detail, the relevant figures are these: each of Raids 1 to 90 saves one person, and kills ten people, while each of Raids 91 to 100 saves 90 people, and kills ten people. Overall, the bombing campaign kills 1,000 people, and saves only 990 people. Hence, it is disproportionate. For handy reference, I will call any one of the raids in the range between Raid 1 and Raid 90 a “bad” raid, and any one of the raids in the range between Raid 91 and Raid 100 a “good” raid. Bombing Campaign contains 90 bad raids and ten good raids. 

Bombing Campaign is pressed into service to challenge (7). Patrick regards each of these raids—from Raid 1 to Raid 100—as proportionate, even though the campaign as a whole is disproportionate. Now why should that be? An obvious first take on this issue is that, at least in fact-relative terms, the good raids between Raids 91 to 100 have a decent chance of clearing the proportionality bar, whereas the bad raids between Raids 1 to 90 look more problematic, given their poor net returns. At the very least, Raids 91 to 100 must have a better chance of qualifying as individually proportionate than Raids 1 and 90. Now in other domains, it can be difficult to disentangle individual contribution from total production or aggregate activity, and this can cause difficulties in the determination of individual entitlement or liability. But these problems do not obviously affect Bombing Campaign, because Patrick has already specified the contribution of each bombing raid in numerically precise terms. Bomber 45, for example, killed ten people, and saved only one person. Delete Raid 45 from the sequence, and there would be ten fewer killings and one saved person less. We leave everything else in place. Isn’t that all we need to know? Apparently not. 

Patrick suggests instead that, even in fact-relative terms, each of these raids is proportionate, though the course of action that they together constitute is disproportionate. The crucial issue here is how to interpret the counterfactual involved in the proportionality assessment of any one of these raids. Patrick reminds us that “to assess the proportionality of some harmful act, the relevant comparison is with a world in which the act does not occur” (p. 42). However, the world with which Bomber 45’s raid should be compared is not the world in which none of these raids takes place. The counterfactual measure must include acts performed by others, and the only plausible counterfactual is the completely filled-in world in which the other 99 raids are carried out. So a better way of determining whether Raid 45 is proportionate or disproportionate, drawing on the correct counterfactual, goes like this:  

When we remove one act from a sequence of acts like this, no matter which act we remove, we remove the good done by the final act. This is because if Bomber 45 had not flown, Bomber 46 would simply have become Bomber 45, Bomber 47 would have become Bomber 46, and so on, until Bomber 100 became Bomber 99. So, if Bomber 45 had not flown, 90 fewer people would have been saved. (pp. 43-4)

I will call the sequence of raids including Bomber 45 the “original sequence”, and the counterfactual sequence of raids excluding Bomber 45 the “revised sequence”. In the original sequence, there are 90 bad raids and ten good raids. In the revised sequence, there are 90 bad raids and only nine good raids. It is this adjustment between the original sequence and the revised sequence, and the resulting loss of one good raid in the revised sequence, that certifies each raid in the original sequence as proportionate. 

Why does Patrick assume that there is a decline in the number of good raids in the revised sequence? These are independent raids, and this fact should matter to the interpretation of the counterfactual. It is not as though Bomber 91, in the original sequence, is more successful because there are 90 bad raids behind him. There was no fixed quota of bad raids to be satisfied before we had the right to expect some good raids. An alternative (and admittedly simple-minded) strategy, as before, is to hold everything else in place when we test each raid for the difference it made to the overall outcome. We know the numbers for the other raids already. With Bomber 45 in the sequence, there are 90 bad raids, and ten good raids. But Bomber 45’s raid was a bad raid. Thus, in the revised sequence, there are 89 bad raids, and ten good raids. What is wrong with this suggestion? Why not embrace this interpretation of the counterfactual?

One possible problem is that this interpretation may not be enough to secure the proportionality of any of these raids, even Raids 91 to 100. We have the numbers, but we may not have proportionality. Perhaps, because the bombing campaign failed overall, none of these raids can count as proportionate. That is an undismissable possibility, and I will revisit it in §4. But nor do I see compelling reasons for adopting Patrick’s view that each of the raids is proportionate.  

Patrick devises another case, focused on the non-identity problem, for testing (8). Before he gets to that part of his discussion, however—see §3, below—he briefly outlines another variant of Bombing Campaign that is intended to put pressure on (8). In Bombing Campaign 2, as I will refer to it, we have a series of raids—100 as before—which is proportionate as a whole, but where each raid is now supposed to be disproportionate (p. 46).

Bombing Campaign 2 is, in effect, an inverted variant of Bombing Campaign. Getting Patrick’s reasoning clear here may help to shed light on what he thought he was getting out of the original version of Bombing Campaign, as well as helping us to determine the strength of this initial objection to (8).

The Bombing Campaign 2 schedule unfold as follows. Each of Raids 1 to 90 saves 1,000 people, and kills ten people. Those impressive returns dry up in Raids 91 to 100: each of these further raids kills ten people, and saves only one person. 90,010 lives are saved overall, whereas 1,000 lives are lost. The large gap between the lives saved and the lives ended makes this bombing campaign comfortably proportionate overall. However, each of the raids belonging to Bombing Campaign 2 is disproportionate. Why so? This is Patrick has to say: “each individual bombing raid is disproportionate, since if that bomber had not flown, then the bomber would not have killed ten people, and only one fewer person would have been saved” (p. 46). Take Bomber 1, whose raid saves 1,000 people and kills ten people. If we delete this raid from the original sequence, then Bomber 1’s place will be taken by Bomber 2 in the revised sequence. There will be corresponding adjustments all the way up the scale. Patrick’s assumption must be that, in the revised sequence of Bombing Campaign 2, there are only 89 good raids and ten bad raids.

This reasoning leaves me unconvinced. Take, as before, Bomber 45. In Bombing Campaign 2, Raid 45 is a good raid: it is pulling its weight, not dragging down the average. In the original sequence, Bomber 45 kills ten people and saves 1,000 people. If we tackle the counterfactual in the manner suggested by Patrick’s commentary on Bombing Campaign, then we should expect Bomber 46 to take Bomber 45’s place, Bomber 47 to take Bomber 46’s place, and so on. But this is heading towards a result that will fail to uphold Patrick’s belief that Bombing Campaign 2 challenges (8). This is because, at a later point in the revised sequence, Bomber 91 takes Bomber 90’s place. In the original sequence, Bomber 90 kills ten people and saves 1,000 people, and Bomber 91 kills ten people and saves only one person. In the revised sequence, Bomber 91 kills ten people and saves 1,000 people, while Bomber 92 now fills Bomber 91’s shoes, and so all the way up to Bomber 100, who now fills Bomber 99’s shoes. In the revised sequence, in effect, there is no Bomber 100. That is just as well, since Bomber 100 in the original sequence kills ten people and saves only one person.

In summary: in the revised sequence, Raid 91 is a good raid, rather than a bad raid. Thus, in the original sequence, there are 90 good raids and ten bad raids, and in the revised sequence, there are 90 good raids and only nine bad raids. The significance of Bomber 45’s absence from the revised sequence is that there is one fewer raid in which ten people are killed and only one person is saved. Bomber 45 has therefore saved a net total of nine lives in the revised sequence. Even by the logic of the counterfactual test that Patrick is relying upon—a test which, for reasons explained earlier on, we are entitled to quarrel with—Bomber 45’s raid in Bombing Campaign 2 is not disproportionate. In my view, therefore, Bombing Campaign 2 fails to demonstrate what Patrick thinks it does.

  • Non-Identity and Faulty Guns

Most of the critical firepower against claims (8) is generated by a case that reflect the concerns of the non-identity problem. Two ingredients are baked into the Tomlin recipe.

First, there is the following normative claim:

Difference View: there is a moral difference between acts that lead to impersonal loss (which make things worse from the point of view of general welfare, but not worse for any particular person), and acts that make things worse for a particular person. All else equal, and in cases in which all lives are worth living, impersonal loss is not as bad as persons being made worse off. (p. 48)

We need a little more commentary on the Difference View, in order to tackle some understandable questions. The impersonal loss of life is always associated with particular lives, so won’t these supposedly impersonal losses be worse for these particular people? How can impersonal loss and particular losses drift apart in this way?

The broad answer will be familiar from cases exemplifying the non-identity problem, which Derek Parfit discussed in detail in Part IV of Reasons and Persons. Imagine that there is a large-scale policy of environmental depletion (call it Depletion), which sacrifices the interests of future generations for current comforts. The fact that future generations will be worse off than they would otherwise be had different policies been adopted can be registered perfectly well within the rubric of impersonal loss. However, Depletion is also likely to affect which particular individuals are born in the future, since it will influence who goes where, who meets whom, and when they reproduce. Thus the identity of future individuals is, in this sense, a product of the same policy that makes them all poorer. If these individuals still have lives that are worth living, and they would not have existed at all but for the existence of Depletion, then their losses are merely impersonal: these losses are not worse for these individuals, since but for Depletion they would not have existed in the first place.   

The second ingredient in the Tomlin recipe is the particular case that exploits the non-identity problem. In Faulty Guns, A attacks B with just cause (p. 49). This war is fought, unusually, only with grenade launchers, which are also beset by a strange malfunction: for every grenade launched, a second grenade is also launched that does not explode immediately, but falls on to the battlefield, where it is buried. If, after the war, a child from country B steps on one of these buried grenades, he or she will be killed. It is assumed that 1,000 children from country B will step on them over the next twenty years, and will die as a result. However, these children would not have existed at all but for the socially disruptive effects of the war, and they have had lives worth living up to the moment of their premature deaths. 

Patrick believes that ad bellum proportionality calculations can address only the impersonal losses caused by these second grenades, whereas in bello proportionality calculations can register the fact that these grenades make existing children worse off (by killing them). If we have agreed with the Difference View, we will have to accept there is a part of the moral budget that now affects in bello calculations, but not ad bellum calculations. This makes it possible for a misalignment between in bello and ad bellum to open up: at the level of in bello, every act can be disproportionate, because it kills and thus harms an existing individual, but the disproportionateness of each of these acts might nonetheless be consistent with ad bellum proportionality. In effect, ad bellum proportionality applies a discount to these losses, because it can regard them only in terms of impersonal badness, not as person-affecting harms. 

Patrick’s toy case helps us to see how the reasoning is supposed to go (p. 51). Imagine that there are two actions, Action A and Action B: 

Action A creates Person 1 and later injures Person 2.

Action B creates Person 2 and later injures Person 1.

Note that the “course of action” is simply the combination of Action A and Action B. There is no disconnection between the course of action and the individual actions that compose it (p. 50). Each of these individual actions, however, exemplifies a different sort of disconnection: Action A injures Person 2 but it did not create him, and Action B injures Person 1, but it did not create her. When we assess each of these individual actions, we can entirely ignore the non-identity effects. We can appraise Action A not just for the impersonal disvalue of Person 2’s injury, but also for making Person 2 worse off. Similarly, we can appraise Action B not just for the impersonal disvalue of Person 1’s injury, but also for making Person 1 worse off.

The assessment belonging to the “course of action”, by contrast, must include these identity-affecting factors: the course of action (Action A together with Action B) both creates and injures Person 1 and Person 2. The course of action can register the impersonal disvalue of the injuries suffered by Person 1 and Person 2, but it cannot say, in all honesty, that it has made them worse off. This, then, is the route to the disconnection between ad bellum and in bello proportionality assessment: the extra badness that is registered in the individual actions belonging to in bello assessment has to be ignored in the ad bellum assessment, which is concerned only with the course of action. 

One possible concern with this argument is that Patrick may have under-counted the moral significance of individual actions. In his toy example, Action A makes Person 2 worse off, but it also creates Person 1. Why doesn’t the fact that Action A creates Person 1 make a difference to the assessment of Action A? If it does make a difference, then the person-affecting badness of the injury it deals to Person 2 is offset, at least to some extent, by the person-creating value it has for Person 1. After all, the course of action, construed as simply the combination of Action A and Action B, is entitled to represent this information in its summary of the total effects of Action A and Action B. And Patrick is not in a position to deny that this part of the evaluative inventory arising from the course of action is due to Action A in particular. Exactly the same story holds for Action B, which injures Person 1 and also creates Person 2. Since the course of action as a whole can register the fact that it has created Person 2, and since Action B created Person 2, that person-creating fact can belong to the assessment of Action B.

Patrick seems keen to emphasize that there is no funny business going on in the relationship between the course of action as a whole and the individual actions that compose it: one of its constituent actions must have originally supplied whatever can be attributed to the course of action. But if that is so, then what stops us from importing the information represented in the course of action into our appraisal of the constituent actions?

Now perhaps Patrick wishes to deny that creating an individual can be good for her, on the grounds that, if this individual were not created, then there would be no one for whom being brought into existence was better. Some writers have maintained, in response to this worry, that it can be good for an individual, even if it is not better for her, to be brought into existence. There are of course different things to say about these issues. My main worry, however, is that what we attribute to the course of action is going to be obtained, when all is said and done, from the individual constituent actions. If there is information that belongs to the course of action, then it is likely to have a source in one of the constituent individual actions. I fail to see why the moral book-keeping Patrick endorses here can afford to overlook this truth. The corresponding readjustment may then make Faulty Guns a less convincing vehicle for his challenge to (8).

A variant of Faulty Guns is used to point to analogous problems for (7). Similar problems arise on this front, but I need not labour them here.

  • Revising Revisionism

In the final pages of his paper, and under the assumption that (7), (7*), (8), and (8*) are all untenable, Patrick takes stock and reviews some options for revising revisionism. Now I am less confident that Patrick’s arguments against these claims have succeeded. Even so, there are various loose ends to worry about. It is not so clear how ad bellum and in bello proportionality concerns can be fully commensurated.

One revisionist option is simply to concede that (7) and (8) are false, leave as much of everything else in place as possible, and try to tough things out. Patrick thinks that this option is intolerable, because it will lead in some circumstances to a “bizarre standoff between states and their soldiers” (p. 55). An example near to hand is Bombing Campaign 2, in which state A is permitted to order its combatants to fight, because the war as a whole will be proportionate, but in which A’s combatants are required to refuse to fight, because their individual acts will be disproportionate. I agree with Patrick that, if there were cases embodying these discrepancies between every individual action and the course of action—I have, of course, expressed misgivings about his arguments—this standoff would be hard to stomach. 

Another broad strategy is to allow either ad bellum or in bello to assume a dominant place in revisionism’s account of the relationship between these dimensions, and to make the other dimension a derivative or junior partner. Here is one possibility (p. 56):

Revisionist ad Bellum Proportionality: a war is ad bellum disproportionate if and only if the acts of war are, taken collectively, sufficiently in bello disproportionate.

This “master principle” establishes the dominance of in bello questions over ad bellum questions: we extract an ad bellum verdict from the in bello verdict. The principle implies that a collection of actions, each of which is disproportionate, will necessarily enforce a verdict of ad bellum disproportionateness. However, as Patrick sees things, this will not tackle the challenge posed by Bombing Campaign. (Again, I have expressed my doubts about Bombing Campaign.) 

Another candidate for the master principle reverses the direction of dominance. This time, ad bellum is in charge (p. 56):

Revisionist in Bello Proportionality I: an act of war is in bello proportionate if and only if it contributes to an ad bellum proportionate war.

This principle requires the abandonment of (6*), which has been, supposedly, the centrepiece of revisionist theorizing. But the principle seems unsatisfactory in any case, because it is too slack: as long as a war satisfied ad bellum, we would be unable to condemn any individual action as disproportionate. We need more hands-on regulation than that. To this end, here is a revised version of this master principle (p. 57):

Revisionist in Bello Proportionality II: an act of war is in bello proportionate if and only if it makes a proportionate contribution to an ad bellum proportionate war.

While avoiding the errors of Revisionist in Bello Proportionality I, this principle now needs a way of filling out what a “proportionate contribution” is going to be. Moreover, a satisfactory specification of this further condition will no longer be settled by ad bellum. 

There are problems, then, wherever you look. Patrick’s final revisionist suggestion is a complex one, with independent provision for both ad bellum considerations and in bello considerations (pp. 59-60). It also requires the revisionist programme to distinguish between assessment of the war “as a whole”, and assessment of the strength of the case for the resort to war, or (1) and (2) in the list above (p. 58). It therefore seems to me to lean in spirit a bit more towards Revisionist ad Bellum Proportionality than one of the Revisionist in Bello Proportionality principles. There are two proportionality principles that have to be balanced in an overall determination of proportionality:

One looks at the harms and goods produced by the “war as a whole.” The other looks at the amalgamated unjustifiability (including the disproportionality) of the individual acts of war. (p. 59)

In some cases, such as Unruly Army (p. 59), in which the “war as a whole” proportionality assessment might favour war, but in which many individually disproportionate acts by ill-disciplined combatants are expected to take place, this second “amalgamated unjustifiability” proportionality condition might make the war impermissible, because disproportionate overall. It thus counts as a highly revisionary form of revisionism. 

Now State Official in Unruly Army has the choice whether to authorize its combatants to action. But she surely does not permit them to perform impermissible acts of war. I feel the pull here of a theory which requires independent restrictions on proportionate in bello contribution, just as Revisionist in Bello Proportionality II suggests. At the same time, the proportionality of war as a whole casts a long shadow. Go back to Bombing Campaign, and to Bomber 45. Bomber 45’s raid is part of a series of raids that were together chasing a certain target. The fate of each raid, as far as the proportionality verdict goes, may be dependent on the outcomes achieved by the bombing campaign as a whole. We can say with confidence, just by looking at the individual contributions, that Bomber 95 makes a better contribution than Bomber 45. (That is what entitled me to describe Bomber 95’s raid as a “good” raid and Bomber 45’s raid as a “bad” raid.) Nonetheless, there is a sense in which individual contributions to war still have to be assessed derivatively, in terms of what they together achieve. Bomber 95’s raid is not fully satisfactory, and may not even qualify as individually proportionate, because it was part of a series of raids that cumulatively failed to produce an outcome where the benefits exceeded the costs. If this is so, the proportionality of the war as a whole cannot fail to have a bearing on the proportionality of individual contribution. The significance of what Bomber 45 and Bomber 95 do individually cannot be fixed in the absence of an understanding of what they do together. But it also seems to me that individual proportionality is not fully settled by these ad bellum questions. It may be necessary for being individually proportionate that a raid belongs to a campaign that is proportionate overall, but it is also insufficient. Full commensurability between ad bellum and in bello thus seems difficult to achieve. 

It is far from clear that what needs to be provided for in order to respect proportionality can be successfully contained within a single proportionality principle. I suspect that non-revisionists, as well as revisionists, may be following these developments with interest: perhaps, just as they always supposed, there is no satisfactory way of fully commensurating ad bellum and in bello. They each go their own way. 

32 Replies to “Ethics Discussion at PEA Soup: Patrick Tomlin’s “Proportionality in War: Revising Revisionism,” with a critical précis by Gerald Lang

  1. Hi All.

    First, I am very grateful to PEA Soup for hosting this discussion. I’m very honoured to have my work discussed here, and I am sure it will be very helpful to me. As I think will become clear, I am still thinking about these issues, and still developing my ideas.

    Second, I am really grateful to Gerald for kicking things off in such a characteristically charitable, clear, and challenging fashion.

    I’ll post a few comments here to begin with. This first one is just on the background to the paper.

    Gerald summarizes the background very succinctly. I wish I had asked him to write the intro to the paper, frankly. I will take issue with only one minor points.

    Gerald says I use two sets of cases to establish this: my bombing raid/chain of action style cases; and my non-identity cases. I actually use three sets of cases, as I also use cases where acts of war avert threats caused by the declaration of war itself (Section IV).

    For example, this case:
    Preemptive Strike : Country A has a just cause for war against Country B, but the means at Country A’s disposal mean that the harms caused by the war will be disproportionate to the achievement of its just cause. If Country A declares war, Country B will preemptively strike against Country C. The means at Country A’s disposal are proportionate to the just causes of Countries A and C combined.
    I say this about this case: ‘If Country A wages war, each act of war can be measured against its contri- bution toward defeating the unjust threats to both Countries A and C. Imagine that each act of war will be proportionate on this measure. But Country C will be under threat only because Country A chose to wage war. Country A therefore cannot appeal to saving Country C in deciding whether it will be proportionate to go to war.’
    Section IV where I discuss this case is very short, and the case is less novel (and less complex!) than the others. So in that sense, Gerald is right that I don’t seem to lean on this kind of case as much.
    However, I thought it worth mentioning here because my strategy for showing that revisionism and claims (7) and (8) come apart is not a cumulative one. I don’t mean for each type of case to ‘add weight’ to the case. Rather, provided one accepts my analysis of any one type of case, this is, on its own, sufficient to reject the combination of revisionist proportionality and (7)/(8). So, although I don’t describe these cases in much detail, they’re an important part of the paper.

    In terms of organising my own thoughts, I think there are three places we can press on the paper, because I basically make three claims:
    (A) The revisionist view, as it stands (or at least a natural/plausible interpretation of it), is incompatible with (7) / (8)
    (B) This isn’t satisfactory, and so the revisionist view must be revised
    (C) It should be revised in a particular way, making cumulative in bello disproportionality relevant to whether or not we should go to war.

    At least on finishing the paper, I was most confident in (A) and least confident in (C). I’m already not so sure about that, so let’s see where the discussion takes us.

  2. Bombing Campaign

    Let’s first look at Gerald’s objections to (A). Gerald is right to observe that the trouble made by the Bombing Campaign example comes from an understanding of in bello proportionality that:
    (a) Uses the same moralized metric as the ad bellum calculation, and
    (b) Uses a counter-factual baseline to establish whether an act of war is proportionate.
    It is because of (a) that McMahan assumes that the proportionality calculations will ‘line up’ (such that if all the in bello acts are proportionate, the war will be proportionate). Any change to this metric will mean that we won’t the calculations won’t automatically line up.
    This invites us to look at the counter-factual baseline. Gerald, I think, at points seems to take aim at the way I look at the counter-factual, but I think the issue here is simply that I haven’t adequately described the case.

    Here’s the key point from Gerald:
    ‘I will call the sequence of raids including Bomber 45 the “original sequence”, and the counterfactual sequence of raids excluding Bomber 45 the “revised sequence”. In the original sequence, there are 90 bad raids and ten good raids. In the revised sequence, there are 90 bad raids and only nine good raids. It is this adjustment between the original sequence and the revised sequence, and the resulting loss of one good raid in the revised sequence, that certifies each raid in the original sequence as proportionate.

    Why does Patrick assume that there is a decline in the number of good raids in the revised sequence? These are independent raids, and this fact should matter to the interpretation of the counterfactual. It is not as though Bomber 91, in the original sequence, is more successful because there are 90 bad raids behind him. There was no fixed quota of bad raids to be satisfied before we had the right to expect some good raids.’

    But I meant for the case to be one in which the later acts were so successful *because of* the number of previous acts. I said this in setting up the case: ‘The first kind of case I will focus on are ones in which later acts in a course of action have very different effects from earlier ones, in terms of the amount of good or harm that they do, but where how much good or harm they do *depends on the number of other harmful acts performed.*
    In the case, I stipulated that: ‘Any bombing raids after the ninetieth save many more lives, per raid, than the first ninety.’

    However, I accept that I could and should have made this element of the case-design much clearer.
    Once, this is clear I think my point goes through. For in removing their ‘bad act’ Bomber 45 changes the character of other acts, meaning that one fewer good act is produced.

    Now, as Gerald observes at the outset, some of my cases are on the ‘outlandish side’. I don’t mind this. Since McMahan appears to accept that (7) and (8) will follow conceptually from the change from (6) to (6*), it seems appropriate to use cases that test this conceptual link, even if they are outlandish. However, while the cases are outlandish, they are not a million miles away from things that really happen, or could happen, in a war.

    However, before I get to the kind of war cases which might resemble, in some respects, Bombing Campaign, let me draw an analogy. Imagine we are hammering a nail into a wall. The front surface of the wall is very hard, and behind it is a softer material. To begin with, each hammer blow moves the nail very slightly, and is, in that sense, not very effective. Let’s say it takes us 90 hammer blows to get through this tough outer layer. Once we get through that layer, each hammer blow will become extremely effective, since we’ll be into the softer layer.

    Now, imagine 100 of us are hammering the nail in together, taking it in turns. (I know! I also miss the days of taking it in turns to hammer in a nail with your friends! Maybe we’ll get back there soon!) Imagine Gerald is somewhere in the middle, and I am going to strike the last 10, which will all be very effective. If Gerald doesn’t take his turn, my first blow, instead of being the 91st, will be the 90th, and will be one of the ineffective ones. I will have 1 bad blow and 9 good ones. So while Gerald’s blow is an ineffective one, taken in isolation, if he removes it from the chain of conduct, the effect is to remove a good blow. So, in some ways, Gerald’s blow is a good one.

    This is the sort of case I had in mind.

    Is it realistic, as a picture of war? Well, with that level of uniformity between the ‘bad acts’ and the ‘good acts’, probably, yes. But consider this case: Country A has invaded Countries B and C. It treats the population of Country B very well, and Country B’s population is divided on whether to accept the legitimacy of Country A’s rule. Country A, however, is killing people in Country C. Imagine that in order to remove Country A from Country C, we must go through Country B. The killings (of soldiers and civilians) in Country B are not very effective – they do not save many lives, for removing Country A from Country B does not save many lives. Country B is like the hard outer wall.
    But once we get to Country C, our acts of killing do a lot of good – they save many lives. Let’s say it took 1000 soldiers fighting to get through, and hold, Country B. Now, imagine, overall the war is not proportionate, because there was so much death, and so little good, done in Country B. Each of the soldiers who fought in Country B can point out that had they not fought in Country B, one more soldier would have been needed in Country B, and so one fewer soldier would have been available to do all that good in Country C. So, if you remove them from the war (and leave all else as-is) their participating in the war is proportionate.

    ***
    I found Gerald’s discussion on my second Bombing Campaign case a bit confusing. As a reminder, this is a case with a lot of good acts, early on, and later bad acts. My claim is that since each good act allows a later bad act to be done, then each is disproportionate. If you remove their seemingly good act, you actually just remove a bad act.
    Gerald says:
    ‘In summary: in the revised sequence, Raid 91 is a good raid, rather than a bad raid. Thus, in the original sequence, there are 90 good raids and ten bad raids, and in the revised sequence, there are 90 good raids and only nine bad raids. The significance of Bomber 45’s absence from the revised sequence is that there is one fewer raid in which ten people are killed and only one person is saved. Bomber 45 has therefore saved a net total of nine lives in the revised sequence. Even by the logic of the counterfactual test that Patrick is relying upon—a test which, for reasons explained earlier on, we are entitled to quarrel with—Bomber 45’s raid in Bombing Campaign 2 is not disproportionate. In my view, therefore, Bombing Campaign 2 fails to demonstrate what Patrick thinks it does.’

    I agree with all of this, except Gerald’s claim that Bomber 45’s raid is not disproportionate. As Gerald says, ‘The significance of Bomber 45’s absence from the revised sequence is that there is one fewer raid in which ten people are killed and only one person is saved. Bomber 45 has therefore saved a net total of nine lives in the revised sequence.’ This is correct, but this is the effect of Bomber 45 *not* flying. The consequence of Bomber 45 flying, then, is to ensure that 10 more people are killed and one fewer person is saved. It is on this basis that I claimed Bomber 45’s flight was disproportionate in the second Bombing Campaign case.

  3. Finally, in this comment I’ll comment on the non-ID cases and on where we go from here…

    Non-Identity Cases.
    I am very interested by this passage in Gerald’s comments:
    ‘One possible concern with this argument is that Patrick may have under-counted the moral significance of individual actions. In his toy example, Action A makes Person 2 worse off, but it also creates Person 1. Why doesn’t the fact that Action A creates Person 1 make a difference to the assessment of Action A? If it does make a difference, then the person-affecting badness of the injury it deals to Person 2 is offset, at least to some extent, by the person-creating value it has for Person 1. After all, the course of action, construed as simply the combination of Action A and Action B, is entitled to represent this information in its summary of the total effects of Action A and Action B.’
    So, first, a clarification (or maybe an amendment) to the toy case. Imagine that Action A creates a person, but the absence of Action A would create a different person.
    So, doing A causes Person 1a to exist, while not doing A would cause Person 1b to exist. Therefore, doing A or not-A has no impersonal benefit in terms of creating additional lives. Gerald says, however, that we may want to consider the (controversial) idea that creating someone can be a personal benefit *to them*.
    I have a couple of things to say about this. One is that we cannot assume that by adding in this personal benefit to the individual acts, we can keep the moral calculation between the acts and course of action in balance. For now, we have two people who have been benefited by both the course of action and the individual acts. But from the course of action perspective, nobody has been harmed, while two people have been harmed by the individual acts. The benefits of the course of action and the amalgamated individual acts are the same. But the downsides look different (if we accept the difference view) – impersonal loss compared with harm. Thus, even if these benefits should have been taken into account, it is not clear that it would change my conclusion that the proportionality judgments can come apart.
    Second, even if creating Person 1a will be of benefit to Person 1a, creating Person 1b would be, we can assume, be equally valuable to Person 1b. So from counter-factual perspective, we do not need to add the personal value of being created into the mix, for Action A has no advantage over not-A from this point of view.
    ***
    Taking Stock/The Road Ahead
    Like me, Gerald seems unhappy with a war in which each and every act is proportionate, but the war overall is disproportionate. (Claim B).
    Gerald seems tempted to give the ad bellum calculation master status:
    ‘the proportionality of the war as a whole cannot fail to have a bearing on the proportionality of individual contribution. The significance of what Bomber 45 and Bomber 95 do individually cannot be fixed in the absence of an understanding of what they do together. But it also seems to me that individual proportionality is not fully settled by these ad bellum questions. It may be necessary for being individually proportionate that a raid belongs to a campaign that is proportionate overall, but it is also insufficient.’
    The problem with making a contribution to proportionate contribution to war necessary for in bello proportionality is that, as Saba Bazargan-Forward and Victor Tadros have persuasively argued, it does seem that permissible (and thus proportionate) contributions can be made to disproportionate, or even flat out unjust, wars.
    I increasingly wonder, however, whether there is more than one way to make a proportionate contribution. It may be that looking for the necessary conditions for proportionality is a mistake. Perhaps we should be looking for sub-species of proportionality.
    I’m really grateful to Gerald for starting off what I hope will be a fascinating discussion. This was a difficult paper to write, so I imagine it must be a hard paper to read/comment on. The issues are not simple or easy, but they are, I think, important.

  4. Like Patrick, I think that your discussion of the bomber cases isn’t quite right. There are just two variations on the serial bomber case. In one, the earlier raids don’t affect the quality of the later raids. And in that case, it cannot be true that each act is good, but the total is bad, or vice versa. But where the quality of the later raids is affected by whether the earlier raids occur, this need not be true.

    I actually think that Patrick’s case is really a version of an overdetermination or pre-emption case, and we know that in such cases, each act can be good, but the total bad, or vice versa.

    Here’s a quick version of an overdetermination case from my Ends of Harm: X and Y each poison Victim. The poison of each is sufficient to kill Victim. But Victim’s death will be horrible with the poison of only one person, where it will be painless if both poison.

    X’s act is good, given Y’s act – it’s like pain relief. The same thing is true of Y’s act. Yet, obviously, X and Y’s acts are together bad.

    Patrick’s case is a version of the same idea, but it is a bit more complex so it’s a bit harder to see. Suppose that there are three raids done by three pilots, X, Y and Z. The first two raids are needed to crack a giant shell, which the third raid will crack. The first two raids will kill 1000 people each. The third raid will shatter the shell, releasing one person who is trapped underneath and kill no one. Obviously, it is disproportionate to kill 2000 to save 1. Suppose that none of the pilots can influence the other pilots – all have been ordered to fly because the political leaders care about the 1, but not at all about the 2000 who will be killed, as they are enemy civilians. Each will follow orders and will fly whatever the others do. If X flies, 2000 are killed and 1 is saved. If X does not fly, 2000 are killed but no one is saved, because the shell is only cracked. Just thinking about the good and the harm, X should fly. But this is also true of Y and Z. This is because X’s act of killing 1000 pre-empts Y killing those 1000, and Y killing her 1000 pre-empts Z killing that 1000. X cannot influence whether the 2000 are killed; only whether the 1000 are saved. And that is also true of Y, holding constant the other acts. Z should also fly as Z will save a person without killing anyone. But the acts of the pre-emptors, as in Poisoned Pipe, also give rise to a good – they are causally necessary for the saving of the 1. Thus, X and Y have the choice of either killing people who are doomed to die whatever they do and doing something that is necessary to save a person, and will do so; or allowing those who are doomed to die to die, ensuring that the one is not saved. Each is thus proportionate – it only kills those doomed to die anyway whilst saving a person. Yet the total is obviously disproportionate.

  5. Super interesting paper, Patrick. A first question I have is, towards the end of the paper, you say that we need two independent proportionality principles: one which looks at the harms and benefits produced by the war as a whole, and one which looks at the ‘amalgamated unjustifiability (including the disproportionality) of the individual acts of war’ (59). And you say you think this has independent plausibility from looking at Unruly Army, where the army will cause unnecessary suffering, yet the war still has a just cause and will be delivered at proportionate cost. You say that according to proportionality as we currently find it, the official is permitted to wage the war. Yet, you say, ‘that the State Official will cause so much wrongdoing, so much unjustifiable harm, is a reason not to send her soldiers to war” (59). But I am puzzled why you think proportionality as we currently find it wouldn’t also recognise this. When thinking about whether the war is ad bellum proportionate, we compare the closest world in which we wage the war with the closest world in which we don’t wage the war—and if, in the closest world in which we wage the war, the soldiers will act in bello unjustifiably, that figures on the bads side of the scales…it’s a reason against waging the war.

    A bit lower down you say, if the war is only just ad bellum proportionate, ‘the
    fact that the acts of war would cause so much unnecessary and disproportionate
    suffering would be enough to make the war impermissible’. But I think this is the result we’d arrive at given how we usually think of proportionality. What we would say here is that the war *would be* ad bellum proportionate, were the soldiers to fight in bello permissibly; but since they won’t fight that way, the war will in fact cause too much bad when weighed against the good we will do. This is similar to how a war might be ad bellum disproportionate, because our soldiers aren’t good enough shots, but would be ad bellum proportionate were our soldiers better shots.

  6. Thanks to Patrick and Victor for their helpful comments. Lots to think about here. (I’m still thinking about them.) But let me just say a couple of things about Bombing Campaign in the meantime.

    So, with the hammer case (which is surely begging to be called ‘Hammer Time’) as a nice way of explaining the structure of Bombing Campaign, we are entitled to say that the raids of Bombers 1 to 90 in Bombing Campaign (the tough layer) pave the way for more impressive returns from Bombers 91 to 100 (the softer layer). The raids are interdependent—90 bad raids are required for 10 good raids—and this, in turn, permits Patrick to interpret the counterfactual in the way he suggests.

    Or does it? Two points.

    (a) If we are using the interdependence of these raids to guide the interpretation of the counterfactual condition, then I think it is very tempting to use the disproportionality of the campaign as a whole to enforce a verdict of individual disproportionality on each of the raids: collective failure suffices for a verdict of individual failure. At the end of the day, Bombers 91 to 100 just couldn’t turn the campaign around, and Bombers 1 to 90 were already wholly dependent on what those later raids delivered. So none of these raids are proportionate, though of course they didn’t all turn out the same. I don’t see why this interpretation has been ruled out.

    (b) We are trying to work out the significance of each raid at a time. Patrick’s preferred interpretation makes each raid a success story: it saves 90 people. Each of them, that is, saves 90 when considered in isolation from each of the others. So Bomber 1 saves 90, Bomber 2 saves 90,… and so on. Each of them is a gigantic success story, but all of them taken together are anything but a gigantic success story. Isn’t this a problem for the interpretation? Shouldn’t we have an interpretation of the counterfactual that yields reliable aggregation across the raids? If not, why not?

  7. Hi Gerald,

    In response to a), what is one of the earlier bombers to do? Take bomber 1. If she does nothing, one of the later good bombers will become a bad bomber, so the harm that bomber 1 would have caused will be caused by the good bomber anyway. And the later good won’t occur. So bomber 1 should bomb. It’s hard to see how bomber 1’s act could be disproportionate when her act makes no difference to the evil that occurs, but does make a difference to the amount of good done.

    But here is a question for Patrick. My interpretation of my own Poisoned Pipe is that if both parties are well disposed and intentioned, and have full knowledge of the dispositions and intentions of the other, there cannot be a case where both parties justifiably poison. That’s because each party would refrain from poisoning, knowing that the other, well disposed person, will also refrain. And then the poisoning won’t occur. The case only works if one or both of the parties are badly disposed or intentioned. Is the same thing true of the bomber case? If it is, isn’t it true that although all the bombers may have acted FR justifiably, in that their acts could have been justified given the facts, they could not all have been FR justified? The contrast that I have in mind here is that between there being facts capable of justifying an act, irrespective of whether those facts motivated the agent (justifiable) and the person acting in appropriately in response to facts that make the act justifiable (justified). I haven’t time to re-read your paper just now Patrick, and can’t remember whether you discuss this. If that is right, it suggests that the case does not show that there can be cases where all of the acts are proportionate, the set of acts is disproportionate, and also each of the acts is justified by its being proportionate.

  8. Hi Both.

    Thanks for these comments. A few thoughts.

    First, is the case a version of an over-determination case? I’m not sure that it is. In Poison Pipe, the person will be harmed no matter X does (on the assumption that Y poisons). This is what makes the harm over-determined. In my case, there needn’t be any such person who will be harmed no matter what. Imagine each Bomber must bomb a house in a street, numbered 1-100. But, as before raids 91-100 will produce a lot of good, but 1-90 not much at all.

    Imagine Bomber 45 is instructed to bomb number 45. If he doesn’t, Bomber 46 will still bomb number 46, Bomber 47 number 47, and so on. What changes is the effectiveness of bombing number 91. However, Bomber 45 has to decide whether to kill 10 extra people, and they are people who will not be killed if Bomber 45 doesn’t drop his bombs. For this reason, it, at the least, is not an overdetermination of harm case. I purposefully tried to make this *not* an overdetermination of harm case, although it raises similar issues. That said, it doesn’t matter much, I suppose.

    Regarding Gerald’s comment…

    Gerald, you say: ‘If we are using the interdependence of these raids to guide the interpretation of the counterfactual condition, then I think it is very tempting to use the disproportionality of the campaign as a whole to enforce a verdict of individual disproportionality on each of the raids: collective failure suffices for a verdict of individual failure.’

    It is true that the effectiveness of the raids (though not their deadliness, as reported above) is interlinked. But this doesn’t ‘guide the interpretation of the counterfactual condition’. The counter-factual condition, especially fact-relative is simply ‘what if I hadn’t done that’. The most obvious counter-factual is: what if the other 99 hadn’t flown? Now, it may be that we should allow different counter-factual baselines. But then we’d need a story about how to pick out the relevant counter-factual.

    I agree with you that in this case it’s tempting to use the disproportionality of the raids taken together to deliver a verdict of the disproportionality for the acts. But we must be careful here. For example, surely bombers 91-100 can say that their acts are proportionate? And surely they are right to fly. Regardless of whether they turn the campaign around, they save many lives at minimal cost. And, I keep coming back to the idea that just acts are possible as part of unjust wars.

    It’s not that I want to rule out what you’re saying, either. It’s just you’re using the ad Bellum principle as the master principle (something I consider). But that strikes me as a novel interpretation of in bello proportionality. For example, Jeff says that if each and every act of war is disproportionate, that would appear to guarantee that the war will be disproportionate. It doesn’t seem plausible to say *of the revisionist view* (at least as articulated by Jeff) that the acts will be disproportionate *because the war is disproportionate*.

    So much the worse for Jeff, you may say. And I get that. But in those sections I am trying to show how looking at acts of war as open to moralised proportionality assessments as individual acts doesn’t allow the ad Bellum and in bello principles to ‘line up’ in the way Jeff thinks they will (or at least, used to think they would).

    Now, back to Tadros, and his question (I will pass over your frankly startling admission that you haven’t read the paper yet again!) What you say here may well be right, and I’ll come back to it in terms of fact-relative justifications in a second. I discuss something related-ish in terms of evidence-relative proportionality in the paper. I say that each bomber may know, from past experience, that at least 90% of pilots do as they are ordered. Given this, even though each reasons independently, and wishes to do the right thing, each comes to the conclusion that it is evidence-relative proportionate to fly.

    Now for fact-relative. You say: ‘The contrast that I have in mind here is that between there being facts capable of justifying an act, irrespective of whether those facts motivated the agent (justifiable) and the person acting in appropriately in response to facts that make the act justifiable (justified)…If that is right, it suggests that the case does not show that there can be cases where all of the acts are proportionate, the set of acts is disproportionate, and also each of the acts is justified by its being proportionate.’

    This could well be right, and I’d need to think about it more. I did not mean to claim that each of the pilots acts justifiably. Only that on the revisionist view they seem to act proportionately. But notice if all the acts are proportionate, it can’t be the disproportionality of the acts that makes them unjustified. And so, with our just war hats on, we’d need some other principle to condemn the pilots’ actions. The existing menu of discrimination, proportionality, and necessity won’t seem to do the trick. We have a ‘right intention’ principle in jus as Bellum. Perhaps we need one for in bello as well. And that might explain why the pilots act impermissibly.

  9. Thanks Patrick

    Even in your variation above, it is overdetermined that a certain magnitude of harm will result, even if it is not overdetermined that any particular person will be harmed.

    We could imagine a case where it is not overdetermined in either case, but there is still proportionality (as you conceive it). Consider:

    Parts: Pilot can save 1000 people by flying a super plane made up of 1500 parts all of which are needed to make the rescue possible. These parts are scattered around the countryside and each can be secured by a raid by a single soldier. There are 1500 soldiers. Each is ordered to get a part, but each raid will result in 1 civilian being killed. The soldiers are ordered to get the parts. Each knows that all of the others will follow orders.

    In this case, the amount of harm is not overdetermined. If soldier 1 does not go on her raid, one fewer civilian will be killed. But each raid is proportionate in that, for each soldier, one person is killed as a side effect of an act that makes the difference between 1000 being saved and 1000 being killed. Yet the raids together inflict a harm that is disproportionate to the saving of the 1000.

    On proportionality, this is just terminological, but revisionists could perhaps preserve the relation between ad bellum and in hello proportionality by understanding the proportionality criteria roughly like this:

    Motivated proportionality: If a person executes an intention to achieve some good, and despite the fact that this harms others as a side effect, the harm to others will be justified only if the good achieved is sufficiently great to outweigh the harm.

    This version of proportionality does not claim that it is proportionate to perform an act which in fact secures some good and harms others, but is not done with the intention of securing that good. It also builds in motivation in another way, in that the person must act despite the fact that the side-effect harms will come about, and not act because of them or be indifferent to them. I think that this version of proportionality is probably closer to conventional thinking about proportionality than the motivation-free version. If the pilots and soldiers are all guided by this principle, and know that the others are, none will act.

    One question I have, then, is whether this version of proportionality can be satisfied for the war as a whole, but not satisfied for each individual, in your non-identity cases. I think that this could be so, but I’d need to think it through more carefully.

  10. Hi Victor.

    Briefly:

    I don’t see how the street example is an example of overdetermined harm.

    There are 10 people in each house. Bomber 45 must decide whether to kill those 10 people or not. If he does, 1000 people will be killed. If he does not, 990 people will be killed.

    I will think about motivated proportionality and get back to you on that in a bit.

  11. Hi Patrick. Great article. I want to comment on something that struck me about your Bombing Campaign case: the total absence of generals.

    Consider a simple picture about the practice and morality of war. The picture might be too simple (see below), but it seems like a good place to start. In war, there are three groups of people: soldiers, politicians and generals. For the most part, soldiers do not make decisions. They are forced to follow orders. As a result, they are not always the people to whom JWT principles are addressed. Most decisions are taken by the high-ups: politicians and generals. Politicians make decisions about whether to wage war and generals how to wage them. When making their decisions, politicians must follow principles of jus ad bellum (JAB); generals jus in bello (JIB).

    Revisionists have done much to complicate this picture, but I do not think they want to dismiss it entirely.

    Now consider Bombing Campaign. Your discussion about proportionality in that case focuses solely on the individual soldiers (bombers). You are able to deliver the interesting result you do – each individual’s decision to bomb is proportionate even though the war as a whole is disproportionate – only because you are focussed on soldiers making discrete decisions at the bottom of the chain of command. My question is this: where are the generals? In a real war, there would be a general at the top of the chain of command deciding whether or not to launch these bombing raids. The general should make the calculation that the raids you describe are in bello disproportionate. So he should not order them. You note that the war is ab bellum disproportionate. So JIB and JAB do not come apart in this case afterall.

    I haven’t worked out whether the introduction of generals could solve the other problems you raise (averting threats caused by war, non-identity cases) but perhaps so.

    To my comment about Bombing Campaign, I can imagine three responses:

    Response 1: The simple picture I have presented is false. Individual soldiers in war must, at least sometimes, engage in proportionality calculations to decide for themselves whether their own acts of war are in bello proportionate. They cannot always defer to generals. So the problem you are raising remains.

    This seems right to me. Still, whenever there is a general at the top of command, the general will experience a unity between JAB and JIB. If all the general’s discreet military operations are proportionate, the war will be proportionate.

    Response 2: In Bombing Campaign, the war is solely composed of the series of bombing raids. A general who makes proportionality calculations about that series is thus effectively making a JAB calculation. The general is not then really making a JIB calculation. If we want to find genuine JIB calculations, we must look lower down the chain of command.

    I disagree. It seems more accurate to say that, in Bombing Campaign, the general is making an in bello calculation that, in this case, happens to be the same as the ad bellum calculation. But in other cases, JIB will be obviously distinct from JAB. A war will be proportionate but an individual battle will be disproportionate. To find genuine JIB calculations, we do not have to look to those lower down the chain of command. Generals make JIB calculations.

    Response 3: A general in a Bombing Campaign case must make separate proportionally calculations for each bombing raid, holding fixed the fact that he will order all the other bombing raids. That is the best – or only – way a general could proceed.

    This makes no sense whatsoever. The general would have to suffer from a strange form of multiple personality disorder to think, “well I’m going to order the later “good bombers”, and I have no control over that, so the earlier “bad bombers” are actually proportionate”.

    Finally, an analogy. A developer calculates that he can make significant profits developing downtown. To decide exactly which buildings to build the developer hires a consultant. One proposal is a 100 story skyscraper. The consultant knows that, when it comes to skyscrapers, it is the top floors that generate revenue. No one wants to live or work in the shadow of the other skyscrapers. They want to be high up, with a clear view and lots of natural light. The good news: this skyscraper is 10 floors clear of the other skyscrapers. Those top 10 floors will be profitable. The bad news: the lower 90 are unprofitable, so much so that if the consultant calculated net-returns, she would see that the skyscraper, as a whole, is unprofitable. But that is not what the consultant does. Instead, she reasons that if the project goes ahead, they will have to hire 100 project workers to build each floor. The consultant decides that the best approach is to consider whether or not those project workers should build their floor, under the assumption that all the other floors will be built. This calculation delivers the result that it is better to build each floor. After all, if the 45th floor is missing, say, the skyscraper will have 99 floors and thus only 9 will be profitable. The consultant reports back to the developer and the developer builds the skyscraper. The result: a disaster. The skyscraper results in huge losses. The consultant is fired. The developer goes bankrupt and the story would end there if the developer had not later starred in a hit TV show in which young, ambitious applicants compete to be the developer’s apprentice.

    Moral of the story: consultants are not developers but neither are they project workers. They don’t decide whether a development will take place but they do decide which buildings get built and to decide that they look at the buildings as a whole, not individual floors.

    Developers = politicians.
    Consultants = generals.
    Project workers = soldiers.

  12. Victor says: ‘Sorry you’re right Patrick.’ I think we should probably end the discussion there. 😉

    More seriously, thinking about a proportionality principle with something like ‘right intention’ baked into it…

    The first thing I want to note is that while many people would include intentions within proportionality, via a non-absolutist version of the DDE (i.e., intended harms/effects are harder to justify), what we’re talking about here is different.

    This could get us around the Bombing Campaign-type cases, which arise because of the way that earlier acts of killing affect the effectiveness/goodness of later acts. Or, at least it could get around the version of the case where the war is disproportionate but each of the acts is (or appears to be) proportionate.

    I will try to think out loud, as it were, about what that version of proportionality would say about some other cases.

    Inverse Bombing Campaign — this is the version of Bombing Campaign where the early acts are very effective, and the later acts are ineffective. Here, the state would be ok to order the campaign, since it is overall proportionate, and they are aiming at that. But the soldiers have a problem. They would be flying in order to produce the good, but each act would still be disproportionate.

    Now let’s look at the cases where the acts of war avert threats caused by the war. E.g.:
    Preemptive Strike : Country A has a just cause for war against Country B, but the means at Country A’s disposal mean that the harms caused by the war will be disproportionate to the achievement of its just cause. If Country A declares war, Country B will preemptively strike against Country C. The means at Country A’s disposal are proportionate to the just causes of Countries A and C combined.

    In this case, the state should not go to war, because the goods it is aiming at are not sufficient to justify the war. However, the soldiers would be aiming at goods (protection of A and C) and these are sufficient to justify the harms they cause. The proportionality of acts of war and the war itself still come apart. I need to think about this case more though.

    Now on to the Non-ID cases. I don’t think the motivation-based view can help us here. This is because, just putting motivations aside, the picture is just importantly different from the state/collective level than from the individual level. The soldiers are aiming at the good, but it isn’t enough to justify harmful killings. The state is also aiming at the good, and it is enough to justify the impersonal bads of creating sub-optimal lives.

  13. Hi Kieran

    Thanks for your comment.

    I’m not sure if the introduction of generals can help us here/get around the problems.

    First, regardless of whether soldiers are asked to make proportionality *decisions*, we can evaluate the proportionality of their acts. The jus in bello principles are usually supposed to apply to *acts of war*.

    Second, we can repeat the same problem at the level of generals, since the problems are generated by acts (or groups of acts) that together form some larger group of acts. This means we can have the same problems with smaller groups of acts forming larger groups of acts. We can also have the same problem within jus in bello, where a general orders a group of acts (eg a series of bombing raids) where the raids collectively are disproportionate but each act is proportionate (or vice versa).

    Consider the example I gave earlier to Gerald:
    Country A has invaded Countries B and C. It treats the population of Country B very well, and Country B’s population is divided on whether to accept the legitimacy of Country A’s rule. Country A, however, is killing people in Country C. Imagine that in order to remove Country A from Country C, we must go through Country B. The killings (of soldiers and civilians) in Country B are not very effective – they do not save many lives, for removing Country A from Country B does not save many lives. Country
    But once we get to Country C, our acts of killing do a lot of good – they save many lives. Overall the war is disproportionate, because of all the killing in B.

    Now imagine that two different generals are in charge of the campaigns within Country B and Country C. Both generals view the campaigns they oversee as proportionate, for if you remove their campaign, you simply lose the very effective campaign in Country C (for the Campaign in B is a necessary step to that campaign). Or you can simply reconstruct bombing campaign as not being a single bombing raids, but groups of bombing raids (100 planes going out each night), overseen by different generals. They can all claim that their night was proportionate, even though the war overall is disproportionate.

    Now, you may say that there will be a general above them, who is in charge of the whole war. That may be the case. And if that general is simply required to ensure that, overall, what he orders is proportionate, then yes, his in bello proportionality calculation becomes identical to the war as a whole/ad Bellum calculation. But that shows us that there is *someone* for whom their in bello and ad bellum calculations will match up, not that it does so for everybody. And to insist that only this person must make sure that their contributions are in bello proportionate would be to rob in bello proportionality of any bite. (It is also implausible that this is all that is required of the person overall in charge, for it would allow them to order many disproportionate later raids if the early ones were super effective).

    In the Bombing Campaign case, the campaign should not be ordered — it is ad Bellum disproportionate. But the question is then what we should say about the individual raids? This is true regardless of whether ‘the state’ orders them or a general orders them. He should consider the raids as a whole, yes. and having done so he ought not to order them. But each raid nevertheless seems to be proportionate. Now, we could say that the soldiers ought not to participate in an unjust war/groups of acts. That would be easiest. But sometimes soldiers ought to participate in unjust wars.

  14. I have just seen the comment from Joe Bowen, which took ages to appear but appeared high up in the ‘chain’, so I had missed it. Hey Joe! (Which, aptly, is a song about disproportionate and unjustifiable violence).

    Joe, you are sceptical as to whether my positive proposal says anything distinctive. You say: ‘You say ‘that the State Official will cause so much wrongdoing, so much unjustifiable harm, is a reason not to send her soldiers to war” (59). But I am puzzled why you think proportionality as we currently find it wouldn’t also recognise this. When thinking about whether the war is ad bellum proportionate, we compare the closest world in which we wage the war with the closest world in which we don’t wage the war—and if, in the closest world in which we wage the war, the soldiers will act in bello unjustifiably, that figures on the bads side of the scales…it’s a reason against waging the war.’

    The question is whether ad bellum proportionality as we find it incorporates what Parfit calls ‘deontic badness’. I’m not sure it does. Perhaps a pair of cases will help.

    In War 1, Army will kill 100 people and save 500. Each act will be in bello proportionate.

    In War 2, Army will kill 100 people and save 500. Each act will not be in bello proportionate, and some will be in bello unjustified.

    Now, ad Bellum Proportionality (as I think it is typically understood) looks at the harms caused by the war as a whole, and the goods achieved/harms averted by the war as a whole. If that is right, these two wars are identical.

    But the view I was arguing for in that section would view these two wars differently. They cause the same amount of harm, but one involves wrongdoing, which – independently of the harm caused – counts against it. At the least, I don’t think it is clear that ad Bellum Proportionality contains this, and many people are deeply sceptical about deontic badness playing a role in third party decisions.

    You also say: ‘What we would say here is that the war *would be* ad bellum proportionate, were the soldiers to fight in bello permissibly.’ This is probably bad labelling from me. As I get toward the end of the paper, the fact that what we call ‘ad Bellum Proportionality’ is both the assessment of ‘the war as a whole’ and ‘the assessment that is relevant to going to war’ becomes a focus. What I meant here was if the war only just passed ‘the war as a whole’ assessment, then the separate assessment that looks at the aggregated wrongdoing would kick in and would condemn it.

    Though another question your comments raise is ‘do you need two separate assessments? why not just fold the wrongdoing into the bad?’ I think I thought I needed two assessments because if we just looked at aggregated wrongdoing then it would clearly deliver unacceptable results in Bombing Campaign. But that could be delivered with a single assessment that took account of both harm done AND wronging.

    Thanks.

  15. Hi Patrick,

    I had a question about how deeply your non-identity cases in particular go in challenging the revisionist project, rather than being instances of a much simpler phenomenon that revisionists should recognise (perhaps by revising things they typically say).

    Consider this view:

    R1: If all of the acts that constitute a war are individually disproportionate, those who orchestrate and cause the war to occur also act disproportionately.

    R1 is clearly false for a very simple reason – facts that count in favour of orchestrating and causing the war have no bearing on the individual decision that constitute it.

    To see this, consider:

    Avoid Nuclear: Evil Empire credibly threatens the government of Freedonia that if it doesn’t declare war on Neighbour to overthrow Neighbour’s government, and command its troops to engage in that war, it will start a nuclear war that will cause a global catastrophe. However, if the troops of Freedonia ignore their government’s commands once given Evil Empire will do nothing as they will see the government of Freedonia as loyal to Evil Empire. Neighbour has a reasonably just government. If the war occurs each of Freedonia’s soldier’s will kill many people, but the reasonably just government will be replaced with a slightly better government.

    It is obviously proportionate for Freedonia to declare war and command its troops to overthrow Neighbour’s government. Their decision will be proportionate and justified even if all of their soldiers carry out their commands. But each soldier should desist from fighting, because the aim of the war is insufficiently important to justify killing, and their killing is disproportionate.

    This does not seem like a case that should trouble revisionists. The obvious explanation is that there are morally significant facts that bear on the government’s decisions that don’t bear on the soldier’s decisions. If revisionists haven’t noticed this, they should find a way of stating their view to exclude obvious counterexamples like this.

    I now wanted to know what is special about the non-identity cases that you discuss. They are no doubt really interesting, but do they pose a special problem for revisionists beyond Avoid Nuclear? It might be argued that in those cases too, there is a morally significant fact that applies to the government – that they can alter identity by their decision – that does not apply to combatants.

  16. Another quick question while I think through what you’ve said in reply to my earlier comment. (But to anticipate what’ll probably be my reply, I didn’t realise you were making appeal to deontic badness, and I imagine I think we ought not appeal to deontic badness for it would be to double count.)

    You say of the traditional view that in bello proportionality is a nonmoral assessment. But at least as I’ve understood them, traditionalists tend to think that in bello permissibility is a moral assessment–it’s just a sui generis moral assessment. In bello proportionality is not governed by the same moral principles as ad bellum proportionality. But that’s not to say it’s not a moral in bello proportionality.

    Think about a boxing match (the analogy isn’t going to be perfect, but that’s traditionalism’s fault, and not mine). In a sense*, there’s sui generis moral rules to conduct during a boxing match—I am permitted to punch my opponent, whereas ordinarily I am not permitted to punch people. But, as with ordinary morality, I am not permitted to punch my opponent below the belt. And, let us suppose, I am also not permitted to punch my opponent when I know there’s a real chance it’ll kill them. This is meant to be analogous to how, for the traditionalist, unjust combatants are permitted to harm just combatants, provided it is proportionate and necessary to the military advantage gained (or however else you spell it out).

    When it comes to the claims made in the paper, I’m not sure there is an upshot to this. But someone else might notice one…

    *Of course, being a reductivist, I don’t think the moral permissibility of boxing is truly sui generis. The two boxers consent to certain things happening to them, and that is what changes what is and is not permissible.

  17. Thanks Joe. You’re right that, on the traditionalist view, in bello proportionality delivers a moral verdict (x is morally impermissible because in bello disproportionate). It also wouldn’t be true to say that the traditional view delivers this moral verdict from non-moral inputs, since the idea that harm and killing are bad and stand in need of justification is a moral idea. But traditionalist in bello proportionality (morally) justifies these (moral) bads by appeal to a non-moralized outcome — furthering the ends of ‘our side’, whether we have a just cause or not.

    I hope that is clearer. In my defence, in introducing that way of describing the distinction I did say it was ‘crudely put’!

  18. Hi Victor. Thanks for this.

    I’m not sure what to say in part because I’m actually not sure what to say about your example. And I think this might go to what I was saying to Joe earlier, about decisions to go to war, and ‘the war as a whole’.

    For example, imagine all the troops DO go to war. The government was surely right to order the war. But should we say that the war was overall proportionate? I suppose this brings us to the baseline question concerning what the ‘absence of war’ looks like, which Hurka, Mellow, Oberman (and you!) among others have discussed. There are two different baselines in play here — two different versions of ‘not going to war’, and one is only open to the soldiers collectively. But there is a sense in which ‘the war as a whole’ is disproportionate here, just taking into account the harm done and the good achieved.

    I think my non-identity cases are different, however. Because it isn’t that there is a difference between what the government can do (order a war or allow millions to die) and what the individual soldiers can do (go to war or not go to war, but the people are saved anyway). It’s that there is a difference between what is morally true of the collection of acts (there are impersonal bads) and the acts (there are harms).

    So, in this example, it’s true that the government ought to declare war. and, so far as evil empire tells it to, it ought to order it’s troops to fight. BUT, the government ought to HOPE that it is disobeyed. And, if it knows it can get the message to the troops without Evil Empire finding out, it should tell them to disobey its orders. In THIS sense, government and troops are still on the same page.

    But that isn’t the case in faulty guns IF the government only needs look at the ‘war as a whole’. The government can look at this as a non-identity case, and so the good needed to achieve proportionality will be lower. The troops however, must view these as person-affecting harms. Therefore the government ought to hope that the troops obey them. To the extent that the government should not hope for this, it is not because the government and troops should take account of *different things* but because the government should not ONLY pay attention to the war as a whole, but to the moral nature of the individual acts of war in deciding whether to order the troops to fight.

    No such questions are raised by your case. It is clear the government should order the war, and clear that it should hope that its orders are not followed.

  19. Hi Patrick

    Thanks for your reply to me. There’s comments that, if true, neutralise a paper so let me say at the outset that I’m certain my comments don’t do that. My comments don’t touch the question of what individuals should do – whether they are soldiers or, as you note, generals – if there is no one in overall command or if there is someone in overall command but, for whatever reason, they should not be obeyed. There also many aspects of the paper that they are silent on. Still, I think the idea of someone in overall command might be more important than you are suggesting for the following reasons (of which 5 is the most important):
    1. In almost real wars, there is almost always a single person in command. Where there isn’t, there would be a committee in command. (The IRA, I seem to remember, had a 7 person committee. I’m guessing they had seven because they wanted a decisive vote). Either way you have someone – or some group -making the ultimate decisions.
    2. If there wasn’t someone in command then we can just imagine someone in that position and ask what they should do if they existed.
    3. In the case of that overall commander, whether real or hypothetical, JIB and JAB proportionality are aligned. Your paper claims that JIB and JAB do not align in Bombing Campaign. I think that’s a misframing.
    4. In actual fact, I’m starting to think that there is no such thing as JIB proportionality. Rather there is just different people, at different levels within the chain of command, making different proportionality calculations about the acts of war that are under their control.
    5. In reply to my comments you write:

    “To insist that only this person [the person in overall command] must make sure that their contributions are in bello proportionate would be to rob in bello proportionality of any bite. (It is also implausible that this is all that is required of the person overall in charge, for it would allow them to order many disproportionate later raids if the early ones were super effective).”

    Here I want to push back. I was not suggesting that the person in overall command thinks only about their contributions. Rather, I think they should parcel up certain non-discrete sets of actions that are under their control and ask whether those parcels are proportionate or disproportionate. Why parcel? Well, you say that when it comes to JIB we are interested in “acts of war”. But what is an “act of war”? How do we individuate them? That’s a crucial question but I don’t you tell us in the article. You seem to assume that each bombing raid in Bombing Campaign is an act of war but why? Why not think of the whole series as an act of war? Or why not think of each step in a bombing raid ((1) the pilots get their coats on, (2) the pilots take off, (3) the pilots cross into enemy territory and so on) as an act of war?

    Here’s a suggestion: JIB proportionality concerns parcels of non-discrete acts of war. From the perspective of the person in overall command, the series of bombing raids in Bombing Campaign, are such a parcel. So, from their perspective, they should be assessed as one. (To use my analogy, the consultant should assess the profitability building as a whole, not each of the lower floors separately).

    But here’s the crucial point (one that I had hoped was clear in my original comments): not everything that happens in war is like this. Some things are discrete, even from the perspective of the person in overall command. This is why JIB proportionality is not the same as JAB proportionality even for the person in overall command. It is also why you are wrong to think that taking their perspective risks “allow[ing] them to order many disproportionate later raids if the early ones were super effective”. If the later raids are discrete, then their proportionality must be assessed separately. (To use my building analogy: a consultant should not assess the profitability of each of the lower floors within a building. She should assess the building as a whole. But she should also assess the profitability of separate buildings separately (and perhaps additional floors at the top of a building). Because seperate buildings are discrete. She is not permitted to build one unprofitable building just because the first building was super profitable).

    Now you will ask, how do we define “discrete”? Great question. I have no idea but I’m confident that there is something concrete there that I’m getting at here. The bombing raids in your Bombing Campaign case are not discrete. They are like the lower floors of a building. Two separate battles are discrete. They are like to seperate buildings.

  20. Hi Kieran

    Just to be clear. On your 3, I agree that (with the case now specified with a general in charge for whom ordering the missions is an act of war) there is *someone* for whom JAB and JIB align. But since I am trying to show the possibility that they might not, or there will be people for whom they will not, I’m not sure that showing that they can sometimes, for someone, align is a big problem? On 5, My point about the general was not whether they should only take their acts into account, but whether only the one general, at the top of the tree, must ensure JIB proportionality, and nobody else needs to worry about it. If that is true, then JIB proportionality just is the proportionality of ‘the war as a whole’.

    However we parcel out the discrete ‘chunks’, aren’t we going to end up with possible cases where there are later chunks that are highly good-producing which are brought about by low good-producing chunks, as some of my earlier examples suggested? That is, isn’t the problem still going to be repeated, even if the original example doesn’t show this once we have the ‘chunks’ view.

    More generally, I am also increasingly confused about what JIB proportionality is and should apply to. From the perspective of the general, I see that these flights are one ‘chunk’. But they’re not to the individual soldiers who must fly them. And then we come back to the same problem but now within jus in bello proportionality. The missions seem disproportionate collectively, but proportionate individually.

    What I find interesting is I think some are sanguine about this, while others want to redefine proportionality

  21. Your comment has reminded me of something Kieran. I remember discussing with Lars Christie several years ago that it seemed silly that a soldier be asked to ensure that each bullet fired is proportionate. And I had the thought that you would need to find ‘reasonable stopping points’ where the soldier could consider their next move(s) and whether those would be proportionate. I suppose a bit like the rule-utilitarian’s/RM Hare’s ‘cool hour’, where they reflect on the rules and whether they’re working. But I never got any further than that.

  22. So I wonder if the main lesson from your non-identity cases is less to do with revisionism than it is to do with the relationship between moral considerations that apply between different people where moral considerations that normally apply to one person can be advanced through the acts of others, to whom those considerations do not apply, and who will thus act wrongly.

    We find a similar issue in cases where agent-relative factors occur. Consider:

    Rescue through others: Beth’s child is in peril, and so are two stranger children. Beth can ensure that her child is rescued only by getting Charlie to do it. But Charlie is not related to any of the children, or to Beth.

    Beth is normally required to save her child rather than two stranger children. Charlie is normally required to save two stranger children rather than Beth’s child.

    I think that it is wrong for Beth to get Charlie to rescue her child in this case because she can do so only by ensuring that Charlie fails to abide by his duty to save the greater number. If she does this, not only does Charlie act wrongly, so does Beth.

    If this is right, I wonder if it also tells in favour of the idea that it is wrong for states to start wars where those wars would be proportionate only because of non-identity considerations that do not apply to the troops that fight them. Is this a parallel issue?

  23. Morning Tadros!

    I’m finding it tricky to respond to your comment because I’m not quite sure of what you mean by saying that the lesson from the non-id cases is ‘less to do with revisionism’ than the issue of how/whether we should take into account the fact that others will do wrong.

    Yes, I think are some parallel issues here. But while I think there are parallel issues I don’t know that this means that it is ‘less to do with revisionism’ than something else. To be clear, I don’t think my paper is a strike against the revisionist project broadly conceived. What I show, I think, is that one of the problems Jeff advanced against the traditional view (disproportionate war but proportionate acts of war) also applies to his own view. But to the extent that that’s a problem, it’s a problem for both views. And to the extent that that’s not a problem, it’s not a problem for both views.

    I think it is a problem, so, I argue, we need to re-think proportionality in some way. One of the ways we could re-think it is by including the fact that the soldiers’ acts will be disproportionate within the assessment of whether we should go to war, even where the ‘war as a whole’ is proportionate. This is what I recommend (see my exchange with B above). So, I don’t think it’s a case of ‘less to do with revisionism and more to do with x’ but rather about how/whether to include x within revisionism.

    Your example shows that more generally we should take into account whether we are asking/ordering/encouraging others to do something that it would be wrong for them to do, even though it would be permissible for us to do it ourselves.

    However, a note of caution. Helen Frowe has an excellent piece (with an excellent title) called ‘If You’ll be my Bodyguard’. Helen shows that agreements can be formed which permit (or maybe even require) someone to act on your behalf/your agent-relative reasons. If Charlie has agreed to save Beth’s children, and has taken payment for this, he is permitted save Beth’s child.

    Now, in my non-identity cases, the issue is not one of agent-relative or agent-neutral reasons. But, as you say, there are parallels. Now, we may think of the soldiers as being the state’s bodyguards, and so perhaps the soldiers have agreed to ‘take the state’s reasons’ as their own?

    What do you think?

  24. Hi Patrick

    You write: “If that is true [that the general at the top is the only person who needs to ensure JIB], then JIB proportionality just is the proportionality of ‘the war as a whole’.”

    I don’t think that’s true. JIB proportionality would deal with chunks. Chunk A might be disproportionate even if chunk B is proportionate and A+B – the war as a whole – is proportionate.

    You write: “However we parcel out the discrete ‘chunks’, aren’t we going to end up with possible cases where there are later chunks that are highly good-producing which are brought about by low good-producing chunks, as some of my earlier examples suggested? That is, isn’t the problem still going to be repeated, even if the original example doesn’t show this once we have the ‘chunks’ view.”

    No because then the chunks wouldn’t be discrete

  25. Glad to see you recognise that we aren’t yet on first name terms, and sorry for mistakenly assuming otherwise. I’d have to go back and look. Agree that Helen’s paper is really good, and not just because of the title. But I remember concluding that my views are more restrictive than Helen’s about the permissibility of advancing agent-relative goals through others to whom they don’t apply.

    I agree that your cases show that care is needed in stating the relationship between ad bellum and in bello proportionality. My thought is just that any revisions needed to revisionism seem relatively modest. Avoid Nuclear, in my post above, shows that going to war can be proportionate in a sense where all acts that constitute the war are disproportionate. But, I think you agree, any revision to revisionism is pretty modest in the light of that case.

    In response to that, you suggested that your non-identity cases might show a more specific conflict, in that a state might start a proportionate war, hope (or, perhaps better, morally aim) that the acts of war that constitute it occur, and yet all the acts that constitute it are disproportionate. That was not true in Avoid Nuclear. But the parallel with Rescue Through Others, if it holds, suggests that this is not right – just as Beth cannot morally aim at rescuing her child through Charlie rescuing him, states cannot rationally aim at executing a war that is, in their circumstances, proportionate where that war is constituted solely by disproportionate acts. So, it might be thought, we are back to the modest revision of revisionism that Avoid Nuclear already clearly warrants. Perhaps there is some other lesson from the non-identity cases that we can’t learn from Avoid Nuclear?

    If not, though, I thought that the cases suggest another important lesson – that the wrongness of a war overall can fundamentally depend on the wrongness of the acts that constitute it. We cannot assess the wrongness of a war simply by assessing what the war will achieve and what it will cause, the intentions of those conducting the war, and so on. We need to look at the deontic situation of combatants as such to determine whether the war is permitted, as their deontic situation can non-reductively ground the wrongness of the war as a whole.

  26. Thanks Victor. Your last paragraph is indeed what I think we can learn, and what I (thought I) was driving at both in my last post to you, and in my exchange with Joe Bowen. From the conclusion of the paper: ‘My cases show that there are questions about whether we ought to go to war which cannot be answered by looking at the war as a whole. Whether or not the acts of war will be in bello disproportionate, or otherwise unjustifiable, is also relevant.’ My solution is to propose two independent tests relevant to whether we should go war. One looks at the ‘war as whole’, the other at the deontic status of the acts of war.

    My point about the difference between Avoid Nuclear and my cases was not that the state *should* hope that the soldiers go ahead in Faulty Guns, but that revisionism without the sort of amendment you just mentioned would appear to suggest that it should. i.e., if the ad Bellum Proportionality condition merely requires the state to look at ‘the war as a whole’ then the state should regard the faulty guns/non-id war as permitted, even though the acts of war are not.

  27. OK, thanks Kieran, I think I now understand your point much better, and sorry that I don’t think I really got it before.

    So your thought is that JIB proportionality should apply to discrete chunks of action, and (to puts words into your mouth, but based on your reaction to Bombing Campaign) it is sufficient for two acts to be part of the same discrete chunk that one act changes the efficacy of another, in terms of how much life will be saved.

    I have two immediate thoughts on this, though I would like to think about it more. One is that I worry that this will rob JIB of almost all application. Elsewhere you mention battles as being discrete. But are they? Each battle ought to necessary to win the war (if it isn’t, why are you fighting it? and it would be condemned by the necessity principle). But if winning Battle A and winning Battle B is necessary to winning the war, then winning Battle A changes the efficacy of winning Battle B. And so neither Battle A nor Battle B nor any of the acts within them will be subjected to the proportionality assessment?

    Here’s another worry — what is part of a ‘chunk’ may not be transitive…
    Imagine Act 1 is what allows the killing of one guard to save 100 people (Act 2). And killing the guard at Act 2 allows Act 3 to be performed which saves another 100 people. Crucially, however, Act 2 can take place without Act 1, it just won’t be as effective (it will only allow Act 3, it won’t also save 100).

    Act 1 and Act 2 are a chunk. Act 2 and Act 3 are a chunk. But it’s not clear that Acts 1 2 and 3 are, for Act 1 has no impact upon the efficacy or possibility of Act 3. Now, you might insist that chunkiness is transitive, and so Acts 1 2 and 3 must be part of a chunk. But this then leads us back toward robbing JIB of its role. But if not, we could have a situation where Act 2 is proportionate given it saves x AND allows Act 3 which saves y, but neither chunks 1+2 nor 2+3 are proportionate.

  28. Hello Patrick

    I just re-read those sections of your paper towards the end, and your exchange with Joe. I think I was getting at something a bit different from what you were getting at, but I’m not sure.

    We might think that the significance of the wrongness of individual acts of war comes in two flavours – a more consequence-oriented flavour and a more deontic flavour. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make the distinction accurately without a bit more time to think it through, but it’s something like this:
    C: the decision to start a war can be wrong because individual acts of war are wrong, and this is a bad outcome that can count against the war.
    D: the fact that a war can be conducted only by a set of wrongful individual acts makes the decision to start a war wrong, because it is wrong to depend on the wrongdoing of others to justify one’s conduct.

    Consider two kinds of case:
    Unnecessary wrongdoing: X orders Y to go to war. Y could secure the aims of the war that X has without inflicting unnecessary harm. However, Y will inflict unnecessary harm. Nevertheless, the harm that Y will inflict is not so great that it is out of proportion to the good achieved.
    Necessary wrongdoing: X orders Y to go to war. X can secure an aim that is, from his perspective proportionate, only by ensuring that Y acts disproportionately, because X’s decision affects the identity of who will be killed but Y’s act does not.
    C impacts on both cases. But D doesn’t. Your remarks towards the end of the paper and in response to Joe struck me as suggesting something like C (though correct me if I’m wrong). You note, for example, that we can’t rule out wars that have wrongdoing in them, or we are effectively pacifists, but suggest that we go some way in that direction. But the problem of wrongdoing inevitably occurring in war does not affect D, only C. I was getting at something like D.

  29. Thanks Victor, that’s super helpful.

    I don’t know which I was pointing out, because I didn’t, in writing or in thought, distinguish those ways of thinking about it, so although I put it more like C, and the Unruly Army example clearly points toward C, some of what I say about the non-identity cases points toward D. I do remember in an earlier version (though perhaps not the published one) that what seemed especially troubling about allowing revisionism to go through as is (i.e., to just live with the idea that the state’s war is proportionate but all the acts are disproportionate) is that the state isn’t merely allowing wrongdoing but ordering it.

    One way to get at the difference you’re pointing to seems to be the way that in the non-ID cases, the wrongdoing of others is not a foreseeable side-effect but a necessary condition of the action.

    But before I commit to this, at least in a war context, I’d like to think more about the Frowe paper, and whether we could sign up soldiers in a way that makes them take the state perspective.

  30. I am extremely grateful to everyone who participated in this. I am still thinking about these issues, and this discussion will be tremendously helpful to my ongoing work on this. Special thanks to Gerald for getting the ball rolling.

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