Who May Fight Just Wars? Right Authority for States and Non-States




Litwin, Oren J.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Just War Theory (JWT) attempts to hold war to a set of ethical standards, but its present state-centric viewpoint makes it unable to assess most wars involving non-state actors, which comprise the majority of modern conflicts. This dissertation proposes revisions to the Just War Theory principles of Discrimination and Right Authority, in order to generalize JWT to include non-state actors. Right Authority is disaggregated into three components: Competence, Standing, and Discipline. Under the Agency-Freedom Theory of Discrimination, personnel who are not immediate battlefield threats may nevertheless be targeted, regardless of their individual innocence, if one may predict that they will be threats in the future, based on salient features relevant to their freedom of choice including community membership. As such, threatening behavior by a community representative threatens to expose the entire group to reprisals. Therefore, an actor seeking Right Authority needs to gain Standing with respect to its community, that is, the right to make war on their behalf. Furthermore, the actor must take care that its actions, including those that enable other actors, do not lead to harm to the community--it must enforce Discipline on itself and its associates. Both Standing and Discipline are on a sliding scale and can be gained or lost; hence, this framework is called the Dynamic Legitimacy theory of Right Authority. The theory will be illustrated with detailed case studies of the Moro insurgency of Mindanao, the Autodefensa movement in Mexico, and the conflict in the Congo.



Political Science, Command Responsibility, Irregular Warfare, Just War, Legitimacy, Noncombatant Immunity, Right Authority