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  • Cited by 5
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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Janaby, Mohamad Ghazi 2016. The Legal Regime Applicable to Private Military and Security Company Personnel in Armed Conflicts.

    Stout, Nathan P. 2016. Assembling an army: considerations for just war theory. Journal of Global Ethics, Vol. 12, Issue. 2, p. 204.

    Baker and, Deane-Peter and Pattison, James 2013. International Encyclopedia of Ethics.

    Fraser, Ben 2013. The Reluctant Mercenary: Vulnerability and the ‘Whores of War’. Journal of Military Ethics, Vol. 12, Issue. 3, p. 235.

    Begby, Endre Reichberg, Gregory M. and Syse, Henrik 2012. The Ethics of War. Part II: Contemporary Authors and Issues. Philosophy Compass, Vol. 7, Issue. 5, p. 328.


In Defence of Mercenarism


The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been characterized by the deployment of large private military forces, under contract with the US administration. The use of so-called private military corporations (PMCs) and, more generally, of mercenaries, has long attracted criticisms. This article argues that under certain conditions (drawn from the Just War tradition), there is nothing inherently objectionable about mercenarism. It begins by exposing a weakness in the most obvious justification for mercenarism, to wit, the justification from freedom of occupational choice. It then deploys a less obvious, but stronger, argument – one that appeals to the importance of enabling just defensive killings. Finally, it rebuts five moral objections to mercenarism.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

H. Munkler , The New Wars (Oxford: Polity, 2005)

J. Scahill , Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (London: Profile Books, 2007)

P. W. Singer , Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2003)

M. Schmitt , ‘Humanitarian Law and Direct Participation in Hostilities by Private Contractors or Civilian Employees’, Chicago Journal of International Law, 5 (2005), 511546

S. Percy , Mercenaries: The History of a Norm in International Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

C. A. J. Coady , Morality and Political Violence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars, 4th edn (New York: Basic Books, 2006)

L. Doswald-Beck , ‘Private Military Companies under International Humanitarian Law’, in Simon Chesterman and Chia Lehnardt, eds, From Mercenaries to Market: The Rise and Regulation of Private Military Companies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 115139

T. Nagel , ‘War and Massacre’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1 (1972), 123144

J. McMahan , ‘The Ethics of Killing in War’, Ethics, 114 (2004), 693733

T. Lynch and A. J. Walsh , ‘The Good Mercenary?’, Journal of Political Philosophy, 8 (2000), 133153

Percy, Mercenaries, pp. 152–3 and 160

Scahill, Blackwater, chaps. 5 and 13

Singer, Corporate Warriors, chap. 10, and Pattison, ‘Just War Theory and the Privatization of Military Force’, pp. 150ff

Percy, Mercenaries, pp. 218–19, and Shearer, Private Armies and Military Intervention, chap. 4, for a strong argument along those lines. See Singer, Corporate Warriors

Burmester, ‘The Recruitment and Use of Mercenaries in Armed Conflicts’, p. 44

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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