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The Condemnation-Absolution Syndrome: Issues of Validity and Generality

  • Robert O. Keohane

Abstract

In their article “Just War and Unjust Soldiers: American Public Opinion on the Moral Equality of Combatants,” Scott Sagan and Benjamin Valentino argue that the American public evaluates soldiers’ wartime actions more according to whether the war they are fighting was initiated justly, than on their actions during warfare. In this respect, their views are more similar to those of revisionist philosophers than to those of traditional just war theorists. Before leaping to broad conclusions from their survey, it should be replicated. If the findings hold in the replication, intriguing questions could be asked about comparative cross-national attitudes and about the relationship between democracy and war.

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Copyright

Footnotes

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I am grateful to Professor Nannerl O. Keohane for comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Footnotes

References

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NOTES

1 This essay is a response to Scott D. Sagan and Benjamin A. Valentino, “Just War and Unjust Soldiers: American Public Opinion on the Moral Equality of Combatants,” Ethics & International Affairs 33, no. 4, pp. 411–444. All quotes and pages numbers refer to that article unless otherwise noted.

2 King, Gary, Keohane, Robert O., and Verba, Sidney, Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 55.

3 See the Open Science Collaboration website at osf.io/vmrgu/.

4 William Shakespeare (Henry V, act IV, scene 1), quoted in Walzer, Michael, Just and Unjust Wars (New York: Basic Books, 1977), p. 39.

5 Hughes, Brent L., Camp, Nicholas P., Gomez, Jesse, Natu, Vaidehi S., Grill-Spector, Kalanit, and Eberhart, Jennifer L., “Neural Adaptation to Faces Reveals Racial Outgroup Homogeneity Effects in Early Perception,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116, no. 29 (July 16, 2019), pp. 14532–37. For example, a recent study suggests that the greater ability of white subjects to distinguish the faces of other Caucasians than to differentiate black faces is deeply embedded in human neurological attributes.

6 Henrich, Joseph, Boyd, Robert, Bowles, Samuel, and Camerer, Colin, “‘Economic man’ in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28, no. 6 (December 2005), pp. 795815.

* I am grateful to Professor Nannerl O. Keohane for comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Keywords

The Condemnation-Absolution Syndrome: Issues of Validity and Generality

  • Robert O. Keohane

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