By Scott D. Sagan and Benjamin A. Valentino
Originally published July 2, 2015
The philosophical and legal doctrine known collectively as “just war theory” has been the prime focus of scholarly debate about the ethics of war in the West for hundreds of years. It also provides the basis for most extant international humanitarian law governing the conduct of war and has directly influenced the US military’s official targeting doctrine.
But to what extent are the American public’s views on the use of force consistent with just war doctrine’s ethical principles? Understanding the extent to which the public has internalized these principles provides insights into how warfare is likely to be practiced in the real world because, at least in democratic states, the public exerts an important influence over government policies.
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