To what degree are combatants in war morally liable to be killed, and to what degree are their adversaries morally permitted—or obligated—to kill them? To discuss this, Providence Editor-at-Large Marc LiVecche sat down recently—at an appropriately aggressive social distance several miles removed from one another’s Oxford homes—with Major Joseph Chapa, US Air Force.* Joe, a sometime Providence contributor, has just finished writing The Limits of Liability in War, reaching the penultimate step toward completion of his DPhil at Magdalen College, Oxford. The dissertation looks at contemporary—aka “revisionist”—just war theory to reflect on the moral nature of war, the moral status of combatants, the relationship of ongoing threat and proportionality, and the moral costs and tragedy of war.
Marc and Joe’s conversation focuses on questions of the moral equality of warfighters and who, in combat, is morally liable to be killed—that is, who can justifiably be targeted? Along the way, moral injury and tragedy, among much else, come into view, including how commanders and chaplains can minister to grieving warfighters confronted with the moral costs of combat.
*The views expressed in this conversation are those of the guest, Joe Chapa, and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the US government.