Contemporary Terrorist Organizations and the Threat to Michael Walzer’s Defense of a Supreme Emergency Exemption from Jus in Bello
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Michael Walzer has forwarded an argument that defends an exemption from adherence to Jus in Bello when a state finds itself in a situation of "supreme emergency." The argument is morally problematic due to the fact that it defends the direct and intentional targeting of non-combatants, a restriction which has traditionally been considered as inviolable in the Just War tradition. This thesis seeks to demonstrate a further problem for Walzer's position, the fact that his argument is sufficiently broad that it may be co-opted by parties whom Walzer wishes to exclude, practitioners of contemporary terrorism. My method will be to demonstrate certain deficiencies in Walzer's argument, through analysis of the paradigm case he presents. I will then proceed to present two cases for the adoption of his "supreme emergency" defense by the terrorist organizations Al Qaeda and Hamas. I will show that both of these cases may ultimately fail under closer scrutiny, but will conclude that the ability for two such cases to be constructed demonstrates the ability for Walzer's defense to be adopted by an entity which does not suffer these same failings, ultimately dooming Walzer's argument.
Ellis, Thomas H. (2009). Contemporary Terrorist Organizations and the Threat to Michael Walzer’s Defense of a Supreme Emergency Exemption from Jus in Bello. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from