The Conditions under Which Killing another Person Is or Is Not


The morality of ethics of soldiers killing their opposing counterparts during wartime combat has been a controversial issue for a considerable time. There are two opposed, yet correspondingly reasonable, approaches that are used to evaluate the problem. One of the approaches suggests that the killing that is contested is firstly the killing is within the context of wartime. This is to say the killing is done in the sense of self-defense. A second approach is that focuses on the issues that human beings soldiers should not kill other human beings for any reason. This perspective relies on the realization that, without soldiers’ active participation, declarations of war alone would not kill anyone. Adherents to the dissimilar approaches always reach a contradictory conclusion in reference to the ethics of killing during wartime as they have relevant argumentative platforms. Nevertheless, as indicated by Allhoff, Evans, and Henschke, (2013), there is a significant need to have a conclusive end to this controversy considering the number of wars that are in progress such as the war on ISIL.

According to the Christian faith as well as human rights legislations man is forbidden from killing fellow man. However according Brooks (2013) the context of killing in the aforementioned platforms what is forbidden is not actual killing but ‘Murder’. It is within this framework that Elshtain (1992), states the controversies of the ethics of killings within a time should be discussed to find a conclusive answer to this endless ethical stalemate. Evans (2005), indicated that when discussions are held about the ethics of killing during warfare, there is a need to differentiate ‘killing’ and ‘murdering’. In the bible, killing is differentiated with murder based on justification or cause (Chatterjee, 2013). This then changes the how to respond to the religious perception indicated. Thou shall not ‘murder’ becomes acceptable. Soldiers make part of a war-fighting machine and are trained to kill or neutralize not murder. In other words, due to particular reasons or justifications, soldiers are allowed to kill fellow human beings. The first justification is soldiers are permitted to kill in War and not in any other circumstance. However, this is not a shared ideology as to some individuals killing and murdering are the same. These highlighted parameters are provided for by the ‘Just theory’.

Just War Theory

The Just war theory is a form of a utilitarian concept that is referred as a tradition of military ethics studies by a variety of war experts such as military leaders, theologians, ethicists, and policymakers in justifying a war. The principal purpose of this theory is to make sure a war is morally justifiable. As indicated by Elshtain (1992), the theory offers objections as well as allowances that highlight the conditions under which killing another person is or is not justified in war. This allowances changes the discussion from murdering to killing.

Application of the Just Theory.

According to Just-Warists soldiers are justified in killing their opposing forces during ‘wartime’ since, in their contextual role as combatants, they are representatives of their respective states and equally their standards and morals. As indicated by Elshtain (1992) killing in combat is justifiable on condition that the action is directed at the threatening agents of the opposing state. A ‘threat’ in this perspective is an aggressive offensive against rights or sovereignty of a group of people or state. On the other hand, some individuals create a moral condition, which abrogates killing in combat at all costs. These individuals are termed as War-Pacifists who in their argument indicate that killing in itself is an action against the primal human right, which is ‘the right to life’ (Brooks, 2013). To them only God has the power to take an individual’s life; consequently, there is no moral pass to a human being regardless of their representation taking the life of another. McMahan (2009) indicates that the War-Pacifists ideologies are improperly placed considering the fact they base their argument on the primal basis of human beings and not soldiers. Additionally, he states that War-Pacifists refuse to acknowledge the presence and significance of the term and conditions represented by ‘Wartime’, which gives precedence to self-defense as a justification to kill.

‘Wartime’ in its definition is a time where a threat has been considered real and its consequence are unacceptable. In other words, in wartimes three factors are prevalent the first is the ‘threat’ is real. This is to say there is imminent danger to the sovereignty or survival of a people or their ideology. Second, the threat will act to defeat logic in the sense. This is to say the treat understands the consequences of war and the opposing faction is willing to take a cost to meet their obligation. Lastly, in the case of a conflict, there is a need for self-defense or self-preservation. The precedence set by the ‘wartime’ is that a war is defensive; subsequently, it is aimed at protecting the innocent against unjust or unprecedented aggression. Additionally, a war must be undertaken with the establishment of finding peace. From the above information, a war is set as a means of attaining a justifiable peace after aggression and just in its cause. Subsequently, in the sense killing during wartime is not an atrocity but self-defense. Oddly, when the aesthetics of self-defense the War-Pacifists base their inconsistent approaches as well as conclusion on the moral principles.

The objection of the Just Theory.

War-Pacifists state that under the doctrine of self-defense it is forbidden to kill in combat is most if not all circumstances. Allhoff, Evans, and Henschke (2013) argues that most of the soldiers on the battlefield are not entirely responsible for the threat they pose; consequently, not justifying their killing in self-defense for their actions. The Doctrine of self-defense, therefore, serves as a justification basis of contradiction regarding morality.


In summary, it is apparent from the information presented in this paper that the Just War Theory demonstrates that the circumstances under which killing another individual is warranted particularly within the wartime context. The utilitarian ethical theory core principle, indicates that killing in wartime is allowed in the instance that the action guarantees a better life for the weak and offended. Fundamentally, within the wartime context, soldiers are warranted to kill their offending forces for the particular reasons of saving innocent lives, which is in the benefit of the society. It is the role of the soldiers to ensure that they neutralize the threat. Then again, the deontological ethical philosophy goes against the notion indicating that the morality of any specific action depend on mainly the precise action itself, which is notwithstanding of the action’s concerns. Intrinsically, according to the opposes of the Just theory, it is under no circumstances morally acceptable to kill another individual within the military context the act of killing is immoral even though killing another individual despite the benefits to the society.




Allhoff, F., Evans, N. G., & Henschke, A. (Eds.). (2013). Routledge Handbook of Ethics and War: Just War Theory in the 21st Century. Routledge.

Brooks, T. (2013). Just war theory. Leiden ; Boston : Brill.

Chatterjee, D. K. (2013). The ethics of preventive war. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Elshtain, J. B. (1992). Just war theory. New York: New York University Press.

Evans, M. (2005). Just war theory: A reappraisal. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

McMahan, J. (2009). Killing in war. Oxford: Clarendon Press.