JUST WAR THEORY RELOADED: THE ETHICS OF SOF IN MODERN CONFLICT
Orr, Scott W.
Strawser, Bradley J.
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Recent conflicts have directed much academic and media attention to special operations forces (SOF). Despite the attention, the application of SOF in asymmetric conventional warfare or irregular conflict has not been fully examined in the context of just war theory. In addition, SOF have often been portrayed superficially, painting them as indiscriminate or unscrupulous warriors. This thesis argues to the contrary, that the application of SOF represents an evolution of just war theory in an era of increasingly irregular conflict. This thesis expands just war thinking to activities short of armed conflict. It contends that SOF constitute a unique extension of the ethical principles that morally bind military capabilities under just war theory. Moreover, this thesis examines the moral utility of SOF operations as a means of preventing unnecessary loss of life prior to, during, and in the wake of armed conflict. SOF can function, in both theory and practice, as a distinct moral improvement over most other forms of irregular or indirect conflict, across nearly all phases of conflict. These conclusions aim to provide insight to planners, observers, and policy-makers who seek to understand and efficiently respond to emergent or persistent challenges to global stability and national security.
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