Date of Award

Summer 7-16-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Alastair Norcross

Second Advisor

David Boonin

Third Advisor

David Mapel


In this dissertation, I aim to answer the following question: what postwar moral obligations do just war victors incur at war's end? To answer this question, I begin the project by sketching the just war framework from within which my analysis proceeds. Specifically, I present a justice-based theory of defensive wartime harming that draws heavily from Jeff McMahan's recent work on the topic. One of the key ideas underlying this justice-based approach is the claim that the moral principles governing harming in war reduce to the same moral principles governing defensive harming in domestic defense cases.

Working from the preceding reductive claim, I proceed by surveying a series of domestic self-defense cases in order to identify the possible grounds explaining why defenders sometimes incur post-conflict obligations. Through this process, I identify four such possible grounds: (1) the use of unnecessary or excessive force; (2) when victim's defensive force imperils aggressor's life and victim can save aggressor without threat to self; (3) when victim's defensive force harms or imperils bystanders; and (4) when victim's defensive force threatens future harm to innocent people.

Next, I extend these normative grounds to national defenses situations to determine whether just war victors incur analogous post-conflict duties. My conclusion is that just war victors sometimes do incur postwar obligations. These duties potentially include (1) providing safety and security in the defeated state; (2) mitigating postwar environmental threats such as unexploded ordnance or environmental contamination; (3) paying restitution to parties wrongfully harmed during war; and (4) facilitating postwar accountability and justice. However, I also argue that a victorious state's potential postwar obligations might be mitigated or completely negated by considerations of risk, time, and expense, as well as by the fact that most of these obligations should instead fall to the defeated unjust state when possible.