Justification or Excuse: Saving Soldiers at the Expense of Civilians

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When a person considers war and the deaths that take place during the violent acts that are committed, soldiers killing enemy soldiers are the certain fatalities that first come to mind. Yet, with further reflection, one should stumble upon the horrible truth that many more civilians can be killed during war then soldiers. In Paul Woodruff’s essay, “Justification or Excuse: Saving Soldiers at the Expense of Civilians”, he explores the reasons why some soldiers would find it “morally comfortable” to kill harmless civilians. Woodruff investigates and explains the significant differences between justification and excuse, two principles that can help clarify why so many civilians are killed during wars. According to Woodruff, justification makes an action right and an excuse only reduces the blame for an action that is wrong. The important question that is asked in this essay is, “can a soldier at war clear himself of blame for killing civilians on the grounds that he does so to save his own life? (282).” In other words, can a soldier justify himself for killing civilians, or does he just end up with an excuse? As indicated by Woodruff, a soldier with perfectly respectable morals may run in to some tribulations when attempting to justify his actions in war. Self-defense seems to be the key reason for harming, or even killing another person. However, when a soldier kills an innocent civilian it is not because of self- defense. This action, then, can not be justified. There are excuses that a soldier can make towards their reason of killing a person that has not necessarily attacked them. An example of such as excuse would be that they mistakenly thought they were being attacked by a civilian. Woodruff mentions another reason for harming or killing another person, and that reason is self-preservation. For example, if a soldier for some reason was forced to kill a

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