A person with moral commitments can respect International Humanitarian Law (IHL) only if the permissions granted by it do not depart radically from their basic morality, but the features of contemporary war require considerable departures from morality in the content of any rules applicable to war. The features of the contemporary international political arena, in turn, and especially the dominant interpretation of sovereignty, require that IHL be the same for all parties. But, contrary to the arguments of some influential analytic philosophers, such ‘symmetry’ in the laws need not involve their content's departing excessively from basic morality. Insisting on the same rules for all, however, leads to the problem that, other things equal, the more stringent the content of a set of rules, the greater the temptation on the part of self-interested parties to flout the rules. However, a hard-headed view of IHL requires no concessions to terrorists or anti-terrorists.
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