Recent discussions in the just war literature suggest that soldiers have a duty to assume certain risks in order to protect the lives of all innocent civilians. I challenge this principle of risk by arguing that it si justified neither as a principle that guides the conduct of combat soldiers, nor as a principle that guides commanders in the US military. I demonstrate that the principle of risk fails on the first account because it requires soldiers both to violate their strict duty of obedience and loyalty and to exceed their special obligations to protect their fellow comrades, the state, the state's constituents and other protected civilians. I then illustrate that the principle of risk fails on the second account since it conflicts with the commander's primary obligation to protect and promote the welfare and lives of his or her soldiers. I conclude by arguing that we cannot reasonably expect soldiers and commanders to adhere to the principle of risk until there is a radical, institutional-level transformation of militaristic goals, values, strategies, policies, warrior codes and expectations of service members in the US armed forces.
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