This chapter considers the relationship between the principle of distinction and the idea that combatants are “morally equal” on the battlefield. This relationship is of particular interest, as well as complexity, in so-called asymmetric warfare, namely warfare between traditional state actors and non-state actors such as ISIS or al-Qaeda. It argues that an essential concept for understanding the moral equality principle is that of role responsibility. The notion of role responsibility, where it applies, has the effect of isolating the rights and duties that pertain to the actor from other segments of morality and enables morality to be discontinuous across its various domains. The result is that two principles of right may conflict with one another across the various domains to which they apply. This explains how a combatant can be on the wrong side of a conflict and yet have the right to kill an opposing combatant in war. The idea is challenging to extend to asymmetric war.
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