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Just War Theory Reloaded: The Ethics of SOF In Modern Conflict - Special Operations in Irregular Conflicts and Asymmetric Warfare, Contextualizing Russia's Actions in Ukraine and Crimea

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This mid-2018 report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. Recent conflicts have directed much academic and media attention to special operations forces (SOF). Despite the attention, the application of SOF in asymmetric conventional warfare or irregular conflict has not been fully examined in the context of just war theory. This mid-2018 report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. Recent conflicts have directed much academic and media attention to special operations forces (SOF). Despite the attention, the application of SOF in asymmetric conventional warfare or irregular conflict has not been fully examined in the context of just war theory. In addition, SOF have often been portrayed superficially, painting them as indiscriminate or unscrupulous warriors. This thesis argues to the contrary, that the application of SOF represents an evolution of just war theory in an era of increasingly irregular conflict. This thesis expands just war thinking to activities short of armed conflict. It contends that SOF constitute a unique extension of the ethical principles that morally bind military capabilities under just war theory. Moreover, this thesis examines the moral utility of SOF operations as a means of preventing unnecessary loss of life prior to, during, and in the wake of armed conflict. SOF can function, in both theory and practice, as a distinct moral improvement over most other forms of irregular or indirect conflict, across nearly all phases of conflict. These conclusions aim to provide insight to planners, observers, and policy-makers who seek to understand and efficiently respond to emergent or persistent challenges to global stability and national security. The next chapter discusses in some detail how SOF support objectives during armed conflict. Specifically, the chapter directly speaks to how SOF achieve morally beneficial effects during phases of the continuum of conflict that should be considered large-scale combat operations or major campaigns. The discussion focuses on traditional and revisionist just war logic to demonstrate that large-scale combat forces realize significant moral improvements when SOF precision and nuance are applied in support of objectives during armed conflict. Chapter III illuminates critical shortcomings in just war theory when applied to activities below the level of armed conflict—ultimately arguing for an expansion to the theory itself. Principally, the chapter addresses the need for clarity and understanding of how SOF interaction short of overt warfare can produce Phase Zero results that limit the scope of violence and preclude subsequent phases of conflict. The chapter also establishes that competition below the level of armed conflict can be morally justified and that it is furthermore subject to moral criticism. Additionally, it articulates several initial considerations for the moral framing of SOF applied below the level of armed conflict and proposes expansions to just war theory to encapsulate irregular conflict in Phase Zero. In Chapter IV, this thesis examines Russia's involvement in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine through the perspective of the proposed just war theory expansion. The aim is to highlight key deductions based on the application of several of the principles offered in Chapter III. The chapter demonstrates just war theory's inadequacy in framing Russia's activities below the level of armed conflict while juxtaposing its efficacy after the transition from Phase Zero to armed conflict in Phase Two. This chapter also reveals the possibility of several implications on jus ad bellum and jus in bello considerations that arise from the proposed expansion. Specifically, it discusses potential SOF applications that could have run counter to the aggression and how they might be justified under the framework of the expansion.


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This mid-2018 report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. Recent conflicts have directed much academic and media attention to special operations forces (SOF). Despite the attention, the application of SOF in asymmetric conventional warfare or irregular conflict has not been fully examined in the context of just war theory. This mid-2018 report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. Recent conflicts have directed much academic and media attention to special operations forces (SOF). Despite the attention, the application of SOF in asymmetric conventional warfare or irregular conflict has not been fully examined in the context of just war theory. In addition, SOF have often been portrayed superficially, painting them as indiscriminate or unscrupulous warriors. This thesis argues to the contrary, that the application of SOF represents an evolution of just war theory in an era of increasingly irregular conflict. This thesis expands just war thinking to activities short of armed conflict. It contends that SOF constitute a unique extension of the ethical principles that morally bind military capabilities under just war theory. Moreover, this thesis examines the moral utility of SOF operations as a means of preventing unnecessary loss of life prior to, during, and in the wake of armed conflict. SOF can function, in both theory and practice, as a distinct moral improvement over most other forms of irregular or indirect conflict, across nearly all phases of conflict. These conclusions aim to provide insight to planners, observers, and policy-makers who seek to understand and efficiently respond to emergent or persistent challenges to global stability and national security. The next chapter discusses in some detail how SOF support objectives during armed conflict. Specifically, the chapter directly speaks to how SOF achieve morally beneficial effects during phases of the continuum of conflict that should be considered large-scale combat operations or major campaigns. The discussion focuses on traditional and revisionist just war logic to demonstrate that large-scale combat forces realize significant moral improvements when SOF precision and nuance are applied in support of objectives during armed conflict. Chapter III illuminates critical shortcomings in just war theory when applied to activities below the level of armed conflict—ultimately arguing for an expansion to the theory itself. Principally, the chapter addresses the need for clarity and understanding of how SOF interaction short of overt warfare can produce Phase Zero results that limit the scope of violence and preclude subsequent phases of conflict. The chapter also establishes that competition below the level of armed conflict can be morally justified and that it is furthermore subject to moral criticism. Additionally, it articulates several initial considerations for the moral framing of SOF applied below the level of armed conflict and proposes expansions to just war theory to encapsulate irregular conflict in Phase Zero. In Chapter IV, this thesis examines Russia's involvement in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine through the perspective of the proposed just war theory expansion. The aim is to highlight key deductions based on the application of several of the principles offered in Chapter III. The chapter demonstrates just war theory's inadequacy in framing Russia's activities below the level of armed conflict while juxtaposing its efficacy after the transition from Phase Zero to armed conflict in Phase Two. This chapter also reveals the possibility of several implications on jus ad bellum and jus in bello considerations that arise from the proposed expansion. Specifically, it discusses potential SOF applications that could have run counter to the aggression and how they might be justified under the framework of the expansion.

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