chapter  18
Supreme Emergencies Revisited
Pages 22

I. INTRODUCTION Apart from realists who believe that inter arma silent leges, and save for scoundrels who have no respect for human life, everybody agrees that there are moral constraints on what may be done in wartime. Yet, when the threat from the enemy is grave enough, even decent people concede that some, if not all, of the rules of war can be broken. Following the terminology suggested by Michael Walzer in Just and Unjust Wars, such cases are commonly referred to as cases of "supreme emergency."1 Walzer 's well-known example of such an emergency is the situation of the United Kingdom in the days of the Blitz during World War II, when the bombing of German cities seemed to be the only available way to stop, or at least to slow down, the Nazi aggression. On Walzer's view, since in those days (though not later in the war) the situation was one of supreme emergency, Churchill was morally justified in ordering such bombing in spite of the fact that it involved a direct and intentional attack on the innocent.21 shall call permissions to break accepted rules of war-especially to kill the innocent-"Special Permissions" (SPs). I shall employ the expression "supreme emergencies" to refer to situations which meet the following three conditions: (a) some group faces the

grave threat of an evil such as massacre or enslavement,3 (b) conventional means, diplomatic or military, are unable to counter the threat, and (c ) unconventional means of the kind that fall under SPs can prevent the otherwise inevitable catastrophe.