Legitimate authority
in The ethics of war
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The criterion of legitimate authority has become the most neglected of all the criteria that have been traditionally employed in the moral assessment of war. Legitimate authority has become entirely subordinated to the concept of state sovereignty. The ease with which the state's right to war is recognized may account for the diminishing influence of the concept of legitimate authority and its neglect in cases of resort to violence by non-state or sub-state agencies. Since legitimacy is precisely what is being contested in the war of revolution, the just war criterion of legitimate authority applies in a special way and with a particular urgency to this form of warfare. The criterion of legitimate authority can be so conservatively interpreted as to rule out all non-state or unofficial resort to physical force.

The ethics of war

Second edition

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