Suppose one country, the aggressor, launches a missile attack against another country, the defender. During the attack, the defender activates its anti-missile defense system and successfully shoots down one of the aggressor's missiles. However, debris from the destroyed missile ends up hitting a building in the defender's country and causes some civilian casualties.

The aggressor then tries to blame the defender, claiming that the defender's anti-missile system is responsible for the casualties, rather than acknowledging that it was the aggressor's initial missile attack that caused the need for anti-missile defenses to be activated in the first place.

What type of logical fallacy is the aggressor committing by trying to deflect blame from its own actions onto the defensive measures taken by the country it attacked?


1 Answer 1


It is victim blaming, though whether that is a fallacy or not depends on the circumstances.

As Conifold said in an earlier comment, this is an example of victim blaming. Which is exactly what it sounds like and is an attempt to blame the person harmed by the act in question

As conifold suggests, this can sometimes comes from a conflation of proximate and ultimate causes. Sometimes it does not even have that much validity and simply attempts to point fingers.

Victim blaming is often, dare I say usually, invalid and improper and usually rests on an underlying fallacy, though which underlying fallacy varies by the circumstances. But it is not always automatically fallacious and can be justified.

In your particular example, you defined one party to at least be the attacker and defined the other to be the defender. But it is not always so clear cut. If the missiles from the attacker were in response to something that the international community would consider to be a valid causus belli (in other words, if there was an acceptable reason for war), then the nation firing the missiles might reasonably be able to say they were justified in firing them and that the damage in your description was caused by the defender or at least acceptable collateral damage under international law.

Or to look at a different example, imagine a drunk man punches a marine who happens to be in a bar because the marine disliked the drunk man's favorite sports team. Imagine our marine is unharmed or virtually unharmed, but our drunk looks like he is going to attack again. Our marine thus punches the drunk man and breaks his jaw.

Our drunk is the victim in the sense that he is the only person injured and he is also a victim in the sense that (unless justified) the punch would be assault and battery which are crimes. However, it would not be fallacious for the marine to argue that the drunk was entirely, or at least equally at fault in that scenario. The drunk might be justified in claiming that the marine was engaging in victim blaming in that scenario, but the marine would still have a non-fallacious and in fact probably highly persuasive argument that it was correct to blame the drunk.

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