International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

An Interesting View on the Law of War

Gabriella Blum is a professor of law at Harvard Law School. She is a native of Israel, where, as a young officer in the Israel Defense Forces International Law Department, she was involved in Israeli-Arab peace negotiations. She later advised the IDF on counterterrorism operations, and the Israeli national security adviser on the planning and execution of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank. She is also a graduate of Harvard Law School and was tenured their in only four years, so it’s safe to say she’s got some chops.

Her recent article provides some interesting insights by comparing perception international intervention on issues such as climate change and international trade agreements, with perception  international intervention when it comes to war. The article is somewhat lengthy but maybe the introduction will entice you to read more.

” Should the United States, as the strongest military power in the world, be held to higher standards of compliance with the lwas of war than the Taliban? Should its forces, for instance, assume greater risk to themselves in order to minimize civilian causalities in Iraq? Should, It as another example, be obliged to develop and employ more precise and expensive weapons that would minimize civilian casualties? Should it be obliged to transer these more precise and expensive weapons to Iran, North Korea, or Al Qaeda?

At First glance, these questions may seem absurd. But replace the words “precise weapons” with “green technology” “civilian casualties” with “environmental degradation” or “barriers to development”, and “risk to forces” with “additional costs”, and the international community’s answer to these questions is a resounding “yes”.” (Blum, 2011)


2 responses to “An Interesting View on the Law of War

  1. ehsaunde April 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    This is an interesting argument and I would have to say that I feel the U.S. government and military should be held at a higher standard, simply because we have the technology and ability. However, this does not mean I think the standards of war should be lowered for anyone else. If it were up to me, I would just say nix the war and just move onto peace agreements, although as we all know that is about as probably as seeing a pig fly. Our country spends an extraordinary amount of money each year on our military and therefore should be able to create better weapons than almost every other nation. However, I disagree with the idea that we should transfer these weapons over to countries or organizations we are in conflicts with. On one hand, we do want them having weapons that will be more precise, in order to lower civilian casualties. BUT, we should never give the opponent weapons! That just sounds absurd. We should limit their weapons if anything because clearly they use them for the wrong reasons. Another view on this whole situation is that the US military abuses its technology and power. Realistically we are no better than Iran. In conclusion, we should hold ourselves at a higher standard of warfare in order to set an example for other nations and hopefully they will comply with the standards we set.

  2. cbilgrie April 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    An interesting argument that I have heard before from other political scientists. I don’t really think there is a right or wrong answer to this question, especially since there are trade offs for both answers (not having higher standards could mean a less civilized nation yet giving the enemy weapons means more casualties). I see absolutely no reason why we should give the enemy weapons, this argument shouldn’t be considered. As for using “any means necessary” which may lower our standards, well, when fighting a war you do whatever you need too to win. I see no real reason why the military cannot use any means necessary. I understand that there are rules of war and such but, in war the U.S. should do whatever they need to win. Furthermore I don’t condone the killing of civilians, but the protection of our troops should be a more pressing concern. If we need to protect our troops then this should be the most important consideration. I think part of my reasoning comes down to our nation as a whole, and relates to why I struggled with the ICC’s legitimacy throughout the course of the semester. The United States is by far the most advanced and most powerful country on earth and we should not sacrifice this power for anything. If we need to declare war against terrorists then we have the right to. Fortunately, our nation seems to be predominately good. We are not led by dictators and while the American people and the politicians will argue until they are blue in the face, pretty much everyone agrees that we need to avoid committing atrocities and hurting out own people. With an attitude like this, we don’t pose a threat to the free nations of the world. We do pose a threat to the nations whom attack us or commit genocide against their own people and we should (in certain cases), act on this.

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