Tag Archives: LOAC

OUPBlog: Drone Killings

by Jessica Poarch Hernandez

The OUPBlog recently posted a piece by Sascha-Dominik Bachmann entitled Drone Killings. Adapted from an article published in the Journal of Conflict and Security Law, this post argues that  the use of drone technology “has direct implications for the morality of armed conflict and combat” because it puts too much distance between the shooter and the target. He then goes on to argue that the U.S. Government should reevaluate its use of Drone Technology and concern itself more with the broad issue of collateral damage.

Read the post here.

The opposite of peace is chaos, not war.

by Travis Normand

I stumbled upon the following quote and thought it was highly relevant to the study of the LOAC.

[Emphasis Added]

This week I have been doing some reading for a class I’m taking at ESR called Images of God. While studying the image of God as Warrior my class read an article by an Old Testament professor at Harvard, Paul Hanson, who wrote about the concept of Peace as Shalom in the early Old Testament. This concept doesn’t translate directly into the way we use the English version of it. Hanson said many interesting things -among them that the opposite of peace is not war. It is chaos. Webster’s Dictionary gives a definition of “chaos” as a word that means the disorder of formless matter and infinite space. Hanson described the ancient Israelites sharing with their neighbors over the cook pot, their basic view that the world was situated precariously between order and chaos. Order is defined as a life-enhancing condition which the creator God maintains by holding the unruly forces of chaos in check. [1]

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Targeted Killings of Americans: Three Things to Know [CFR.org]

by Travis Normand

The following video and article were originally created and posted by CFR.org.  You can visit their site HERE.

As for the three points discussed by Matthew C. Waxman (in the following video), I think the first point is the most important. After all, whether or not the U.S. is at war determines if the LOAC paradigm is applicable to the situation.

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Obama administration to codify U.S. drone policy

by Travis Normand

I found this article on NYTimes.com about how the Obama administration is looking to codify the U.S. drone policy. The article is quite fascinating and addresses a few of the larger complaints and challenges concerning drone usage.

Click HERE to read the entire article.

While reading the article, I had several thoughts which I wanted to address here.

My first thought came after reading the following quote:

“One of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making,” Mr. Obama told Jon Stewart in an appearance on “The Daily Show” on Oct. 18.

In the quote above, President Obama states that he needs “Congressional help” in order to put a legal architecture in place for the drone policy. My first thought was that as Commander in Chief, the President has historically been very careful to keep congress out of the decisions of who was designated an enemy combatant.  It will be interesting to see how much congressional help he will accept and what this will do to any current precedent.

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Iran Fires on US Predator Drone: An Armed Conflict?

by Jessica Poarch

This morning, CNN reported that last Thursday (1 November 2012), Iranian fighter jets fired on a U.S. Predator drone. The Iranian government claims that the drone was fired on after it had entered Iranian airspace; however, the Pentagon’s official statement is that the drone was past the 12 nautical mile limit and was therefore over international waters when fired upon. The drone was not damaged.

With the amount of tension surrounding Iran and its nuclear program, the question of whether or not this action constitutes an armed conflict is interesting. An International Armed Conflict (IAC) is (1) a conflict between States that (2) leads to the intervention of armed forces (for more information on the types of armed conflicts, see the “LOAC Basics” tab above).

Determining whether or not an IAC could exist in this circumstance requires meeting both prongs of the definition laid out above.

(1) I think the fact that there is a conflict between the U.S. and Iran is a given, globally with issues over the Iranian nuclear program and locally over the issue of airspace. Further, (2) the intervention of armed force by Iran is also clear as the attackers were fighter jets flown by Iranian military pilots.

If we assume these two prongs are conclusively established, the question becomes whether or not we need two armed parties in order to have an armed conflict? CNN’s article calls the drone a “U.S. Air Force drone,” so for the sake of argument, we will say that this drone is considered to be a part of the U.S. military forces (thereby eliminating the other looming questions of who is driving and regulating the drone). However, if the drone is not armed and is only doing surveillance, is it considered a party to the “intervention of armed forces”?

In reality, the question of whether firing on the drone constitutes an IAC or not is moot as the armed conflict, if there was one, is now over, and its limited duration lead to no meaningful application for the rest of the LOAC. Nevertheless, as students of the law and observers of international relations, we must take note of this event, hoping that it is just another example of the growing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, and not the first shots fired in America’s next major conflict in the Middle East.

A “Must Read” Article for Anyone New to the LOAC

by Travis Normand

When I started this blog, one of my main purposes was to create a place where people could go to learn about the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC or IHL).  It was my hope to create a place where you could find (1) basic information that facilitates an understanding of the LOAC, (2) links to other online LOAC resources, (3) current news concerning the LOAC, and (4) some commentary on the LOAC-related current events and news.

So, in keeping with No. 2 above, I must post an article that I found this morning:

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Geoffrey Corn Responds to Mark Mazzetti, The Drone Zone

by Travis Normand

The following article appeared today over at LawfareBlog.com and contains Prof. Geoffrey Corn’s response to Mark Mazzetti’s recent article (The Drone Zone).   Mazzetti is a national-security correspondent for The [NY] Times and is currently writing a book about the C.I.A. since 9/11.

If you haven’t visted LawfareBlog.com, I highly recommend that you do.  It is one of the best, if not the best, sites covering all things related to the LOAC and National Security Law.  Some of the best and most knowledgeable people in this field regularly contribute at LawfareBlog.com and you are sure to enjoy it.



By Kenneth Anderson
Monday, July 9, 2012 at 5:04 PM

Geoffrey Corn, professor of law at South Texas College of Law and former JAG officer and chief of the law of war branch of the international law division of the US Army, sends in the following comment on Ken Anderson’s earlier post on Mark Mazzetti’s New York Times Magazine article, “The Drone Zone.”  Our thanks to Geoff for the contribution:

[Prof. Geoff Corn’s Response:]

It seems especially troubling that anyone would suggest that stand-off warfare somehow negates the moral challenges associated with decisions that result in the taking of human life. In fact, it is quite possible that these type of targeting modalities produce unique moral challenges for the warrior. Underestimating the impact of having to set in motion kinetic weapons that kill others is unfortunate and misleading. Death and killing are an inevitable consequence of armed hostilities. While it is tempting to suggest that stand-off capabilities make this process easier for the warrior, the fact remains that moral individuals have to make those incredibly difficult decisions and have to live with the consequences of their actions.

There’s a certain moral clarity in close combat, to be sure, where one is personally at risk – exigency provides an often clear and unambiguous moral framework for the trigger puller, kill or be killed.  But that’s not the ideal kind of moral clarity; the ideal moral clarity allows for deliberation – and that deliberation is served by lowering personal risk to oneself and one’s forces and having time.  In other words, there’s another kind of moral clarity where the trigger puller – or the commander giving the order – is not at risk, does not have to consider the bare necessity of self-survival or the survival of those under one’s command, and can think harder about the strategic and tactical, moral and legal, reasons for pulling the trigger. It makes the moral decision harder, not easier, and perhaps not as clear as that of personal risk – but it is the kind of deliberative decision-making that drones (sometimes at least) allow us and which we should prefer, all things equal.

It therefore seems to me that stand-off warfare involves its own set of complex moral challenges for the warrior. For example, the process of going to work in the morning, engaging enemy belligerent targets with deadly force, and leaving that evening to return to the normalcy of the home and family place the warrior in an environment of conflicting contexts unlike any of his or her peers in the battle-space.  (Those who endured the two years of low intensity confrontations with the Panamanian Defense Forces in the late 1980s had a small taste of this, living in Panama with their families in the same place where they routinely conducted operations to defend U.S. facilities against the PDF.)

It is a mistake to assume killing, even in war, is easy. It is not. Indeed, the challenge of training warriors to kill on order has been a major focus of military training. As Telford Taylor noted, “war does not provide a license to kill; it creates a duty to kill.” I doubt that duty is easier to reconcile with moral instincts for a stand-off drone operator than a pilot engaged in close air support.

How stand-off warfare will impact the nature of armed hostilities is obviously an important and complex issue. Let’s not lose sight of the fact, however, that in the end it still requires us to call upon members of our society – individuals with exceptional moral and ethical instincts – to “pull a trigger.” I don’t think attenuation from the target makes that decision any easier.  It may in fact make it harder.