Leashing the Dogs of War

By Rivkin, David B., Jr.; Casey, Lee A. | The National Interest, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Leashing the Dogs of War


Rivkin, David B., Jr., Casey, Lee A., The National Interest


WAR HAS always had rules, even if only to protect the dead. In The Iliad, for example, Homer tells us that Achilles' desecration of Hector's corpse angered the gods. Medieval churchmen sought to limit warfare to certain days of the week and evolved an entire just war theology to constrain the use of armed force. By the Age of Reason, international law "publicists" were busily expounding on the subject, and the 20th century opened with a substantial body of law governing both the right to initiate combat (jus ad bellum) and how armed force is applied (jus in bello). These "laws of war" were based both on custom and treaties and were accepted by all of the Great Powers--including the United States. In more recent years, however, fissures have opened between America and Europe over what the laws of war require with respect to when it is permissible to launch an armed attack, how warfare must be waged, and how the relevant legal norms should be enforced. Today, these disagreements are so fundamental that America and its partners in Europe can be said to operate under different legal codes.

The core of this divergence can be traced to efforts--largely initiated during the Vietnam War era--both to leash the dogs of war and make the laws of combat more humane by mimicking the rules governing domestic police activities, in which deadly force is always the last resort and must not be applied in an "excessive" manner. In the process, "humanitarian" concerns were to be elevated above considerations of military necessity and national interest.

These efforts have taken the form of multilateral conventions, such as the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions (Protocol I) or the 1997 Ottawa anti-landmine convention, and of new interpretations of existing treaties (such as the UN Charter), or of customary norms. Although the United States helped to negotiate a number of these treaties, it has steadfastly rejected the most sweeping innovations, favoring instead more traditional jus ad bellum and jus in bello norms. In particular, the United States has clearly asserted that it will use force, where necessary, to defend its interests with or without UN Security Council approval, and has rejected agreements that could be interpreted as contrary to key aspects of U.S. military doctrine.

This reticence is not part of a nefarious American effort to achieve immunity from international law, as critics have sometimes asserted. Unlike many countries, which embrace new international conventions with little intent to comply thereafter, the United States has always taken its obligations seriously--refusing, for example, to ratify treaties it does not plan to implement, whether because of policy or constitutional concerns. What the critics fail to realize is that binding international legal obligations must be based on the consent of the affected states. They cannot be imposed. In eschewing many of the new international legal norms accepted by Europe, the United States has simply acted within its legal rights as an independent sovereign.

Nor does the American refusal to follow Europe's lead in this area stem from any lack of humanitarian zeal. Rather, it can be traced to recognition by the United States that the world remains a dangerous place, and that adoption of a "policing" model for warfare would hamper, if not cripple, America's ability to defend itself--and its allies. Peacetime norms, which guide the conduct of police and security establishments in modern democracies, are far more restrictive than the laws of war because they operate in an environment in which the state has an effective monopoly on the lawful use of force, and in which the damage that any single individual or group can inflict is limited. The laws of war, by contrast, apply in a context in which the state does not have a monopoly on either the lawful right to use force or on the use of the most destructive weapons. War and peace remain different worlds, each with a unique logic and distinct imperatives that require dissimilar rules. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Leashing the Dogs of War
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.