Semiotic Definition of "Lawfare"

By Tiefenbrun, Susan W. | Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Spring-Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Semiotic Definition of "Lawfare"


Tiefenbrun, Susan W., Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law


"Lawfare" is a weapon designed to destroy the enemy by using, misusing, and abusing the legal system and the media in order to raise a public outcry against that enemy. The term "lawfare" is also a clever play on words, a pun, and a neologism that needs to be deconstructed in order to explain the linguistic and political power of the term. Semiotic theory can help unpack this play on words, which creates an interesting and shocking equivalence between law and war. Semiotics is the science of signs and involves the exchange between two or more speakers through the medium of coded language and convention. Semiotics is the scientific study of communication, meaning, and interpretation. In this essay I will apply semiotic theory to expose the meanings of the term "lawfare" and to try to interpret it. I will focus on the definition of the word and the concepts of "law" as well as its denotations and connotations. Then I will look at the different definitions of "war'" in order to better understand the identity of law and war created by the term "lawfare." "The linkage of law to war is most clearly manifested in the expression of a "just war" and the elaboration of the "laws of war." Both law and war enjoy power, and it is precisely this shared power that constitutes the basis of the use of lawfare as a weapon of modern asymmetrical warfare. Finally, I will look at the different uses of the term "lawfare" and the serious impact of this usage on politics and on the integrity of the legal system. The abuse of the legal system, of human rights laws, and of humanitarian laws by lawfare undermines the overarching goal of world peace by eroding the integrity of the legal system and by weakening the global establishment and enforcement of the rule of law. The manipulation of Western court systems, the misuse of European and Canadian hate speech laws and libel law procedures can destroy the very principles of free speech that democracies hold most precious. Lawfare has limited public discussion of radical Islam and created unfair negative publicity against freedom loving countries. The weapon used is the rule of law itself that was originally created not to quiet the speech of the innocent but more to subdue dictators and tyrants. Ironically, it is this very same rule of law that is being abused in order to empower tyrants and to thwart free speech.

I. INTRODUCTION
   A. Lawfare is a Play on Words
   B. Semiotics and the Meaning of Lawfare
   C Organization of this Essay
II. WHAT IS LAW?
   A. Theories of the Law: Natural Law, Legal Positivism, Legal
      Realism, and Sociological Jurisprudence
   B. Sources of Natural Law and Written Laws
   C. Greek Philosophers and Their Definition of the Law
   D. Romans and the Natural Law, Positive Law, and International
      Law
   E. Hebrews and Their Definition of Law
   F. Law in the Middle Ages." Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas
      Aquinas
   G. Law and "Just War" in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
   H. Power of Law in the Renaissance as Defined by Machiavelli
   I. The "Force" of Law in the 18th Century as Defined by
      Montesquieu
   J. The Force and the Liberalizing Nature of Law as Defined by
      H.L.A. Hart in the Twentieth Century
   K. Law as Interpretation in the Twentieth Century
   L. Law and Legal Realism as Defined by Oliver Wendell Holmes in
      the Twentieth Century: Law is Power and Protection
   M. The Power of the Law." Law Is Order, Force, and Rules
      1. Black's Law Dictionary definition of the law
      2. Judge Richard Posner's definition of the law as power: law
         is a social institution, a set of rules, and a source of
         rights, duties, and powers
III. WHAT IS INTERNATIONAL LAW?
   A. International Law is the Law of Nations: William Blackstone
      and the Law as Commandment
   B. Samuel von Pufendorf" Man is Uncivilized and Evil and Needs
      International Law (Seventeenth Century)
   C. Hugo Grotius, On the Law of War and Peace (1625)
IV. … 

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