War and Peace: Of Law, Lawlessness, and Sovereignty

By Mays, Antje | Journal of Power and Ethics, April 2000 | Go to article overview

War and Peace: Of Law, Lawlessness, and Sovereignty


Mays, Antje, Journal of Power and Ethics


Abstract

Laws of war have been carefully defined by individual nations' own codes of law as well as by supranational bodies. Yet the international scene has seen an increasing movement away from traditionally declared war toward multinational peacekeeping missions geared at containing local conflicts when perceived as potential threats to their respective regions' political stability. While individual nations' laws governing warfare presuppose national sovereignty, the multinational nature of peacekeeping scenarios can blur the lines of command structures, soldiers' national loyalties, occupational jurisdiction, and raise profound questions as to which countries' moral sense/governmental system is to be the one upheld. Historically increasingly complex international relations have driven increasingly detailed internationally drafted guidelines for countries' interactions while at war, yet there are operational, legislative, and moral issues arising in multinational peacekeeping situations which these laws do not address at all. The author analyzes three unique peacekeeping operations in light of these legislative voids and suggests systematic points to consider to the end of protecting the peacekeepers, the national interests of the countries involved, operational matters, and clearly delineating both the objective and logical boundaries of a given multinational peacekeeping mission.

Introduction

War and peace -- at opposite ends of the relational continuum and yet inextricably linked: Historically, military presence has been utilised for the express purpose of keeping the peace (or at least the status quo of cease-fire) since the Versailles armistice of 1918. Do the laws of war apply to multinational peacekeeping operations? Can they? Should they? What special points of legislation are needed to accommodate the unique factors of peacekeeping operations? The purpose of this paper is to show the completeness of the codified laws of war in addressing many possible situations as well as to reveal areas which are still today completely unaddressed. It traces the development of thought on international law and rules of warfare from Classical and mediaeval times. It follows these thoughts' ultimate incorporation in modern-day laws and shows how their basic tenets still set the tone of today's international relations. Then it summarises Korea, Liberia, and the breakup of Yugoslavia - with analysis of the facets of international law, rules of warfare, and legal quirks encountered in each scenario. It concludes that we very much need legislation especially tailored to peacekeeping, and it explores the operational/technical and legal differences between war and peacekeeping and recommends specific points which such legislation should accommodate. To work, any laws governing war and peacekeeping must absolutely ensure a universal standard of conduct (among the peacekeepers; toward civilians, neutral realms, prisoners and wounded from either side of the conflict, toward bordering nations' rights, toward violators of any of the established international rules of civility), establish predictable lines of command, allow for operational flexibility as demanded by developments, enforce the peacekeepers' neutrality, ensure the recognition of the contingent-contributing nations' sovereignty, and protect the human rights of the peacekeepers themselves.

Historic Overview

Since recorded history, warfare has permeated the development of civilisations. While war was viewed as an instrument for self-protection and/or advancement of one's culture and boundaries, schools of thought actually devoted to war in any formal sense grew gradually. Although the Romans were known for their cruelty in enslaving captured soldiers (or enemy princes) for labor (if they did not execute them), they generally practiced civility toward the vanquished civilian populations and facilitated mechanisms of bringing these new areas into the citizenry of Rome. …

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War and Peace: Of Law, Lawlessness, and Sovereignty
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