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Tag Archive: Law of War Manual

U.S. Arms Sale to Saudis Spells Legal Trouble for State Department Officials


In December, the Obama administration suspended a large weapon sale to Saudi Arabia due to concerns about widespread civilian casualties from Saudi airstrikes in Yemen. The Trump administration is now looking to reverse that decision. If the White House approves the sale and overcomes expected congressional opposition, it could leave bureaucrats in the State Department holding the bag—under pressure to approve sales that put them personally at legal risk.…   continue »

New Symposium Scholarship on Human Shields

We have covered on these pages the legal and moral issues surrounding the use of human shields in contemporary armed conflict situations. The American Society of International Law, in a new partnership with Cambridge Press, released yesterday its first symposium edition of the American Journal of International Law Unbound, which provides stereoscopic perspectives on this phenomenon, which has become “endemic” in modern warfare.…   continue »

How to Read the Department of Defense’s Revised Law of War Manual

Last week, the Department of Defense released a revised version of its Law of War Manual, making significant changes to one section: “Proportionality in Conducting Attacks.” Under that heading, the Manual grapples with a cardinal rule in the laws of war—commanders must refrain from carrying out a strike that is expected to result in excessive civilian casualties compared to the concrete military advantage to be gained.…   continue »

The Defense Dept’s Law of War Manual: “Exempt” Military Objects and Investigations’ Positive Feedback Loop

Several revisions in the amended U.S. Department of Defense’s Law of War Manual address what military objects might be excluded from a strike list, and what investigations should take place post-strike. It is important to understand the language in the Manual that may cause some to believe that the mere presence of a civilian at or near a military object could automatically render a target “exempt” from attack.…   continue »

Thoughts on Distinction and Proportionality in the December 2016 Revision to the Law of War Manual

The new revisions to the DoD Law of War Manual that the Department of Defense released last week are welcome in several respects.  Four improvements are especially noteworthy:

First, a greatly expanded Section 5.11—like General Counsel Jennifer O’Connor’s recent speech at NYU—offers a much richer discussion of the sorts of precautions that the law of war requires, and of further precautions that the U.S.…   continue »

A Squarable Circle?: The Revised DoD Law of War Manual and the Challenge of Human Shields

In a new update to its Law of War (LoW) Manual, the U.S. Department of Defense kept its promise to be, as the DoD General Counsel (GC) Hon. Jennifer O’Connor reiterated at NYU in late November, “a living document.”  Commendably, from its very issuance DoD has affirmatively sought comment and input, and its first revision last May reflects its willingness to act on those inputs.…   continue »