Obama’s insistence on sticking to the letter of the law. Several previous Americanpresidents have given much the same assurances. The Global War on Terror maybe over in its Bushian incarnation, but the problem of “how to make war on savagetribes” has not, and will not, go away.
the laws of civilized warfare
Wars in medieval and early modern Europe were at the same time limited in scopeand distinctly barbarian.
More than anything the limits were set by logisticalconcerns and organizational factors ― by the size of the armies or problems intransporting and supplying them, or by the inaccuracy and limited range of theweapons used. At the same time wars were barbarian since the aim of the soldiersinvariably was to inflict as much damage as possible on the enemy. Whenever theopportunity presented itself nothing but expediency stopped the stronger partyfrom having its way with the weaker. “Everything is permitted in relation toenemies,” early writers on international law, such as Cornelius van Bynkershoekand Christian Wolff, explained; “victory in a war gives the victor complete powerover the vanquished.”
Beginning in the eighteenth-century, legal scholars, statesmen, and evensome generals, began to consider the question of
jus in bello:
how, and to whatextent, legal provisions could make warfare more humane.
Despite differences,there was, by the mid-nineteenth-century, a reasonable degree of consensus onbasic principles. One such principle was that wars should be fought between statesand not between individuals.
Another principle was that only such actions areallowed which directly help further the goal of winning the war.“
No use of forceis lawful,” as the American jurist Henry Wheaton put it in 1836, “except so far as itis necessary.”
And, as a corollary, enemy property should be respected unless ittoo is directly relevant to the war effort.A number of practical consequences can be deduced from these general