The provision of lethal aid to the Syrian rebels appears questionable from a purely legal perspective. It would arguably amount to a use of force. Neither of the traditional legal justifications for the use of force—self-defense and authorization by the Security Council—applies in this case. While humanitarian intervention arguably offers a (weak) basis for the use of force, states would be wise to hesitate before embracing a liberal right to humanitarian intervention, because such operations can serve as convenient subterfuges for armed intervention.
To find a joint way to draw down the American troops in the war zone, Congress and the President may seek congressional mechanisms to resolve their differences with interactive processes. Then, constitutional issues arise as to whether a congressional mechanism may use a legislative veto – authorization for a drawdown with a reservation of power for a vote by the two Houses of Congress so as to let the President draw down troop levels while reserving congressional power to stop that draw down. These issues illuminate war powers in the abstract; the issues also apply concretely to the main war of the 2010s, namely, the long war in Afghanistan.
When a nation deploys ground forces, an inverse relationship exists between the number of military deaths and public support. This stark and monolithic metric, which economists call the “casualty sensitivity” effect, requires close examination today. On the modern battlefield, contractor personnel die at rates similar to—or indeed often in excess of—soldiers, yet the U.S. public and Congress remain largely unaware of this “substitution.” This article explains the phenomenon, identifies some of the challenges and complexities associated with quantifying and qualifying the real price of combat in a modern outsourced military, and encourages greater transparency.