Category Archives: International Law

Syria Attack

Assessing US Justifications for Using Force in Response to Syria’s Chemical Attacks: An International Law Perspective

Michael Schmitt and Christopher Ford unpack the Trump Administration’s legal justifications for the April 2017 United States attack on a Syrian airfield in response to its use of chemical weapons against civilians. Schmitt and Ford discuss three possible legal bases for the use of force: self-defense, response to an internationally wrongful act, and humanitarian intervention. The authors conclude that the US’s actions run afoul of limitations in each relevant body of law, and of note, they discuss how this attack is consequential for the validity of humanitarian intervention on another state’s territory without approval from the UN Security Council. They conclude by suggesting that the international community is likely to consider the nature of suffering, in addition to the quantum of suffering, as bearing on the right of States to mount future humanitarian operations.

Attached Files:

Setting the Record Straight: An In-Depth Review of “Duty” by Robert Gates

Bowman “sets the record straight” with his review of Bob Gates’ new book, Duty. He states that Duty is not a “tell all,” but rather a highly personal and almost daily reflection of what Gates thought and experienced during his time as US Secretary of Defense. Ultimately, Bowman concludes that while the book is very readable, it is primarily a catharsis with little to no commentary on national security or international law.

Addressing the Guantanamo “Legacy Problem”: Bringing Law-of-War Prolonged Military Detention & Criminal Prosecution into Closer Alignment

Abrams seeks to move the discussion on Guantanamo detainees forward by bringing law-of-war detention and criminal prosecution into closer alignment. The article analyzes the Obama Administration’s current approach of dealing with terrorists captured abroad and its preference for conducting criminal prosecutions whenever feasible. Abrams proposes several changes to the current system, including a decision-making framework for imposing further military detention after completion of the criminal process, which the administration has indicated is a possibility, and taking into account the criminal culpability of the detainee to impose a presumptive limit on indefinite detention, as ways to reform the two-track system and increase equality accordingly.