Category Archives: Issue Archive

Legal Interoperability

Understanding the Challenge of Legal Interoperability in Coalition Operations

In coalition operations, individual States may be responsible in law for some, but not all, of the activities conducted, and coalition members will often have different legal obligations or varying interpretations of the same obligations. In this article, David S. Goddard explores the challenges of achieving legal interoperability—the effective managing of these differences— and suggests a framework for understanding and addressing this problem.

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.

Law of War Manual

Totality of the Circumstances: The DOD Law of War Manual & the Evolving Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities

Major Ryan Krebsbach argues that the US Department of Defense Law of War Manual appropriately balances the need to protect civilians against the necessity of ensuring that individuals do not use the law of armed conflict to escape being lawfully targeted despite their material support for non-State armed forces. In contrast to the narrower definition used by the International Committee of the Red Cross of when a civilian loses immunity from lawful attack, the DoD Law of War Manual reduces the likelihood of unreasonably benefiting and encouraging unlawful belligerency.