Tag Archives: Combatant

Proxy War Ethics

In this article, Anthony Pfaff discusses what ethical norms should govern proxy war and the relationships that sustain them; the way the existence of a benefactor-proxy relationship complicates the application of traditional jus ad bellum criteria; and the additional moral problems caused by the way proxy wars shift risk away from benefactors. He concludes by suggesting a set of norms that should guide proxy relationships.

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.

Terrorism, the Internet, & Propaganda: A Deadly Combination

Ariel Lieberman outlines the evolution, content, and goals of modern terrorist propaganda on the Internet, and presents a three-pronged approach for challenging such propaganda using a combination of criminal prosecution, removal of terrorist propaganda from social media platforms, and an active counter-propaganda campaign to discredit and undermine terrorist groups.

International Law & Military Strategy: Changes in the Strategic Operating Environment

In this article, Kevin Rousseau explores the ways in which the modern focus on international humanitarian law has affected strategic decisions of both weak and major powers. Rousseau provides examples of “lawfare” in action and concludes by observing that waning principles of sovereignty require the state to adapt to the changing international legal operating environment by more effectively wielding humanitarian law.

Outsourcing Covert Activities

Over the past decade, the United States has radically shifted the way it projects its power overseas. Instead of using full-time employees of foreign affairs agencies to implement its policies, the government now deploys a wide range of contractors and grantees, hired by both for-profit and nonprofit entities.

Thus, while traditionally we relied on diplomats, spies, and soldiers to protect and promote our interests abroad, increasingly we have turned to hired guns. Contrast the first Gulf War to later conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the Gulf War the ratio of contractors to troops was 1 to 100; now, with approximately 260,000 contractors working for the State Department, Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Iraq and Afghanistan, that ratio has often exceeded 1 to 1.

To be sure, U.S. history is rich with examples of contractors; the privateers of the  Revolutionary period are a case in point. But our current turn to privatized labor does reflect a new trend, spurred by the post-Cold War decline of the standing military and the elimination of the draft, supported by the public’s faith (not always backed up by data) that the private sector can perform work more efficiently than government employees, and fueled by the exigencies of the war on terror in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Many of these modern contractors perform logistics functions, such as delivering meals to troops or cleaning latrines on the battlefield. Others guard diplomats, convoys, and military bases. But contractors have also gathered intelligence, interrogated detainees, and engaged in tactical maneuvers, sometimes under circumstances involving hostile fire.