Tag Archives: International Humanitarian Law

Fighting in the Unknown: Lawful Measures to Neutralize Subterranean Threats

Subterranean operations have been an aspect of warfare since the beginning of recorded history. No longer just the complex tunnel networks facing U.S. forces during the Vietnam conflict, in today’s modern society, infrastructure to support megacities such as subway systems and sewers provide a third dimension for military planners to consider in conflicts.

The need to neutralize such threats is highlighted by Michael Meier as he explores the lawful measures that can be taken to conduct these operations. Meier’s contribution to this understudied subject first sets the stage by reviewing the subterranean domain, then looks at applicable law for subterranean operations, and then finally applies the law to the various methods for neutralizing and destroying tunnels and other subterranean systems.

This overarching summation of the ways to neutralize subterranean threats highlights the extent to which the legal issues in particular require careful consideration by commanders and legal advisors.

From Protecting Lives to Protecting States: Use of Force Across the Threat Continuum

Retired Brigadier General Kenneth Watkin’s new book, Fighting at the Legal Boundaries: Controlling the Use of Force in Contemporary Conflict, helps address some of the issues with the increasingly blurred line between international humanitarian law and human rights law. Professor Mitt Regan’s review addresses the trends that Watkin regards as posing novel challenges for states accustomed to traditional concepts of the use of force and discusses Watkin’s concepts that are especially relevant to the question of how much the traditional categories of law enforcement guided by human rights principles and armed conflict governed by international humanitarian law should continue to frame thinking about the use of force. Regan also critiques Watkin’s use of the binary framework of law enforcement and armed conflict to guide analysis.

Countering the Prominence Effect: How US National Security Lawyers Can Fulfill Non-Prominent Humanitarian Objectives

Decision researchers describe a “prominence effect” that leads decision makers to choose an option with more defensible attributes when quantitative assessment of those options is difficult. Prominence is hypothesized as a factor in US policy decisions not to use military force to prevent or stop humanitarian crises. Prominence is also regarded as a behavioral failure affecting both the general public and public officials that can be mitigated to improve welfare outcomes in transnational security decisions. This article—by David G. Delaney and Paul Slovic—considers those hypotheses as they relate to attorneys advising the US president and other senior public officials addressing transnational security issues. It proposes a combination of institutional, organizational, and individual steps to mitigate prominence and related behavioral failures.