Military Objective and Collateral Damage: Their Dynamics and Relationship
JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL'S SCHOOL CHARLOTTESVILLE VA
Pagination or Media Count:
The two most critical aspects of targeting are the concepts of military objective and collateral damage i.e. incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. The conventional international law definition of military objective is set out in the 1977 Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions Protocol I at Article 52 2. That definition has also become the complete customary international law definition of military objective. The conventional international law definition of collateral damage and the concept of proportionality of which collateral damage is a part is found in Protocol I at Articles 515 b, 57 2 a iii and 57 2 b. For all practical purposes, the customary international law definition of proportionality is the same as the conventional definition. The concepts of military objective and collateral damage and thus proportionality are linked by the common element of military advantage. However, for a variety of reasons that linkage is somewhat weak and sporadic. This linkage implies a complementary relationship between these two concepts i.e. as either grows or diminishes so does the other. An examination of a wide range of recent law of war issues, controversies and developments confirms this relationship. The main implication of this linkage is that at least significant military input will be necessary in determinations of military objective, collateral damage and proportionality. The major challenge of this implication is ensuring that the resulting decisions achieve the proper balance in the basic dynamic of the law of armed conflict i.e. satisfy both military and the humanitarian factors neither of which have primacy.
- Sociology and Law