The Continued Evolution of U.S. Law of Armed Conflict Implementation: Implications for the U.S. Military
RAND NATIONAL DEFENSE RESEARCH INST SANTA MONICA CA
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The Law of Armed Conflict LOAC is a source of significant legal authority for and restriction on a wide range of U.S. military activities. It is not a single law but rather a collection of international treaties and customary international law, and it has had a profound influence on the conduct of warfare. The LOAC is not, of course, the only factor that has influenced whether and how states, including the United States, decide to adopt policies governing their military activities. U.S. forces are required to operate in accordance with U.S. legal interpretations of the LOAC failure to do so is punishable by law. However, decisionmakers often adopt policies that restrict military activities beyond what is legally required. Even when the LOAC permits a given practice, U.S. policymakers may alter policies to reflect political or operational concerns. The resulting implementations, reflecting both legal and nonlegal factors, shape decisions on such matters as rules of engagement, targeting procedures, and the development of weapon systems. Such U.S. implementations of the LOAC have increasingly restricted military activities over the past two decades. In particular, greater concern for civilian casualties for both political and operational reasons has motivated the U.S. military to take increasing precautions in its planning and has deterred it from undertaking military actions anticipated to place civilians at risk. Despite the clear impact of such implementations on military operations in recent years, relatively little attention has been paid to assessing their potential future direction. This report aims to fill this gap by surveying potential strategic, technological, and normative trends that may affect the future evolution of U.S. LOAC implementation and by assessing the resulting implications for the U.S. military.
- Sociology and Law
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics