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Category Archives: Jus ad Bellum/UN Charter/Sovereignty

U.S. Airstrikes Against ISIS in Syria? Possible International Legal Theories

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Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 3:04 PM

In the wake of Thursday’s statements by Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey and Friday’s comments by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, it sounds like the U.S. Government is at least considering whether to conduct air strikes against ISIS in Syria. A decision to do so clearly is not a done deal. As the Times . . .
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Air Strikes or Supply Drops in Iraq?

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Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 12:30 PM

The New York Times reports:  WASHINGTON — President Obama is considering airstrikes or airdrops of food and medicine to address a humanitarian crisis among as many as 40,000 religious minorities in Iraq who have been dying of heat and thirst on a mountaintop after death threats from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, administration officials said . . .
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Report of the Stimson Center Task Force on Drone Policy

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Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 3:27 PM

The Stimson Center released today the report of its Task Force on US Drone Policy.  The ten-member task force, of which I was a member, was chaired by General John Abizaid and Rosa Brooks.   The report makes eight recommendations for overhauling US drone strategy; improving oversight, accountability, transparency and clarifying the international legal framework applicable . . .
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A Call for Article 51 Letters

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 6:30 PM

In past week, Kenya has conducted air strikes in Somalia against al Shabaab. Israel has undertaken airstrikes in Syria against Syrian military targets in response to a cross-border attack that killed an Israeli teenager.  And the Syrian air force reportedly has carried out air strikes in western Iraq against ISIS.  Each of these actions seems to have been . . .
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Rescuing the Kidnapped Turks in Iraq

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Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 2:00 PM

The question on everyone’s lips is whether the United States will use force – most likely air strikes — in Iraq to help suppress the threat posed by ISIS.  Jack, Wells, and Bobby discussed here, here, and here the domestic legal basis for that use of force. The international legal basis almost certainly would be . . .
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Readings: Can Non-State Actors Mount an Armed Attack? by Kimberly N. Trapp

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 3:29 PM

Among the issues separating the American understanding of international law regarding transnational non-state actor armed groups from that of the “international community” (or at least an influential and significant part of UN officialdom, international law academics, international tribunals, international human rights NGOs, and governments particularly in Europe) is whether it is even possible for a . . .
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More Willing, More Able – But No Time Soon

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Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 1:00 PM

One new policy proposal contained in the President’s West Point speech from Wednesday was a Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, which would facilitate counterterrorism training for U.S. partner countries where terrorist groups seek footholds. But as Eric Schmitt at the Times notes, the U.S. government for years has been pursuing the strategy of helping to train up foreign . . .
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Targeting Non-Al Qaeda Members in Yemen (?): The Role of Consent

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Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 4:30 PM

The other day both Bobby here and Ryan Goodman at Just Security here picked up on news reports that DOD may be willing to provide additional military cooperation (including logistics and direct fire capabilities) to the Yemeni government. Ryan then takes the opportunity to ask: what type of force is the U.S. government undertaking in Yemen already? . . .
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The Precedential Value of the Kosovo Non-Precedent Precedent for Crimea

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Monday, March 17, 2014 at 10:00 AM

When the Obama administration invoked the 1999 Kosovo intervention as a precedent in the run-up to the planned Syria invasion, I wrote a post that argued that Kosovo was not a precedent for lawful international action.  The Kosovo intervention violated the U.N. Charter, but the West was less concerned with that fact than with limiting the intervention’s . . .
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Russia in Ukraine: A Reader Responds

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Stefan Soesanto writes in with the following thoughts on my earlier post on Russia’s introduction of troops into Ukraine as an international law violation: Amidst the ongoing political crisis in the Ukraine, numerous Western leaders have accused Moscow of violating international law by deploying unmarked Russian military forces across the autonomous Republic of Crimea. But . . .
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What’s the Deal with Crimea? A Brief History in Links

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 6:52 AM

Russia’s recent military actions in Crimea have many wondering what (and where) Crimea is, anyway. Here are the basics on geography and history. Crimea is a Ukranian peninsula in the northern Black Sea separated from Russia by the narrow Strait of Kerch. The vast majority of the peninsula is governed by the Autonomous Republic of . . .
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The Crimean Crisis: Commentary on International Law Ramifications

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Monday, March 3, 2014 at 2:34 PM

As a service to Lawfare readers, we have compiled some other web commentary on the legal aspects of the crisis in Crimea.  (Of course, interested folks should have a look at Ashley’s thorough articulation of the international law issues at play, and Paul’s take on the invasion’s cyber dimension.) While the situation percolated over the weekend, Eric Posner noted the (somewhat surprising) . . .
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Russian Forces in Ukraine: A Sketch of the International Law Issues

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Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 12:48 PM

Russian forces have seized control of Crimea and reportedly are digging trenches in the land bridge that connects Crimea with the rest of Ukraine. Is this a flagrant violation of international law regulating the use of force, or does Russia have some credible justification for what it’s done? Bottom Line Up Front (as DOD would . . .
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Readings: “Charting the Legal Geography of NIAC” by Michael Schmitt

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Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:11 PM

I’ll be participating this week in a Naval War College workshop on “Legal Implications of Autonomous Weapons,” and since my presentation topic at the workshop is “area of operations” with respect to autonomous weapons, I thought it might be a good idea to check on any recent scholarship on what has come to be called . . .
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War Powers, Red Lines, and Credibility

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Last fall, during the debate on airstrikes in Syria, commentators argued that the United States needed to act in order to preserve the credibility of American threats. If the “red line” that President Obama announced a year earlier wasn’t enforced, the argument went, dictators would be able to act with impunity. Interestingly, political scientists have . . .
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The More You Attempt Capture Operations, the Less Feasible They Become

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Friday, November 1, 2013 at 5:16 PM

A coda to Bobby’s post below asking about the legal views underlying US operations in Somalia over the past three weeks.  Three weeks ago, SEALs attempted a capture operation against a target on the coast of Somalia.  The SEAL team withdrew without capturing its target, on account of risks to noncombatants, it was reported.  Three . . .
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The “NSA Affair” Goes Criminal in Germany

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Monday, October 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM

The “NSA Affair” still commands German headlines. Over the weekend, the news was dominated by the fit-for-a-spy-novel revelations that the top floor of the U.S. Embassy on Pariser Platz (overlooking the Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag) apparently housed equipment and officials that listened in on Chancellor Merkel’s calls. There is a great picture here. It . . .
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Gabor Rona of Human Rights First Responds…

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Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 4:08 PM

…to my revised meta-study of drone strike casualties. Ritika Singh’s updated meta-study of drone strike casualties reaches exactly the right conclusion: the more we hear from non-government sources, the more we understand the inadequacy of the US government’s disclosures and indeed, the duplicity in its claims that drone strikes are “surgical.” (Not that surgery is always so surgical). But I wish Ritika . . .
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Louise Arbour on ICC and R2P

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Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 8:46 AM

Louise Arbour, president of the International Crisis Group, delivered a very powerful critique last week of existing doctrines and frameworks for promoting international justice, humanitarian protection, and rule of law. Her tough assessment of the International Criminal Court and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine are especially noteworthy because Arbour, a former Canadian Supreme Court . . .
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More on the Amnesty and Human Rights Watch Reports

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Friday, October 25, 2013 at 12:39 AM

Over at Security States today, Ken and I have a piece adapted in part from my post of Wednesday (to which Amnesty International responds here) on the recent Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports on civilian casualties in drone strikes. The piece combines some of my analysis from the earlier Lawfare post with thoughts of Ken’s added later. . . .
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