Confusing the Jus ad bellum and the Jus in bello II

Jennifer Moore argues over at the OUPblog that “The 1949 Geneva Conventions do not justify US missile strikes in Syria in response to chemical weapons attacks on the civilian population.” Well…yes, given that the Geneva Conventions govern how armed forces and civilians are to be treated during a war and NOT the justification for going to war, she is correct.

The 1949 Geneva Conventions do not justify US missile strikes in Syria in response to chemical weapons attacks on the civilian population – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2013/09/syria-us-military-strikes-international-law-pil/#sthash.M0vXtYZF.dpuf
The 1949 Geneva Conventions do not justify US missile strikes in Syria in response to chemical weapons attacks on the civilian population – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2013/09/syria-us-military-strikes-international-law-pil/#sthash.M0vXtYZF.dpuf
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2 thoughts on “Confusing the Jus ad bellum and the Jus in bello II

  1. Imagine she had built her argument around article 51 of the UN Charter, which does address jus ad bellum, namely in self defence. Is she right then? My sense is yes, i.e. the US cannot use it to legally justify an attack without UNSC approval. Obviously there are other forms of justification (moral, ethical, norm-based) that the US can appeal to, but that’s my relatively uninformed understanding of the most relevant legal passage. Am I wrong, either in identification or application? What law would you say we should be looking at to evaluate the US justification?

    • My issue is with her claim that the Geneva Conventions do not justify a US attack. No one has made such a claim that I know of. And as she knows the Geneva Conventions regulate conduct in war (jus in bello) and not the resort to war (jus ad bellum). To your point about the Charter you are correct: The US would require either a self defence justification – a stretch at best – or a UNSC resolution authorizing a Chapter VII force.

      Additionally, I find Moore’s claim about R2P not very compelling: “It does not sanction military retaliation against a state for attacking its own civilians,” is patently false.

      Myself, I’d give more of a norms based argument as (our friend) Richard Price does. He was on CBC Newsworld last night arguing that a strike could be justified because world has an interest in enforcing the norm against the use of chemical weapons

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