Karma Nabulsi

in Traditions of War

Published in print October 1999 | ISBN: 9780198294078
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599972 | DOI:

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By the end of the Geneva negotiations in 1949, significant progress had been made in the codification of the laws of war, although the question of the legal distinction between lawful and unlawful combatants remained essentially unresolved. The book has outlined both the conceptual and practical historical contexts within which this problem was confronted, and in doing so has offered an explanation of its intractability, its argument being that three fundamentally divergent philosophies of war that cannot be reconciled lie at the heart of the problem. A number of central and important themes have been identified: (1) the book has underlined that in situations of war or military occupation, many of the traditional dichotomies in both international relations theory and political theory are lost; (2) from the perspective of international law, in contrast with the conventional depiction of the legal arena as an exclusive instrument for advancing and reconciling state interests, the analysis has shown that legal systems are also (and perhaps primarily) the expressions of ideological norms and values; and (3) the importance of ideological traditions has been demonstrated. Finally, in its treatment of the themes of war and military occupation, a number of points have been highlighted: (1) the opaque nature of occupation in nineteenth-century Europe; (2) the existence of a powerful custom of civilian resistance to occupation, not even accounted for by the makers of the laws of war; (3) the impossibility of maintaining a distinction between the public and private spheres under occupation; (4) the incoherence of a Groatian formulation in the face of such army practices as reprisal (a martialist policy); and (5) the explicit emergence of patriotism and nationalism in these situations. These points demonstrate that it was hardly surprising that the attempt to introduce a distinction between lawful and unlawful combatants failed, and show that the essential truth oaboutwars of military occupation and conquest is captured in the opposition between martial and republican paradigms.

Keywords: civilian resistance; Groatian tradition; ideological norms; ideological traditions; ideological values; ideologies of war; international law; international relations theory; lawful combatants; laws of war; martial tradition; military occupation; nationalism; patriotism; philosophies of war; political theory; republican tradition; resistance; traditions of war; unlawful combatants; wars

Chapter.  2226 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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