Occupations and Military Government

Bianka Adams

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:
Occupations and Military Government

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  • Pre-20th Century Warfare
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According to international law, a territory is under occupation when hostile armed forces assume authority over it. An occupying power exercises executive, legislative, and judicial authority over that territory if and when the legitimate government is absent, unable to perform its functions, or fails to perform its functions. The administration of an enemy’s territory by an occupying power is generally referred to as a “military government,” which may consist of military or civilian personnel, or of a combination of military and civilian personnel. In recent years in the United States, successive administrations have sidestepped the term “military government” as too fraught with negative connotations and have, in effect, replaced it with “reconstruction and stabilization” and “nation building.” While politically expedient and more palatable to a skeptical American electorate, US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, in particular, were and are military governments that have engaged in reconstruction and stabilization in combination with attempts at nation building. An occupation, even if it lasts for years, is of limited duration and ends when the occupying power withdraws its occupation forces after returning authority over a territory to a legitimate, sovereign government. To avoid confusing occupation and military government with other forms of military engagements on foreign territory, this definition does not cover cases in which military forces have been stationed in neutral or friendly territory and share with local civil authorities the responsibilities of administration; humanitarian assistance or peacekeeping missions; military interventions; or occupations for the purpose of annexation or colonial exploitation. Other distinctions necessary to aid in the understanding of military governments and occupations are the legal premises. International law as codified in the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) provides guidance for military governments and occupations. The relevance of these conventions in specific situations must be distinguished from the use of military law and martial law. Military law is the code that regulates the conduct of members of the armed forces, whereas martial law is the temporary government of a civil population through military forces, and it is invoked only in domestic territory.

Article.  10731 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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