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close this bookLaw in Humanitarian Crises Volume I : How Can International Humanitarian Law Be Made Effective in Armed Conflicts? (European Commission Humanitarian Office)
close this folderThe Laws of War: Problems of Implementation in Contemporary Conflicts
close this folderV. Summary and Conclusions
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. Realist and Idealist Images of the Laws of War
View the document2. Still a World of States
View the document3. Humanitarianism as a Substitute for Policy
View the document4. Application to Non-International Conflicts
View the document5. Mines
View the document6. Limits of Compliance Provisions
View the document7. Trials
View the document8. International Criminal Court
View the document9. Reparations
View the document10. The United Nations
View the document11. Barbarians?
View the document12. A Set of Professional Military Standards?
View the document13. Need to Keep Our Own Houses in Order
View the document14. The Relation between Ius in Bello and Ius ad Bellum
View the document15. Taking Implementation Seriously

1. Realist and Idealist Images of the Laws of War

A fundamental question to be addressed is: Why have there been so many cases of massive, cynical violations of the laws of war in recent years, whether by Iraq in its occupation of Kuwait, or in many of the civil wars which have followed the break-up of states and empires?

An explanation may be that the laws of war have come to be seen as too idealistic - neither conforming to the facts of power, nor reflecting the interests of belligerents. Unfortunately, many of the advocates of international humanitarian law may have unintentionally contributed to such negative perceptions. There are dangers in a picture of the law as coming out of Geneva, as a gospel which needs merely to be disseminated and applied in the rest of the world. There may also be dangers in the excessive complexity of some contemporary law, and of the writing about it. It is desirable to see more emphasis on the idea that the law is intensely practical - that it represents, at least in part, a set of deals between professional soldiers, and bargains among states, and that its implementation can have consequences which are for the most part compatible with the interests of belligerents.