“Professor Byers’s book goes to the heart of some of the most bitterly contested recent controversies about the International Rule of Law.” —Chris Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University
International law governing the use of military force has been the subject of intense public debate. Under what conditions is it appropriate, or necessary, for a country to use force when diplomacy has failed? Michael Byers, a widely known world expert on international law, weighs these issues in War Law.
Byers examines the history of armed conflict and international law through a series of case studies of past conflicts, ranging from the 1837 Caroline Incident to the abuse of detainees by US forces at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Byers explores the legal controversies that surrounded the 1999 and 2001 interventions in Kosovo and Afghanistan and the 2003 war in Iraq; the development of international humanitarian law from the 1859 Battle of Solferino to the present; and the role of war crimes tribunals and the International Criminal Court. He also considers the unique influence of the United States in the evolution of this extremely controversial area of international law.
War Law is neither a textbook nor a treatise, but a fascinating account of a highly controversial topic that is necessary reading for fans of military history and general readers alike.
“Should be read, and pondered, by those who are seriously concerned with the legacy we will leave to future generations.” —Noam Chomsky
When President Bush insists our military forces have acted in accordance with international law, many other nations disagree. This happens so often that observers may wonder: exactly what laws are they arguing about? To readers willing to put in the work, this dense book provides the answers. According to Byers (The Role of Law in International Politics), laws governing war have existed since the 19th century, but nations freely disregarded them until the adoption of the U.N. Charter in 1945. The charter itself, however, is still subject to interpretation. When Israeli planes bombed an Iraqi nuclear facility in 1981, for example, the U.S. insisted that pre-emptive self-defense was not sanctioned. By 2003, America had changed its mind. Byers devotes three chapters to the complicated issue of self-defense, and another three to the equally contentious issue of humanitarian intervention: i.e., whether it's okay to invade a nation to stop it from committing unspeakable acts, such as genocide, or to bring democracy to its people. A final chapter attacks recent U.S. foreign policy, which, Byers argues, places American interests above international law and returns the world to the pre-1945 era when powerful nations routinely threw their weight around the globe, often with terrible consequences.