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Title: The definition of a legitimate target in US air warfare : a normative enquiry into the effectiveness of international law in the conduct of hostilities
Author: Dill, Janina
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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This study explores the effectiveness of international law in regulating combat operations during international armed conflict. The first part sketches a theory of effective international law, answering the question: Can the legal definition of a legitimate target of attack make a difference for target selection besides actors' material interests and normative aspirations? Part II centers on an empirical investigation of US air targeting and explores the question: Does the law in fact make a difference for the definition of a legitimate target as the influence of International Humanitarian Law on decision-making in US air warfare between 1965 and 2003 increases significantly? The analysis closes with a normative assessment of law in war, discussing whether the conduct of hostilities improves with the increased relevance of law. The study explores the hypothesis that recourse to law has a distinguishable effect on US behaviour in air warfare. I show that International Humanitarian Law is constitutive of the notion that a target is legitimate in as much as an attack on it efficiently contributes to the achievement of the belligerent's overall political goals. I go on to argue that this effect of law does not amount to a normative improvement in combat operations. International Humanitarian Law's indeterminacy accounts for its failure to regulate war in accordance with the "logic of distinction and sequencing". This logic is demonstrated to be normatively preferable to the "logic of efficiency", whose rise in US air warfare International Humanitarian Law actually encourages. However, even if law were normatively successful, as defined here, it would not render international armed conflict acceptable by contemporary moral standards. For effectiveness of International Law to mean moral acceptability of war, international law would have to change the parameters of the use of force in international relations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available