Viewing Hamdan Through a Military Lens

12 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2009

Date Written: January 6, 2009


The Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld triggered an avalanche of legal commentary, criticism, and debate. What is somewhat surprising, however, is the relative paucity of analysis regarding the impact of this opinion on the planning and execution of military operations, a subject at the heart of the challenge brought by Hamdan. From a military perspective, this opinion provided an important reaffirmation of something military operational lawyers had always known: treating captured enemies humanely is an essential component of preserving the demarcation line between disciplined military operations and battlefield anarchy. In rejecting the selective invocation of the laws of war, the Supreme Court seemed to understand and confirm that this area of law reflects a delicate balance between authority and obligation, a principle reflected in longstanding Department of Defense policies. This brief essay will address this aspect of the opinion, and how the Court's impetus for cooperative military policy ultimately strengthened the had of the government.

Keywords: Law of War, law of armed conflict, humanitarian law, internaitonal law, war on terror, terrorism, military commissions, war crimes, seperation of powers, national security

JEL Classification: K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Corn, Geoffrey S., Viewing Hamdan Through a Military Lens (January 6, 2009). Oklahoma City University Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Geoffrey S. Corn (Contact Author)

South Texas College of Law ( email )

1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States

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