The Thickest Grey: Assessing the Status of the Civilian Response Corps Under the Law of International Armed Conflict and the U.S. Approach to Targeting Civilians

30 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2010 Last revised: 6 Jun 2010

See all articles by Dan E. Stigall

Dan E. Stigall

U.S. Department of Justice - National Security Division; George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: June 1, 2010

Abstract

The U.S. approach to armed conflict has recently undergone a profound shift as policymakers and military commanders have been forced to seek solutions to the seemingly intractable problems associated with developing countries and their relative instability. This focus on reconstruction and stabilization has led to the rise of “stability operations” – a relatively new addition to the military lexicon. Moreover, what is now called “stability operations” is a hybrid area that fuses a core military mission with a field of knowledge and experience that is dominated, at least in theory, by civilians. In that regard, there is another grey area surrounding the question of what conduct disqualifies a civilian from the protections and immunity traditionally given to civilians during armed conflict. The resultant lack of clarity can translate into significant legal consequences – both for civilians who are mobilized pursuant to such an effort and for U.S. policymakers who seek to criminalize the conduct of terrorists and insurgents.

This article explores the phenomenon of U.S. government civilians who engage in stability and reconstruction operations in conflict zones and their legal status under the law of armed conflict, paying specific attention to the corps of federal civilians being developed for this specific purpose: the Civilian Response Corps. Because the field of stability operations is a hybrid area that requires both civilian and military resources to attain a common objective, the objectives of each are conflated and, thus, necessarily colors the civilians engaging in such work with a belligerent hue. Ultimately, this article posits that the complex nature of civilian operations is such that neither the military nor civilians can be extricated from it and, as such, U.S. interests are best served by articulating a single, formal, and more restrictive interpretation of what it means to “directly participate in hostilities”.

Keywords: stability operations, international law, direct participation, rule of law, armed conflict, civilians

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Stigall, Dan E., The Thickest Grey: Assessing the Status of the Civilian Response Corps Under the Law of International Armed Conflict and the U.S. Approach to Targeting Civilians (June 1, 2010). American University International Law Review, Vol. 25, pp. 101-130, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1618761

Dan E. Stigall (Contact Author)

U.S. Department of Justice - National Security Division ( email )

905 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20530
United States

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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