Targeting 'War-Sustaining' Objects in Non-International Armed Conflict
American Journal of International Law, 2016 Volume 110, (Forthcoming)
20 Pages Posted: 25 May 2016 Last revised: 9 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 2016
President Obama has embraced what many in the international law community long-regarded as off limits: targeting war-sustaining capabilities, such as the economic infrastructure used to generate revenue for an enemy’s armed forces. Although the weight of scholarly opinion has for years maintained that such objects are not legitimate military targets, the existing literature on this topic is highly deficient. Academic discussion has yet to grapple with some of the strongest and clearest evidence in support of the U.S. view on the legality of such targeting decisions. Indeed, intellectual resources may be better spent not on the question whether such objects are legitimate military targets under the law of armed conflict, but on second-order questions such as how to apply proportionality analysis and how to identify limiting principles to guard against unintentional slippery slopes. In this article, the author discusses the legal pedigree for the Obama Administration’s war-sustaining targeting. The article then turns to identifying some of the most significant second-order questions and how the United States and the international community might begin to address them in ongoing and future armed conflicts.
Keywords: Laws of War, Targeting, war sustaining, petroleum, ISIL, Islamic State, counterterrorism, terrorism, Geneva Conventions, international humanitarian law
JEL Classification: K33, H56
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation