Ignorance is Not Bliss: The Law of Belligerent Occupation and the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
88 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2005
Military planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq focused on the quick removal of Saddam Hussein using a modest ground force. Little attention seems to have been given to such politico-strategic concerns as post-conflict stability and there is no evidence to indicate that law of war provisions governing belligerent occupation received any consideration. This oversight seems incongruous given the key U.S. role in developing these norms, substantial subsequent experience with their implementation, and the fact that Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) attorneys in Iraq took them to heart even while U.S. leadership at home avoided mentioning them. Occupation law has practical roots in Napoleon's disastrous experiences in the Peninsula Campaign as well as the U.S. Army's successful operations in Mexico in 1847-48. Americans Henry W. Halleck and Professor Francis Lieber captured lessons from these experiences, and the latter's "Code," prepared during the Civil War, provided the basis for subsequent international codification. Had modern U.S. policy-makers recognized the practical foundation of occupation law and given its requirements due weight in the invasion planning process, it is quite likely that subsequent events in Iraq would have turned out more favorably and the overall costs of the conflict would have been substantially lower.
Keywords: Belligerent Occupation, Iraq, Law of War
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation