Book Reviews - The Law of Armed Conflict: An Operational Approach

Military Law Review (2012)

15 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2013

Date Written: May 1, 2013


Recent years have seen a distinct rise in the academic attention paid to all aspects of what is frequently termed, in the collective, national security law, and various subcategories of international and domestic law which relate to national security. This increased academic interest, spurred by world events such as the U.S. conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the increased focus on counterterrorism, has resulted in such heightened attention that many U.S. law schools now publish journals which focus exclusively on national security law and even offer LL.M. programs specializing in this distinct academic area. Courses on the law of armed conflict have also burgeoned. Concomitantly, since 2001, the number of textbooks designed to function as instructional tools to teach the law of armed conflict has increased.

'The Law of Armed Conflict: An Operational Approach,' written by a phalanx of six authors with extensive military backgrounds, is a product of this academic approach. As its title implies, the book seeks to provide “operational context” to an academic discussion of the law of armed conflict which is informed by the authors’ collective experiences serving as military advisors in the U.S. armed forces. All of the authors have independently made their respective marks in the field of international law, especially as it pertains to the law of armed conflict — and five of the same six authors previously collaborated on a book which “focused on the operational resolution of issues related to the application of military power by the United States . . . .” This book, however, is distinct in that it is not an academic treatise but a textbook designed for classroom instruction and which seeks to provide the first real manual for broader classroom instruction on this subject from an “operational” perspective.

The book is a valuable contribution to the field of international law as it relates to the law of armed conflict. It is an experiential guide through the law of armed conflict from a U.S. military perspective. The book’s discussion of the law of armed conflict is enriched by the practical insight and knowledge of its authors, all of whom are distinguished practitioners with years of military experience. This combination of practical experience, knowledge of U.S. military practice, and scholarly acumen form what is clearly the book’s principal virtue. But every virtue has a concomitant defect and, in this case, the book’s keen focus on U.S. practice in a military context occasionally crowds out broader legal discussions and omits critique. As such, explanations of policy positions on certain issues can sometimes take the place of a fulsome, multidimensional explanation of the topic — leaving readers instructed on a particular policy position or insight into U.S. military practice, but left without a deeper examination of the myriad legal issues attendant to that position. Fortunately, this defect is occasional rather than recurring and does not, in the final analysis, unduly detract from the book’s value as a resource and a unique educational tool.

Keywords: Law of Armed Conflict, book review, international, war, LOAC

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Stigall, Dan E., Book Reviews - The Law of Armed Conflict: An Operational Approach (May 1, 2013). Military Law Review (2012), Available at SSRN:

Dan E. Stigall (Contact Author)

U.S. Department of Justice ( email )

United States

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