Worth the Read

James Gow, War and War Crimes:  Military, Legitimacy and Success in Armed Conflict, Coumbia Univ. Press, Dec. 2011.

Necessity and proportionality inform the laws of war, but how do these principles work in modern warfare? What new pressures do the practitioners of war face, especially in light of rapid changes in strategy and policy and an increasing emphasis on ethics and legality?
Wars waged in fluctuating environments make the legitimacy of armed force hard to justify, especially among diverse international and transnational publics. More than ever, strategy has come to embrace justice and law as crucial components of military success, but legitimacy is fragile and easily contested, and today’s militaries struggle to respond positively, consistently , and legally to an ever-shifting dynamic. Drawing on empirical research and interviews with seasoned military professionals, this volume describes how militaries can work successfully within the politics-law-strategy nexus to foster and maintain a sense of legitimacy in war. James Gow clearly defines the mutual relationship between wars and their outcomes, pinpointing the moment when a war act becomes a war crime, especially within multidimensional combat. Taking an initial, bold step in reconciling a troubling and taboo issue, Gow provides strategists, policymakers, and others with a framework for mitigating negative outcomes.

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