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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The war lawyers : U.S., Israel and the spaces of targeting Jones, Craig Andrew


This dissertation examines the involvement of war lawyers (military lawyers) in targeting operations carried out by the US and Israeli militaries. It draws on over 50 interviews with war lawyers and military operators as well as extensive research with primary and secondary sources. The research shows that war lawyers are extensively involved in US and Israeli targeting operations – though there are some key differences between them – and that law plays a significant role in the planning and conduct of targeting operations. The research also shows that the reach of war lawyers is not unlimited; their involvement in time-sensitive targeting, especially, is extremely limited and sometimes non-existent. Nevertheless, the involvement of war lawyers in targeting operations is novel from a historical perspective. In the US, war lawyers have served their military for centuries; war lawyers in Israel have served since the state was founded in 1948. Yet despite these histories – which I trace – war lawyers did not begin to provide legal advice to military commanders in targeting operations until the early 1990s. This dissertation asks: 1) Why and when did military lawyers become involved in giving legal advice on targeting operations? 2) Why has war become more juridical? 3) What effect do military lawyers have on the conduct and outcome of targeting operations? 4) What effect does law have on the conduct of later modern war? Warfare became more legalistic in the late twentieth century; this and other factors meant that war lawyers were increasingly relied upon to make sense of complex legal problems on the modern battlefield. War lawyers work with and across several bodies of law but the most important is a branch of international law called the laws of war. This dissertation finds that war lawyers employ the laws of war not only to minimise military violence but also to enable, legitimise and sometimes even extend it.

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