Is there such a thing as the law of war, or is the phrase an oxymoron?

The Law of War, better described as International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or Law of Armed Conflict, (LOAC) is very real, though difficult for most lawyers to understand or research. There are no codified statutes or well-organized case law of the types familiar to most U.S. researchers:

  • The primary basis of international law is a patchwork of complex treaties. They are binding only on nations that have ratified them.
  • There are precedents, but rather than a system of U.S.-style case law, neatly arrayed by jurisdiction, there is a set of sometimes poorly defined or disputed concepts known as “customary international law.” These are defined as “rules of law derived from the consistent conduct of States acting out of the belief that the law required them to act that way.”

The Hamas-Israel conflict highlights the importance of IHL. Misunderstandings prevail, often fueled by poor journalism.

My article, Research Guide: Law of Armed Conflict is the lead article in the October issue. This is the first article in the’s Hamas/Israel Conflict Project. I’m working on related articles now & will announce here as they are published.