Conferences: 2002

Ground Operations – October 17-18, 2002

Conference ParticipantsThe presentations and discussions highlighted the unique humanitarian issues raised by military interventions with a significant ground force component. Participants used the case of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan to explore the tension between centralized and decentralized operations, appropriate to air power, and the U.S. interactions with local forces.

Discussions helped identify situations in which ground operations are most challenging from a humanitarian perspective. In particular, participants addressed questions such as whether the United States' use of heavy firepower in urban areas to ensure maximum protection for ground forces is outdated, due to the effects on civilian populations on the ground.

Other areas of discussion included the tensions between the military and humanitarian organizations operating in areas of conflict, the legal and ethical issues of policy of targeted killing, and the difficulties of distinguishing between civilians and combatants in urban operations.

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Working Papers

Civil-Military Relations: A Military Civil Affairs Perspective
By Major Kimberly Fields, USA

Major Fields discusses possible explanations for the deterioration in post-conflict civil-military relations she recently served as the strategic planner for the Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force in Kabul, Afghanistan. She assesses the challenges which faced the first-ever Coalition Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force (CJCMOTF) - which included a lack of guidance and resources - suggests areas for improvement on the part of both the military and the international assistance community to more effectively approach post-conflict humanitarian assistance.

Who's the Target? The Blurring of Distinction Between Civilians and Combatants During IDF Ground Operations in Urban Environments
By Noam Lubell

Mr. Lubell analyzes the difficulties in the differentiating combatants and civilians during ground operations in urban environments using the case study of the March-April 2002 Israeli Defense Force (IDF) intervention in the Jenin refugee camp. He argues that a number of factors, including unclear military objectives, denial and prevention of medical aid, and the use if human shields, vague rules of engagement, and the use of certain tactics and weapons such as Flechette shells and international destruction of civilian objects demonstrate an inadequate separation of combatants from noncombatants and thus insufficient protection by the IDF of noncombatants.

Urban Operations in Jenin Refugee Camp: The Israeli Experience
By Gal Luft

Dr. Luft also uses the March-April 2002 Israeli Defense Force (IDF) intervention in the Jenin refugee camp as a case study. He highlighted two main challenges of conducting a ground operations in urban environments: defining combatants and dealing with the mass media. Dr. Luft discussed the difficulties of singling out the enemy when traditional uniforms were not worn, and non-traditional combatants such as women and children became aggressors. He called the IDF's decision to block media coverage in Jenin a "double-edged sword", since it was necessary to preserve the troops' freedom of interaction, yet it facilitated "anti-Israeli propaganda" with "strategic implications on the entire campaign."

Memorandum on Executive Order 12333 and Assassination
By Colonel W. Hays Parks, USMCR

This Memorandum of Law was originally published in 1989 in The Army Lawyer as an analysis of national and international legal interpretations of assassination. The memo is not a statement of policy, but was written to provide guidance in revising a U.S. Army Field Manual. It discusses the definition of assassination in wartime and peacetime. The memo concludes that the use of military force against legitimate targets that threaten U.S. citizens or national security does not constitute assassination and would therefore not be prohibited by Executive Order 12333 or by international law.


Understanding Collateral Damage – June 4-5, 2002

Conference ParticipantsDuring the March workshop, military participants coined the phrase "collateral damage management (or mitigation)" - CDM - to refer to a proposed process by which the U.S. armed forces would more comprehensively and systematically seek to minimize unintended harm to civilians. This meeting aimed to help identify the opportunities and challenges in improving CDM.

The discussions focused on the legal, political, and moral standards that should be applied to the means of intervention as well as the limitations on upholding and raising these standards. We found that there is an overall lack of agreement between the two communities about the standards used to evaluate violations and how the U.S. military learns from its mistakes. For example, there was extensive debate over whether civilian deaths were a meaningful metric in assessing an intervention and who should be responsible for gathering information on civilian casualties.

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Working Papers

Collateral Damage in the Gulf War: Experience and Lessons
By Thomas Keaney

Thomas Keaney considers the reasons for relatively low numbers of civilian deaths during Operation Desert Storm, and the limitations to the Defense Department's knowledge regarding collateral damage. The use of precision weapons and the concentration of strikes away from populated areas helped minimize collateral damage, according to Keaney. Nonetheless, military leaders often lacked adequate information about the effects of individual bombing missions. This information gap, Keaney says, reflects both a lack of capability and practice, and the degree to which non-DOD elements are required for effective bomb damage assessment. Keaney discussed the limited value of measuring quantitative and qualitative (including legal analyses) inputs for understanding collateral damage in a bombing campaign. Because collateral damage has political costs, Keaney concluded that DOD should develop the capabilities and practices that will enable the U.S. military to provide accurate information about its actions.

Collateral Damage: Assessing Violations from the Outside
By Dinah PoKempner

Dinah PoKemner discusses the challenges of evaluating the use of the military force by external analysts. These difficulties include assessing actions using ill-defined terms such as "effective contribution" and "military advantage", understanding other, non-legal standards and norms (such as public opinion) that influence military planning, and grasping what steps the military takes to learn from past mistakes. She advocates greater transparency to allow credible assessments of incidents of collateral damage and warns that overly vague terminology (such as whether "attack" applies to war on terror of indefinite length) may jeopardize the concept of proportionality by justifying almost any actions or results.

Principles Concerning the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts
By Victor Rostow

Victor Rostow introduces a document drafted by the United Stated, Great Britain, and Germany regarding their shared interpretation of the principles of Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions. The United States has not ratified the Protocol, because of concerns that different interpretations of Protocol 1 could lead to different rules of engagement, and interoperability would suffer. The document was intended to "provide a common basis for military operations" among the three Allied countries. Specific categories of people are singled out for protection, including wounded persons, civilian medical united, women and children, refugees or stateless persons, and civilian defense personnel. In addition, the Paper specifies that only legitimate military objectives should be attacked, and that weapons causing superfluous injury, the use of human shields, and the improper use of protective emblems - such as the Red Cross - are not permitted.

The Necessity of Learning Lessons
By Adam Siegel

Adam Siegel argues that the war on terrorism requires a different approach to assimilation 'lessons learned'. He advocates the adoption of a 'lesson identified' process within the U.S. military to assimilate both positive and negative lessons from the war on terrorism and facilitate information sharing and problem solving approaches. He maintains that current lessons learned efforts are insufficient to produce needed changes, and proposes the development of a network of interagency teams that will work across traditional boundaries to encourage interorganizational solutions.

Humanitarian Issues in Military Targeting – March 7-8, 2002

Conference ParticipantThis workshop considered the humanitarian challenges that arise during the airpower targeting process. The discussions covered the basics of military planning and operations with respect to targeting, including the strengths and weaknesses of current practice.

Participants explored larger questions of targeting strategy from historical, ethical, and legal perspectives. They considered technology's promise for further refining the use of force, and the danger that technology might obfuscate the fundamental issues undergirding targeting strategies and tactics. The charged topics of evolving international legal standards, the changing nature of modern combatants, and the impact of technology on civilian suffering were recurring themes of the workshop discussions.

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