A Taxonomy of Armed Conflict

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My friend Vidan Hadzi-Vidanovic and I just finished an article on the classification of armed conflicts in modern IHL, which is forthcoming in a book collection edited by Christian Henderson and Nigel White. The draft is available here on SSRN, and the abstract is below. Particularly because the piece draws upon many discussions we have had on this blog, any comments would be most welcome.

With some relatively minor exceptions international humanitarian law (IHL) applies only when a certain threshold is met: the existence of an armed conflict or belligerent occupation. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the many difficulties surrounding the classification of armed conflicts in modern IHL. While the two main archetypes – international armed conflict (IAC) and non-international armed conflict (NIAC) – are reasonably clear in their basic forms, their boundaries are complex and obscure. Many recent conflicts do not fit the classical archetypes well, provoking debates on spill-over, internationalized, mixed or hybrid and even transnational armed conflicts.

The chapter strives to show that there are some differences between IACs and NIACs that cannot be erased simply by reasoning from analogy or from moral imperative, and that therefore the classification of armed conflict is an issue that matters and will continue to matter for the considerable future. The principal goal of the chapter is clarity, clarity in a conceptual and doctrinal framework which can enable legal and policy debates to be properly had and argued without their participants talking past each other. In attempting to advance such clarity, the chapter discusses the framework of war and peace in classical international law, the conceptual revolution brought about by the aftermath of the Second World War, and finally the modern law, by developing a comprehensive taxonomy of armed conflict.


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Stuart Ford says

January 25, 2012

I'll be reading this with interest. I am slated to teach IHL next semester and I have been looking for a good article that lays out the distinction between IAC and NIAC and grapples with recent challenges to that distinction (and that will be readable for law students). Hopefully this will fit the bill.

Stuart Ford says

January 26, 2012

I'm going to start teaching IHL soon, and I have been on the lookout for a good article on the types of armed conflicts. I'll give it a read and see if I can use it.

Also, do you have a recommendation about what textbook to use for an IHL class? I was planning on use the new Solis text partly because it has (apparently) been used by Solis to teach actual US officers about IHl and therefore has a certain authenticity to it. But I am worried that it is not concerned enough with the international part of IHL. Any thoughts?

jpaust says

January 27, 2012

You could expland to include crimes against humanity and genocide, and then use our soft-cover Paust, Bassiouni, Scharf, et al., Human Rights Module, with a self-contained set of documents. It uses soe chapters from our Paust, Bassiouni, Sharf, et al., International Criminal Law casebook, including the Law of War chapter. Both are available from Carolina Academic Press -- see www.cap-press.com
The Human Rights Module has some 226 pages of text and more than 200 pages of documents -- self-contained and less expensive than a hardcopy casebook for the students.