Episode 27 – Samuel Moyn on the Humanizing of War

In this episode I speak with Samuel Moyn, who is a Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School and Professor of History at Yale University. Sam has written a number of books on issues at the intersection of history and international human rights, but we here discuss his most recent book, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War. Taking off from an insight of Leo Tolstoy’s, the book provocatively explores how an increasing focus on the humanization of war may have made us more accepting of armed conflict, and thereby undermined the movement to constrain the resort to war. In our discussion we explore some of the historical accounts that form the premises of this argument, including the claim that IHL did little to make war more humane until after the Vietnam war, particularly in the history of Western conflicts with non-white peoples; how armed conflict become far more humanized in the so-called “global war on terror;” and how this increasing focus on humanizing war has resulted in a corresponding decline in efforts to constrain the resort to war. We dig into the nature and implications of this claimed inverse relationship, and what forces and actors he thinks help to explain the phenomenon, and end with the question of what might might be done, and by whom, to address the problem of this declining focus on preventing war – an urgent question in the circumstances.

Materials:

Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021).

Reading Recommendations:

– Amanda Alexander, “A Short History of International Humanitarian Law,” 26 European Journal of International Law 109 (2015).

– Boyd van Dijk, Preparing for War: The Making of the Geneva Conventions (Oxford Univ. Press, 2022).

– Giovanni Mantilla, Lawmaking Under Pressure: International Humanitarian Law and Internal Armed Conflict (Cornell Univ. Press, 2020).

Episode 25 – Aslı Bâli on Economic Sanctions and the Laws of War

In the last episode of Season 2, I speak with Aslı Bâli, Professor of Law at UCLA in the United States, and Co-Director of the Middle East Division of Human Rights Watch, among other things. She specializes in both international law as it relates to armed conflict and human rights, and on comparative constitutional law with a focus on the Middle East. We discuss the lawfulness of comprehensive autonomous economic sanctions, and the relationship they may have with the various regimes that govern the use of force and armed conflict. Economic sanctions are often viewed as a legitimate and effective alternative to the use of force in international relations. Yet comprehensive sanctions can and do cause the kind of humanitarian harm and economic disruption that in other circumstances could be unlawful under IHL, or constitute a use of force if caused by cyber operations or even naval blockade, and they are potentially in violation of human rights law. So aside from the ethical and strategic questions that they pose, economic sanctions raise legal issues, including issues at the intersection with the laws of war—which we explore in a fascinating conversation!

Materials:

– “Sanctions are Inhumane – Now , and Always,” The Boston Review, Mar. 26, 2020.

– Dapo Akande, Payam Akhavan, and Eirik Bjorge, “Economic Sanctions, International Law, and Crimes Against Humanity: Venezuela’s Referral to the International Criminal Court,American Journal of International Law, Apr. 29, 2021.

Recommended Reading:

– Joy Gordon, Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions (2010).

– Alex de Waal, Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine (2018).

– Nicholas Mulder and Boyd van Dijk, “Why Did Starvation Not Become the Paradigmatic War Crime in International Law?” in Ingo Venzke and Kevin Jon Heller eds., Contingency in International Law (2021).

– Tom Dannenbaum, “Encirclement, Deprivation, and Humanity: Revising the San Remo Manual Provisions on Blockade,” 97 International Law Studies 307 (2021).

Episode 24 – Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji on the ICC, the Concept of “Attack,” and More

In this episode, I speak with Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, Judge and President of the ICC until he stepped down earlier this year. He served as Judge on the ICC for almost ten years, and was President of the Court for three. Prior to that he was Legal Advisor to the UNHCR, and before that, a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Orignally from Nigera, Judge Eboe-Osuji is a Canadian, and he practiced law in Toronto prior to his international law career. He is soon to take up a new position at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Ryerson University in Toronto. In our conversation Judge Eboe-Osuji reflects on his role in the development of the ICC, and some of the criticisms of the Court, before turning to a more detailed discussion of the meaning of the term “directing attacks” in the Rome Statute, through the lens of the Ntaganda case. This leads to a discussion of the relationship between so-called Hague Law and Geneva Law in IHL, and between war crimes and crimes against humanity within the Rome Statute, all within the context of the object and purpose of IHL, and the need for intelligibility and accessibility as a fundamental component of the rule of law – fascinating discussion!

Materials:

The Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda, Appeal Chamber Decision, Mar. 30, 2021.

The Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda, Trial Chamber Decision, Jul 28, 2019.

– Abhimanyu George Jain, “The Ntaganda Appeal Judgement and the Meaning of “Attack” in the Conduct of Hostilities War Crimes,” EJILTalk!, Apr. 2, 2021.

– Ronald Acala and Sasha Radin, “Symposium Intro: The ICC Considers the Definition of ‘Attack.'” Articles of War, Oct. 27, 2020.

Reading Recommendations:

– Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (1969).

– Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: The Banality of Evil (1963).

– Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017).