Edited by Eugene Kontorovich and Francesco Parisi
Chapter 9: Atrocity, policy, and the laws of war: what does political science have to say to law?
Over the last decade and a half, political scientists have turned their attention to the study of the progress of war as a political event. States at war change their strategies to improve their chances of winning. The outcomes of battles shift the bargaining power of the warring parties and whether they are willing to continue fighting. Failing efforts on the battlefield can lead countries to change leaders. Third parties intervene in ongoing wars in an effort to shift the course of the war. And, relevant to international law, states sometimes engage in atrocities in their efforts to win. When do states, their militaries, and rebel groups engage in acts that violate international agreements to restrict the scope of violence during wartime? I develop two primary arguments: one concerning the strategic advantages gained through atrocities or restraint, and two, how militaries develop internal mechanisms of discipline and control. The first argument concerns how the leadership of states and rebel groups view the consequences of violations for their efforts to prevail in battle and realize their war aims. The second argument addresses how that leadership controls their soldiers on the battlefield, whether they seek to limit atrocities or encourage them. Of course, these two causes of atrocious violence can be linked in practice: an army that wishes to use atrocities to intimidate its opponents may encourage them by failing to discipline soldiers that commit crimes. Law shapes both of these arguments.
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