Law and the Military

07.05.06 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

With its decision last week to strike down the Bush Administration’s unilateral creation of military tribunals for trying detainees, the Supreme Court highlighted and reinforced the rule of law in the conduct of military operations.

Several recent publications provide rich background on military law.

The 2006 edition of the “Operational Law Handbook” (pdf) published by the Army Judge Advocate General is “a ‘how to’ guide for Judge Advocates practicing operational law. It provides references and describes tactics and techniques for the practice of operational law.”

The Handbook covers the gamut of issues that arise in the field, from the Law of War to intelligence-related law to detainee operations.

See “Operational Law Handbook (2006),” Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (598 pages, 3.7 MB).

U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the “war on terrorism” have raised a variety of novel legal issues, according to a 2004 study performed for the Army on “legal lessons learned.”

“Whether determining the applicability of the law of armed conflict to non-state terrorist actors, applying traditional and new fiscal authorities to a military occupation, or assisting in the development of rules of engagement (ROE) for an enemy that blended into civilian populations, JAs [judge advocates] and paralegals wrestled with cutting-edge legal issues during OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] and OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom].”

See “Legal Lessons Learned From Afghanistan and Iraq: Volume 1, Major Combat Operations,” Center for Law and Military Operations, 1 August 2004 (454 pages, 7.1 MB PDF).

Volume 2 of that study has recently been made public. See “Legal Lessons Learned From Afghanistan and Iraq: Volume 2, Full Spectrum Operations,” Center for Law and Military Operations, September 2005 (368 pages, 3.3 MB PDF).

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