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After Bin Laden: Assassination, Terrorism, War and International Law (Second of Two Parts)


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In my written paper, I take the position that “International law is not a suicide pact” and that resistance to all forms of perfidy could be indispensable and law enforcing. An example would be Israel’s “Cast Lead” operation, where IDF operations in Gaza should have been identified, understood, and appraised by all fair observers in the full context of antecedent Palestinian violations of humanitarian international law, that is, in the critical context of incessant Palestinian/Hamas perfidy. It should also be recalled, in all such assessments, that considerations of just means (jus in bello) are always logically distinct from considerations of just cause (jus ad bellum).

Palestinian perfidy remained a violation of the law of war even if there had been certain discoverable grounds for just cause in their (Hamas’s) insurgent war against Israel.

Under international law, the ends can never justify the means.

Under international law, the presumed legitimacy of a certain cause can never legitimize the use of certain forms of violence.

Article 38 of the Statute of the ICJ makes explicit reference to “general principles of law recognized by civilized nations.” This concept of “civilized nations” continues to make both legal and geopolitical sense in the present world legal order. Each civilized nation has both the right and the obligation under international law to protect its citizens from terrorism, war, human rights violations and genocide. Should these civilized nations ever surrender to perfidy, they would effectively undermine this peremptory right and obligation. The net effect of any such capitulation would be to make victors of the criminals and the terrorists, and to strengthen the resolve of all allied terrorist organizations.

In any democratic state, the obligation of citizens to their government is ultimately contingent upon that government’s assurance of protection. “Just wars,” says Grotius, “arise from our love of the innocent.” Now, “civilized nations” must continue to use all necessary and permissible means for self-defense and collective self-preservation. Although perfidious provocations by assorted terror groups and enemy states may elicit reprisals that bring harm to noncombatants, it is these perfidious provocations, not the needed defensive responses, that would be in violation of humanitarian international law.

International law is not a suicide pact.

Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of political science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


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