Monday, June 22, 2015

Western militaries fear they might be upheld to same standard as Israel

Via the Weekly Standard:
Increasingly, the IDF, and Dabla specifically, have been taking grief from a surprising quarter for their unique policies on avoiding civilian harm: academics and lawyers who are otherwise friendly to the IDF, or at least not openly hostile. Take the case of Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg, a distinguished expert on military law at European University Viadrina in Frankfurt. Dabla recently brought this law professor, and other top military law experts from outside Israel, to further train IDF combat commanders in the intricacies of the law of armed conflict.

Speaking at a smallish military base outside Tel Aviv, the German lawyer acknowledged that the IDF went to “great and noble lengths” to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza and other recent conflicts. However, he believes that the IDF is taking “many more precautions than are required” and in doing so, he fears the IDF “is setting an unreasonable precedent for other democratic countries of the world who may also be fighting in asymmetric wars against brutal nonstate actors who abuse these laws.”

He’s not alone. When Pnina Sharvit Baruch, a former Dabla chief, attends legal conferences around the world, she says she faces “recurring claims” from other militaries’ legal advisers that the IDF “is going too far in its self-imposed restrictions intended to protect civilians, and that this may cause trouble down the line for other democratic nations fighting organ-ized armed groups.” Today, Baruch is a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s fight with Hamas is not just an example of classic asymmetric warfare, it’s also just plain nasty. Why? Hamas may be a nonstate actor but its militants have access to a broad array of sophisticated weaponry that is more typically found in the arsenals of nation-states. Either way, bad news for Israel.

And maybe bad news for other Western nations as well. “The IDF’s warnings certainly go beyond what the law requires, but they also sometimes go beyond what would be operational good sense elsewhere,” says Michael Schmitt, director of the Stockton Center for the Study for International Law at the U.S. Naval War College. “People are going to start thinking that the United States and other Western democracies should follow the same examples in different types of conflict. That’s a real risk.” Schmitt is the author of a just-completed comprehensive analysis of the IDF’s targeting systems.  more

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