Press Release

New Dædalus Issue on “The Changing Rules of War”


Essays explore the history and future of the laws of war, as well as the challenges we face when trying to uphold and strengthen them.

NOTE: Please credit Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, when citing this editorial material.

CAMBRIDGE, MA | January 9, 2017 – In his historic May 2016 speech in Hiroshima, President Barack Obama highlighted the need to strengthen the institutions that govern, however imperfectly, the initiation, conduct, and aftermath of war.

The speech marked the first time a sitting American president had visited Hiroshima, a city the United States destroyed in August 1945 with a single atomic bomb. Obama ended his speech with a call for new human institutions to address the destructive power of nuclear weapons.

The Fall 2016 issue of Dædalus on “Ethics, Technology & War” focused on how different technological developments have influenced ethics and the conduct of war in the past and how they might change the conduct of war in the future.

The Winter 2017 issue of Dædalus on “The Changing Rules of War,” guest-edited by Scott D. Sagan (Stanford University), is a companion volume that examines the evolution of just war doctrine, the laws of armed conflict, the rules of engagement, war crimes tribunals, and other domestic and international organizational procedures that together constitute the “human institutions” that Barack Obama highlighted at Hiroshima.

An interdisciplinary group of authors—including scholars, military practitioners, lawyers, statesmen, and philosophers—have contributed insightful essays that look back at the history of these institutions and identify reforms that might strengthen them in the future.

“Health workers are the ultimate inheritors of failed social order,” writes Paul H. Wise (Stanford University) in his essay, “The Epidemiologic Challenge to the Conduct of Just War: Confronting the Indirect Civilian Casualties of War.” In fact, most civilian casualties in war are not the result of bombs and bullets; they are due to the destruction of the essentials of daily living. However, these “indirect” effects are often invisible and are largely neglected by just war principles and global humanitarian response. Wise suggests that recent technical advances make such neglect increasingly unacceptable: our improved ability to measure indirect effects and the unprecedented progress of our ability to prevent or mitigate the indirect casualties of war.

Analyzing the extraordinary drawings of Red Horse, a Minneconjou warrior who fought at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, Scott D. Sagan (Stanford University) provides insights into what warfare was like without just war doctrine or the laws of armed conflict to place constraints on violence. In his essay, “The Face of Battle without the Rules of War: Lessons from Red Horse & the Battle of the Little Bighorn,” Sagan shares how the artist’s candid vision of the battle and its aftermath portrays the indiscriminate brutality of the Great Sioux War, the disrespect given to any enemy, and the desire for revenge. But the drawings also reveal the pride of victory and the trauma of defeat. In addition to providing a window into the past, the Red Horse drawings help us understand the atrocities committed by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

In her essay, “Rebellion, War Aims & the Laws of War,” Tanisha M. Fazal (University of Notre Dame) observes that while most wars today are civil wars, we know little of the conditions under which rebel groups might comply with the laws of war. Three questions arise: What do laws of war require of rebels? To what extent are rebels aware of the laws of war? Under what conditions do rebel groups comply with international humanitarian law? Fazal argues that the war aims of rebel groups are key to understanding their relationship with the laws of war, and secessionist rebel groups are most likely to comply as a means of signaling their capacity and willingness to be citizens of the international community.

Additional essays explore the evolution of the rules of war in the United States; the rules of war in asymmetric conflicts; the major problems associated with transitional justice and the prosecution of war crimes; and critiques of contemporary just war doctrine, which is the intellectual apparatus upon which many of the institutions and rules that influence war today have been built.

Essays in the Winter 2017 issue of Dædalus include:

  • The Changing Rules of War by Scott D. Sagan (Stanford University)
  • Strategy & Entitlements: The Enduring Roles of Law in the U.S. Armed Forces by Laura Ford Savarese (Yale University) and John Fabian Witt (Yale Law School)
  • The Face of Battle without the Rules of War: Lessons from Red Horse & the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Scott D. Sagan (Stanford University)
  • Limiting Civilian Casualties as Part of a Winning Strategy: The Case for Courageous Restraint by Joseph H. Felter (Stanford University) and Jacob N. Shapiro (Princeton University)
  • Just War Theory & the Conduct of Asymmetric Warfare by Allen S. Weiner (Stanford Law School)
  • Rebellion, War Aims & the Laws of War by Tanisha Fazal (University of Notre Dame)
  • Stay the Hand of Justice? Evaluating Claims that War Crimes Trials Do More Harm than Good by Mark S. Martins (U.S. Army) and Jacob Bronsther (London School of Economics)
  • The Distant Promise of a Negotiated Justice by Leslie Vinjamuri (University of London)
  • Evaluating the Revisionist Critique of Just War Theory by Seth Lazar (Australian National University)
  • What Comes Next by Antonia Chayes (Tufts University) and Janne E. Nolan (George Washington University)
  • The Epidemiologic Challenge to the Conduct of Just War: Confronting the Indirect Civilian Casualties of War by Paul H. Wise (Stanford University)

The issue is online.





New Dilemmas in Ethics, Technology, and War

Scott D. Sagan