Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2003


The moral imperative and relevance of the Law of Armed Conflict (“LOAC”) is more apparent today than before September 11, 2001. Law distinguishes democratic societies from the terrorists who attack them; nowhere is this more apparent than in the methods and means of warfare. Indeed, part of our revulsion and contempt for terrorism lies in the terrorists' indiscriminate, disproportionate, and unnecessary violence against civilians. In contrast, the enduring strength of the LOAC is its reliance on the principles of proportionality, necessity, and discrimination, which protect civilians and minimize combatant suffering. For these reasons, we should not begrudge the LOAC's limitations but continue to find the best contextual process for its meaningful application. In war, and no more so than in a war against terrorism where the terrorists' choice of weapons and targets may be unlimited, this means a process that is both militarily effective and legally sound. This article is about the role of the President, and the President's legal counsel, in US targeting decisions and in applying the LOAC.

Publication Citation

4 Chi. J. Int'l L. 407-430 (2003)