JSD Candidate Dawood Ahmed Discusses Defensive 'Lawfare' in 'The Guardian'
Predator drones have killed several hundred civilians since 2004. Nato planes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in 2011. Israel seems determined to invade Iran pre-emptively. Looking at such incidents, it seems that the only option for vulnerable states is to endure the painful blows of the mighty in international relations – or so some mistakenly believe.
In 2001, US Air Force colonel Charles Dunlap used the term "lawfare (pdf)" to describe "the use of law as a weapon of war", and later wrote that "law has evolved to become a – and sometimes, the – decisive element of contemporary conflicts." The idea was that weak states and NGOs would use international law in the media and courts to constrain the actions of powerful states that use force against their interests.
The prediction is logical. Weak states that are unable to challenge powerful states in the battlefield should naturally be most keen to bargain in "the shadow of law", whether for the purpose of constraining a powerful state's aggression or extracting concessions from it.