'New rules for new wars'
Conference brings Israeli, US experts together to 'fine tune' international law
The Geneva Convention on armed conflict and the 100 year-old Hague Rules on war need to be "fine tuned" to meet the challenges posed by 21st century asymmetrical warfare, Israeli and American experts said during a conference in Herzliya on Monday.
The two-day conference, 'New Battlefield, Old Laws,' is being held at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, and was jointly organized by the IDC's International Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT) and Syracuse University's Institute for National Security and Counter Terrorism.
"This conference is about the application of rules to asymmetrical war," William Banks, Director of Institute for National Security, told Ynetnews. "It's about finding new ways to look at rules to govern modern warfare. We hope to try and make concrete proposals for the governing of asymmetric conflict," he added.
When asked whether such rules could ever be relevant to terrorists, Banks replied, "This is the most difficult question. We're looking at incentives so that the bad guys may come to the table, but it's a very tricky business."
Boaz Ganor, Executive Director of the ICT, said the conference was mainly aimed at internal dialogues within democracies. "It's not important whether terrorists respect international laws. The question is, what are our moral constraints as a democracy fighting terrorists?" he said.
"One example is the use by the IDF of disguised commando soldiers in raids. On the face of it, the State is obliged to send soldiers that can be identified. On the other hand, we know that such a tactic allows for a surgical strike, with the least risk to Palestinian civilians. This means we need to fine tune the Geneva Conventions on army uniforms," Ganor added.
"We're not calling for an abandoning of international law or an extreme change, but for an internationally accepted platform," Ganor emphasized. "We do believe there is a need to go over international law and fine tune it," he added.
Mitchell Wallerstein, Dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, cited the Second Lebanon War as a good example of new types of warfare requiring new rules.
"Last summer, the IDF faced the issue of human shields, and the storing of weapons in civilian areas. We've seen this in other places such as Somalia and the Balkans. We are likely to see this again," Wallerstein said.
"International law does not adequately deal with this issue," he added.
The Herzliya conference will be followed by a meeting in Washington DC in October, in which experts in international law and national security are expected to list recommendations for reforming international law on warfare.