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How military commanders interpret the rules of targeting impacts not only on whether civilians and civilian objects are harmed in the course of a military operation, but also on the scale of harm that ensues.
Commentators have queried whether military commanders observed the law even when parties to a conflict acted in accordance with mandates to protect civilians, as was the case when a coalition of states bombed targets in Libya in 2011.
However, limited guidance is publicly available on how military commanders apply these rules on the battlefield. In order to allow military commanders to exercise judgment in determining what steps they are required to take to spare civilians in a specific set of circumstances, the rules of targeting are formulated in an open-ended fashion, which complicates one's ability to evaluate whether a particular military operation complies with the law.
By examining case studies ranging from Operation Desert Storm in 1991 to Operation Protective Edge in 2014, this book addresses lacunae in current scholarship. It puts forward principles which capture how military commanders deliberate while interpreting what the rules of targeting require in particular scenarios.
International humanitarian law, this book contends, places a duty on attackers to assume risk in order to mitigate danger to civilians.
Drawing on the field of psychology, this study provides an explanation of how military commanders assess when circumstances do not permit them to inform civilians about a forthcoming attack.