Military Theorists Concerned That Terrorists May Resort to “Lawfare”

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In April, Phillip Carter reported in Slate magazine that some US military theorists have called attention to the possibility that the nation’s enemies may engage in "lawfare," which the Council on Foreign Relations defines as the "strategy of using or misusing law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve military objectives."


As an example, the CFR pointed to "lawfare attacks" that have supposedly been carried out in Colombia, where it says "international groups" have employed a "decapitation strategy." Hey, that sounds nasty. What’d they do? Apparently, these nefarious international groups "encourage peasants to file human rights suits with few grounds against military figures. Regardless of their validity, the legal costs of fighting these suits can effectively remove a particular commander from active duty for years at a time as the cases work their way through the court system."

Hm.  That doesn’t sound quite as nasty as I thought. Certainly, we can all agree that no human-rights suit filed by a peasant in Colombia against a military figure could ever be valid, but still it is hard to see how "lawfare" could ever be a serious problem in the war on terror and so how it could be WORTH WASTING TIME ON. Surely, it couldn’t be that the "enemy" threatening to attack via "lawfare" is not al Qaida or some other terrorist group but instead, oh, somebody like Amnesty International.

Well, after reading the CFR reports, that does appear to be the kind of enemy they’re talking about.

To its credit, the Pentagon does not seem to actually use the term "lawfare," but its 2005 National Defense Strategy document appears to refer to the concept by warning of those who would employ a "strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism." It’s such a fine line between judicial processes and terrorism. Personally, if terrorists started serving discovery instead of blowing people up, I would see that as an improvement.

Although I hate discovery. [has link to the 2005 NDS]
CFR Roundtable on Lawfare, Part One
CFR Roundtable, Part Two