Chicago Journal of International Law


Over the years dealing professionally with US military lawyers on matters of the laws of war, I have often been struck by the following disjunction. On the one hand, the public attitude of career US military lawyers who deal with matters of the laws of war has typically been unapologetically lawyerly. By that, I mean an attitude which is strongly professional, in the sense of representing a client who happens to be the US government, deploying a body of technical law in a technical and narrowly legal way. Consistent with this markedly lawyerly attitude, the US military lawyer's legal language is strongly declarative of the US military's realistic interest in the outcome. In his or her view, the lawyer exists to shape in legal language the client's interests, whether that be the continued use of landmines in the Korean peninsula or the illegality of taking civilian hostages in the Iraq war. The language of the US military's lawyers thus is typically a language that, while not devoid of moral concerns, is more centrally concerned with protecting a technical legal result in technical legal terms-lawyerly language for a lawyerly result-and thus protecting a client's real interests. It is a language conspicuously devoid of references to an underlying moral vision of the laws of war, a technical language with little to indicate that a moral vision even exists in which this lawyerly language and concern for client interests are embedded. [CONT]