Chicago Journal of International Law


Does art imitate life or does life imitate art? The popular television series JAG follows the life of several fictional Navy lawyers; the most interesting character is Harm, a former fighter pilot turned military lawyer, or Judge Advocate General ("JAG"). Do the complex and dramatic story lines that find Harm and the other military lawyers at the center of every flashpoint around the world reflect the life of the "normal" JAG? Indeed, JAGs from any service are often asked, "Do you get to fly jets like Harm?" The answer is no, but today's JAGs do get involved in every aspect of operations (short of flying a jet!) on a daily basis. In fact, the ripped-from-the-headlines scripts of JAG very often do contain a kernel of what many JAGs do on a surprisingly frequent basis. At an increasing pace, military lawyers are becoming more involved in operational issues, as Harm is on JAG. Perhaps one of the most significant explanations for this trend is not a sudden infatuation with the law or lawyers, but the harsh impact of Clausewitzian realities of twenty-first century wars. Clausewitz spoke of the "remarkable trinity" of the people, the military, and the government, whose combined efforts produced victory in war. The US and other Western powers historically focused on collapsing the trinity by neutralizing or destroying the military leg. The rise of overwhelming American military power since World War II led adversaries to conceive an entirely different strategy by focusing on separating the "people" portion of the trinity from the "government" and "military" portions in order to achieve victory. Such an approach is completely in accord with Clausewitz's dictum that war is a continuation of politics by other means. This is especially apropos given the linkage between the support of the people and the political needs of democracies such as the US. Increasingly, America's adversaries are using legal weapons, or "lawfare"-a form of asymmetrical warfare-to confront the US when they cannot do so through military might. Lawfare is specifically the strategy of using, or misusing, law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective. This use of law to achieve operational objectives brings military attorneys to the forefront today, similar to Harm in JAG. [CONT]