Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Focusing his historical analysis on World War II, Mr. Canestaro describes how the substantial legal and policy controls under which the U.S. military conducts its air campaigns meet or exceed the requirements of international treaties and the customary practice of states. Bombing technology has only recently developed to the point of allowing compliance with international legal standards, and the United States has implemented stringent measures in recent conflicts to minimize unintended civilian casualties in warfare. Mr. Canestaro demonstrates that because these self-imposed restrictions go beyond the point of mere compliance, they often constitute a disadvantage to the conduct of U.S. military operations. Strict U.S. military compliance with international legal standards and self-imposed policy restrictions derived from political fear of excessive casualties insure that adversaries are rarely engaged with the full measure of U.S. military might.

The development of precision weapons over the last several decades has made armed conflict both more and less lethal. Against his established historical background, Mr. Canestaro measures modern U.S. military practice and technology against the customary standards, concluding that self-imposed legal and policy restraints designed to protect civilian lives have risen in step with technological developments allowing greater precision and thus avoidance of collateral damage. This situation continues significantly to shape the conduct of campaigns and to offer advantages to U.S. adversaries who choose not to follow the customary standards as faithfully.