Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Today, isolated force-on-force battles are considered a relic of the past. Instead, armed forces must expect to conduct combined arms maneuver operations in and around civilians and civilian population centers. And this expectation is only increased when anticipating operations against enemies who see embedding their vital assets in densely populated areas as a force multiplier. This perception is based on not only the inherent tactical advantages of embedding assets among civilian population centers (such as ready access to logistics and lines of communication), but also their recognition that the complexity of conducting operations against these assets in a legally compliant manner will inhibit the efforts of their state opponents.

All of this points towards the importance of a more comprehensive understanding of targeting reasonableness--an understanding based on the tactical situation that frames attack decisions and the nature of the combat operation in which those decisions are made. This latter aspect of assessing attack reasonableness will be enhanced by considering not only whether an attack decision is deliberate or dynamic/time-sensitive but also the impact of the "mission-type" context of operations. As this Article will explain, because operations conducted pursuant to mission-type orders involve inherently decentralized attack decisions, the expectation of what is or is not reasonable is different than in the context of deliberate attack decisions. Because of this, those responsible for implementing LOAC obligations and assessing compliance with these obligations should lead to a prioritization of the rule of precautionary measures as the focal point for civilian risk mitigation.