Is International Humanitarian Law Lapsing into Irrelevance in the War on International Terror?
This article uses an economic narrative to examine the theoretical adequacy of applying humanitarian law to the regulation of the war on international terror. I will argue that problems inherent in collective action hinder the ability of this law to generate an optimal level of global security, and that the absence of the element of reciprocity lowers states’ compliance with it. The paper discusses factors such as audience costs, negative externalities of public conscience, NGOs’ activities, and the promotion of the humanitarian approach toward humanitarian law in international bodies and courts as helping to mitigate these phenomena. A controversy between states concerning the application of humanitarian law to the war on international terror, however, might prevent these factors from offsetting the decline in the status of humanitarian law. Humanitarian law is therefore at risk of lapsing into irrelevance in this war.