Editor’s note: Welcome to another installment of our weekly War Books series! The premise is simple and straightforward. We ask an expert on a particular topic to recommend five books on that topic and tell us what sets each one apart. War Books is a resource for MWI readers who want to learn more about important subjects related to modern war and are looking for books to add to their reading lists.
This week marked the 160th anniversary of the promulgation of General Orders No. 100 to Union Army soldiers. Better known as the Lieber Code after the orders’ primary author, the code of conduct covered an array of issues and has since formed the basis for codified laws of war ranging from the Hague Regulations to the Geneva Conventions. To mark that anniversary, we asked Professor Rob Lawless to contribute this edition of War Books. An assistant professor in West Point’s Department of Law and director of research at the Lieber Institute for Law & Warfare, we gave him the following prompt: What five books would you recommend for readers to better understand the intersection of law and war?
Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History, by John Fabian Witt
In Lincoln’s Code, Professor Witt examines the United States’ contributions to the international laws of war during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including the publication of the Lieber Code by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as a general order to the US Army. The code was written by Francis Lieber, a German-born jurist and political philosopher, and is one of the most influential documents in the development of the modern law of armed conflict. Aside from being an extraordinarily engaging book, what is so striking about Lincoln’s Code is how relevant the historical issues Witt uncovers are to modern laws of war.
Habeas Corpus in Wartime: From the Tower of London to Guantanamo Bay, by Amanda L. Tyler
Although habeas corpus—a legal procedure used to challenge arrest and detention—is a domestic legal issue, it is closely related to the law of armed conflict. In Habeas Corpus in Wartime, Professor Tyler surveys the history of habeas corpus during US armed conflicts, including its use during the post-9/11 counterterrorism era. The book demonstrates how difficult international legal issues surrounding a “global” counterterrorism war against a widespread and amorphous nonstate armed group impact important US domestic issues in constitutional and national security law. Tyler offers a rich discussion of the political and legal history behind the important but often misunderstood legal issue of habeas corpus.
The Law of Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law in War, by Gary D. Solis
This is a law-of-war textbook that does not read like a textbook. Professor Solis, a retired US Marine Corps commander and lawyer, draws on his deep experience in the US armed forces as well as extensive legal expertise to write this remarkably rich overview of the international law governing warfare. Overflowing with historical case studies, news reports, and personal narratives from service members who fought on the front lines, this book is a fantastic introduction for nonlawyers and lawyers alike on the law of armed conflict.
Imagining Justice for Syria, by Beth Van Schaack
Syria has been at civil war for more than a decade now. Notwithstanding the extreme suffering of civilians and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure, legal accountability for the atrocities in Syria remains elusive. In Imaging Justice for Syria, Dr. Van Schaack, who is currently the US State Department’s ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, examines the conflict, the failures of the international legal system in addressing the atrocities, and the prospects for international legal justice.
Power Wars: The Relentless Rise of Presidential Authority and Secrecy, by Charlie Savage
Charlie Savage is one of the most prominent journalists on the legal-policy issues of the post-9/11 era. In Power Wars, he explores in clear and comprehensive detail the wide array of national security law issues arising from the September 11 attack and the US and international legal response to it. Although mainly focused on US domestic legal issues related to the rise in presidential authority, the book shows the influence of international legal and security issues on legal-policy terrain at home. Immense in its scope, the book offers an examination of some of the most important national security law issues of our time, including capture and detention of suspected terrorists, constitutional war powers, torture, and domestic and international surveillance.
Robert Lawless is an assistant professor in the Department of Law at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he teaches courses on constitutional and military law and the law of armed conflict. He is also the director of research for the Lieber Institute for Law & Warfare. He served as an officer and attorney in the US Army JAG Corps for ten years.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.