New Battlefields/Old Laws

One of INSCT’s signature projects, New Battlefields/Old Laws (NBOL) began with a 2007 symposium to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Hague Convention of 1907. The project has since grown into an ongoing series of interdisciplinary workshops and publications that reexamine the application of centuries-old customs and laws of armed conflict in the age of asymmetric warfare. 


It has become increasingly clear that a re-examination of the policies and laws for the conduct of armed conflict is required. Toward that end, INSCT—working with the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel—has assembled international teams of scholars and practitioners to address the considerable challenges for the future of humanitarian law.

Recent conflicts underscore the shortcomings of international law and policy in responding to asymmetric warfare. The tendencies of terrorists or insurgent groups to operate within civilian communities present significant and unanticipated strategic and tactical challenges for victimized states and citizens.

Neither The Hague Rules, the customary laws of war, nor the post-1949 law of armed conflict and accompanying international humanitarian law, account for non-state groups waging prolonged, “fourth generation” campaigns of terrorism that leave the defending state with little choice but to respond in ways that inflict heavy civilian casualties. The result is that the defending state is often criticized for violating norms that do not accommodate the conflict being waged. At the same time, the defending state lacks adequate guidance in shaping the parameters and details of its response.

NBOL 2016: Legal Triggers of War on New Battlefields

“What conditions permit a nation state to use force in response to attacks by non-state terrorists?”

In September 2016, INSCT’s signature research project once again convened at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s (ICT) World Summit on Counter-Terrorism (Sept. 11-13, 2016), which this year coincided with ICT’s 20th Anniversary.

To highlight two decades of dedicated efforts to confront international terrorism, this year’s ICT conference was called “Unpuzzling Terrorism.” It was devoted to discussions focusing on past, present, and future counterterrorism efforts to address a constantly shifting puzzle.

This year, NBOL was included in a series of ICT 2016 workshops devoted to the discussion of the broader context of terrorism and counterterrorism, examining emerging fields and new trends in the academic study of terrorism and its responses. Along with moderator, INSCT Director William C. Banks, NBOL participants discussed the “Legal Triggers of War on New Battlefields.”

Writes Banks: “The New Battlefields/Old Laws project originated during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. For a full decade, INSCT and ICT and its contributors have worked to develop fresh understandings of the legal, policy, and strategic challenges faced when nations are attacked by non-state terrorists and insurgents. The 2016 workshop focused on the questions, ‘What conditions permit a nation state to use force in response to attacks by non-state terrorists?’ In other words, ‘What are the triggers of war?'”

Joining this important conversation were:

  • Dr. Daphné Richemond-Barak, Senior Researcher, ICT
  • Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yoram “Yaya” Yair, Former Commander, Lebanese Sector and Syrian Front, Israel Defense Forces (IDF)*
  • Laurie Blank, Director, International Humanitarian Law Clinic, Emory Law School
  • Col. (Res.) Adv. Daniel Reisner, Former Head, International Law Branch, IDF Legal Division
  • Nathan Sales, Associate Professor, SU College of Law

*Yair is the former Chairman of the IDF Committee that wrote the IDF Code of Ethics on: “Strategic and Operational Factors Influencing the Decision to go to War”

NBOL_2016_ICT-0916_1 NBOL_2016_ICT-0916_2

NBOL Scholarship: Critical Contributions to the Study of Asymmetric Warfare

New Battlefields/Old Laws: Critical Debates from the Hague Convention to Asymmetric Warfare
William C. Banks, editor (Columbia University Press, 2011)Recognizing that many of today’s conflicts are low-intensity, asymmetrical wars fought between disparate military forces, Banks’ collection analyzes nonstate armed groups and irregular forces (such as terrorists, insurgent groups, paramilitaries, child soldiers, civilians participating in hostilities, and private military firms) and their challenge to international humanitarian law. Contributions by: Robert P. Barnidge Jr., Geoffrey S. Corn, David M. Crane, Hilly Moodrick-Even Khen, Renée de Nevers, Daniel Reisner, Daphné Richemond-Barak, Gregory Rose, Eric Talbot Jensen, and Corri Zoli.
 Counterinsurgency Law Book Counterinsurgency Law: New Directions in Asymmetric Warfare
William C. Banks, editor (Oxford University Press, 2013)In Counterinsurgency Law, William C. Banks and several distinguished contributors explore, from an interdisciplinary legal and policy perspective, the multiple challenges that counterinsurgency operations pose to the rule of international, humanitarian, human rights, criminal, and domestic laws.Contributions by: Robert M. Chesney, Geoffrey S. Corn, Evan J. Criddle, Boaz Ganor, Christopher Jenks, Peter Margulies, Gregory S. McNeal, Daphné Richemond-Barak, Eric Talbot Jensen, and Corri Zoli.

Previous NBOL Workshops

NBOL 2015: The Threat of Foreign Terrorist Fighters and UN Security Council Resolution 2178
NBOL 2014: The Next Steps in Counterterrorism
NBOL 2013: The Operationalization of the Law
NBOL 2011: The Scope of the 21st Century Battlefield--Forecasting the Legal & Policy Landscape
NBOL 2010: Shaping a Legal Framework for Counterinsurgency
NBOL 2009: Converging Paradigms in Asymmetric Warfare
NBOL 2008: State Conflicts with Non-State Actors--Reconceptualizing Duties and Liabilities
NBOL 2007: Inaugural Event
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