More on Parhat

Slate's blog on legal issues.
July 2 2008 6:02 PM

More on Parhat

Marty says , echoing Phil:

That is to say—and as Eric's closing swipe at Congress suggests—Eric believes that war should not be governed by legal standards at all.  Which is fine, I suppose. But as Phil has stressed, that's not the view of history and of all Western nations engaged in armed conflicts for centuries; ....

It's not really worthwhile, I think, to debate whether war and law are fundamentally incompatible, because that question was definitively resolved eons ago, and there's no constituency at all for reviving it (outside the academy, that is).

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I agree that this debate is not worthwhile, which is why I am not a party to it. I never said that the war should not be governed by legal standards. I said that civilian judges should not administer those standards, at least not for routine decisions such as targeting and detention of enemy soldiers overseas. The debate is about the role of civilian courts in ensuring that the military complies with domestic law and the laws of war, not whether "the war should be governed by legal standards at all." That's why I keep trying to get Phil to tell us how far he wants the courts to go. If they should evaluate detention decisions, what other decisions should they evaluate, and so forth. What are the criteria for determining when civilian courts should be involved or not? What's so different about detention and targeting? My small point here, which has been blown out of proportion in the responses, is just the D.C. Circuit's disagreement with the military doesn't help answer these questions, so lends support to neither side's views with respect to the real, as opposed to nonexistent, debate.

Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, is author of The Twilight of International Human Rights Law. Follow him on Twitter.

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