Public interest in military ethics and the laws of war has been heightened in recent years, beyond that of the traditional military practitioner community. Contemporary ‘wars of choice’ or ‘discretionary conflicts’, particularly where vital national interests are not obviously at stake, appear to pose different ethical and legal challenges for democracies when compared to wars of national survival. This has led to an increasing fascination with the subject around the world. Perceived ethical and legal failures, at both the ad bellum level (decision to go to war) and in bello level (the actual conduct of war), have caused some real problems in a number of different conflicts. At the same time, the potential range of problems is widened by the varied types of activity the military can become involved with — peacekeeping and peace enforcement or humanitarian relief operations can pose different types of dilemma to ‘traditional’ high-intensity, state-on-state warfare, while counter-insurgency and stabilization operations introduce their own ethical and legal issues and dilemmas that need to be engaged with and resolved if campaigns are to be successful in achieving their ultimate political goals.
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