Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, INTERNATIONAL STUDIES ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 21 February 2019

Summary and Keywords

War is merely an outward expression of an inward state, an enlargement of a daily action. It is bloodier, more spectacular, more destructive, but it is the collective result of humans’ individual activities. The law of war is a legal jargon that refers to the aspect of public international law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war (jus ad bellum) and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct (jus in bello). Among other issues, modern laws of war address declarations of war, acceptance of surrender and the treatment of prisoners of war; military necessity, along with distinction and proportionality; and the prohibition of certain weapons that may cause unnecessary suffering. It has often been commented that creating laws for something as inherently lawless as war seems like a lesson in absurdity. However, based on the adherence to what amounted to customary international law by warring parties through the ages, it was felt that codifying laws of war would be beneficial. But while most analytical attention is devoted to explaining why wars and militarized disputes occur, there is also some need to focus on what effects or consequences wars and disputes generate. Wars and, to a lesser extent, disputes have had exceptionally strong influences on the way the world works, and previous wars and disputes are likely to strongly influence the subsequent probability of more wars and disputes.

Keywords: war, disputes, law of war, wartime conduct, public international law, declarations of war, surrender, prisoners of war, militarized disputes

Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. If you are a student or academic complete our librarian recommendation form to recommend the Oxford Research Encyclopedias to your librarians for an institutional free trial.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.