Publication Date


Document Type



A major revision of the law of war is in process. The unusual timing of historical and political events requires Americans to seek a practical articulation of the standard of behavior expected of their combat commanders. The purpose of this article is to constructively participate in that search.

The cornerstone of military professionalism is professional conduct on the battlefield. The articulation of that professional conduct, in addition to underscoring the legitimacy of the honorable profession of arms, would shield commanders from untutored, politically motivated allega­tions of war crimes and, more importantly, would allow the teaching of expected conduct and thus prevent institution-staining misconduct. An examination of the current and the proposed new standards reveal an alarmingly unsettled and dangerously inarticulated expression of the most basic social contract between a soldier and the citizenry he serves.

This article constitutes a plea for soldiers to articulate the essential in­gredients of their profession and thus return to a central role in con­trolling its rules. Lawyers are admonished to "do their duty" and articulately complete the coupling between international and domestic stand­ards. Productive dialogue between commanders and lawyers is stressed, and the need for reordering our training regarding professional conduct on the battlefield is recognized. The humanitarian and the soldier must "get in step." The more professional our armed forces, the more likely that the goals of the humanitarian will be served.

Publication Title

Military Law Review