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v15_2004d - 38 Erik Dahl 3 TOO GOOD TO BE LEGAL NETWORK...

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38 Erik Dahl 7 3 Erik Dahl is a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University ([email protected]). T OO G OOD TO BE L EGAL ? N ETWORK C ENTRIC W ARFARE AND I NTERNATIONAL L AW Erik Dahl America’s military today faces new challenges that appear resis- tant to conventional solutions. The concept known as Network Centric Warfare (NCW) promises to use speed, precision, and information technology to win conflicts more quickly with minimal force. But many of the advantages that look beguiling to a commander can create problems for a military that focuses too much on speed and effects, at the expense of deliberation and law. This article argues that both the U.S. military and the American public will lose if new tools and technologies make war seem too easy. It calls for a reassessment of NCW in light of international law and offers recommendations to help guide that effort. One of the most prominent visions for the transformation of war in the U.S. military today is the concept known as Network Centric Warfare (NCW), which seeks to increase combat power by exploiting modern informa- tion and networking technology to transform formerly “platform-centric” military units into a highly adaptive and more effective force. Developed originally by strategists within the U.S. Navy, NCW has inspired new Navy strategy and doctrine, and is beginning to take hold among a wider circle of analysts and policy makers. For example, retired Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski—credited with having developed NCW—heads the Depart- ment of Defense Office of Force Transformation and is charged with Journal of Public and International Affairs, Volume 15/Spring 2004 Copyright © 2004, the Trustees of Princeton University http://www.princeton.edu/~jpia
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39 Too Good to be Legal? Network Centric Warfare and International Law helping to move the Pentagon into an era of Revolution in Military Affairs (Hughes 2003). More significantly, senior Bush Administration officials, in particular Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, appear receptive to many of the tenets of NCW. News reports have indicated that the U.S. military’s plan for the invasion of Iraq was revised at a late stage to take these tenets into account (Shanker and Schmitt 2002). As might be expected of a new and potentially revolutionary method of warfare, NCW has been analyzed in recent years in numerous articles, conferences, reports, and monographs. Navy officials, contractors, and defense analysts have studied operational, technical, and doctrinal is- sues relating to NCW. Issues of law, including international law, have not been neglected; Navy leaders have generally expressed the view that traditional legal concepts may not be sufficient in this new age. “From a legal perspective, Hague and Geneva Conventions, and other sources of international law, arising in other eras of warfare, provide only guides for future conflict” (Cebrowski 1999b).
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