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date: 04 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter suggests two predominant modes of theorizing about the laws of war—one ‘internal’, the other ‘external’—both providing a useful shorthand for two relatively irreducible types of exercises. Internal theorizing makes sense of the discipline among its practitioners and within bounds that are taken for granted. It is minimal in that its ambition is largely instrumental: providing the practitioners of the laws of war with the background necessary for them to function. External theorizing is less interested in the laws of war as a system than as an object; it is less focused on explaining the operation of the laws of war than understanding what the laws of war mean generally and for international law specifically. It is more explicitly theoretical precisely in that it seeks to highlight some of the ultimate functioning or purpose of the laws of war behind its dominant implicit theories.

Keywords: Acts of war, International criminal courts and tribunals, General principles of international law, Sources of international law, Violations of the laws or customs of war

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