Faculty Publications


The new law of war: Legitimizing hi-tech and infrastructural violence.

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Thomas W. Smith

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued

January 2002

Date Available

January 2012


This article examines how humanitarian laws of war have been recast in light of a new generation of hi-tech weapons and innovations in strategic theory. Far from falling into disuse, humanitarian law is invoked more frequently than ever to confer legitimacy on military action. New legal interpretations, diminished ad bellum rules, and an expansive view of military necessity are coalescing in a regime of legal warfare that licenses hi-tech states to launch wars as long as their conduct is deemed just. The ascendance of technical legalism has undercut customary restraints on the use of armed force and has opened a legal chasm between technological haves and have-nots. Most striking is the use of legal language to justify the erosion of distinctions between soldiers and civilians and to legitimize collateral damage. Hi-tech warfare has dramatically curbed immediate civilian casualties, yet the law sanctions infrastructural campaigns that harm long-term public health and human rights in ways that are now clear.


Abstract only. Full-text article is available only through licensed access provided by the publisher. Published in International Studies Quarterly, 46, 355-374. Members of the USF System may access the full-text of the article through the authenticated link provided.




Blackwell Publishers