Richard Baxter was the preeminent figure in the field of the law of war during the period 1950 to 1980. He was an outstanding scholar as is evident from the articles republished here. But he was also active in a variety of other ways. He participated in the redrafting of FM 27-10, the U.S. Army’s field manual on the Law of Land Warfare in 1956. He took part in diplomatic conferences and negotiations. He urged Congress to act to curb poisonous weapons. As Counselor on International Law in the Department of State he was active in the formulation of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. He left no doubt about his convictions. He consistently favored moves that would enhance the protections afforded to those injured or threatened by armed conflict. An outstanding example was his reaction to the position advanced by a group of scholars that the law of war was not applicable to the United Nations.

How can the view that the law of war is not applicable to a United Nations action be reconciled with the humanitarian inspiration of the law of war? The Committee’s conclusion would seem to suggest that the laws relating to prisoners of war, the sick and wounded, belligerent occupation, are not of their own force applicable to the United Nations forces. If these bodies of law are set aside, one can only conclude that the United Nations forces are not to be influenced by humanitarian considerations in the conduct of hostilities. It must be that the United Nations will be guided by some new standard ofhumanity, yet unknown to us when it starts the selective process of deciding what principles will guide its conduct.

Fortunately the Baxter view prevailed and UN forces are subject to humanitarian law.[1]

  • [1] Frederic Kirgis, The American Society of International Law 248 (2006).
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