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Social Pressure and the Making of the Wartime Civilian Protection Rules

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“The protection of civilians from the dangers of warfare constitutes an imperative in contemporary global politics. Drawing on original multiarchival research, this article explains the origins, negotiation, and design of the core civilian protection rules within international humanitarian law in the 1970s. It argues that these crucial international rules resulted from the operation of two central mechanisms: social pressure and a strategic, facesaving reaction to it—leadership capture—in the context of Cold War and decolonization-era international social competition. Empirically, I demonstrate the conditional effect of social pressure by a materially weaker coalition of Third World and Socialist states upon powerful reluctant states: the United States, the United Kingdom, and more surprisingly, the Soviet Union. Third World and Socialist coalition pressure fostered curious US-USSR backstage collaboration, eventually shaping the legal compromise embodied in the civilian protection rules of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. Theoretically, this article furthers burgeoning IR work on the connection between social pressure, status seeking, and legalization. Empirically it explains, through rare primary evidence, an intrinsically-important and understudied case in the history of international law.”

This talk is part of the International Relations & History Working Group series.

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