This paper is intended to analyze Additional Protocol I from a military perspective. More specifically, it presents the views of a United States military officer (albeit an officer who is also a lawyer) on the Protocol.

To begin with, the Protocol, if ratified by the United States, would be taken seriously by our armed forces. It is United States policy to comply with the law of war in the conduct of military operations, and this body of law is regularly applied in American military courts. During the war in Southeast Asia, for example, 36 members of the U.S. Army were tried by courts-martial for violations of the law of war.

It should be expected, then, that if the United States were to ratify the Protocol, that document would have a major impact on the conduct of the armed forces in war. It is not realistic to assume that the United States could ratify the Protocol, for whatever diplomatic and political benefits that might entail, and that its armed forces could simply ignore any inconvenient provisions of the Protocol in practice.