Andrew Beshai


The U.S. military response to the 9/11 attacks has expanded into a “global war” without a definite geographic scope. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have executed attacks in several countries including Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen under the “global war” paradigm. This Article challenges the concept of a global armed conflict, instead favoring the “epicenter-of-hostilities” framework for determining the legality of military action against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist groups. This approach, rooted in established international law, measures the existence of specific criteria in each nation where hostile forces are present to determine if an armed conflict in that country is legally permissible. If such criteria are met, then the United States may engage in the conflict in that country under the laws of armed conflict. However, if such criteria are not satisfied, then the United States is limited to only law enforcement operations in that region. The “global war” paradigm has many negative consequences and does not adequately consider the nature of non-state actors involved in an armed conflict scattered throughout multiple countries. Shifting the basis for U.S. military actions away from a global war paradigm toward a more focused inquiry as to the presence and conduct of terrorist groups within a specific nation will ensure compliance with established international law and set a strong precedent in this developing and uncertain space.