Modern international humanitarian law has no satisfactory solution to the dilemma posed by a regular army in combat with an irregular force that deliberately targets civilians. In the past, the laws of war allowed an army to attack enemy civilians as a reciprocal measure to an attack on its own civilians. Modern humanitarian law has attempted to outlaw such measures of reciprocity. The question is posed as to whether the attempt to outlaw such reciprocity has in fact contributed to the protection of civilians or perhaps has encouraged irregular forces to attack civilians. The article also presents the cruel and arbitrary nature of reciprocal attacks against civilians and suggests that a more humanitarian approach might be to permit such action against the governmental organs controlling irregular forces.
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