In the wake of the al Qaeda 9/11 attacks and ensuing Coalition military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen, government officials, military members, academicians, and international lawyers referred to the "changing character of war" while characterizing the conflicts as "asymmetric" warfare, as if this was the first time in which opposing armed forces with dissimilar capabilities, strategic goals, and tactical choices faced one another: that is, 9/11 was the first time the international community faced asymmetric threats of global acts of terror by armed non-State actors. History suggests otherwise as shown in this contribution. Ignorance of history leads to the argument that there has been a change in the character of war and may tempt military and civilian leaders to argue that the law of war does not apply, or cannot be applied. This was seen in Bush Administration reactions to the 11 September 2001 al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington. Its mistakes were numerous. International lawyers, and others, owe it to their belief in the rule of law to study and understand history in understanding the law and its application over the past decade.
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