Uncloaking the dagger: does adherence to the Geneva Conventions betray Special Operations Forces?
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Bombs, Special Operations Forces (SOF), and proxy forces are growth industries in the modern fight. As President Obama identified in an address covering the nation's strategy in Syria, "airstrikes, Special Forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country -- that is how we'll achieve a more sustainable victory." [i] These remarks capture the nation's current policy for combating terrorist threats. From its origins in the Second World War to present day, the history of SOF is written in clandestine operations and covert operations. By design, the charter for clandestine operations resides in the gray area between overt military operations and covert operations. When operating in this gray area, the use of civilian clothing to reduce a military signature can be an essential factor for concealment. Yet, under international law, this form of camouflage, if performed during military operations against an belligerent, is considered perfidy and therefore universally prohibited. While there are no means under the Geneva Conventions to consider most acts of perfidy as legally acceptable, an analysis of both international and U.S. military legal boundaries for perfidy, military deception, and clandestine operations highlight potential areas for reform. with these concerns in mind, the United States should petition a reclassification of perfidy from the United Nations to ensure the legal protections and force protection of SOF while conducting clandestine operations.
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