'Lawfare' as illegal behavioral counters to superior military forces, and the limits of technological responses to it
A very considerable amount of weapons technology for war-fighting today is aimed at greater discrimination in targeting. It can be obtained in very different ways - better intelligence gathering for the sake of targeting, avoiding ambushes, the use of robots and remotely controlled platforms, greater precision in firepower, and many other things. These are very good technologies to develop for their own sakes.
But, likewise to a very considerable extent, these advances in technology are aimed to compensate for the fact that the enemy, the other side, fights by means of violations of the laws of war jus in bello. An enemy indifferent to the laws of war can counter advances in war-fighting technology by finding new ways to violate the rules of war faster than we can develop new technologies to address them. Behavior can generally change faster than technology, and bad behavior can usually outstrip the rate of advance in adaptive good technology.
One way to define ‘lawfare’, in fact, is systematic behavioral violations of the rules of war, violations of law undertaken and planned through advance study of the laws of war in order to predict how law-abiding military forces will behave and exploit their compliance; and where such violations are intended as a behavioral counter to superior military forces, including superior, yet law-compliant, technology and weapons systems.
Understood in this way, lawfare is not merely particular violations of the laws of war and particular war crimes, such as illegal use of civilian shields or the failure to wear uniforms or distinguishing marks, etc. It is conceptually, if not legally, perfidy. It seeks illegally to induce an enemy to rely for its safety and the safety of civilians upon the laws of war in order to attack through violations of those self-same laws of war.
(’Lawfare’ is used in other ways and contexts, but this is the one that is primarily relevant to the battlefield.)