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Gary Solis '71 Teaches "Law of War"

Posted By Kevin R. Johnson, Aug 28, 2013

Gary Solis '71 has taught law at the London School of Economics, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Georgetown Law School. This semester, the King Hall alum is teaching an unusual and very interesting course here at UC Davis School of Law: "The Law of War."

Professor Floyd Feeney, in a message encouraging second and third year law students to take Professor Solis's class, wrote:

Professor Solis’s subject is esoteric but extremely important. One of the nation’s true experts on the law of war, Professor Solis teaches regularly at the Georgetown School of Law (where he is an Adjunct Professor). He also teaches at the George Washington School of Law. He is often asked to comment by leading television and other news organizations. In addition to his law degree from Davis, Professor Solis has an LLM degree in law from George Washington and a PhD from the London School of Economics.

Professor Solis taught on the LSE's law faculty for three years before joining the Department of Law at the United States Military Academy. For six years he headed West Point's law of war program, receiving Phi Kappa Phi's distinguished teaching award and, in 2005, the Apgar Award as the Military Academy's outstanding instructor. After retiring from West Point in 2006, he was a Library of Congress scholar in residence in 2007. He is on the teaching faculty of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, in San Remo, Italy. His books are Marines and Military Law in Vietnam; and Son Thang: An American War Crime; and The Law of Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law in War.

A description of Professor Solis’s course follows:

218TB Law of War (3)

Discussion -- 3 hours. The course surveys the law of armed conflict as it applies to today’s battlefields. It addresses such questions as, are there really laws in combat? What constitutes a “battlefield”? Are the Geneva Conventions still relevant? When does the law of war apply? Does it apply to non-state actors? What is a war crime, and who decides? Is “military necessity” always necessary? How is proportionality determined? Is torture ever lawful? Is waterboarding torture? In the law of war, is there a difference between a terrorist, a combatant, and a criminal? What is an unprivileged belligerent and who is a lawful combatant? Are drones lawful and how do we know? Is targeted killing lawful? Can superior orders constitute a defense to war crime charges? What constitutes a cyberattack and are they “armed attacks”? What is the jurisdiction of military commission and what legal problems face Guantanamo trials? Was Nagasaki a war crime? It is not a philosophy course, nor is it national security law, nor human rights law. Those are inextricably related but the focus is on the law applicable in today’s non-international armed conflicts. It probes the history of the law of war, including the Lieber Code, the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, My Lai, and ICTY cases. Law of war issues will be drawn from case cuts and movie clips and their legal implications considered. Military experience is not a prerequisite.

If you are interested in international affairs, national security, criminal law, or a wide variety of other subjects, this is a course that you might wish to consider. In my opinion the topic that Professor Solis teaches will be even more important in the next several decades than it has been in the past several decades.

Many thanks to Professor Feeney for reaching out to our students to share information about Professor Solis's fascinating class. And thanks, too, to Professor Solis for returning to King Hall as a Visiting Professor!