Matthew Evangelista and Nina Tannenwald (eds.), Do the Geneva Conventions Matter? (Oxford University press, 2017).

The Geneva Conventions are the best-known and longest-established laws governing warfare, but what difference do they make to how states engage in armed conflict? Since the start of the “War on Terror” with 9/11, these protocols have increasingly been incorporated into public discussion. We have entered an era where contemporary wars often involve terrorism and guerrilla tactics, but how have the rules that were designed for more conventional forms of interstate violence adjusted?

Do the Geneva Conventions Matter? provides a rich, comparative analysis of the laws that govern warfare and a more specific investigation relating to state practice. Matthew Evangelista and Nina Tannenwald convey the extent and conditions that symbolic or “ritual” compliance translates into actual compliance on the battlefield by looking at important studies across history. To name a few, they navigate through the Algerian War for independence from France in the 1950s and 1960s; the US wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan; Iranian and Israeli approaches to the laws of war; and the legal obligations of private security firms and peacekeeping forces.

Thoroughly researched, this work adds to the law and society literature in sociology, the constructivist literature in international relations, and legal scholarship on “internalization.” Do the Geneva Conventions Matter? gives insight into how the Geneva regime has constrained guerrilla warfare and terrorism and the factors that affect protect human rights in wartime.

About the Editors
Matthew Evangelista  is President White Professor of History and Political Science and former chair of the Department of Government at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA, where he teaches courses in international and comparative politics. His current research interests include international humanitarian law, separatist movements, and gender and conflict.

Nina Tannenwald is a faculty fellow at the Watson Institute and Director of the International Relations Program. She is also a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science.