Settler Empire and the United States: Francis Lieber on the Laws of War

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Histories of political science and of the laws of war identify the nineteenth-century scholar Francis Lieber as their modern founder. His 1863 General Orders 100 codified the modern laws of war, internationalizing his political thought. Yet, relatively unremarked is that Lieber wrote his foundational texts during U.S. settler colonization, which he justified in whole. I argue that GO100 facilitated settler colonial violence by defining modern war as a public war, arrogating it to sovereign states; distinguishing revenge from retaliation, attributing revenge to the savage; and elevating a certain racialized/gendered governance, ascribing it to the Cis-Caucasian race. Producing Native peoples and Native wars as lacking in the proper characteristics of sovereign belligerency resulted in a subordination of status and a legitimation of exterminatory tactics that were subsequently universalized and (re)internationalized through GO100's determinative influence on the laws of war. Tracing GO100 further exposes the founding of the discipline in Native peoples' dispossession and extermination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)629-642
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 5 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association.


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