Dehn Discusses Doctrine and Law of War in Final Levitt Lecture

John Dehn
John Dehn

To conclude its program series on Security, the Levitt Center brought John Dehn to campus to present a lecture titled “War and the Constitution: Military Commissions, Targeted Killing of Citizens, and Other Hard Cases.” Dehn – a senior fellow at the West Point Center for the Rule of Law at the United States Military Academy – discussed the philosophical, constitutional and legal underpinnings of the doctrine and law of war and the implications they have on the international system, as well as on due process rights of American citizens and foreigners involved in war.


Tailored to be more of a discussion as opposed to a traditional lecture, Dehn presented a survey of constitutional, legal and judicial precedents to show how the current legal system circumvents the Bill of Rights and other facets of the United States government in the event of declaring a war. With emphasis placed on the infringement on due process rights of citizens and foreign enemy combatants, the talk also made much reference to the Federalist Papers, the Prize Cases, other Supreme Court precedents, as well as international law, making the event an interdisciplinary survey of the role and processes of war in the international system.


The talk also provided some policy analysis concerning the last two presidential administrations. With emphasis placed on the notions of congressional authority and judicial review, Dehn presented compelling information regarding the bypassing of certain areas of government in order to speed up the process of detaining combatants in war, as well as initiating war.


To end the discussion, Dehn presented thought-provoking questions regarding the future of the law of war as technology advances, globalization increases and tensions between global hegemons tighten. All in all, the lecture presented interrelated material that benefits all students of government, comparative politics, world politics and constitutional law.

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