The Role of Reciprocity in International Humanitarian Law Training: Examples from Historical and Contemporary US Practice

Main Article Content

Matthew T. Zommer


While scholars assert that reciprocity is a force that influences international humanitarian law, the literature has yet to include a detailed analysis of its role in military training. This presents two limitations. First, a substantial quantity of primary source material pertaining to state practice goes underutilized. Second, the methods by which international humanitarian law are promulgated and disseminated to soldiers during training are overlooked. Thus, a potentially important factor in adherence remains under-examined. This article analyzes historical and contemporary military training material including manuals, pamphlets, circulars, and films. Research results suggest that reciprocity impacts international humanitarian law training in varied, nuanced, and dynamic ways. In particular, an emphasis on reciprocity remains a consistent message in post–Vietnam War training. Furthermore, positive reciprocity in the form of a golden rule rationale is often used to justify adherence and remains prevalent in post-9/11 training material.1

Article Details