Alexander de la Paz

Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, John Jay College, City University of New York


Book Project

Jugend, no 45 (1986).Ye Berlyn Tapestrie: Wilhelm's invasion of Flanders (1915)

The Problem of Human Shields in War

For as long as humans have waged war, they have distinguished between combatant persons that are liable to attack, and protected persons that should enjoy immunity from attack. And for just as long, combatants have exploited such protected persons as “human shields.” These strategies and tactics of "interposition," as I call them, place attackers in a disagreeable position: attack, and harm noncombatnats in harm's way; or desist, and pay the price of maintaining the status quo. This book conducts an anatomy of interposition, integrating insights from psychology, sociology, interviews with military commanders and lawyers, in-depth archival research, and experiments.


Image from Bunyan al-Marsusal-Bunyan al-Marsus, no. 31 (1990)

"The Genesis of Miracle Stories in Jihad," International Studies Quarterly 66 (2022). doi:10.1093/isq/sqac078

Stories of miracles, or karamat, are ubiquitous and influential in jihad. Yet, they remain poorly understood. Current treatments are limited to descriptions of reports in individual conflicts. None have systematically studied their genesis: from whom, and where do they originate? Some, to be sure, imply origins—especially in deception. But they have done so based on impressions, and not systematic investigation. However, the question is of considerable interest and warrants closer study. Examining it would not only illuminate an understudied aspect of the movements in question but also advance scholarship on religion on the battlefield, a budding field of inquiry. This article thus traces the genesis of official and semiofficial reports of karamat, drawing on a wide range of evidence, including hundreds of reports culled from books, magazines, and video and audio recordings from multiple groups and individuals spanning decades, and interviews. [...]

Working Papers

"The Problem of Human Shields and the Gulf War" (revise and resubmit)

On August 17, 1990, the government of Iraq, fearing international retaliation for its invasion of Kuwait, announced that it would “play host” to foreign nationals from “aggressive nations” living and working within both countries, and that several would be accommodated at “state ministries and installations” for deterrence purposes. Thousands of foreign nationals from the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, and Germany were subsequently denied exit visas, and rounded up and detained. And hundreds among them were transported to oil refineries, nuclear and chemical facilities, arms factories, airfields, government buildings, dams, power plants, and other potential target sites as “foreign guests” and “emissaries of peace,” as Iraqi state media called them, or “hostages” and “human shields,” as the international press preferred. [...]

Jugend, no 45 (1986).Jugend, no. 45 (1896).

"From Ministries of War to Ministries of Defence"

This article concerns a pattern that is frequently observed but remains inadequately described and explained in scholarship on world politics. A century ago, many if not most states had ministries and departments of war. Today, none do. Indeed, many if not most have ministries and departments of defense. What explains this global transformation in domestic politics? When and why did ministries of defense overtake ministries of war? [...]

"Human Shields: The Anatomy of a Debate"