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The unconventional nature of the September 11 terrorist attacks represent to some observers a need to promote a fundamental and paradigmatic shift in the application of international humanitarian law. The classic international legal conventions regulating warfare were drafted when war was fought primarily between nation-states. The prospect of terrorists destroying skyscrapers or possibly wielding weapons of mass destruction was not something delegates could have foreseen at the Hague and Geneva Conventions. Arguments have therefore been presented since September 11 that non-state actors like al Qaeda whose terrorist actions closely resemble armed conflict in scale and intensity, nevertheless could not have been contemplated by the law of armed conflict, and that such actors do not deserve the protection of this body of law. Other scholars have replied that this position is a misconception of the law of armed conflict that could produce untoward results for international law and the rule of law in general.

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