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The Rousseau-Portalis (not Portallis) Doctrine holds that wars are fought between states, not people. Rousseau wrote (the following passage is a quotation taken from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, in Sir Ernest Barker (ed. in trans.), Social Contract: Essays by Locke, Hume, and Rousseau (London and New York, 1947; 1967 reprint used), pp. 173-78.):

War ... is something that occurs not between man and man, but between states. The individuals who become involved in it are enemies only by accident. They fight not as men or even citizens, but as soldiers: not as members of this or that national group, but as its defenders. A state can have as its enemies only other states, not men at all, seeing that there can be no true relationship between things of a different nature ... The object of war being the destruction of the enemy state, a commander has a perfect right to kill its defenders so long as their arms are in their hands: but once they have laid them down and have submitted, they cease to be enemies, or instruments employed by an enemy, and revert to the condition of men, pure and simple, over whose lives no one can any longer exercise a rightful claim ... These principles ... derive from the nature of things, and are founded upon reason.

Modern authors have used this doctrine as the basis for genocide definitions. Raphael Lemkin discussed Rousseau-Portalis in his chapter that defined the term genocide in his 1944 work, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.

Keith Pomakoy, Ph.D.

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Q: What is the Rousseau-Portallis doctrine?
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