The laws of war seek to regulate conduct during wartime. The record of compliance with these treaties is mixed. I explain compliance as the result of publicly accepted and so legally binding agreements that create incentives for the parties to enforce those agreements through reciprocity. Ratification by a democracy is a signal that it intends to abide by the treaty standard; those that ratify are more likely to comply. Ratification does not effect the behavior of nondemocracies, however. Ratification of the relevant treaty by both warring parties strengthens reciprocity. There is a hierarchy of average compliance across issues which matches the scope for violations by individuals on each issue, with greater scope for such violations corresponding to lower levels of compliance.
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