Common Sense re: War Crimes

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  • #25466

    Unseen
    Participant

    For the sake of argument, there’s a country, A, which may not be perfect, but is largely democratic and fair to its people and, while it’s not perfect, it more often than not minds its business internationally except for promoting democracy and sending aid where it’s needed. There’s another country, B, that attacks neighbor countries in order to extend its boundaries. When it takes a territory, it invariably places the subdued occupants under brutal rule, often enforcing its rule through public executions.

    B is starting to invade A, and A knows that its military will ultimately be unable to repel B, and unless it does something extreme, A will become just another subjugated territory. Unbeknownst to B, A has an ace up its sleeve in the form of a weapon, the X Bomb, which its military has recently perfected.

    The problem is that due to the nature of the X Bomb and its effects, using it would be a war crime because it will kill civilians indiscrimately. and destroy some of B’s museums, including some world art treasures (B’s national art museum includes paintings by Vermeer and Rembrandt and sculptures by Michelangelo and Donatello. among others. The civilians exposed to the weapon but not killed would live in extreme pain the rest of their lives.

    And, to be clear, the government of B is just as oppressive to its own citizens as to the lands it subjugates. Its citizens are just as innocent as the citizens of A.

    A is not the aggressor here and its only hope of survival is to use the X Bomb. Let’s rule out a demonstration for the sake of argument. A does warn B, but B blinded by its success so far assumes that is just a bluff.

    B launches its attack. Does A use the X Bomb or not.

    I say it pretty much has to because the only way to prosecute a war is to try to win, especially when in a defensive posture. And if it didn’t use the X Bomb and lost, resulting in its citizens to then live under the oppressive rule of B, how would the now subjugated citizens feel about the excuse “We might have won and preserved your freedom, but to do so would have been a war crime”?

    I’m not arguing for a blase attitude toward war crimes, but just for some common sense. From time to time countries, just like individuals, are put in positions with no good way out.

    I think the key consideration boils down to gratuitousness. When an aggressor commits a war crime, by its nature it’s a gratuitous act in the sense of being unnecessary because after all the aggression itself was unnecessary. On the other hand, a country has an inherent right to self defense just as an individual does.

    Obviously, when a group of soldiers enters a village and murders one and all, that is a war crime because the action can never be justified as necessary. And in that regard, it matters not at all whether the soldiers are from from the aggressor or defender.

    Your thoughts…?

    #25467

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    The situation sounds like the atom bomb at the end of World War II, and this isn’t thought of as a war crime, although, a horrific use of force.

    I think the key consideration boils down to gratuitousness.

    This is like I always say: the right thing to do is the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to someone.

    #25468

    _Robert_
    Participant

    It is unfortunate that we require “sovereign” nations and borders. Implementation of the concept of world citizenship is beyond the grasp of our species. I would say a democratic nation, being the most righteous, has an obligation to it’s citizens to protect them from dictatorships. The decision made by the US to drop the bomb to end WW2 was an easy choice in my opinion, probably saving millions of lives on both sides. As we enter a new version of the nuclear arms race, assured mutual destruction is still the safest bet because we still have dictators to deal with.

    #25469

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    It is unfortunate that we require “sovereign” nations and borders. Implementation of the concept of world citizenship is beyond the grasp of our species.

    It’s inevitable that we’re always going to live in groups, they’re part of the social structure of the human race.  Internally, it works well, but when they bump up against each other, there’s usually trouble.

    It’s narcissistic for one country to want to dominate and subjugate another.  We wouldn’t tolerate this behaviour from individuals, but historically (e.g. as with the British empire) it’s been seen as the best thing ever.

    #25470

    The problem is that due to the nature of the X Bomb and its effects, using it would be a war crime because it will kill civilians indiscriminately…..

    I am not sure if that is the proper definition of a war crime. Using it as a “last resort” to save your own people and to end an unjust war is not the same as using it on day one of the invasion (and not having given the UN a chance to intervene). Thousands of innocent civilians are bombed to death every year while thousands more are victims of genocide and ethic cleansing, which are war crimes.

    It might help to know the numbers. How many will die from the X-bomb and how many lives will be saved by using it? As I write that question I am wondering why it would make a difference in my deciding the merits of using the bomb at all…….

     

    #25471

    It’s narcissistic for one country to want to dominate and subjugate another. We wouldn’t tolerate this behaviour from individuals, but historically (e.g. as with the British empire) it’s been seen as the best thing ever.

    Come over here and say that 🙂 🙂

    #25473

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    I lean toward A’s self-defense, also thinking longer term wrt considering how B might treat the rest of the world after defeating A. Meanwhile, for scenarios like this and lesser dire, I’m in favor of designing weapons that aren’t so indiscriminant, and are more precise in their targeting. I include AI/drone weapons in this category, for as long as weapons like your X Bomb are the only alternative.

    #25474

    Unseen
    Participant

    It’s inevitable that we’re always going to live in groups, they’re part of the social structure of the human race.  Internally, it works well, but when they bump up against each other, there’s usually trouble.

    One thing that would probably be needed for people everywhere to get along would be for everyone to speak the same language, probably as a first language. I believe it was the famous historian Arthur Schlesinger who observed that more wars have been fought between peoples speaking different languages than people practicing different religions.

    #25475

    Unseen
    Participant

    I am not sure if that is the proper definition of a war crime.

    Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as: “Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including… wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, …taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”

    This, international lawyers say, is the basic definition of war crimes.

    The statutes of The Hague tribunal say the court has the right to try suspects alleged to have violated the laws or customs of war in the former Yugoslavia since 1992. Examples of such violations are given in article 3:

    Wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity
    Attack, or bombardment, by whatever means, of undefended towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings
    Seizure of, destruction or wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences, historic monuments and works of art and science
    Plunder of public or private property.

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 4 days ago by  Unseen.
    #25489

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Geneva Convention means nothing to anybody after your true democracy has been conquered by a brutal dictatorship. In case of full scale war against totalitarian states, a democracy should do whatever it can to be victorious. In a limited military action such as a proxy conflict, a democracy should limit collateral damage to the best of its ability.

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