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The rules of war....

  • ...are worthless, throw them out!

    Votes: 21 53.8%
  • No! We're better than that!

    Votes: 18 46.2%

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Hmm.

On one hand I don't see how legitimate human rights are more than agreed upon convention.

On the other hand stomping on people hardly is the best way to succeed in a situation including those such as wars, and is usually just an irrational and stupid outlet despite society's conviction that it is the path to sweeping power.

Silly.

The official history is written by those who stand between future generations and historical evidence.

And yet despite that relative malleability being an irrational idiot only gives your opponents more time to develop a path to beat you.
 

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If I'm honest, neither option covers the complexity of the issue and I'd say both are inaccurate and incorrect ways of looking at it. I always seem to be mentioning him, but if you've ever read von Clausewitz's philosophies on war you'd know that there are no such things as inherent "rules" in war. Force must be met with equal or greater force; if one side cannot meet or best the amount of force applied against them, they lose.

If you study the history of war, you'd notice that before the industrial revolution, total war was never truly employed. Total war is the funneling of all a country's available resources and manpower into a war effort, the mobilization of the entire population into either combat or production, and the removal of the distinction between citizen and soldier. Before the industrial revolution, such a thing never truly existed; armies were relatively small because of the need for men to work the farms, factories did not exist to mass-produce weapons and armor and thus would not be able to keep up with the influx of resources if given everything, and an army needed only defeat the enemy army as both were limited in size and once broken would not be able to further resist. It's my opinion that the closest thing to a total war before the revolution was the Russian resistance to Napoleon in 1812, culminating in the self-destruction of Russian crops and the deliberate torching of Moscow, denying the 800,000 French coalition forces both food and winter quarters.

Fast forward fifty years to the American Civil War and the first real total war comes into being. With industrialization in full swing, both sides could mobilize over a million men each and factories allowed mass-production of guns and ammunition. For the first few years until Grant became the Union general, the war was played by Confederate rules: army vs. army in Lee's style of Napoleonic war. However, once Grant became general and Sherman had his march, such rules began not to exist. Sherman and Grant ravaged the South, indiscriminately killing and burning and looting from Mississipi to Virginia. The Union's blockade was perhaps the first of its kind, allowing no resources into the South in an attempt to starve them out, not just stagnate their economy.

The first Geneva Convention formally establishing rules of warfare occured in 1864; these rules served well right up until 1914, when the First World War began. When the Schlieffen Plan failed and trench warfare set in, it became apparent that the original goals of the war had faded; the reason for fighting simply became to win the war at all costs, for the very suvival of empires hung in the balance. With that philosophy in place, it became apparent that the rules of war were no longer relevant; rules cannot be enforced unless someone can enforce them, so the stalemate promoted the full application of force, rules or not. Civilians were bombed by zeppelins and biplanes, chemical weapons were invented and deployed, breech loading concussion artillery with recoil devices allowed precise destruction of the battlefields with incredible ease, turning beautiful French, Belgian, Austrian, and Russian fields into barren and scorched wastelands, Ottoman deserts into glass. Total blockades were put in place to starve the Central Powers out, being countered by indiscriminate and merciless U-Boat raids.

WWII saw the same trends, expanded: the British were prepared to use chemical weapons if Sealion succeeded, the Nazis and Soviets murdered each other mercilessly and in droves, the Japanese shot medics without hesitation and tortured prisoners, and the Americans had no qualms with strategic bombing, carpet in expanse, incindiary in nature, and resulted in the use of the only two atomic weapons in combat history. Up until Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no side was above breaking the established rules of war.

If not for the Cold War and the threat of nuclear armageddon, I would not doubt that total war's requirement to break the rules of war would continue. We as societies have proven time and again that we are prepared to break any rule, commit any atrocity, to avoid defeat and destruction. We are not "better than that." But now in the post-industrial age, the rules of war serve a very critical purpose: they prevent countries from revisiting the annihilation of total war and its need for constant escalation. They limit wars to prevent the use of nuclear weapons, because the moment one side launches their first strike, civilization as we know it ends. The rules of war are the last flimsy deterrent for such destruction, and we as a species would do well to follow them.
 

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We already know who makes the rules is not who risks their life in combat.

So, it is obvious there is better chance of victory and in less time and less loss of life without rules.
 

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The problem with the rules of war is that they get thrown out the window if there is an advantage to breaking them. In war we dehumanize the enemy in our minds, so that it is easier to kill. When you do that, the rules about how to treat people start to not matter much.
 

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mutual rules and conventions of war seem ridiculous to me

if you can get the two (or more) sides to agree on war boundaries then why couldnt they be so diplomatic as to not go to war in the first place and dispute what ever issues without the need for bloodshed ..?

..i would expect my opponent to act swiftly and ruthlessly in pursuit of their victory, as they should expect the same of me
 

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mutual rules and conventions of war seem ridiculous to me

if you can get the two (or more) sides to agree on war boundaries then why couldnt they be so diplomatic as to not go to war in the first place and dispute what ever issues without the need for bloodshed ..?

..i would expect my opponent to act swiftly and ruthlessly in pursuit of their victory, as they should expect the same of me
They're not ridiculous because they've always existed.
And just because people can agree to boundaries, it doesn't mean they can agree to everything else. I don't get that extreme thinking.

Just look at kids. I grew up with 2 brothers. We used to fight every now and then.
Our boundaries were simple: don't tell the parents, nothing serious (knives, bats...)
So we engaged in limited war-fare so to speak. If someone crossed a line, then perhaps the parents would be brought in or the other siblings would jump in even if they were not involved.

Similarly, you see street gangs. They also have all kinds of rules.
No snitching to police. Leave the family out of it...

I don't see countries as any different. There are a set of rules (written or not). Breaking those rules creates outrage among the other members, which may interfere even if they are not directly related to the conflict.

War has norms like everything else in society.
Sure people break them. Sometimes it might be needed too. But that comes with a price.
 

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They're not ridiculous because they've always existed.
And just because people can agree to boundaries, it doesn't mean they can agree to everything else. I don't get that extreme thinking.

Just look at kids. I grew up with 2 brothers. We used to fight every now and then.
Our boundaries were simple: don't tell the parents, nothing serious (knives, bats...)
So we engaged in limited war-fare so to speak. If someone crossed a line, then perhaps the parents would be brought in or the other siblings would jump in even if they were not involved.

Similarly, you see street gangs. They also have all kinds of rules.
No snitching to police. Leave the family out of it...

I don't see countries as any different. There are a set of rules (written or not). Breaking those rules creates outrage among the other members, which may interfere even if they are not directly related to the conflict.

War has norms like everything else in society.
Sure people break them. Sometimes it might be needed too. But that comes with a price.
so as long as something has always existed ..its immune to being ridiculous ?

also you don't have to agree on everything to avoid war and its cost


..children, especially siblings, do not represent a good microcosm for war for this example, in my opinion

a better example is the revolutionary war where colonial militias resorted to guerrilla tactics to defeat the old fashioned "gentlemen's combat" of the red coat army

napoleon was also successful in many campaigns for disregarding traditional rules, and boundaries for war, against more classically minded opponents

..we're talking about winning or losing a war, not a game or brotherly spat

If I'm honest, neither option covers the complexity of the issue and I'd say both are inaccurate and incorrect ways of looking at it. ...if you've ever read von Clausewitz's philosophies on war you'd know that there are no such things as inherent "rules" in war. Force must be met with equal or greater force; if one side cannot meet or best the amount of force applied against them, they lose.....
long read but good post
 
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so as long as something has always existed ..its immune to being ridiculous ?

..children, especially siblings, do not represent a good microcosm for war for this example, in my opinion

a better example is the revolutionary war where colonial militias resorted to guerrilla tactics to defeat the old fashioned "gentlemen's combat" of the red coat army

..we're talking about winning or losing a war, not a game or brotherly spat
Norms are very important.
Rules exist while people wish to stay in the 'norm'.

Obviously faced with your own extinction or a very important cause, the rules tend to go out the window. I wouldn't expect anything less of anyone.

However, most people would like 'normal' life most of the time. Revolution... are meant to be the exceptions.
Most conflicts are not the grand revolutions of existence, but have more in common 'brotherly conflicts'. Little fights of territory here and there. A resource fight here and there. This tribe against this tribe...

In these cases, you want some rules so things don't escalate to defy the norms.
This is the part that has happened throughout history and has served a very useful purpose.

If for each simple border conflict, the one side simply tried to win and just used chemical weapons or nukes, the world would be a much more dangerous and tragic place. Instead 'normal' life is maintained as much as possible and the petty fighting under rules goes on.

Of course rules can be broken... but there must be a price to pay so that norms are maintained.
It is a balance that exists in all areas of life.
You should always have to ask yourself is it worth paying the price for breaking the norm.
It might be worth it. It might not be.
But without rules and norms, that question is often never asked and the results are far worse than in societies with norms.

In short... rules of war... like all rules of norm are very useful.
 

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If you follow rules in war, you surely are going to lose.
 

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If you follow rules in war, you surely are going to lose.
I agree with this. A war's purpose is to complete an objective. It's not something everyone can go home at the end of the day after they've had at it and return for a rematch. It's not a game you can call fouls on. There are no morals, ethics or whatever you feel is a subjective reason for war. It all boils down to a disagreement or greed in the long run.

The UN tries to make it sound as if there is something stopping someone from using chemical weapons, napalm and flamethrowers, or even nuclear weapons. Truth is, people are going to do whatever they damn well please to get what they want. North Korea, Syria, Iran and a slew of other countries are a prime example of this.

This is really why I don't understand why people are getting in an uproar over the Syria chemical weapons thing. They're killing people regardless of the weapons they're using.
 

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If you follow rules in war, you surely are going to lose.
I agree with this. A war's purpose is to complete an objective.

The UN tries to make it sound as if there is something stopping someone from using... nuclear weapons.
To both of these, I'd like to bring up the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction. Now I could be wrong and correct me if this is not the case, but no two nuclear states have gone to war in an unlimited scale since 1945, and that is precisely because of this concept. Wars between nuclear states are by necessity limited wars because total war inevitably leads to nuclear war, and in that scenario not only do both sides lose but ALL sides are annihilated. The threat of MAD means that it is mutually beneficial for both sides to follow predetermined rules.
@Heyoka, if you follow rules in war, you surly are going to lose... unless you have a way to force the other parties to also heed them. Nuclear weapons and MAD ensure this, because if one side breaks the rules then all sides lose by default. I think it would be naive to assume that breaking rules of war is even remotely reasonable in these situations.
@TranceMan, war is the extension of policy by other means, and I have yet to find a single state who's intended policy was self-destruction. The UN can prevent others from using nuclear weapons because they have nuclear weapons themselves. No leader would ever use nukes to complete a military objective because it is understood that retaliatory strikes are inevitable. Again, it would be incredibly naive to assume that nothing exists to prevent their use.
 

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To both of these, I'd like to bring up the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction. Now I could be wrong and correct me if this is not the case, but no two nuclear states have gone to war in an unlimited scale since 1945, and that is precisely because of this concept. Wars between nuclear states are by necessity limited wars because total war inevitably leads to nuclear war, and in that scenario not only do both sides lose but ALL sides are annihilated. The threat of MAD means that it is mutually beneficial for both sides to follow predetermined rules.
In this sense, you are correct. Though, even in total war, the use of nuclear weaponry in the US will not be fired unless the threat of nuclear war is imminent. This is why DEFCON is such an important thing to know and understand. My point is that full scale war does not imply the use of nuclear weapons. If anything, it could mean invasion of target country or having a strong defense from an attacking country.

While there is the threat of both sides being annihilated, a country who's leader is psychotic would not give a crap about this. Think about it. People are psychotic enough to kill others and get themselves shot. So what's stopping someone from launching an ICBM and not giving a crap?


@TranceMan, war is the extension of policy by other means, and I have yet to find a single state who's intended policy was self-destruction. The UN can prevent others from using nuclear weapons because they have nuclear weapons themselves. No leader would ever use nukes to complete a military objective because it is understood that retaliatory strikes are inevitable. Again, it would be incredibly naive to assume that nothing exists to prevent their use.
Could you provide some citation for the underlined?

I wouldn't say that retaliatory strikes would be inevitable if you strike a country that does not have any nuclear power. The most they can try to do is intercept the missiles with SAMs and if they're technologically savvy, they could use lasers to destroy the projectile When you have high-altitude nuclear weapons which SAMs or lasers cannot hit, you're kind of screwed either way. The target country would be bathed with radiation as well as neighboring countries (depending on size, weather conditions, and blast radius in accordance with bordering countries), which does pose a problem to the rest of the world.
 

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In this sense, you are correct. Though, even in total war, the use of nuclear weaponry in the US will not be fired unless the threat of nuclear war is imminent. This is why DEFCON is such an important thing to know and understand. My point is that full scale war does not imply the use of nuclear weapons. If anything, it could mean invasion of target country or having a strong defense from an attacking country.

While there is the threat of both sides being annihilated, a country who's leader is psychotic would not give a crap about this. Think about it. People are psychotic enough to kill others and get themselves shot. So what's stopping someone from launching an ICBM and not giving a crap?
I think we disagree on what constitutes a "full scale war" first of all. When I think full scale war I think total war because it implies the use of all available resources to apply the most force at all costs. In the context of a total war, nuclear war is inevitable because of the massive force it can apply. Only unconditional surrender or preset limitations and rules on war would prevent a launch, which would mean neither side is then involved in a total war. Strictly conventional warfare is therefore not scaled up in full even if all resorces outside of nukes are applied; if there is still a method to increase scale, it cannot be full scale. DEFCON 1 is my interpretation of what constitutes a full scale war.

I also think I made it unclear when I said I have yet to find a state apathetic toward destruction. I certainly believe that people who are apathetic toward such destruction exist, but I have yet to see such a person in a leadership position. Leaders are people usually after power from my observations, and annihilation definitely isn't a source of power.

TranceMan said:
Could you provide some citation for the underlined?

I wouldn't say that retaliatory strikes would be inevitable if you strike a country that does not have any nuclear power. The most they can try to do is intercept the missiles with SAMs and if they're technologically savvy, they could use lasers to destroy the projectile When you have high-altitude nuclear weapons which SAMs or lasers cannot hit, you're kind of screwed either way. The target country would be bathed with radiation as well as neighboring countries (depending on size, weather conditions, and blast radius in accordance with bordering countries), which does pose a problem to the rest of the world.
I was sourcing the threat of nuclear retaliation based on the theory of deterrence. Even if a state were to launch a first strike against a non-nuclear state, I readily believe that a third party nuclear state, nost notably the UN or certain members thereof, would retaliate out of necessity. Deterrence as a theory cannot function solely as a theory; if no nuclear retaliation came from a first strike it would imply the loss of credibility of the theory of deterrence and make nuclear warfare acceptable in contexts of no direct retaliation.
 

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Only fools follow rules in war.

“War does not determine who is right - only who is left.”

― Bertrand Russell
 

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as General Sherman said: "War is hell" while he was burning Atlanta.
War is much about intimidating opponent as it is about conquest. So in this context you can t care about single individual or smaller group of people cause that would be defeat of your purpose.
That been said Geneva convention is enforced only on small states not on world superpowers, so in a sense we cannot talk about rules of war, we can only talk about appropriate and generally accepted behaviour in war
 

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Fuck war. Option 3.
Oversight, see ethnic cleansing. Not everyone shares the view that we should not go to war, and so we must always be ready.
 

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Fighting ethically strengthens intelligence resources. This is highly advantageous in situations where combat is asymmetrical. It also helps with international relations, but I guess most of you are mostly Americans and could care less about how other countries perceive yours. Bottom line is, if you want to win a fight with fewer resources, you need to fight smart, you need to be accurate, you need to reduce your own casualties, you need to practise guerrilla warfare. Success at all of these objectives is greatly helped by ethical behaviour. Ethical behaviour can turn enemies into covert allies or even combatant allies.
 

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Oversight, see ethnic cleansing. Not everyone shares the view that we should not go to war, and so we must always be ready.
Be ready for what? Someone to decide that resources are not plentiful enough in one particular country so everyone involved suffers and gets dragged into it? It affects us in Australia directly and indirectly.

I don't subscribe to it.
 
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