Thursday, May 30, 2024

#151 / The "Rules" Of War


The American Red Cross is trying to educate the American public about the rules of war. You can click this link to learn more about International Humanitarian Law, and about a Red Cross program seeking to make the public aware that there are, in fact, officially recognized "rules," even as war rages on. This link is where you can get information on how to register for one of the free programs. 

According to Wikipedia, "International Humanitarian Law" is "a branch of international law that seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict by protecting persons who are not participating in hostilities and by restricting and regulating the means and methods of warfare available to combatants (emphasis added)."

Trying to circumscribe the outrages that accompany an activity in which the basic idea is that people from "one side" are seeking to kill people from the "other side," is certainly well-intentioned. It's a positive effort, clearly. However....

What about the following saying, which is pretty well known? 

Here is what the Merriam-Webster Dictionary says: The saying that "All's fair in love and war" is "used to describe a situation in which people do not follow the usual rules of behavior and do things that are normally considered unfair." 

That saying, which I believe springs directly from what I like to call "observation," seems to run in direct opposition to the kind of behavior that the American Red Cross would like us first to understand, and then to emulate. The American Red Cross says that how we conduct ourselves, when wars are underway, should reflect "the rules," which are internationally approved, and which recognize the need to protect those not directly engaged in the hostilities. This is a fine idea, but that is not what we actually observe happening when wars are underway. 

As a "for instance," many believe that the way that Israel's army has operated, after the October 6th attack by Hamas, is an example of how the "rules of war" are easily disregarded, once war begins. A column in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal, though, concludes the opposite. David B. Rivkin, Jr. and Lee A. Casey, claim that "there is no reasonable case that Israel has violated the laws of war." 

That saying - "All's fair in love and war" - reflects our lived experience. We can remember, historically, and we can witness, currently, that when wars are underway, despite the internationally-recognized "rules," each side tells itself that whatever it does is "fair," after all. 

Both of those "sides," however, when they are waging war, are in error. Killing other people, to get what your side wants, is always wrong. If anyone thinks that war can be made "OK," if we will all just follow the "rules," they are making a big mistake.

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