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Old 01-04-2007, 10:51 AM   #31
Elliot Royce
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Bryan:

International law exists but it is only enforced when it suits the sovereign states involved. To a very large extent, might makes right. I don't think you're going to find that the US UCMJ allows for appeal to the World Court in the Hague in the case of a conflict between US military law and international law.

On conscientious objection, Yael is referring to it as a legitimate excuse for avoiding military service and the State has clearly limited its legitimacy. I was looking at it more broadly: ultimately a soldier needs to be willing to disobey orders that are lawful under his regime but so clearly immoral or abhorrent that he cannot accept them. He must also be willing to suffer the consequences. Some of you will know about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a German pastor, who refused to cooperate with the Nazis and ultimately was killed by them. His is an example of someone who was willing to die for his beliefs. I am sure there are unnamed German soldiers who refused to slaughter prisoners or civilians and who were executed as a result. In my mind, these soldiers are the most heroic of all since their actions were condemned by their comrades and superiors. No one said that being a soldier with a conscience is always easy.
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Old 01-04-2007, 11:23 AM   #32
Barry Cooper
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Couple thoughts. Obviously, we have rules of engagement that prohibit certain things, like the indiscrimate and unnecessary killing of civilians by soldiers. This is why the Marines in Haditha are being prosecuted. These rules exist, it seems to me, for two reasons, which are pragmatic.

One, to reduce to the extent possible the moral and psychological damage incurred by our soldiers. To the extent possible, we send in decent people who don't enjoy killing people just for the sake of killing people. The more obviously relevant the killing is to victory, the less damage it does. The more gratuitous it is, the more damage it does, for most people.

Second, the purpose in war is victory, and unnecessary violence (tautological here, but I'm referring to following rules of engagement, which will accomplish this if they make sense)either does not help that cause, or hinders it. In all wars that are actually fought (versus avoided through whatever means), victory will involve killing people. However, the goal is a cessation of hostilities, not unending slaughter.

This means that military action needs to be focussed on the combatants, and their direct support. This latter is where the ambiguities are introduced. If civilians enable combatants to operate, they effectively become combatants. However, the question can reasonably be asked: is it easier to kill a lot of them--to scare them--or separate them from the combatants through aid and psychology? Whichever is the straightest line to victory is preferred. In most cases, my guess is that the latter, done skillfully, is better, which means quicker.

There are no antiseptic wars. There are no wars which are fully fair, which differentiate between civilians and combatants perfectly, which avoid the killing of men with families and children, which do not destroy buildings and lives, which do not cause pain and suffering.

In battle, Homer spoke of Lyssa, which is a rage which consumes the intellect, and which leads to a thirst for blood. I think there was likely some use in that emotion back when soldiers fought hand to hand for hours. It was likely energizing. However, guns don't require rage.

We have adopted a higher standard of ethics than most militaries in history. It may not be obvious, but there are military benefits to that.

The original question related to Saddam's apparently sincere (although my understanding is that sociopaths normally appear sincere) question why we invaded. He knew perfectly well why we invaded, although like all sociopaths he likely found it difficult to accept responsibility. I think the guy's answer was fine, since Saddam was in all likelihood just trying to yank his chain. That's what guys like that do.

As far as individual soldiers, though, the rules are the rules. You can always break the rules. You just have to accept the price.

I'm missing something here, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
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Old 01-04-2007, 01:18 PM   #33
James Falkner
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Interesting current event related to this discussion. This is an interview with a US solider who is currently refusing orders to report for duty</a>. Work/family safe.

http://hotzone.yahoo.com/b/hotzone/blogs19056
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Old 01-04-2007, 02:19 PM   #34
Barry Cooper
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Like I said, he has the right to do what he wants, and courts of military justice have the right to lock him up. He signed a contract and swore an oath. If he feels that strongly, he should be fine with jail time. His fellow soldiers are putting their lives on the line.

What he is saying is almost exactly "I don't agree with the President's politics". I personally don't see any room for that in the military. I do expect him to become a hero in certain circles, though. There is likely money in this for him, too, in book deals.
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Old 01-04-2007, 05:21 PM   #35
Bryan Veis
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Elliot,

We don't disagree at all. Having spent the last 25 years practicing law, mostly on the side of the government, I'm more aware than most of the limitations of the "law" as a tool of justice. Sometimes, you just can't get to the bad guys. Essentially, you are restating the "victor's justice" argument noted above.

Indeed, the United States is not a signatory to the convention creating the International Criminal Court (the World Court is different -- it deals with disputes between nation-states pursuant to treaties) precisely to avoid trumped up charges against US soldiers and officials. Charges (legitimate or not) could still be brought, but we (the US) have no treaty obligation to appear or to submit our citizens to its jurisdiction. (It could make international travel a bit dicey, though.) Unlike the European Union, there is no mechanism for individuals in the United States to appeal criminal or other matters to an international tribunal, although, from time to time, foreign nationals' home governments bring cases against the United States based on consular treaties.
Generally, the United States does not appear in those cases.

As I said above, I didn't intend to start a discussion of international criminal law and the laws of war. I was simply responding to Neal's suggestion that no "law" applied to the actions of his not-so-hypothetical concentration camp guard. The Nuremberg precedent says that there is such "law." Enforcement is an entirely separate matter, both in quality and quantity.

Barry,

One shouldn't confuse rules of engagement with the laws of war. Even if someone were to issue ROEs' that allowed the deliberate targeting of civilians for example, it would still be a violation of both the laws of war and the UCMJ provisions providing for punishment for murder or manslaughther (Articles 118 & 119). See, e.g., the My Lai prosecutions (1st Lt. Wm. Calley convicted of 22 counts of murder notwithstanding alleged orders from Capt. E. Medina). The problem, of course, is that if the offending soldier's own chain of command will not prosecute, then it is unlikely that any authority will do so unless the offending soldier's army has been defeated or the soldier has been captured, as with the Axis powers of World War II. It makes for an imperfect system and inconsistent results. To the credit of the US military, allegations of misconduct in violation of the laws of war or the UCMJ are investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted, as in the Abu Ghraib and Haditha matters.

In addition to the reasons you set forth, the codification of the laws of war in the Geneva and Hague Conventions came about because the European powers finally realized in the late 19th century, after centuries of war among nation-states and considerable devastation that there had to be limits on what national armies could do to each other and to each other's citizenry. Implicit in the adoption of the conventions over the next 85 years was an understanding among the 19th and 20th European states that the fortunes of war often change, and that any of them could be on the losing side. Establishing a set of rules for the protection of soldiers, prisoners of war, medical personnel, and civilian persons and property was in everyone's interest. There was more than a little hubris in the Nazi regime -- they assumed that their temporary military dominance would be permanent, and that they did not, therefore, have to worry about the consequences of their violations with respect to occupied territories.

So, I guess that's a lot more than I meant to say when I started. :sorry:



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Old 01-04-2007, 05:52 PM   #36
Barry Cooper
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Bryan,

I understand what you are saying, but the laws you are referring to also presume a reasonably static difference between civilian and combatant, as that was the norm in the era when these rules were created.

All that would be necessary to justify killing what appear to be civilians would be reclassifying them as combatants. Think about it: most of the members of our military are not out on daily patrols carrying M16's. We need quartermasters, and MP's, and various clerks, etc. etc. Logistics wins wars, and if someone were to somehow remove all of our support personnel, our front line troops would fail in short order, due to lack of support. They would run out of food and ammunition. At that point, courage alone makes little difference.

Likewise with our enemies. I am supporting an effort to build bridges with the various populations in Iraq and other nations that are currently tending to support logistically the folks who are blowing up our and our allies troops. However, for me this is a pragmatic position, not an ideological one. If I thought it would work, I would fully support blowing up every other house in certain areas, regardless of whether or not the families were in them. The goal here is to substantially mitigate the bloodshed, and create regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan that are moving in the direction of peace, and political liberalization. If it takes more bloodshed in the meantime, I'm for that.

Let's look at Lt. Calley. He killed a bunch of civilians. Maybe they were guilty of supporting the Vietcong, maybe not. I don't know, and know there are varying accounts. I doubt seriously that that massacre was in any respect supportive of American victory, even if it had gone unreported.

I do know that that event was capitalized on effectively by opponents of the Vietnam War, and believe that our "defeat" in Vietnam was a direct result of such opposition.

What is also not in doubt is that a lot of people were killed when North Vietnam took over South Vietnam. In my view, our failure there also contributed greatly to Pol Pot's Cultural Revolution in Cambodia, which killed millions.

Now, in the interest of adhering to 19th Century laws--which amount practically to rules of engagement--are we willing to sacrifice victory, and all the suffering for our "allies" that that defeat entails?

This is in no sense an academic question.

(Just to make sure I am being clear: I am supporting the minimum necessary amount of force, but not capping it anywhere.)
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Old 01-04-2007, 07:32 PM   #37
Bryan Veis
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"I understand what you are saying, but the laws you are referring to also presume a reasonably static difference between civilian and combatant, as that was the norm in the era when these rules were created."

Certainly, Barry, it is difficult to conduct a counterinsurgency/counterguerilla war under any circumstances. The Geneva Conventions, however, do provide for that. This is not the first time that the issue has come up -- the word "guerrilla" was coined during the Napoleonic wars; Spanish guerrillas tied Napoleon's army in knots before the British expeditionary force under Wellington drove them out of Spain.

"All that would be necessary to justify killing what appear to be civilians would be reclassifying them as combatants. Think about it: most of the members of our military are not out on daily patrols carrying M16's. We need quartermasters, and MP's, and various clerks, etc. etc. Logistics wins wars, and if someone were to somehow remove all of our support personnel, our front line troops would fail in short order, due to lack of support. They would run out of food and ammunition. At that point, courage alone makes little difference."

I'm not sure what your point is here. One can reclassify black as white, but that does not make it so. In addition, "combatants" for Geneva purposes includes anyone in uniform except unarmed medical personnel. Are you arguing that civilians whose labor and capital support the war effort are military targets? That is a fair argument if you are talking about bombing, say, munitions plants and tank factories of an opposing belligerent state. Those are legitimate military targets, and if workers are killed in the process, that is legal and acceptable "collateral damage." On the other hand, if you surreptitiously post a sniper at the gate of the plant and start shooting arriving civilian workers, that would not be "collateral," and would most likely constitute murder. If you went to a worker's house before he went to work and killed him to keep him from going to work, that would definitely be murder. The Fourth Geneva Convention (1949)(superseding in part the 1907 Hague Convention) is pretty specific about the rights of protected persons and the obligations of an occupying power. It even addresses acts of resistance and how they may be dealt with.

"Likewise with our enemies. I am supporting an effort to build bridges with the various populations in Iraq and other nations that are currently tending to support logistically the folks who are blowing up our and our allies troops. However, for me this is a pragmatic position, not an ideological one. If I thought it would work, I would fully support blowing up every other house in certain areas, regardless of whether or not the families were in them. The goal here is to substantially mitigate the bloodshed, and create regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan that are moving in the direction of peace, and political liberalization. If it takes more bloodshed in the meantime, I'm for that."

You present the dilemma of counterinsurgency; sometimes the harsher you treat the insurgents and the sympathetic noncombatant population, the more you strengthen the insurgency. There is also the cultural issue -- it is a legitimate question whether "liberalization" and "democracy" actually work in tribal societies with autocratic histories and theocratic tendencies. The sad thing is that our armed forces' leadership seems to have forgotten the lessons of counterinsurgency operations from Vietnam and earlier conflicts until very late in the day. The USMC "Small Wars Manual" written in the 1930's is a classic with lessons (still applicable today) taken from decades of experience in the early years of the 20th century.

"Let's look at Lt. Calley. He killed a bunch of civilians. Maybe they were guilty of supporting the Vietcong, maybe not. I don't know, and know there are varying accounts. I doubt seriously that that massacre was in any respect supportive of American victory, even if it had gone unreported."

Whether the victims were Vietcong supporters or not is irrelevant. They were unarmed and under the control of US soldiers, when Calley ordered his men(or relayed orders from Medina) to shoot them all. If they were Vietcong soldiers, they had laid down their arms and as prisoners of war were "protected persons"; if they were legitimate civilian, they were "protected persons" from the outset. In either case it was a violation of the laws of war and the UCMJ (and the charges at the court martial were for murder in violation of the UCMJ).

"I do know that that event was capitalized on effectively by opponents of the Vietnam War, and believe that our "defeat" in Vietnam was a direct result of such opposition."

Actually, most scholars and historians tend to blame either the Tet offensive (a tactical victory for the US) or Walter Cronkite's dramatic announcement for the public disenchantment with the war. Personally, I think that at some point, the number of bodybags coming back to Main Street, USA simply became too large for the parents, friends, and neighbors of those soldiers to continue to accept.

"What is also not in doubt is that a lot of people were killed when North Vietnam took over South Vietnam. In my view, our failure there also contributed greatly to Pol Pot's Cultural Revolution in Cambodia, which killed millions."

I was in the Navy when South Vietnam fell --it was a hard day for every member of the US military. What you say is true, but not germane (I think) to the questions of German concentration camp guards or the rules and laws governing the acts of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Now, in the interest of adhering to 19th Century laws--which amount practically to rules of engagement--are we willing to sacrifice victory, and all the suffering for our "allies" that that defeat entails?"

Well, not really "19th century" laws -- the Fourth Geneva Convention was promulgated in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II in recognition of the shortcomings of the 1907 Hague Convention. It's not about "rules of engagement," its about the treatment of noncombatants. ("Rules of Engagement" are covered by Annex I of the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which outlawed the use of poison gas.)

With great respect for the dead of World War II, 9/11, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it seems to me that the deaths of roughly 3,500 noncombatant and 3,000 combatant Americans and allies in the last five years is hardly a reason to discard standards adopted in the aftermath of 7 to 10 million or more noncombatant deaths in World War II.

The argument from expediency comes up in every war, because humans tend to ignore history. Frankly, we could solve a lot of problems by simply nuking any number of countries -- that doesn't mean it is a good idea to do it. Similarly, we could simply line up every military age male in Iraq (or certain parts of it) and shoot them -- still not a good idea. What we as a country do today will inevitably come back to bite us in the someday. You can't win a "war" for hearts and minds by ignoring the effects of your actions on the hearts and minds of the observers in the immediate neighborhood. The people who negotiated the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention knew a whole lot more about sacrifice and victory and defeat and utter devastation than most of us ever will. There's more wisdom in them than they are given credit for these days. Among other things, they recognized the slippery slope toward barbarism that is all too easy to tumble down in time of war.

There are a lot of places on the internet to discuss the political aspects of the war, and what "victory" or "defeat" might mean, so I'm not going to go there.
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Old 01-04-2007, 08:29 PM   #38
Pierre Auge
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Wow, we've got a book going on as a result of this thread. Geez and I thought I wrote really long posts..
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Old 01-04-2007, 11:57 PM   #39
Blair Robert Lowe
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To add fuel to the fire;

http://hotzone.yahoo.com/b/hotzone/blogs19056

It's work and family safe, but it'll probably a lot of the CF politik'n.

On another note, the MCMAP has in it's structure an ethical program; which differs from the prior Marine's combat training. Such is our age. I'm sure the more experienced one gets in war, the more they get used to decisions and commands they don't like. Some they follow, that they would not rather have in their earlier days.

I'd wager the grunts in years and ages past would not have been around long enough to worry about the politics. Some wars would have been more real to their land, than abroad with vague motives. Wars would come and go, and they'd be dead or back to their homes ( though some wars, the 100 years war seemed to last forever [ like the animosity in the east between old tribes ] ).
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Old 01-05-2007, 01:57 AM   #40
Lynne Pitts
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So, Blair, nice that it's WFS. What is it about? Please post a description of the contents, not just 'gee, this'll PO a bunch of people."
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