The concept of a "war crime"

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Iwasamwillbe

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When people go to war, for whatever reason, the main goal is to hurt the other side enough so that they'll surrender or give up strategic/tactical locations or make a lopsided treaty with you or otherwise just get slaughtered. However, countries are often wary of commiting "war crimes".

The concept of a "war crime", which seems to permeate throughout history, is fascinating. War is arguably among the least moral of collective activities, and it's very basis is based on killing the other side enough so that your own side can impose itself on the losers. Despite this, nations throughout history have seemed to believe in a certain "code of conduct" concerning war, often considering those who break them to be "barbarians". Of course, what specifically counts as a "war crime" varies from culture to culture, and historically often only seemed to apply to others and not themselves.

I wonder why the concept of a "war crime" as a meaningful and significant thing, given what war is and its basis, pervades throughout the whole of history.
 

some Sketchy dude

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Biological weapons are the most effective. The ability to kill off an entire population while leaving its wealth and infrastructure intact. Use DNA sequencing to target specific protein strands for infection, maximizing both effect and accuracy in intended targets.

And you can practice on your mobile device by playing Plague, Inc.
 

Aidan

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Biological weapons are the most effective. The ability to kill off an entire population while leaving its wealth and infrastructure intact. Use DNA sequencing to target specific protein strands for infection, maximizing both effect and accuracy in intended targets.

And you can practice on your mobile device by playing Plague, Inc.
This is scifi and if/when we do get there it's just playing with fire.

Regarding the thread topic, I think war crimes are just a way to conduct what is normally a formal conflict in a way that prevents total war. When you play a game and conduct total war where you genocide everyone and destroy everything it's good fun but in the real world you don't want to burn down everything you intend to occupy unless you're Tecumseh Sherman and even his own brutality is played up as I understand it.

Western rules of engagement to avoid war crimes in the modern day seem to reach levels of absurd, especially when the conflict is in a part of the world that has a completely different mindset on the matter.
 

A Cardboard Box

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Human nature, simple as.

Lot of retards in this thread that don't read books.

The concept of war crimes goes back at least a thousand years. By papal bull the enslavement and execution of "honorable war captives" was banned. Nobles were required to be ransomed. Peasant soldiers captured in battle were supposed to be sent home after the war.
 

Big Bad Wart

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I wonder why the concept of a "war crime" as a meaningful and significant thing, given what war is and its basis, pervades throughout the whole of history.

I always saw it as a mix of empathy for normal people and practicality. Its Practical to set some boundaries when starting these wars because doing things like killing leader, killing a large portion of the population, or killing "ruling class" would lead to instability that could possibility effect other countries. This is problematic because a lot of countries have delicate balances in relationships so destabilizing it could fuck whatever country won the war. I admittedly am not well read on this subject tho.
 
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HumanHive

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It’s about escalation and drawing neutral countries into the conflict with your atrocities. It’s why tear gas isn’t used in war, it sets up a chain of escalation that leads to greater than necessary suffering and various uninvolved countries getting worried and becoming involved.
 

Pixy

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I do recall that Caesar wanted to avoid being prosecuted for War Crimes committed during the Gallic Wars, influencing his decision to cross the Rubicon, alongside the Senate deadlock and his unwillingness to give up his command and its attached prosecutorial immunity.
 

Kosher Dill

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Regarding the thread topic, I think war crimes are just a way to conduct what is normally a formal conflict in a way that prevents total war. When you play a game and conduct total war where you genocide everyone and destroy everything it's good fun but in the real world you don't want to burn down everything you intend to occupy
This, pretty much. We need to have some sort of generally-accepted level of aggression in between zero and a war of annihilation. And you also need a way to de-escalate - one way to end a war, especially if you're repelling an invasion, is for everyone to just pack up and go home.

Interestingly, this is something that was historically lacking when it comes to nuclear warfare. This book touches on it: Managing Nuclear Operations
Once the Cold War settled down to being properly cold, there really wasn't any governing framework for nuclear war - previously it was just assumed that if anyone ever fired off a nuke, it would be global Armageddon. At the time the book was written (1987) they advocated for instituting procedures and norms that would allow for limited nuclear war, and for de-escalation out of nuclear war. In other words, defining some red lines, such as capital strikes, which you could consider "nuclear war crimes". Whether any of that got implemented, I have no idea. I'm sure the details would be classified either way.
 

Lemmingwise

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There are two distinct ideas that are necessary to maintain seperate.

In general people presume an all out ferociousness, total war, in the same way that some martial artists think that teaching self defense is about teaching someone a 1 v 1 fight to the death, when there is plenty of room for de-escalation or avoidance of conflict in various situations.

So while the main idea is to break the back of the enemy, there are plenty of things one can do by being less ferocious to aid the war effort. Like preventing your own military from raping. Or to have a difference in how you treat a defeated foe if they surrender or you have to fight them (the mongols could sometimes just be bought off).

There's a reason why defensive war propaganda includes making your own soldiers and population fear the ferocity of the enemies.

Of course there are various soldiers and commanders that make decisions that ought to be criminal. These are (correct me if I'm wrong) generally not considered war crimes, but dealt with in private court martial.

Then there is the post war incriminations of the enemy that is typically what "war crimes" refer to. This is what others have already pointed to. The international court in the Hague is a sham. It's giving a legal paintjob on proceedings that are completely extrajudicial.

And to get back to the more localised war transgressions: there are plenty that incur massive public disapproval, particularly things like chemical or nuclear warfare. And as such if you want the public on your side a false flag chemical attack works great.

Of course if they don't know you were responsible, it isn't a crime :gunt:
 

Emperor Julian

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Pretty much most cultures historically have rules for war their are a number of advantages in terms of morale and diplomacy. Enemies are far more likely to surrender if they think you won't skin them alive and genrally honor your agreements. Being a needlesly bloodthirsty oathbreaker tends to cause more problems than it creates since no one will surrender or negociate.

For all the talk about the British/germans, maybe if the krauts hadnt have wiped their arse with diplomacy or basic rules of war the allies might have given them more options than "unconditional surrender."
 
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wtfNeedSignUp

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The concept of war crimes helps when both sides agree on it (at least for the majority of rules) thus reducing the total damage and suffering, especially for non-combatants.
When only one side applies it then you have stuff like people firing rockets from hospital roofs, making everyone inside a target.
 

drfuzzyballs

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It's a matter of being civilized over being barbaric. We've agreed to leave the civillains out of the shitshow whenever possible, not to use weapons that cause needless suffering, and to allow people to surrender. And when someone violates these norms it makes the whole country look bad, like how the orange man pardoned a war criminal that should be sitting on death row.
 

Sayon

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It's a matter of being civilized over being barbaric. We've agreed to leave the civillains out of the shitshow whenever possible, not to use weapons that cause needless suffering, and to allow people to surrender. And when someone violates these norms it makes the whole country look bad, like how the orange man pardoned a war criminal that should be sitting on death row.

Call me when Dubya and Obongo with Bolton and Cheney get tried for war crimes. The Left That Matters rehabilitated them or just ignored their record for war.