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Morality In Warfare

Discussion in 'Alley of Lingering Sighs' started by NonSequitur, Nov 12, 2004.

  1. NonSequitur Gems: 19/31
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    Faraaz, dmc, TGS and joacqin's posts on the Fallujah thread got me thinking - what kinds of action should we sanction in urban warfare? I realise that the answer will be a highly subjective one, and I guess I'm asking everyone to avoid being strictly utilitarian, but when have you gone "too far"? In this sense, I'm talking strictly about combatants - although I'm sure if someone wants to open up that can of worms, they are more than welcome to. I think that lends itself more to a discussion of "tactical interrogations", if you get my metaphor.

    To take the example from the last thread: the insurgents in Fallujah are using mosques as part of their combat strategy (although I don't know exactly for what purpose). What can/should be done in response? Should you bomb them? Gas them? Grenade them? Assault the temple grounds? Cut off their essential services and starve them out?

    Bear in mind that it would be insane for them to go toe-to-toe with the US army, and that they are not the ones bound by military conventions. They're using every advantage they have, and understandably so. If they were in any other structure, I imagine there would be no hesitation in bombing it into rubble and, as TGS put it, turning it into a latrine. But when the issue of advantage crosses into political and religious territory, and when nono-combatants are potentially at risk, the decision is much more complex. Just interested to see what people think of this - leaving aside any objections to the war, momentarily.

    /me gets off soapbox for anyone else
     
  2. The Great Snook Gems: 31/31
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    War should be treated as war. You are not at war with someone to coddle them and protect them. You wouldn't enter a boxing match with handcuffs on would you? One of the stupider things the civilized world did was create the Geneva convention. Somehow they created the concept that war should be civilized and follow rules. Now maybe this would work under certain circumstances (and I'm having trouble thinking of one), but in most cases two nations at war have fundamental differences. To expect one side to behave when the other doesn't is ludacris.

    History shows us that after a war there is a time of rebuilding. I may be wrong, but isn't Europe littered with castles that at one time or another were conquered?

    To treat war as something civilized is a prescription for disaster. I also think the messier wars are the less likely people are to start them.
     
  3. AMaster Gems: 26/31
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    The idea of not attacking a mosque or temple or church simply because it's a place of worship is unfathomable to me.

    In war, you kill people and break things. You cannot kill people and break things "sensitively". To tie the hands of your soldiers in order to avoid offending sensiblities while you're in the process of -killing people- is truly insane.
     
  4. NonSequitur Gems: 19/31
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    Good point, TGS - but rules like the Geneva convention are intended to prevent excessive abuses of non-combatants and prisoners of war. If you take the gloves off and say, "Right, anything goes!", you're saying that anything is permissible. You only have to look at the story of the Burma-Thailand Railway to see how that turns out (the link is a little grandiose, but fairly accurate).

    While the idea of "gentlemanly warfare" went out the window with the American Civil War and World War One, there are certain things that are in both sides' interests to have upheld. Knowing that you're on a total war footing is scary as hell - ergo your last point being a valid one. I think the US is starting to see just how nasty it can get when there aren't rules of engagement. Plus, the US is convinced it has the moral high ground - hard to justify when you adopt a "whatever works" policy.

    Of course, to have it this way is to say that brute force and viciousness is all you need. I don't see too many military people shouting "Bring on the WMDs and nerve toxins! Let's turn Fallujah into a sheet of glass" (although scarily enough, I know plenty of people here who feel that way).

    Sure, you can't just let it tie your hands and have your troops at the mercy of politics. The question is what you do after making that decision, and what consequences you want to deal with. I personally don't see why you can't smoke them out or gas them - you won't affect the structure, and they are using it precisely because it is more than just bricks and mortar. I'm sure that view is not universal.
     
  5. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    No matter how you look at it, there is no way to justify rape, ever. Extends to sexual humiliation of all sorts.
     
  6. NonSequitur Gems: 19/31
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    @ Chev: Not that I disagree, but...

    Where this gets really ugly is when you start contemplating using a person's family or countrymen/women as leverage against them. I am not advocating that, nor any kind of sexual violation (having studied criminology and genocide, I have heard of some truly appalling events); I was trying to keep it focused on combatants rather than civilians. Torturing someone's family or executing their kids or relatives may be effective if brutal, but that wasn't why I started this thread. If anyone wants to justify their actions in war, there needs to be some minimum standard of conduct - and therefore, things that will and will not be done. That's what I wanted to discuss.
     
  7. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Combatants can be raped no less than civilians, why?
     
  8. Abomination Gems: 26/31
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    Because combatants signed up to fight with the chance of being killed. They all walk into the situation knowing that they could be killed. Murder is a more severe crime than rape so if people understand that they could be killed doing their 'job' you assume they aren't going to complain as much if they get raped - at least they'll be alive afterwards.

    Non-combatants should leave any area of military activity. If you don't want to fight - leave. If you can't leave then it must be because somebody is stopping you. If you get killed it's their fault.

    On the topic of bombing Mosques, the moment only hostiles are in a building the building loses all the status it once held. No longer is it a mosque, church, school or hospital - it's a stronghold. To shoot at somebody from within a building then complain that the building was reduced to rubble shows a serious lack of priorities. This shows someone valuing a building over the life of a human. Sure, it's interesting to compare the value of a human life to a building while in a warzone, yet the complaints made about buildings such as hospitals, schools and mosques are made OUTSIDE of combat. Nobody would target a mosque, hospital or school unless it held hostiles - there is no strategic or tactical value in destroying such buildings, it would be a waste of munitions and would give away your position.

    Although the idea of the 'rules of war' isn't exactly the smartest thing anyone came up with, it does have its advantages. However, when one side starts breaking a rule then the other side should be forgiven for countering the advantage the other side has obtained by breaking the rule in the first place. Example: taking hostages and firing upon the opposition from behind your own non-combatant countrymen. It's unfortunate but you can't blame the other side for simply opening fire anyway and killing the human shields. According to me the blood is on the hands of the kidnappers, not those who actually killed them. To state "They should have done things differently" is insane. What alternatives could there possibly be? LET them shoot you and wait till they run out of ammuniton? Ask them nicely to let the hostages go?
     
  9. Cúchulainn Gems: 28/31
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    I thought as we move on through time we learn to respect other peoples cultures. In the middle ages and before properties were sacked and raised to the ground. In this day and age we can respect other peoples ancient structures such as mosques. There is no need to bomb them. There is also no need to bomb hospitals that are treating civilians that were hit by bombing campaigns.

    I think that people get raped and abused as the soldiers (involved) themselves are unsure of their abilities and have to resort to more sinister ways to overcome their fear.

    Thats my opinion on the matter and I am sure that most people will disagree with me.
     
  10. Midwinter Gems: 9/31
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    There's also the diplomatic side to things. It all depends on different people's perceptions of what is and is not acceptable. If a group of people hole up in a mosque, then to the combatants that mosque is a stronghold. However, to the ordinary people who have nothing to do with the conflict, that mosque is something sacred.
     
  11. AMaster Gems: 26/31
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    I would suggest reading up on modern warfar, the second World War in particular.

    There's every reason to bomb a mosque if the enemy uses it as a stronghold.


    EDIT: oh, with regards to the tying of soldiers hands; a Vietnam vet once wrote "When you give a man a gun, you create a policy maker. When his ass is on the line he will do whatever it takes to survive. If the implications of that bother you, the time to do something about it is before you give the man a gun and send him into the field."
     
  12. Cúchulainn Gems: 28/31
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    I have read about WW2 in depth and I don't base my knowledge on 'Saving Private Ryan' and other 'hostoric' movies. Besides what has WW2 got to do with Iraq? Should countries base their strategy on WW2? I would like to think that people are more compasionate in modren times.

    In my opinion the war was wrong in the first place and bombing up mosques is just trying to provoke more people into becoming insurgents. How would you like it if some stupid foreigners were using the white house as a stronghold? Would you suggest that it be bombed?
     
  13. Abomination Gems: 26/31
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    Yes. A building can be rebuilt. I'm not going to let my comrades die because of a pile of mortar and bricks. On that note, do you think there was such outrage because the World Trade Centre was destroyed? Heck no. The problem was that there were quite a fair number of people killed in the blast.
     
  14. Cúchulainn Gems: 28/31
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    The WTC was to be demolished by 2036 anyway due to insurance reasons and the hazardous materials. The WTC is not in the same league as an ancient castle or mosque. I don't think anyone thought that the WTC was a historical and beautiful building. Thats not to say that it should have been destroyed.

    The mosques that were destroyed were beautiful and ancients buildings that simply cannot be replaced.

    [ November 12, 2004, 11:33: Message edited by: Cesard ]
     
  15. Foradasthar Gems: 21/31
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    I'm pretty much perfectly on the same line with Abomination here.

    In the army here in Finland it was made very clear that no matter what kind of cultural, religious or civilian bombshelter status a building held, the second it was used for military purposes it would lose its status of a non-military, protected site.

    If my country was attacked and I cared enough to stay and defend it, it would be up to me wether to gain a leverage over the enemy and sacrifice myself in a protected building like that, even cause the destruction of a bombshelter, or to take the hard way and risk my own life more in the process. The enemy can't be blamed for reacting.

    No human life is worth sacrificing because of a building. If my superior told me to go inside a building with a sword and a shovel against enemy armed with tripwire mines, grenades and assault rifles simply because the building was important (important to those who then decided to get inside there in the first place, as it often is), I'd laugh at it and grab a rocket launcher instead. Or be cast in a military prison for disobeying. Or shoot him before I was.

    Even if the building is only important to a third party uninvolved in the conflict, not to the ones barricading themselves in nor the ones attacking it, it's still a matter of an individual throwing his only one life away because of a mere building. Of course, if the attacker itself is an immoral bastard that had no reason to come and wage a war in this ground in the first place, it changes things. But things get so much a matter of circumstance and opinion there that I won't go any further in that.

    On that rape thing, I guess that depends on the person in question. Some might value life over any other alternative, no matter how horrid. Some might believe that death is better than being subjected to extreme humiliation and violence, even if it meant being left alive. However the victim feels it, to me it's clear that it is far more evil to commit an act of incredible brutality and humiliation, than to simply kill a person quickly and mercifully.
     
  16. Carcaroth

    Carcaroth I call on the priests, saints and dancin' girls ★ SPS Account Holder

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    I agree with Cesard, the reason for not bombing mosques is purely because it would alienate ALL the local people and lead to more insurgents. The troups are supposed to be there to free the country from insurgents (foreign or otherwise) not as an occupying force. They can not afford to lose the goodwill of the country by attacking places of worship.
     
  17. Cúchulainn Gems: 28/31
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    Yes I think the foreign forces would be respected more if they in turn show respect to the locals. Less people would likely become insurgents and maybe the war would be over a lot faster.

    You cannot destroy evil with evil actions.
     
  18. Abomination Gems: 26/31
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    So if a group of insurgents was holed up in a mosque shooting anyone who walked by - US troops, civilians or basically anyone who was not part of their 'group' it would be evil to destroy the mosque? Would you order your soldiers to remove the insurgents but also order them that no damage to the building would be allowed? Modern warfare doesn't work like that. You'll never win any conflict if you don't destroy enemy cover. Remember World War I? In order to successfully take an enemy position you would have to sacrifice about three times your troops as the defenders. This was because there was no technology to remove the opposition cover or at least flush them out.

    On another note. They are not 'attacking' the places of worship. The insurgents are using the places of worship as cover. US forces don't want to attack those places. It's pointless. However the insurgents are making them military targets. If they don't want mosques to be destroyed then they should stop hiding in them. Pretty damn logical.
     
  19. Dendri Gems: 20/31
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    Thats the very reason they are using places of worship as battlegrounds, you know. The resistance fighters/terrorists know the US forces will demolish the mosques, thereby enraging the Iraqis, who will then support and even join resistance. Quite simple. Not only that - moslems all over the world will be mad when pictures of Fallujah are spread via media. Its exactly what the islamists want the moslems to see: The West is out to destroy their religion.

    If the US army is unable to adjust to this strategy, by using chemical weapons or something, well, that is again frighteningly short-sighted of them. Nothing new there.
     
  20. kemanmaldea Gems: 12/31
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    Dendri, I hate to say this but if we started using chemical weapons we would louse any support from anyone.
    The problem with chemical weapons is that the cannot be controlled, After WW1 no country has used chemical weapons in combat it is too easy to kill your own troops, or the local civilians.
     
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