Should War Have Rules?
Some things are so immoral that they cannot be done even in times of war.
This is not a Q1 violation unless you would consider doing one of these things to prevent a war from being lost.
This may be a Q2 violation if you disagree with an enemy over what is allowable in combat.
It seems that, if war is allowed at all, rules of behavior would be different in a time of war than they would be in peacetime. For example, the government can’t bomb a factory in another country during peacetime without there being significant consequences, but such a bombing would be accepted in wartime.
Before you decide what things should be considered immoral in war you have to decide whether anything should be considered immoral in war. Should a country attempt to win a war all costs? Does having rules for war make war seem more acceptable and therefore make it more likely? Is "wartime morality" an oxymoron?
If there are wartime rules, they are likely rooted in Q2 — things which are so horrible that you would rather lose or prolong a war than have them done to you, so you cannot do them to your enemy. Which (if any) of the following would you consider to be against the rules of war?
- Using weapons of mass destruction (poison gas, irritating gas, biological weapons, atomic weapons).
- Using weapons that may kill at a much later date (land mines, sea mines, traps).
- Using autonomous weapons (robots, drones, automated guns).
- Using weapons designed to wound and strain medical resources.
- Bombing from the air or otherwise killing from a distance.
- Poisoning a town’s water supply.
- Using children in combat.
- Using animals in combat.
- Using animals for "suicide" missions.
- Kamikaze-type tactics.
- Killing enemies who have surrendered.
- Pretending to surrender to get close to the enemy.
- Abusing or torturing prisoners of war.
- Holding hostages or threatening to kill prisoners of war.
- Not freeing prisoners of war after the end of hostilities.
- Prosecuting enemy soldiers under peacetime law (e.g., treating soldiers who kill in combat as murderers).
- Using civilians as human shields.
- Attacking purely civilian targets.
- Attempting to completely wipe out the enemy (as opposed to just defeating the enemy).
- Attacking rescue workers.
- Pretending to be a rescue worker to avoid being attacked.
- Not treating wounded enemies.
- Spreading propaganda among the enemy.
Once you have settled on the rules, you still have a few questions to answer:
- Are these rules in force for an undeclared war?
- Can you break a rule so long as the enemy broke it first?
- What should the punishment be for breaking a wartime rule, and who should be punished?
You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.