Geneva Convention????

War is not something I support in any way, I see the cost in terms of refugees, absolute misery and the cost (socially and monetary) of rebuilding all societal structures essential to non-anarchical life afterwards.
The Geneva Convention is essentially flouted by all but those who set it up in the first place and to me, it’s existance makes war into a board game with all the accompanying rules.
In NZ we get to see the captured American soldiers (and the dead ones) - the reporters reckon that Americans are the only ones in the world who don’t get to see them on free to air TV. But the main reasons given for why they are abhorant are because they are against the Geneva Convention.
Why would you have rules in a war?
It’s like saying ‘hurt me, but don’t hurt me too much.’
This may sound naive but if I was in charge of a war, I would have no rules - why would you if the objective is to obliterate the opposition?

You’ve just answered your own question.

[nitpick]Geneva Conventions

Because war is essentially diplomacy by military action. The purpose of war is to make an opposing government see things your way, whether it be a recognition of independence (American Revolutionary War), a desire to control territory (Axis powers, Second World War) or liberate occupied lands (1991 Gulf War), or, as in the case of the current Iraqi conflict, to depose a government.

In all of these cases, the use of force is a tool to acheive a higher objective. Obliteration of the opposition serves no purpose in itself, carries huge human and economic costs for both sides if you assume the opposition will attempt to obliterate you, and is simply immoral in the presence of effective alternatives.

Hence the Geneva Conventions. By establishing rules for the treatment of POWs, limitations on types of weaponry, and so forth, deaths and injuries on both sides are reduced while maintaining battlefield parity. Frankly, one could run a war as a giant game of laser tag, and if both sides played by the rules, you’d see exactly the same outcome as a real battle, except for the casualties.

Might I add that the rules of war are an outgrowth from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries?

The Geneva Conventions can be seen as a formal codification of moral values most of us hold. If you were in charge of a war, would you simply shoot any enemies who surrendered? Would you be happy to deliberately bomb innocent civilians? I know i wouldn’t.

The Geneva Conventions are also of benefit to both sides in the conflict. For instance - if you take PoWs in rather than shooting them, it gives you a bargaining tool over the enemey. It also makes enemy troops more likely to surrender in the future - who’s going to surrender if they know they’ll be shot or tortured? Essentially it reduces the human cost of war, without affecting the outcome, as KeithT says.

I know what you mean Mel, although your first sentence seems naive to me.

It used to drive me nuts during the Vietnam War errrrrr conflict when they would have a 2 week Christmas truce. If they could stop for 2 weeks, it seemed to me, they could stop for 6 months while they negotiated.

And as for bombing innocent civilians, were any British or Americans ever tried for war crimes after they bombed and bombed and then bombed again the city of Dresden near the end of WW2?

It seemed as if that was just the English paying Germany back for the bombings of London all those years.

And Keith mentioned limitations on types of weaponry. So The G. Conventions tells us we can’t use nukes since they would devestate a country?

Now you got me going. Will Sadam and sons be arrested as war criminals when they get out of physical therapy?

No, they weren’t, probably because they weren’t guilty of any war crimes. It’s not clear to me that something like the firebombing of Dresden would be a war crime today, given that it contained “infrastructure targets” (i.e. manufacturing plants making items intended for military use) but I’m not an expert on international law, so I’m prepared to be corrected on that. However, if it is in violation of any treaty, it wouldn’t have been until at least 1949, which was when the first Geneva Convention protecting civilians was formalized. Prior Geneva Conventions (in 1864, 1899, and 1929) focused solely on the treatment of battlefield wounded, prisoners of war and shipwrecked sailors.

No. I’d like to see a cite for the weapon limitations myself. What I’ve heard is that weapons and ammo that are designed to produce hard to treat wounds are prohibited, but I haven’t been able to find that in glancing through the 1949 treaties.

Sorry for the confusion on this issue. The Geneva Conventions do not prohibit specific weaponry, but the Hague conventions and protocols and other international agreements dating to the 1868 Declaration of St. Petersburg do. I’ve compiled a partial list:
[li]Prohibition of exploding bullets, 1868[/li][li]Prohibition of deforming (“dum-dum”) bullets,1899 Prohibition of poison and poisoned weapons, 1907 [/li][li]Prohibition of chemical and biological weapons, 1925[/li][li]Restrictions on use of mines and booby traps, 1980 [/li][li]Prohibition of laser weapons designed to cause permanent blindness, 1995 [/li][/ul]

Ah. Thanks for the answer, KeithT.

The reasons for the existence of the law of war was also discussed here.