Ok, there are four basic categories of people when there is a conflict.
So, how should these groups be ranked in order of whose lives it is more important to protect? All else being equal, if a certain behavior is likely to increase risk to one of these groups, which should it be? Please note that although obviously inspired by debates about the Iraq war, this thread is an attempt to get conflict and nation independent rankings.
I’d say the two outliers are the easiest. Our civilians are the most important and the most effort should go into protecting them. We put our soldiers in front of them for precisely this reason. This means we are willing to accept more risk to our soldiers than our civilians. The other end of the spectrum, their troops, are similarly easy to place. They are the de facto targets. Aside from casual massacres of this group pretty much anything goes.
The other two are the sticky wicket. All else being equal, is it more important to preserve the lives of civilians on their side or soldiers on ours?
History is replete with times and places where these questions flip-flopped like mad. The firebombings of Dresden and Hamburg, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Deliberate targeting of civilians instead of military personnel, each for their various reasons. Still these events were not the norm. In general warfare has been designed to deplete the enemy’s troops, not their civilians. The Geneva Convention treaties specify protecting of civilians when possible. So that would argue that in general care should be taken to minimize danger to civilians. If we place our military beneath their civilians in this hierarchy of “worth” then logic would dicatate that in a choice between increasing danger to our forces versus their civilians that we choose to increase danger to our troops. Is this generally agreed? Why or why not?