Honor has no place in warfare

Now… Before I begin, note that I’m not saying Ethics doesn’t have a place in warfare, just honor.

Now then, the Age of Chivalry is dead, and when it comes down to it, the enemies of America are no longer the sort of people we can afford to treat honorbly. This means using every cheap and dirty trick and tactic we’ve got, including, but not limited to, mines (self-defusing), cluster bombs and lots of air-bombardment, and using combat drones, and so forth.

The object of American invlolvement should be to accomplish our objectives at a minimal cost in US lives. All other considerations start at #2 and just start getting less important from there.

Now, you may wonder why I’m writing this. I have noticed that a number of posters have on occaision derided the very effective American military for being dishonorable. For example, in recent threads about Hiroshima/Nagasaki, the point (if I may lossely call it that) was made about one big bomb being dishonorable, as opposed to “soldiers fighting soldiers”. While its not something a noble Paladin might enage in, the twentieth century has no place for battlefield honor. This isn’t the civil war, and your enemies aren not also your bothers. In this case, given the Japanese government’s proclivities, “soldiers fighting children, old people, and the few soldiers left” would be more accurate.

Another thread featured a discussion about Afganistan. To use this as an example, we have used very powerful and nasty weapons of soldiers (cluster bombs, I mean). And why not use these weapons? A dead Taliban soldier is as dead from a cluster bomb as from a bullet.

I think you are mixing too many things. The use or not use of certain weapons may have nothing to do with honor but “using every trick in the book” is dishonorable, it should not be done and it is morally and ethically wrong.

Should American forces use a white flag to lure enemies and then massacre them? Should they use the cover or the Red Cross for war operations? Should they break their word that they gave when signing treaties? NO, I do not think so. But using the atomic bomb is not dishonorable. Dishonorable is lying and cheating and countries that do it are not the better for it.

there is no such thing as HONOR. it is merely an idea in people’s heads. your culture teaches you what is and is not supposed to be honorable. you are supposed to believe whatever stupid trash the culture teaches.

are you saying Christains wiping out Native Americans was HONORABLE. whoever has the most advanced technology it the most honorable. god is on the side of whoever has the best artillary.

Dal Timgar

No offense, but how is that supposed to excuse anything?

If you can kill every man in a Division (approx 16,000men) on the first day of a battle, why not do it? An enemy up against such a massive force would be more likely to surrender, rather than wage a war “to the last man”. Of course some enemies don’t see things that way.

“god is on the side of whoever has the best artillary.” WOW! I love that quote.

As in most things war is governed by cost benefit analysis. Preserving norms such as not attacking the Red Cross and allowing people to surrender under a white flag is important only so long as preserving those norms is beneficial. Presumably we would not want to kill an enemy who is trying to surrender because to do so invites the enemy to do the same to our forces should they ever be in a position where they must surrender. The same holds for the Red Cross. It is, usually, in neither sides’ interest to shoot ambulances as it puts their own at risk. The benefit of killing a few already wounded soldiers and noncombatant medics doesn’t out way the risk of putting your own wounded and medical forces at risk.

The same holds true with weapons. There is nothing amoral about using devastating firepower (cluster bombs, napalm, ‘bunker busters,’ fuel-air explosives, land mines, nukes if needed etc…) to overwhelm your enemy. Indeed in any conflict the first duty is to protect your own forces from harm to the greatest extent practical consistent with accomplishing the mission within the time allowed. Thus if you own the skies and can strike your enemy from afar with impunity that is exactly what you should do. Why would you send in troops to shoot the enemy “face to face” when you could kill them just as dead without offering them the opportunity to fight back? Similarly if troops are required to be in harm’s way they should be given the greatest possible latitude to use overwhelming force to minimize the opportunity for casualties.

A war is not a game of golf where we want to handicap ourselves so that there is plenty of competition and ‘honor.’

there is no such thing as MATHEMATICS. it is merely an idea in people’s heads. your culture teaches you what is and is not supposed to be mathematically correct.

If this constitutes a hijack just say so but I think this is a relevant thread to ask this in.

I never understood the prohibition against bombing (or otherwise killing) civilians. Let me apply the caveat that I can see how in some circumstances killing civilians may be counterproductive to a country’s goal in a war. You’re not likely to win the hearts and minds of people you just blew-up and may actually prolong a war or expand it if you engaged in this behavior (as might happen in Afghanistan were the US to do such a thing).

That said, in a Total War scenario, why not zap the civilian population at every opportunity? I don’t relish the thought of killing children and the elderly but nevertheless the civilian population can very much be a part of your enemy’s war effort. They build the tanks, missiles and bullets that will be flying at your soldiers. They farm the food their soldiers will eat. They nurse wounded soldiers back to health to carry a gun another day. Why is it dishonorable in today’s ‘clean war’ mentality to get rid of the people helping in your enemy’s war effort?

[sub]Side Note: As a civilian myself I can’t say as I personally mind the prohibition against killing civvies but I still don’t entirely understand it from the perspective of trying to win a war with the least amount of casualties to your own side.[/sub]

I agree with you that the notion of the “innocent civilian” is a silly joke. Anyone who contributes to the economy in any way is a part of a country’s ability to wage war and no more innocent than a soldier with a gun. Children for example are simply the next generation of soldiers, factory workers, doctors, farmers etc. and it is much easier to kill them now than later. IMHO anything and everything is a potentially legitimate military target. That said, as you pointed out in nearly all cases it would simply be counterproductive to destroy civilian targets and level cities. It isn’t an honor issue, it just doesn’t further the cause at hand.

Ah, so I’m as responsible for the multiple thousands of Afgani dead in the last half year, even though I’ve been against the civilian deaths there since the begining? Hey, guess I’m also responsible for the deaths of those people that got sunk when a sub surfaced right under their boat.

And it’s nice to know that the people killed in the september terrorist attacks were truely legitimate millitary targets, and completely responsible for the offenses that were used as the reason to initiate those attacks.

Real nice to know the only reason I shouldn’t be targeted for my supposed contribution to US millitary action is because it would be “counter-productive”…

Destroying a factory making tanks or missiles (With people in it or not) is okay. Leveling a city to kill all the people who work in them is not, especially since it would be much easier to take out just the factory, anyway.

I think that the OP is saying that it is the fact that it is ethically wrong that should matter, not that it is “dishonorable”.

Rhum Runner

So is someone who sells a criminal a gun as guilty as someone who uses it to kill someone? Every time we go to war with a country, should we also go to war with every country that trades with them?

Except that maybe, just maybe, you don’t necessarily want to kill them all. Perhaps you have a plan to, say, assist in their rebuilding their infrastructure and rejoining the civilized world. Maybe even becoming an ally.

No, you’re right – that would be silly.

So a child is a legitimate military target simply because he might grow up to be an enemy? Or because he might grow up and have a child who might grow up to be an enemy?

I think you and others are confusing war with terrorism not to mention an upfront fight as opposed to a sneak attack out of the blue (note that I think once you are at a declared war state sneak attacks are just fine and par for the course).

Nevertheless why wouldn’t the World Trade Center be a legitimate military target? Isn’t it really a new fangled form of factory (a factory of commerce)? Imagine WWII happening today. Don’t you think Hitler would want to target the WTC? Would you blame Hitler for being unfair in his decision of what to bomb if he levelled the WTC in the context of a Total War ala WWII?

If you think about it all forms of the economy are what allows a country to wage war (ok…maybe Strawberry Shortcake doll factories aren’t so important). I’ll grant that bombing farms one at a time isn’t a very effective way to wage war but they are still targets (you’d probably be better off bombing grain silos, transportation hubs and the like…more bang for your buck).

War has NOTHING to do with honor, except in old novels. The primary purpose of a military force is to DESTROY THE ENEMY, period Withb regard to terrorism-the ONLY way to stop it is: destroy the terrorists means of support. This means anyone who aids and supports them in any way. Machiavelli said id 4 centuries ago-“it is better to be feared than to be loved”.

As opposed to, say, stopping the war with a minimal amount of force and bloodshed?

If the purpose of a military force was simply to destroy the enemy, then the USA shouldn’t have stopped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It should have continued bombing Japan until its entire military force had been destroyed.
I tell you, sometimes I’m appalled at the low regard people have for human life.

You are right. Maybe you don’t want to kill them all. You might have all kinds of different strategies you want to try. For example you might hope to incite the civilians to rise up and overthrow the government that declared war on you. There might be all kinds of valid military targets that you choose not to attack for different reasons. Dams, oil fields, factories, are just a few examples of military targets that you might, or might not, want to attack depending on your particular strategic goals. Civilian populations are no different. I don’t believe I ever said that countries should always target civilian populations, or that destroying cities was always the best or only way to conduct a war.

In case you hadn’t noticed the rules that apply during a war between states are a bit different than the rules that apply to criminals. As for the trading partners, I wouldn’t say it is a rule to attack your enemy’s trading partners, but it is always a consideration. If country A goes to war with country B and country C is trading with country B, certainly country A might decide that it needs to go to war with country C also. Again it is a question of costs and benefits. If the only thing C is supplying to B is bananas it might not be worth it. If, on the other hand C is supplying oil and tanks, then A might decide to attack. The decision is not one of ethics or honor but rather purely one of strategy.


Yes, you are. (I am assuming you are American?) If American citizens are not responsible for what the government does, then who is?


I agree that it is much easier to simply destroy the factory. I disagree that it is always wrong to level a city. It depends on the situation.

Got to disagree with the bit about DESTORY THE ENEMY.

The objective in any war (or really any situation) is to accomplish your goals while controlling the enemy’s ability to do the same. Nothing more nor less.

If your goals are to kill everyone on the opposing side so you can inhabit that land, then whatever it takes.

But more reasonable goals are usually involved.

  • Remove the enemy’s ability to project force.
  • Acquire some specific land or resource that you desire
  • Cause your enemy to change some policy
  • Remove a government hostile to your policy
  • Others as defined

Note, please, that I’m not saying all goals are honorable (or ethical or even rational). But if you’re going to commit to the use of force first define your goals and work to get there.

Honor does still exist in the ideas of war, particularly in Western cultures. Western military practices are still premised largely on the idea of a head on head clash of militaries, based on the Greek phalanx method of warfare.

The US declared the attack on Pearl Harbor to be dishonorable. It shouldn’t have been a great surprise. If someone is choking you (and we were, their economy was going to collapse) do you announce that you are going to hit them, or do you just hit them? Actually Roosevelt expressly told his Sec of State to not cut off supplies to Japan because it could cause war. However when he left the country to visit some South American nation his Sec. of State turned around and did exactly what Roosevelt told him not to do. The idea that this action could cause war was clearly there, that they weren’t alert for a Japanese attack was just sheer stupidity or arrogance.

The US felt that smearing bamboo stakes with feces in order to cause infections and disease amongst US soldiers in Vietnam was dishonorable. It makes military sense though, disable the soldier and you don’t have to fight him.

Technological advances are often considered dishonorable as well. Particularly if they destroy the dominant weapons platform at the time. This is as much due to promotions being based on dominant platforms. An example would be the Battleship Admirals vs. the Carrier Admirals. Before Pearl Harbor the BA’s ran things, afterwards it was the CA’s because battleships ceased to be dominant. The submarine and the torpedo were considered to be incredibly dishonorable weapons, they struck when you couldn’t see them. That and they could sink a battleship for a lot cheaper than building another battleship to duke it out.

The UK’s bomber command didn’t receive recognition for bravery until the 90’s for their actions in WWII. This was because it was not considered honorable, and probably immoral, to have bombed enemy cities.

It is always wrong to level a city. Civilians should never be considered valid targets. To even entertain the idea demeans us all, and if any of that needs explaining, then I’m afraid there is no hope.

In Osama bin Laden’s mind, yes.