Laws of War and Lesser-Developed Nations: Unfair? Bigoted?

I often argue that international law is a joke on many levels. I think it’s unfair to developed nations or major military powers as it seems to apply different standards of conduct (‘good people don’t do that’) or we just turn a blind eye. I mean, Syria gets a rotating seat on the Human Rights Commission? What?

But when you really think about it, the term crimes of war is completely unfair to nations with less military capability. I mean, we know that the Janjaweed, Hamas, and the Taliban had no qualms about committing war crimes, but we don’t drag them to the Hague. We don’t do much to stop them, either, cause, well, they’re the types who ‘do that sort of thing’.

Most frequent cited crimes of war:

  1. Indiscriminate killing of citizens
  2. Rape
  3. Theft
  4. Forced migration
  5. Stripping of citizenship or citizen’s rights

but…if I’m lacking big planes and awesome guns, doesn’t it makes sense that I’ll strike whichever way I can? Of course Hamas is going to lobby rockets into Israel. Of course Hamas will refuse to release Schalit (not even for a 1,000 prisoner trade! but hell, the food in Israel’s prisons is probably better) as the citizens of Israel beg for his release. (I’m not sure how sympathetic France is.)

The idea that two nations are going to fight with their military capabilities only is silly. And if one nation or group is lacking, roadside bombs are just as valid as drones. The difference is who they aim to kill. Economic sanctions are designed to hurt citizens, and our Iraq ones did just that.

I find it absurd that Hamas can abduct Schalit (a crime of war) and Israel attacks Gaza and is condemned for possible war crimes. Hamas, too, was cited as having committed possible war crimes. (Dude, there is no ‘possible’ about it.)

But because one has more strength than the other, they’re supposed to ‘be the better man’? And what does that say for nations with inferior technology? That they’re backwards, inhuman, wrong, uncivilized?

Every nation has been guilty of so-called ‘crimes of war’. But I feel that ‘crimes of war’ is a euphemism for cough “Not how Europeans/white people are supposed to act”.

Hummph. If the west wasn’t so concerned about these crimes of war, we could’ve been out of Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya already.


How does having inferior forces justify the use of rape as a weapon of war? :rolleyes: Certainly some rules are obviously designed to benefit the stronger countries at the expense of the weaker, like requiring fighters to wear uniforms; but that has nothing to do with forbidding rape or genocide or slave labor or forced impregnation or forced migrations or torture.

International law and Syria sitting on a UN commission (which had rotating membership) aren’t the same subject. The (now disolved) UN commission was not a law making body, it was a report generating body, advocacy. Yes it sucked. But says fuck all about International Law. Really, fuck all (although of course the Israel angle noted).

Since two of the three are not governments but informal militias, taking them before the Hague is a pretty nonsensical proposition, but also rather impossible to do unless one utterly defeated and occupied the territory.

No, it’s because it’s fucking impractical.

Unless you have a magic wand to generate unlimited resources.

Leaving aside your Israel obsession and the peculiar way you see every bloody subject through the Israel lens (e.g. South Africa), the following has some sense as an observation:

Yes, the weaker side is going to fight dirty because they have to. Informal militias are, however, rather hard to practically charge under law designed for states and armies with clear and organised command structures.

The rest of the Israel-centric special pleading is merely boring. Unsurprising, but boring.

Even assuming the challenge is “You know, and are, better than that”, a response of “No, we don’t, and we aren’t” maybe isn’t the best possible self-justification, is it? Neither is the IOKIYAJ line the OP is in the habit of spouting.

There are reasons to treat countries with governments with poor human rights records the same as the rest at the UN, btw. It is a way of reminding them that “You’re part of the world community too, even if you don’t always find it convenient”, that “As one of us, your actions are going to be judged by us”, that “We intend to provide a positive example to you of what actions to take”, and that “By interacting with us, we hope that your actions will improve”. Simple (and simplistic) condemnation instead might be briefly self-satisfying, but would only reinforce the problem.

Jeffy from the Family Circus sums this up very nicely

Well, since you seem to be bent on declaring Hamas to be the greatest force of evil of all times then you better expand that list with the following:

  1. Abducting a soldier of the occupying force

Otherwise, the whole rant is not even BBQ Pit-worhty.

It pains me to say this, but: what Der Trihs said. Specific things like the requirement to wear uniforms are a little bit troubling, but everything you listed is just as much a limitation for the greater power in a conflict. If you have a greater capacity to wage war than your opponent, you by definition have a greater capacity to indiscriminately kill civilians, steal, commit ethnic (or whatever) cleansing, and strip citizens of rights. You probably have a pretty substantial capacity to commit rape, too.

You can remove Hamas/Israel out of the OP, but what I am trying to say is that countries with a weak military (and militant groups within countries that aren’t part of the government) are more likely to commit ‘crimes of war’ because they don’t have as many options.

Even if you ignore Dresden or Hiroshima, the U.S. had no problem committing (what we’d now call) crimes of war. Rape and destruction during the Indian wars, Civil War, and Vietnam was not below us.

This wasn’t intended to be a rant, nor was it a pro-Israel thread…if anything I just offered up Hamas some excuses.

Do you have a cite that rape was the policy of the United States Armed Forces during the Civil War and Vietnam? Was this something encouraged by commanders as a way of achieving some sort of war goal? So far as destruction goes you’ll have to be a bit more specific. Generally speaking, we send soldiers into areas to break things and kill people.

Uniforms: Most groups could come up with some sort of uniform if they desired. Even something so simple as wearing a single specific article of clothing of a certain color could constitute a uniform. No, they don’t want to wear a uniform because they want to make it easier to blend into civilian crowds.

IEDs: The use of IEDs doesn’t constitute a war crime so far as I know. As long as you’re not targeting civilians you’re using legitimate tactics.

What if rape is just an unofficial policy or something that we’ve turned a blind eye to? How often will rape be the ‘official’ policy of a Western country, anyway? Not that it’s limited to the West: the Japanese forced women in OTs to be prostitutes in WWI, but I doubt it was official policy.

Likewise, rape (and children resulting) were reported by Japanese women, but the alleged rapists were Allied soldiers. The same was said of many Allied troops in Europe. It’s just not something we talk about much in History class.

I don’t think they are lying.

There is no justification for that! I’m not sure nuclear weapons are justification, either.

Which is simply good tactics when fighting against a grossly more powerful enemy that is occupying the region. Nor is it protective of those civilians to wear something that will likely get them killed along with you when a Hellfire missile hits the middle of the crowd.

This has nothing to do with benefitting the strong at the expense of the weak, it has to do with belligerants making themselves distinguishable from non-combattants. A uniform isn’t even required, Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague II); July 29, 1899

The bolded bit is the one often misconstrued as requiring a uniform, but that isn’t what it says at all. A colored armband such as were used in the Paris and Warsaw uprisings meets the criterion. Even this isn’t required in the case of article 2 provided they respect the laws and customs of war.

Breaking news: soldiers in war rape and loot, news at 11. One can hardly claim it was unofficial policy or a blind eye was turned when the following three sentences from your cite that you conveniently omitted are:

It can hardly be unofficial policy or that a blind eye was turned when convictions were pursued by the authorities with punishments ranging up to executions.

I do not think your snark is necessary if you have a point, Dissonance.

A few dozen executions* out of 3,500 allegations is not impressive to me; sorry.

I do not know when the convictions occurred. Were these men court-martialed immediately?

What part of

don’t you get? There weren’t a few dozen convictions, the punishment for a few dozen of the convictions was execution. You’ve presented no proof that rape was an unofficial policy or a blind eye was turned, and your own cite contradicts this allegation.