Saturday, October 15, 2005

Between the devil and a hard place

I have figured out what my beef with the Geneva conventions are: we have laws of war, but no courts of war, particularly not ones that can create advisory opinions. Suppose the enemy is holed up in an urban, and thus heavily populated, area, and you want to remove as many civilians as possible from the scene in order to reduce collateral damage. On the one hand, you could try cutting off supply lines of food and water, but that is apparently a war crime, even though it will most likely result in fewer civilian casualties than undertaking an assault with the population intact, especially since the assault with most likely disrupt distribution of those essentially needs services anyway, giving you the war crime of disruption and collateral damage. Furthermore, should not the blame be placed on those forces which are using the civilian population as human shields? Were those who occupied the urban area to face the enemy in an unpopulated area, the risk of collateral damage would be nil. My political magic wand, along with calling a new Geneva convention on illegal combatants, would also call for the creation of a Geneva war rulings court, to address just such issues.

3 Comments:

Blogger Noumenon said...

If leaving the city reduces civilian casualties compared to staying, why would you have to cut off their food to get them to leave? If they're not going to leave based on the prospect that you're about to assault the city, perhaps they can't leave and cutting off their food will just make them starve.

If they can make a law about war not depriving citizens of food and water, couldn't they also declare them not allowed to be killed? That would make war really humane.

a new Geneva convention on illegal combatants

It sounds like a good idea that made me wonder, "Why don't they do that?" The answer must be, we no longer live in a multilateral world.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

perhaps they can't leave and cutting off their food will just make them starve.

If you read the article, that's a large portion of the reasoning behind it, there are people who, for one reason or another, usually because of their health, meaning that they'd be the most likely to die as a result of cutting of supplies anyway.

couldn't they also declare them not allowed to be killed?

They are not allowed to be killed, at least not deliberately. I guess the basic approach to this one is that s*** happens, but the onus is on the military forces involved to reduce the s*** factor as much as possible.

It sounds like a good idea that made me wonder, "Why don't they do that?" The answer must be, we no longer live in a multilateral world.

My conclusion was that, if we did pass a new convention, the current inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay might be released for some reason or another, and, at the very least, it could be argued that they couldn't legally be charged with international law created after the commission of their crimes. I think Bush likes them in legal limbo, and sorting it out involves too many risks.

2:30 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

What I got from the article when I read it was that our reasoning was starvation induces them to leave, the UN guy's reasoning was starvation happens to them because they can't leave, and the Geneva reasoning is that we shouldn't starve them whether they can leave or not. I was questioning our reasoning.

the current inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay might be released for some reason or another

right, that is why the United States would not support it, and because knowing that is reason enough to say it will not happen, I was led to the answer that Geneva conventions are no longer appropriate for a world with that kind of unilateralism.

1:09 AM  

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