I was pondering the whole concept of the Geneva set of rules and decided it might warrant a good discussion.
The Geneva Convention is fascinating because it reveals the true dichotomy of man: only man would invent something as savage as warfare, and then try to conduct it by "civilized" rules.
When you think about it, there is only one rule of warfare - you fight to win.
So America proceeded to cripple herself in Korea, Viet Nam and just about every action since WWII by adopting more rules now euphemistically called Rules of Engagement which make it easier for the enemy and harder for us. Brilliant. Only humans could ever be this stupid.
Think about it - a guy is hosing your platoon with an MG. Most of your platton is dead or horribly wounded by the time you reach the postion, right at the moment that the MG gunner runs out of ammo, stands up and yells "I surrender!" Really? You shoot down an enemy aircraft and the valuable pilot bails out over his own territory. He'll be up again trying to kill you before the day is done, and you let him go - why was it again? Because of an arbitrary set of rules? The truth is, you are either a combatant or a non-combatant - nothing in between. In WWII the British decided that German civilians were essential war workers and bombed the bejesus out of them. So did we, under the clever guise of "precision bombimg". In Japan, we didn't even use a guise, just fire-bombed entire cities full of civilians, and then we increased our efficiency as beffited the most industrialized nation on the planet and nuked them instead. Apparently the whole thing is largely a matter of perspective, and perspectives tend to change quite frequently. Before long, if the guerilla warfare continues in Iraq, I predict the level of response will escalate and more and more Iraqi's will achieve the magical designation of "enemy combatants". Next thing you know, we'll be leveling whole cities again. Why fight wars you do not intend to win?
Why invent weapons you won't use? Not for the detente aspect, because if you are not going to use them, they don't matter. So America has a massive arsenal of nukes, more than enough to sterilize this planet. Didn't stop 9/11 and it never will, because we won't use them. Same with nerve agents, enhanced radiation weapons and all the other neat little toys the sexually repressed geeks invent. So it's more humane to be blown apart or roasted alive by an FAE device? Dum-dum bullets are "bad", but napalm is perfectly ok? There is more than a hint of insanity in this entire concept.
Civilized rules of war depends on when you are talking about. The Romans used to enslave the losers, if they didn't put them to death in the arenas. When Rome destoyed Carthage they didn't just defeat them; they obliterated every trace of them. So did every other culture of the time, up until the Middle ages.
So-called rules probably started with the knights of old and chilvalry, but it didn't last very long because the chivalry concept mainly extended to those on your side or fellow soldiers. During the Crusades, little thought was given to killing either heathens or unbelievers, depending on which side you were on. During the Napoleonic wars, when a city was taken by siege, the victors were allowed to rape, pillage and plunder to their hearts' content as their reward. The British did it; the French did it, and the Spanish did it as well.
Things may have improved a little during the Civil War, but the Confederate prison at Andersonville was probably worse than any concentration camp ever run by the Nazis. And immediately postwar, Quantrill's Raiders, leftover Confederates, preyed almost entirely on innocent civilians.
WWI was nowhere near as chilvalrous as people make it out to be. Initially, pilots treated their enemy counterparts courteously, but as losses mounted, that quickly changed. The Red Baron himself was really nothing more than a backshooter who used his fellow pilots to draw attention and engage the enemy and them dropped down behind them and back-shot them at close range. No chivalry there whatsoever. Now were the Allied pilots any different.
The torpedoing of the Lusitania, whether you consider it valid or not, killed a lot of innocent civilians. So did the German commerce raiders. So did everyone.
WWII brought the Nazis, who seemed to delight in killing civilians, and the Soviets, who may have spoken a different language but shared the same passion for rape and torture. Stalin not only killed a lot of Germans, he killed five million of his own troops and SIX million or so of his own civilians, not to mention the civilians of Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc. during the so-called "liberation". Estimates, and they are only estimates, are that the Soviets deliberately raped over 300,000 women of all ages down to little girls and pregnant mothers after the fall of Berlin; exact figures can't be determined because many were gang-raped repeatedly. Only the Western Allies had any kind of seriously enforced code of conduct.
I have no idea who we were trying to impress, because the British made a point of bombing cities as targets without any pretense at specific military targets, and as many American bombs fell on civilians as they did on military targets. And of course, in the Pacific we set whole cities on fire and finally just nuked a couple of hundred thousand or so. But we considered ourselves to be "honorable" men. On what basis I have no idea.
In Vietnam, the Americans made a point of trying not to kill civilians deliberately, but a lot died anyway. Before us, the French considered it expedient to napalm entire villages before sending in troops on the ground, because they got tired of absorbing so many casualties from conventional tactics.
When you get right down to it, a code of conduct is a joke unless everyone abides by it to the very best of their ability. Since that doesn't ever happen, the real issue is: why bother at all? It is totally irrational to treat Iraqi soldiers humanely when they don't reciprocate. Idiotic to worry about killing Somali civilians when their own rebels kill them in greater numbers than anyone else. The concept that it somehow makes us better than them is pure ideological BS. In fact, most warring nations like having us on the scene, because they see us as weak and easily manipulated. After all, we're the nation with constant power to destroy the world, and without the will to even blow up a deserted patch of desert to show that we mean business. Trouble is, the rest of the world does have the will, and sooner or later they will have the means. Then I suppose we will all find out how important that arbitrary and idiotic code of conduct really is.
Thoughts and comments are welcome.