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"Legitimate? What Qualifies as a Military Target in Societies" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2021 3:59 p.m. PST

… Throughout History

"When a Roman army under the command of Scipio Aemilianus besieged the city of Carthage in 146 bce, it was the final act of nearly a century of bitter warfare between the two empires. One of the most familiar stories of that war says that when the Romans laid waste to the Carthaginian capital, they also sowed the surrounding fields with salt to ensure that the city could never thrive again. That detail was an invention of writers in later centuries, but it invokes a question modern laws of war are still trying to resolve: How should we regulate the use of the natural environment as a weapon of war?

Ancient warfare was never noted for its restraint. Salted fields or not, Carthage was wiped out—its cities razed, its civilian population slaughtered or enslaved—and it was not the only ancient or medieval society to suffer that fate. By the time of the Thirty Years War in Germany in the 1600s, warfare that deliberately destroyed civilian and environmental systems was so devastating that it inspired efforts to restrain it under law. Beginning in the 19th century, international conventions sought to limit the worst excesses of war, but these emergent laws still allowed civilians to be targeted when necessary. This was the concept of proportionality—the idea that otherwise reprehensible tactics in warfare might be permissible in certain situations or to certain degrees. The problem, of course, is always the question of whose perspective determines the necessity or defines the degree. "Proportionality," Gregory M. Reichberg of the Peace Research Institute Oslo notes, "is notoriously difficult to handle since it seems to call for comparison of incomparable things."

In 1899 the Hague Convention on the Law and Custom of War on Land tried to resolve the problem of proportionality but in a completely self-contradictory way. It declared that armies were not to deliberately "destroy or seize the enemy's property" but allowed for precisely that type of violence whenever "such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war." This language, however, obviously gave individual belligerents far too much freedom to decide what was "necessary" in their wars. The Second Hague Peace Conference of 1907 did not appreciably clarify the matter…"
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Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2021 4:27 p.m. PST

If you shoot at me I'm going to shoot back.

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2021 6:33 p.m. PST

I'll agree with you, if in a combat zone, someone is carrying a weapon and tries to use it vs "me" or my unit, they are a target regardless whether they are in uniform or not. Unarmed civilians or military troops are not a target.

Question of destroying physical property is tricky since nearly all opponents in a war can find a reason to declare a target a military resource, or claim that destroying such a target to be of value to an enemy. British bombing (and US rational in their fire bombing of Japan) in WWII destroyed civilian housing under the guise of "de-housing" the enemy population in an attempt to cause industrial production loss and moral failure (which always begged the question to me, since the German bombing of British civilians failed to do either, why did they think it would work on the German civilians?). Same thinking justified unrestricted sub warfare by everyone. Kind like the supposed quote by Papal legate and Cistercian abbot Arnaud Amalric saying "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius" or "Kill them. The Lord knows those that are his own", during the Albigensian Crusade in 1209.

Your side wins, you don't have to worry about legal or moral questions it seems.

Thresher0122 Oct 2021 1:36 p.m. PST

The enemy, their weapons, and the infrastructure that permits them to fight, or that supports their aims.

I do notice how those that attack you first, then do so once again when you do it back to them, and may raise the bar a bit in your retaliation.

Overwhelming force should be brought to bear whenever and wherever possible in order to end the conflict(s) as quickly as possible.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2021 2:29 p.m. PST



pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2021 4:28 p.m. PST

W. T. Sherman: "War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over."

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2021 2:10 p.m. PST



Blutarski28 Oct 2021 3:07 p.m. PST

Douhet's argument in favor of strategic airpower's ability to bring about a rapid moral collapse of the enemy civilian population, which would in turn lead to an irresistible popular demand for an immediate end to the war was theoretically powerful. Although events later proved it to be to be altogether invalid, it did succeed in legitimizing the opponent's national industrial base and its large civilian workforce as military targets.

Frederick Taylor's book on Dresden was an interesting read in connection with this same issue, although from a somewhat different perspective. When huge amounts of money have been committed to the establishment of a vast strategic bombing force, only to discover that the force cannot effectively strike its intended targets, the weapon is too expensive to simply discard and the task is altered to conform with the limited abilities of said weapon. Hence, civilian morale replaces the enemy industrial base as the goal and the massive fire-bombing campaign against urban centers is born.


doc mcb04 Nov 2021 6:15 p.m. PST

Peer wars tend to develop rules, assuming they are not ideological or religious. Any enemy perceived as an existential threat will be exterminated if it can be accomplished.

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