16 November 2007

Between a rock and a hard place

George Szirtes is asking a few questions caused (or, rather, inspired) by the Norm's post on Prohibitions of war.

Norm is talking about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but he could also be talking about Dresden and Berlin or London and Coventry, or if there are differences between the former two and the latter two how are those differences defined? There is presumed to be a difference between the politically expedient mass murder of specific people – the Polish officers at Katyn Forest, for example, and the genocide of an entire race for meta-political reasons (though politics, at some remove, would be part of the reason for the Holocaust). What of politically motivated assassinations? What of potentially justified assassinations? Who does the justifying and on what grounds? To whom do we attempt to justify? That, I suppose, would have been Milosevic’s argument at The Hague.
Good questions. And I would throw in another issue. WMD - related this time.

In an event of a nuclear attack - any possible retaliation will of necessity involve horrific civilian losses. Any politician who orders a response nuclear strike will clearly know the consequences.

Thus he/she will be (by definition) committing a war crime. Which makes it clear that adherence to the laws of war means of necessity losing that war.

This is not necessarily bringing the rule ad absurdum, because with proliferation of WMD a politician could really face the issue in the (near?) future.