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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 08:01 PM Thread Starter
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Rules of war

Moral Principle vs. Military Necessity

The first code of conduct during warfare, created by a Civil War–era Prussian immigrant, reflected ambiguities we struggle with to this day


By David Bosco


During the hot and desperate summer of 1862, a senior American commander found himself consumed with the question of insurgents. Major General Henry Halleck had become general-in-chief of the Union armies in July of that year, and he soon discovered that the army had no laws or regulations to govern its contacts with the bands of irregular Southern forces in the field. A lawyer by training, Halleck found the absence of guidance maddening. Union troops were encountering an array of rebel forces, some uniformed, some not. “The rebel authorities claim the right to send men, in the garb of peaceful citizens, to waylay and attack our troops, to burn bridges and houses and to destroy property and persons within our lines,” Halleck vented in a letter sent on August 6.

Halleck’s correspondent was eager to help. Francis Lieber (1798–1872) was then a professor of history at Columbia College. A Prussian immigrant, he was a military veteran who had recently devoted himself to studying the conduct of war. What’s more, he was a passionate supporter of the Union cause and was keenly ambitious to influence national policy. Less than a year after that first exchange, a short paper Lieber wrote for the general on how international law regards insurgents and guerrillas had blossomed into America’s first code regulating the conduct of its army in warfare.

“Lieber’s Code,” as it soon became known, was widely disseminated, and it deeply influenced the later Hague and Geneva conventions. It is no exaggeration to say that this émigré professor with longstanding connections to the Southern aristocracy made one of the most substantial contributions to the modern law of war. Lieber was acutely aware of the novelty of his project. “It is an honor of the United States that they have attempted, first of all nations, to settle and publish such a code,” he wrote to Halleck.

The code achieved its stature with remarkable speed. Lieber completed the text in March 1863, and it was cursorily reviewed by a panel of generals and quickly approved by President Lincoln. Dispatched to military commanders in May 1863 as General Orders No. 100, it circulated through the army ranks and within a few years had been lauded by a United States Supreme Court Justice as an authoritative expression of the law of war.

But the deeper one delves into the details of this seemingly inspiring tale, the muddier it becomes. Lieber’s life and thought embodied some of the most serious contradictions in the struggle to humanize warfare. Those contradictions became painful as the Civil War grew more intense, and whether the gifted scholar restrained the conduct of the fighting in any way is uncertain at best. He certainly did not resolve the tensions he confronted; 150 years after his death, his adopted country is still struggling to reconcile the competing demands of security and humanity, principle and pragmatism.



More at: The American Scholar - Moral Principle vs. Military Necessity - By David Bosco

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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 08:33 PM
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 08:50 PM
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Interesting if not overwhelming article.

Not sure why the author didn't do any more research into what changes (the ones he said must happen) individuals either here or abroad are offering up to modernize what amounts to the Geneva Convention rules.

I've often wondered why we're still flinging lead and dropping bombs. It's so easy, it's kinda stupid. We shouldn't be in a position where humans are necessary for too much longer, and when we're no longer risking our lives, we can be VERY careful about who we incapacitate - killing won't be necessary anymore.

I'm sure there's room in our extensive military budget to work out this kind of thing.

Paradigm shift. No more humans on the front lines. Make it happen if you want another cent.
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 08:53 PM
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Very good article.

My interest was piqued by this paragraph.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fta
Lieber’s good will did not extend to the guerrillas and insurgents that bedeviled Halleck. Those Southerners who engaged in hit-and-run attacks on Union forces and then blended back into civilian life could be treated like “highway robbers or pirates,” he wrote. They deserved none of the benefits of prisoners of war, and they could be summarily executed.
If I am not mistaken, crimes committed by Highway robbers and Pirates alike were, by 1860 addressed by US and State Courts, not by vigilante justice.

As the article states, Lieber was somewhat conflicted and ambiguous in much of his writing but this paragraph stands out as just contrary to law.

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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by QBNCGAR View Post
Interesting if not overwhelming article.

Not sure why the author didn't do any more research into what changes (the ones he said must happen) individuals either here or abroad are offering up to modernize what amounts to the Geneva Convention rules.

I've often wondered why we're still flinging lead and dropping bombs. It's so easy, it's kinda stupid. We shouldn't be in a position where humans are necessary for too much longer, and when we're no longer risking our lives, we can be VERY careful about who we incapacitate - killing won't be necessary anymore.

I'm sure there's room in our extensive military budget to work out this kind of thing.

Paradigm shift. No more humans on the front lines. Make it happen if you want another cent.
It is that very risk that is SUPPOSE to make the Politicians THINK and only use war as the LAST RESORT, not a negotiating tool.

If you take the humans off the front lines, those lines are no longer the front lines. By definition, it is the bleeding edge that represents the front line. Ad if you remove the human element from one side, it still exists on the other [yeah for our guys, unless we are the ones on the receiving end].

The End Game is going to have to end up as diplomacy and detente . Otherwise, with the current proliferation of Nukes, dirty nukes, chemical and biologicals, at some point something will get too stupid, too fast. And you can't preempt unknowns and independents.

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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 09:27 PM
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shoot kill then ask questions isnt that how it goes ??



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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 09:39 PM
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Shouldn't these rules be added to the TOU here on BW..............
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 09:41 PM
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huh????



living on the edge driving a fine line
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 10:48 PM
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huh????
BW TOU (Terms of Usage) sort of like the BW Geneva Convention rules
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 11:06 PM
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I would recommend Sir John Keegan's "A History of Warfare", which gives a clear vision of which forces determine the way a war will be played out. Codes are nice and fine things, but other factors create the ultimate inevitable result.

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