I found an article in the Sydney Morning Herald to be quasi-nauseating.
The survey of 17,000 people in 16 countries, published by the International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday, found that while most people still believe war should have rules, faith in the Geneva Convention is fading and there is growing acceptance of torture and civilian casualties.
It is prompting the Red Cross, the respected organisation that works in the world’s most dangerous places, to call for a renewed effort to promote the virtues of rules in warfare.
“We were heartened by the fact the majority [of people] globally still believe the laws of war matter,” said Helen Durham, the Red Cross’s director of law and policy.
“But it does disturb us when you drill down into the statistics you … see some more cynicism and the sense that it’s pretty tough out there and so we might have to do things we’re not comfortable with.”
. . .
Globally, the proportion of people who think the Geneva Convention makes any difference has fallen from 52 per cent in 1999 to 38 per cent today. The proportion who believe it is wrong to carrying out military operations knowing there will be significant civilian casualties fell from 68 per cent to 59 per cent.
The survey conspicuously revealed that a cavalier attitude towards the laws of war are more prevalent in peaceful countries than those beset by conflict. Often those who championed laws in war most firmly were militaries themselves, Dr Durham said.
There’s more at the link.
Let’s face it: outside the major powers, the so-called ‘laws of war’ are honored far more in the breach than in the observance. Basically, they’re a joke. In almost any Third World war you care to mention, they’re disregarded almost entirely. As for so-called ‘liberation movements’ or ‘terrorists’ (pick whichever word applies according to your political perspective), they don’t know the meaning of such ‘rules’ and wouldn’t be interested if they did. They operate on the principle that terrorizing people means they’ll obey. If you don’t terrorize them, they won’t.
Human rights as a whole have a dismal record in the Third World. Armed conflict merely worsens the situation. To take just one example, why do you think Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds, possibly thousands of Nigerian schoolgirls? Because their fighters wanted women, and couldn’t get them any other way. They kidnapped them with the express intention of turning them into, first sex slaves, then their wives (whether they wanted to get married or not). Now the survivors of those girls – some already mothers, others pregnant – are finding that even their rescuers regard them as ‘whores’ and ‘collaborators’. Some have even been raped by the troops that rescued them, because that’s all they’re good for now, in terms of the so-called ‘culture’ of the area. To put it as bluntly and as honestly as possible (I apologize if this offends some readers, but the truth often does), in typical West African society, these girls no longer have any status or value as human beings, except for what’s between their legs. That’s all they’re considered to be good for. No amount of protesting, or diplomatic intervention, or messages on Twitter, will change that.
I could cite many more examples, including several from my own experience (such as this one). I won’t bother, because it isn’t worth it. Just take my word for it: human rights and the so-called ‘laws of war’ are honored more in the breach than in the observance across most of the world. First World militaries aren’t much better. Go look up how many civilians have been killed in the so-called ‘War On Terror’. Their number far exceeds the number of terrorists killed, and the number of First World troops, too – but they’re all considered to be ‘collateral damage’. Their lives don’t count. The ‘laws of war’ did damn-all to protect them; in fact, they tacitly permitted and tolerated their deaths by casting a pallor of legality over them. They’ve done that for years. Even gross violations of the ‘laws of war’ such as My Lai, or countless failures by UN peacekeepers to protect those entrusted to their care, haven’t done anything to change that reality . . . because most people don’t care. It’s too far away from them to worry them. Out of sight, out of mind.
War has no laws. It only has agreements between opponents willing to make them . . . and only for for as long as it suits them. Anyone who believes otherwise is way out there in cloud cuckoo land.