Question of ethics?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by 300in1, Aug 11, 2009.

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  1. Hi,

    For the record, I'm not a military man :oops: . I've registered here because I wanted to ask a question of soldiers. Obviously you'll tell me where to go if you want to.

    Right, let's assume you're in an occupying army and you're part of a group overseeing the operation by the locals of farms/factories/whatever. You have lots of problems with opposing guerillas. You suspect that a group of local civilians are supplying them with information, food, materials and so on, but there is no concrete proof. What would you actually do with those civilians? Would you leave them alone, or watch them, or what? Would there ever be a situation like that where you would kill them or imprison them? Would your actions be guided by any particular laws, or pure military necessity?

    I'm not really interested in the moral argument - I hope I never find myself in that situation anyway. I just want to know what actual soldiers would do.

    Hope this is something you can answer for me. Thanks!
  2. Journo?
  3. I'm not a journalist, but that story there is why I asked. Maybe not that exact situation though, because according to the press he did that in retribution for the killings of two German soldiers. If that was the case, then I personally couldn't defend it.

    It just seemed to me like if he had known that these civilians were informing or supplying the guerillas, he would have been justified in imprisoning them, if not going as far as he did. Would the correct thing from your standpoint be to completely leave civilians alone?
  4. LancePrivateJones

    LancePrivateJones LE Book Reviewer

    I think you will find that the British Army does not have a reputation for committing war crimes, so with that ethos in mind you might have your answer.
  6. OK, thanks guys.
  7. I had a strong suspicion that was the story that sparked your question. However I dont think the same scenario will ever feature in one of those fairly recent army adverts: "what would you do" :roll:

    Asking anybody now what they would do in a similar situation is pretty pointless. WW2 was brutal total war and many Germans would have been on the Russian front at some time and thus the rules that governed the behaviour were damaged to say the least. If you want to know more about the mentality and experiences of British soldiers in WW2 then I can strongly recommend this book: To the Victor the Spoils by Sean Longdon

    Excellent read, warts and all that will go along way to furthering your knowledge of what the soldiers of the time experienced.

    If your question is what would happen now then rest assured the various Geneva conventions are very clear, and there are strict Rules of Engagement that are adherred to. It is almost impossible to not have to interact with civilians in modern conflict, but there is very good training conducted to prepare guys to act in a disciplined and proper way as best as possible.
  8. Staff answer? You get professional investigators in. Which is likely to mean Int Corps or RMP. They find the proof. At which point things vary.

    1. Criminals are handed over to whatever is passing for local law enforcement (which may be the RMP again) unless the locals have the death penalty in which case HRA / ECHR might prevent us handing them over without assurances that they won't be killed. If we can't hand them over, treat as point 2.

    2. Insurgents, guerillas and heroic freedom fighters against the infidel crusader hordes are interned in accordance with the Geneva conventions (despite them not sticking fully to the rules) until the conflict is over (note, not 'until the commander in chief of our glorious American allies says it's over'), whereby they are handed back to the locals (unless the locals have the death penalty - but we haven't reached that level of recursion yet.)

    Do you shoot them? Only if you catch them doing something for which you have ROE that says you can shoot them. What our ROE are is variable and not appropriate for discussion here.

    Do you imprison them? No, but you can detain them - and hand them over to the police (military or otherwise.) But the Nazis weren't too keen on the Rules of War even for military personnel - see "Commando Order".
  9. True, but they/we've done a few; e.g.,

    Effective, from a military point of view. One of the reasons why some Boers still loathe the British.

    Guerillas will snipe and bomb the occupiers, confident that a violent reaction against the civilian population will earn them recruits and popular support.

    Lots of other historical examples; review and discuss.
  10. LancePrivateJones

    LancePrivateJones LE Book Reviewer

    Whilst I acknowledge your use of the Boer War Concentration Camp scenario many historians agree that there was a lack of 'intent' on the part of the British Authorities during that war.
    The main reason for fatalities in the camps was negligence, and whilst that does not excuse what happened it is arguable whether this in fact constituted a 'War Crime' per se. It has provided our detractors with valuable 'Brit Bashing' ammunition though. It still does.

    There was of course Amritsar in 1919 and rumours still pervade about what happened in Batang Kali, Malaysia in 1948.

    There may or may not be other examples of isolated incidents which I am afraid are inevitable during any type of conflict, but comparatively speaking I am satisfied that our record in this regard is a good one and far far better than most others.
  11. Tankie2ndrtr

    Tankie2ndrtr Old-Salt Reviewer

    Do the whole effin village.. My Lai style...

    Nah kiddin... Id like to though.
  12. Ah, Amritsar, my father wasn't there on the day (different bn, same bde) but always held the view that a. Dyer was an outstanding officer, and b. if he hadn't acted as he did then the Punjab would have erupted and there would be serious numbers of bodies not just a few hundred. And, of course, he was acting legally according to the law of the time.
  13. Interesting view, all the more so since IIRC Congress leaders mentioned Amritsar as evidence that Indians would never be allowed to share power and thus decided on full independence.