What's the thinking behind medically treating enemy combatants?

Nemesis44UK

LE
Book Reviewer
#1
With the conviction of Mr Blackman for executing a Taliban combatant, it set me thinking. As signatories of the Geneva Convention, the UK and most of the Western world have a duty to medically treating enemy combatants.

I happen to agree with this, but it does seem to be a dichotomy - we're trying to kill them until the point that we wound them, then we help them. After an appropriate level of first aid, we pack them up and send them home so that they can come back in a month or two to carry on blowing up our troops.

It seems counterintuitive on the face of it, when trying to win a conflict.

Or is there evidence that the enemy sees that we're not monsters and are actually pretty humane, causing them to rethink their jihad? That they go home and stay with their families, instead of fighting us?

Is doing the honourable thing a military disadvantage, or is it a victory for "Hearts and Minds?"
 
#2
With the conviction of Mr Blackman for executing a Taliban combatant, it set me thinking. As signatories of the Geneva Convention, the UK and most of the Western world have a duty to medically treating enemy combatants.

I happen to agree with this, but it does seem to be a dichotomy - we're trying to kill them until the point that we wound them, then we help them. After an appropriate level of first aid, we pack them up and send them home so that they can come back in a month or two to carry on blowing up our troops.

It seems counterintuitive on the face of it, when trying to win a conflict.

Or is there evidence that the enemy sees that we're not monsters and are actually pretty humane, causing them to rethink their jihad? That they go home and stay with their families, instead of fighting us?

Is doing the honourable thing a military disadvantage, or is it a victory for "Hearts and Minds?"
You answered your own question with your first paragraph
 
#3
I would like to think that if i was wounded and unable to be treated by any friendly forces then i would receive some basic care from any enemy. In my opinion (not that anyone will care about that) executing anyone who cannot defend themselves is wrong, although of course common sense needs to play out here. . Obviously you could argue whats the point behind treating those who you are trying to kill, but if they get treatment, and then imprisoned whats the harm? Its not like they're going to be back trying to slot you the next day and could provide intel etc.. which you might otherwise not have.
 
#4
You answered your own question with your first paragraph
I think he's asking what is point of it other than the laws tells us to.
 
#5
With the conviction of Mr Blackman for executing a Taliban combatant, it set me thinking. As signatories of the Geneva Convention, the UK and most of the Western world have a duty to medically treating enemy combatants.

I happen to agree with this, but it does seem to be a dichotomy - we're trying to kill them until the point that we wound them, then we help them. After an appropriate level of first aid, we pack them up and send them home so that they can come back in a month or two to carry on blowing up our troops.

It seems counterintuitive on the face of it, when trying to win a conflict.

Or is there evidence that the enemy sees that we're not monsters and are actually pretty humane, causing them to rethink their jihad? That they go home and stay with their families, instead of fighting us?

Is doing the honourable thing a military disadvantage, or is it a victory for "Hearts and Minds?"
I stand to be corrected but I have it in the back of my mind, that under those circumstances the individual is not permitted/supposed to return to combat.

Not sure whether this is an article of the Geneva Convention or it is an informal and self imposed protocol/understanding by combatant countries dating back to WWs 1 and 2.

Maybe the likes of @hackle will be able to shed light on the matter.
 
#6
Because we are suppposed to be better than those who we fight. What they would do to us is not relevant. Professional soldiers are to act like professional soldiers.
 
#7
I believe the point is, we are discussing armed combatants carrying out approved duties on behalf of legitimate governments. We are not taking about gangs of marauding thugs on uncontrolled rape and killing sprees. Once there is a degeneration into not treating wounded of either side or not taking prisoners there is a breakdown of order and discipline. Combatants often have an unspoken code of once the fight is over, there is some respect and understanding of each others situation.(How many instance of sharing food, cigarettes etc). Legitimate war is not about killing and therefore there is a duty to protect those how come under your care. "Disposing" of prisoners has often happened - sometimes in vengeance, sometimes in cold blood, sometimes with the consent and instigation of higher authority. It satisfies a blood lust and removes the logistics problem however there is also the side argument that if you have no chance of being taken prisoner or of being treated civilly, then you may as well fight on to the bitter end, taking as many with you and delaying any assault. and they lose the opportunity of taking prisoners who may have some intel. Goodness, we used to send out parties to "grab a few huns" just for the intel.

There is also the old, old point going back many years of "we would not stoop down to their level"
 
#8
Think Ian525 has it in the words "once the fight is over". That's it. They are no longer a threat & no longer offering resistance. So the same professionalism which has led to the enemy's defeat carries on as the victors act in humanity.
 
#9
Not quite the same situation but the @Ian525 post reminded me of something I read regarding the situation of German civilians during WW2 when the Red Army was passing through. It comes from the memoirs of a Frau.

The troops who undertook the fighting were more sympathetic to your plight through a shared experience of the situation at hand. Overall the treatment from them wasn't bad & they left you alone for the most part. When they moved on & the rear units came through who hadn't been involved with the fighting things became very different. Drunkenness, looting, raping all the usual maltreatment was most often done by those who hadn't actually done any of the fighting.
 

Nemesis44UK

LE
Book Reviewer
#10
I think he's asking what is point of it other than the laws tells us to.
Exactly.

Does being humane prolong a conflict? Would a war based on utter destruction of your enemy (ie. shooting wounded) resolve it quicker, thus saving lives in the long run?
 
#11
Not quite the same situation but the @Ian525 post reminded me of something I read regarding the situation of German civilians during WW2 when the Red Army was passing through. It comes from the memoirs of a Frau.

The troops who undertook the fighting were more sympathetic to your plight through a shared experience of the situation at hand. Overall the treatment from them wasn't bad & they left you alone for the most part. When they moved on & the rear units came through who hadn't been involved with the fighting things became very different. Drunkenness, looting, raping all the usual maltreatment was most often done by those who hadn't actually done any of the fighting.
I stand to be corrected but I have heard that the Japs who mistreated prisoners in WWII were mostly non combatants as well.
 
#12
With the conviction of Mr Blackman for executing a Taliban combatant, it set me thinking. As signatories of the Geneva Convention, the UK and most of the Western world have a duty to medically treating enemy combatants.

I happen to agree with this, but it does seem to be a dichotomy - we're trying to kill them until the point that we wound them, then we help them. After an appropriate level of first aid, we pack them up and send them home so that they can come back in a month or two to carry on blowing up our troops.

It seems counterintuitive on the face of it, when trying to win a conflict.

Or is there evidence that the enemy sees that we're not monsters and are actually pretty humane, causing them to rethink their jihad? That they go home and stay with their families, instead of fighting us?

Is doing the honourable thing a military disadvantage, or is it a victory for "Hearts and Minds?"
Your wording shows where you're tripping up in your thinking. There is no duty to treat enemy combatants.

The liability is with prisoners who are no longer combatants. You either want to observe human rights or you don't.
 
#14
Exactly.

Does being humane prolong a conflict? Would a war based on utter destruction of your enemy (ie. shooting wounded) resolve it quicker, thus saving lives in the long run?
And if the tide turns, you can expect both your combatants & your civilians to be treated with the utmost barbarity. Commanders can expect to swing. So I suppose it's pragmatic to observe the rules as a form of insurance...
 
#15
Give your enemy no option but death and they will fight you tooth and nail.
 
#17
Having frequently treated enemy prisoners and suspected insurgents (various other terms can be used) there are many advantages other than the 'it's the law'
1. we get to hold the moral high ground (except when people do their own thing)
2. They are potential sources of intelligence, I'm sure the captured bomb maker (who blew his own hands off) had some interesting chats with our American friends
3. Training. we were treating live patients with horrific injuries using (at the time) new techniques. These were people we didn't know and would never meet again. That tourniquet hurts? The morphine hasn't kicked in yet? Their treatment was no less than anyone else would have received however it was very slightly less stressful than dealing with 'one of our own' and much less than someone we knew.
4. In the cases of religious zealots - generally if it's gods will that they carry out an action it's somewhat confusing for them to find themselves disfigured (often a sign of a gods displeasure apparently)
5. Afghanistan - have you ever visited an prison in Afghanistan? Survival in many cases is down to having good contacts outside. prisoners are a drain on the family and an injured/maimed one even more so. It's not like a no hands, one eyed, jawless ex-bomb maker is going to be much use to anyone.

besides, it gave us something to do between ward rounds and op minimise
 
#20
Enemy ex combatants were treated where possible during the Napoleonic wars.
It is a natural thing for professional soldiers to respect their enemy in my opinion.
Its also a natural thing to hate them if they just killed one of your mates

San Sebastian being an example of a Napoleonic era battle where the British army weren't very respectful.
 

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