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averagejoe
2009-10-26, 02:39 PM
I keep having this argument with my friend, and I thought I'd get some opinions by people more knowledgeable than either of us. Specifically it has to do with killing enemy soldiers unnecessarily during a military operation, guys who have either 1) surrendered, or 2) people you can easily force to surrender. (For example, in Return of the Jedi the imperials walk into the bunker with sufficient force to handle the people in there, and they simply order everyone to surrender instead of walking in blasting. It isn't the best example, I know, but I'm not much of a military film guy, and can't think of a better example off the top of my head.)

Now, my friend claims that executing them is always a good option because it leaves the enemy less soldiers to fight. I argue that this is a silly numbers game to play given the manpower scale of such things in modern warfare, and that objectives, and not soldiers, are what make valuable targets, especially considering that it's generally the case that a relatively small portion of a nation's able-bodied population. I also argue that, given the relatively small impact killing a few soldiers has on the strength of a military, and given the fact that surrender is a behavior one wants to encourage in one's enemies, and given the fact that one wants to encourage the enemy to preserve one's own soldiers when possible, there's a definite advantage to not killing enemy soldiers in some circumstances.

Now, I'm fairly sure that, even if I'm right, I'm right for at least some of the wrong reasons. Which is just as bad as being wrong. I know that there are a lot of variables to consider, but I purposefully left those open in order to encourage discussion of the principles involved in making these decisions as much as the discussion of any specific situation. I'm doing this more out of my own curiosity than anything, and am not really looking for, "You/he is right," answers, at least if they're not followed by rationale. I want to understand this, not be right about it.

Just to make sure this topic stays away from politics, let's leave this discussion a purely strategic one and leave the actual morals of such actions up to everyone's individual conscience.

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2009-10-26, 02:53 PM
It is illegal to kill somebody once they surrendered, by international law. So, not only is he legally wrong, but also, as you said, strategically wrong.

It has always been as you said: many a battle (or war!) was lost because one side, instead of thinking objective-wise, simply attempted to slaughter their enemy. Perhaps they did kill more than they lost, but if, in the meantime, they failed to gain any advantage over the enemy, it's useless.

So you're right; the smart thing to do is to capture them, as killing them would be inhumane, and, strategically, not all that better than capturing them. Unless you get into a situation where you have more prisoners than you have facilities for, in which case, again, refer to the Geneva Convention.

Cobra_Ikari
2009-10-26, 02:54 PM
From a callous point of view, dead enemy soldiers do not have to be fed or watched, they can't escape with information, and they can't attack their guards. *shrugs*

Can't think of the benefits of the other path offhand. Nor am I qualified to make any kind of strategy. That's just my understanding. =P

Astrella
2009-10-26, 02:57 PM
Can't think of the benefits of the other path offhand. Nor am I qualified to make any kind of strategy. That's just my understanding. =P

Not having to kill more people then strictly "necessary"?

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2009-10-26, 03:00 PM
From a callous point of view, dead enemy soldiers do not have to be fed or watched, they can't escape with information, and they can't attack their guards. *shrugs*

Can't think of the benefits of the other path offhand. Nor am I qualified to make any kind of strategy. That's just my understanding. =P

Well yeah, from a callous point of view, but than you have the problems of:
a) retaliation. If you kill your prisoners, the enemy will retaliate, likely in larger scale.
b) public opinion. Because most of the public is not actually bloodthirsty killers, and are very opposed to mindless slaughter.

Pyrian
2009-10-26, 03:03 PM
To a private with a rifle, accepting surrender means not getting shot back at. That's usually reason enough to a grunt. :smalltongue: Just 'cause your side has the upper hand doesn't mean you're not going to be the unlucky one in your superior's 1:10 casualty ratio.

Mercenary Pen
2009-10-26, 03:04 PM
Can't think of the benefits of the other path offhand. Nor am I qualified to make any kind of strategy. That's just my understanding. =P

Every soldier you kill likely has a family. Should they find out he (and it probably will still be he) is dead, they may wish to kill you. There are more avenging family members than you killed soldiers.

By doing this, you have potentially multiplied your opponent's armed force.

Jack Squat
2009-10-26, 03:08 PM
From a strategic point of view, the advantages of keeping prisoners is for possible negotiations and for intelligence. Beyond that, there's not a lot.

Granted, those are very nice and big reasons to capture over kill, but it really just boils down to those two from an amoral point of view.

Vmag
2009-10-26, 03:13 PM
More prisoners mean more intelligence. Dead combatants mean less prisoners to hand off to the local authorities.

While you do want to control combat as much as possible, even if that means killing everyone on the other side, you're not just there to slaughter the opposition.

Alteran
2009-10-26, 03:17 PM
If you kill enemies who surrender, they will quickly learn not to surrender. It's a lot of trouble to maintain prisons and keep prisoners in order, but it's even more trouble to have enemies that won't stop fighting until they're dead. If your enemies know that they'll be kept alive and safe if they lay down arms, you may be able to convince them to do so. That's preferable for both sides, as the enemies don't all die and you don't lose soldiers killing them.

Simply put, forcing your enemies to surrender is a way of winning (reaching your objective), and substantially reducing your own casualties.

Solaris
2009-10-26, 03:19 PM
From a callous point of view, dead enemy soldiers do not have to be fed or watched, they can't escape with information, and they can't attack their guards. *shrugs*

Can't think of the benefits of the other path offhand. Nor am I qualified to make any kind of strategy. That's just my understanding. =P

Let me put it this way. A wealthy and powerful nation that has a reputation of being just, merciful, and honorable in armed combat goes to war against a nation that's pretty mean even to its own people, but it has a good military and can get away with it. The just nation's soldiers won't surrender because they know they'll die if they do. The tyrant nation's soldiers will surrender because they know they'll live if they do.
...
That's how they put it to me, anyways. I hope I kept it sufficiently apolitical for this board.


From a strategic point of view, the advantages of keeping prisoners is for possible negotiations and for intelligence. Beyond that, there's not a lot.

Granted, those are very nice and big reasons to capture over kill, but it really just boils down to those two from an amoral point of view.

Wrong. As Alteran said, an enemy who knows death follows surrender will fight to the death. In a war, the objective isn't so much to make the other guy run out of troops (although that helps), it's to make the other guy run out of will. This is wisdom as old as Sun Tzu.

Jack Squat
2009-10-26, 03:24 PM
Wrong. As Alteran said, an enemy who knows death follows surrender will fight to the death. In a war, the objective isn't so much to make the other guy run out of troops (although that helps), it's to make the other guy run out of will. This is wisdom as old as Sun Tzu.

See Negotiation. It's not all prisoner exchanges.

I probably left my definition of it pretty vague, but my definition includes influencing cease fires and treaties.

Solaris
2009-10-26, 03:29 PM
See Negotiation. It's not all prisoner exchanges.

I probably left my definition of it pretty vague, but my definition includes influencing cease fires and treaties.

Fair enough, but you were a little more dismissive of it than I'd be. We're talking about modern militaries, after all, not the militaries of yesteryear.

Tirian
2009-10-26, 03:29 PM
There is also (at least anecdotal) evidence that it is good morale for soldiers to know that they are part of the team that is "better than that", even when they are subjected to inhumane treatment from the enemy. I should also think that there would be consequences from demanding barbarism from your soldiers and then reintegrating them into lawful society when the war is over.

Solaris
2009-10-26, 03:33 PM
There is also (at least anecdotal) evidence that it is good morale for soldiers to know that they are part of the team that is "better than that", even when they are subjected to inhumane treatment from the enemy. I should also think that there would be consequences from demanding barbarism from your soldiers and then reintegrating them into lawful society when the war is over.

Yes, there is... even if getting some good, dirty revenge is always more pleasant than it ought to be. Looking back, I'm kind of glad our chain of command didn't let us kill the village like we wanted to after some of our guys got blown up (they got better). Determinedly sticking to being the Good Guys will always win you more hearts and minds than being the vengeful, half-barbaric warriors.

And yes, there are consequences. It may only be on a small scale, but few populations appreciate news stories about their own soldiers going berserk on them.

averagejoe
2009-10-26, 03:34 PM
On letting people live:

Going to an extreme, let's say for a moment that you don't even bother capturing them and bringing them home. Let's say that, for whatever reason, you capture when safely possible and then release (and that you can do this at no risk to your own side.) Would this make the enemy significantly stronger? Would there suddenly be a base with one more guy staffing it, and would this guy make a difference should your forces turn your eyes that way? Would the killing of these prisoners mean that some base somewhere would be staffed by one less guy?

KilltheToy
2009-10-26, 03:35 PM
Well yeah, from a callous point of view, but than you have the problems of:
a) retaliation. If you kill your prisoners, the enemy will retaliate, likely in larger scale.
b) public opinion. Because most of the public is not actually bloodthirsty killers, and are very opposed to mindless slaughter.

This, but you forgot one thing. Killing prisoners will lower your popularity with the other guys. If you don't kill them, there may be people sympathetic to your cause who will work with you. If you go and kill prisoners who may or may not be their father/brother/uncle/best friend/drinking buddy, they'll think...much, much less kindly of you. They might even take up arms against you, giving you one more problem to deal with.

Solaris
2009-10-26, 03:36 PM
On letting people live:

Going to an extreme, let's say for a moment that you don't even bother capturing them and bringing them home. Let's say that, for whatever reason, you capture when safely possible and then release (and that you can do this at no risk to your own side.) Would this make the enemy significantly stronger? Would there suddenly be a base with one more guy staffing it, and would this guy make a difference should your forces turn your eyes that way? Would the killing of these prisoners mean that some base somewhere would be staffed by one less guy?

Now that's just crazy-talk. Even I don't condone letting prisoners go until well after the war is over. POWs make great laborers, just don't work 'em to death.

Jack Squat
2009-10-26, 03:38 PM
Fair enough, but you were a little more dismissive of it than I'd be. We're talking about modern militaries, after all, not the militaries of yesteryear.

Yeah. I'm currently trying to read a book and get a paper ready for it, so I'm keeping my posts shorter than I'd like ('course if I had good work ethic, I'd not be posting at all). Also trying not to stick in my opinion about treating prisoners differently than they treat the ones they capture, as that might cross the line into politics, and doesn't have a bearing on strategy.

Telonius
2009-10-26, 03:38 PM
Every soldier you kill likely has a family. Should they find out he (and it probably will still be he) is dead, they may wish to kill you. There are more avenging family members than you killed soldiers.

By doing this, you have potentially multiplied your opponent's armed force.

Interesting ... richer nations typically have smaller families than poorer nations; so in a war between the two, the less-developed nations have less of an incentive in that particular area.

averagejoe
2009-10-26, 03:39 PM
Now that's just crazy-talk. Even I don't condone letting prisoners go until well after the war is over. POWs make great laborers, just don't work 'em to death.

That's not what I meant, though. I'm just saying if, hypothetically, if one were to go to such an (admittedly silly) extreme, would it really hurt that much?

Edit: I guess the question was more of a roundabout way of asking how modern military works. Are numbers necessarily a huge crucial factor is more what I was asking, and to what degree?

Miklus
2009-10-26, 03:46 PM
From a simple pragmatic point of view, it makes sense to accept surrender as it will stop the fighting and spare your soldiers life. The grunts on the ground would much rather take the enemy prisoner than have to go into that bunker or house and fight it out.

As others have already pointed out, enemy soldiers are more likely to surrender if they believe that they will get humane treatment.

Prisoners of war can also be used as bargaining chips, as forced labor, as living bomb shields or for fun medical experiments.

Also, it makes more sense to wound an enemy soldier than kill him. By only wounding him you make the other side spend resources on his care. Best is to cripple him. That is why most landmines only blow of a foot.

Solaris
2009-10-26, 03:52 PM
Yeah. I'm currently trying to read a book and get a paper ready for it, so I'm keeping my posts shorter than I'd like ('course if I had good work ethic, I'd not be posting at all). Also trying not to stick in my opinion about treating prisoners differently than they treat the ones they capture, as that might cross the line into politics, and doesn't have a bearing on strategy.

I think we have similar opinions about how we ought to treat those murderous SoBs people. I'd prefer to opt for the 'kill them all' approach, except that historically doesn't work in the modern era nearly so well as the 'play nice to the ones who aren't shooting at you' approach.


That's not what I meant, though. I'm just saying if, hypothetically, if one were to go to such an (admittedly silly) extreme, would it really hurt that much?

Edit: I guess the question was more of a roundabout way of asking how modern military works. Are numbers necessarily a huge crucial factor is more what I was asking, and to what degree?

Numbers? Pfft. Numbers. Let me put it this way: Numbers really only matter in a peer vs peer environment. Wars don't happen that way anymore. Two modern, developed nations aren't going to get into a slugging match because there's no profit in it. Someone is going to only move into conventional warfare when they have a clear chance of victory.
In other instances, it's not quite so much as who has the most troops as it is who has the best force multiple. We have better armor, vehicles, weapons, and air superiority, so it really doesn't matter how many he brings along when they just have AKs, maybe a few rockets, and the shirts on their backs.

Randel
2009-10-26, 04:00 PM
There are a few advantages to taking prisoners:

1). If you kill everyone who fights you and accept the surrender of those who genuinly surrender to you then your enemy is more likely to surrender to you than risk getting gunned down. Every enemy that surenders is one you don't have to kill.

2). You can potentilally get some use out of your prisoners, get info about their operations, have them work in labor camps or other things. Of course, you have to keep an eye on them and all, but if you have the resources to take prisoners then its a good idea.

3). If you opt to kill every man woman and child on the enemies side then its likely that every man woman and child will start fighting back, and thats more work than it should be.



However, there are times when its simply not feasible to take prisoners... mostly when your enemies are fanatically devoted to attacking you and never surrendering. Or if you don't have the resources to keep prisoners.

Johel
2009-10-26, 04:03 PM
Several reasons why you should take prisoners :

Intelligence
Even without torture, if the war is looking good for your side, prisoners will talk. It's in their best interest, since it might ease their time and they won't have to answer back to their former boss if he's defeated.

Tactical advantage
You have overwhelming tactical power but have a "bad" reputation for slaughtering everyone. Your troops will win this battle eventually but they'll have to fight hard, as nobody will surrender.

Strategical advantage
Now, the war is about to end. And your side is winning. Better give a chance of reintegration to enemy soldiers. This way, some might consider desertion in exchange for a few dollars to "start a new life" once the war is over.

Friendly neighborhood
Civilians can get angry and even resist actively against your presence if they learn that their fathers and sons are systematically butchered in cold blood, without a chance to surrender. Guerrilla is ruinous to fight against.

Homeland's public approval
If you don't take prisoners, the enemy will pay you back for it. And your own population won't like it. After a few executions on youtube, your recruitment will drop drastically. Sure you can make a draft but that produces soldiers of poor quality.

Possible recruits
All conflicts are about money but most have a layer of patriotism/idealism for the average joe to not grumble too much. However, some conflicts are really just about money and that's true for the soldiers too. If the enemy's grunts think they stand a better chance of survival at your side and can make about the same weekly cash, they'll just sign in your army. Use them as disposable "shock troopers" for dangerous assault or as "local partisans" to police the occupied territory.

Telonius
2009-10-26, 04:21 PM
Another reason to be nice to the prisoners: Even if you really are on a war of genocide, and even if you actually succeed in clearing out Country X so that your people can settle it and take its resources, that's not the end of things. As long as there are other countries in the world, who don't like the idea of shooting prisoners, there will be repercussions. If the oppression is sufficiently bad, the remaining countries will band together and attack you whenever possible. You've already proved that it's no good for them to negotiate with you, or surrender to you. They have nothing to lose, so the remaining nations will escalate hostilities.

Vmag
2009-10-26, 04:28 PM
From a simple pragmatic point of view, it makes sense to accept surrender as it will stop the fighting and spare your soldiers life. The grunts on the ground would much rather take the enemy prisoner than have to go into that bunker or house and fight it out.

Heck, that's what we did in World War II. Yeah, America never surrenders and all that, but you try holding the Philippines when you're weeks away from support and you're facing the Japanese Empire with sub-National Guard arms. Surrender saved a lot of needless death and fighting.

So, there's a real-life example of a conventional and powerful military faced with a ton of surrendered opposition fighters. What did they choose to do? Liquidate them. What did that get them? Getting a planned out butt-handing.


It really is a non-issue in that regard, and applies to most any conflict. Yeah, people will be just as upset about taking their comrades prisoner as they will be by killing them, but barbarism is only met by more barbarism - especially when you're facing an enemy fueled by fanaticism and cults of personality.

Solaris
2009-10-26, 04:32 PM
Heck, that's what we did in World War II. Yeah, America never surrenders and all that, but you try holding the Philippines when you're weeks away from support and you're facing the Japanese Empire with sub-National Guard arms. Surrender saved a lot of needless death and fighting.

So, there's a real-life example of a conventional and powerful military faced with a ton of surrendered opposition fighters. What did they choose to do? Liquidate them. What did that get them? Getting a planned out butt-handing.


It really is a non-issue in that regard, and applies to most any conflict. Yeah, people will be just as upset about taking their comrades prisoner as they will be by killing them, but barbarism is only met by more barbarism - especially when you're facing an enemy fueled by fanaticism and cults of personality.

We've had another topic locked for mention of WWII battles. Let's try not to put names on things, just keep it in the hypotheticals.

Vmag
2009-10-26, 04:43 PM
Too... soon...? :smallconfused: Tracking, I guess. I suppose that applicable modern examples from our current conflicts would be a no-no as well?

Man, it's just like playing politician, then; you get the topic, but leave the real world at the door :smallwink:

Crimmy
2009-10-26, 04:47 PM
Several reasons why you should take prisoners :

Intelligence
Even without torture, if the war is looking good for your side, prisoners will talk. It's in their best interest, since it might ease their time and they won't have to answer back to their former boss if he's defeated.

Tactical advantage
You have overwhelming tactical power but have a "bad" reputation for slaughtering everyone. Your troops will win this battle eventually but they'll have to fight hard, as nobody will surrender.

Strategical advantage
Now, the war is about to end. And your side is winning. Better give a chance of reintegration to enemy soldiers. This way, some might consider desertion in exchange for a few dollars to "start a new life" once the war is over.

Friendly neighborhood
Civilians can get angry and even resist actively against your presence if they learn that their fathers and sons are systematically butchered in cold blood, without a chance to surrender. Guerrilla is ruinous to fight against.

Homeland's public approval
If you don't take prisoners, the enemy will pay you back for it. And your own population won't like it. After a few executions on youtube, your recruitment will drop drastically. Sure you can make a draft but that produces soldiers of poor quality.

Possible recruits
All conflicts are about money but most have a layer of patriotism/idealism for the average joe to not grumble too much. However, some conflicts are really just about money and that's true for the soldiers too. If the enemy's grunts think they stand a better chance of survival at your side and can make about the same weekly cash, they'll just sign in your army. Use them as disposable "shock troopers" for dangerous assault or as "local partisans" to police the occupied territory.

AAAAAANNNNNND! Johel wins the thread.

I'm sorry, but he made so many great points, and none of them were wrong.

Zincorium
2009-10-26, 04:48 PM
Even in the US Navy, riding on top of two nuclear reactors, we get a lot of training in the US armed forces official code of conduct. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_the_U.S._Fighting_Force

Prisoners who actively remember and obey something like that, or have an extremely strong religious/political allegiance that amounts to the same thing, are going to be a massive problem. Prisoners escaping and getting weapons, even if it only happens once, puts a nail into the coffin of how your troops are going to treat captured enemies when any leeway is granted.

You have to be able to enforce an effective prisoner treatment policy that provides both security and keeps your collective nose clean, or pretending that the enemy 'went down fighting' instead of taking them in becomes a bit more attractive to the forces on the ground, depending on their level of idealism on their part.

BritishBill
2009-10-26, 04:53 PM
Their are certain rules of engagement in war. I dont know them thoroughly but I am pretty sure killing surrendered soldiers violates those rules. It may seem like a good idea to some, but is inhumane, and is considered a war crime as far as I know.

Solaris
2009-10-26, 04:56 PM
AAAAAANNNNNND! Johel wins the thread.

I'm sorry, but he made so many great points, and none of them were wrong.

I could nitpick, but yeah, basically a good summary of everything that's been said.

And Zincorium? Nobody said taking prisoners and keeping them was easy. It's just that the alternative is worse and even harder.

Vmag
2009-10-26, 05:00 PM
And Zincorium? Nobody said taking prisoners and keeping them was easy. It's just that the alternative is worse and even harder.

In some cases, it's even easier to keep them considering the treatment they get from their own side (http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2233.htm). They might be fuming and angry, but they're typically quite placid when they're not having things shoved under their nails.

It's kind of like killing prisoners, in that regard. More benefits to not doing it.

Johel
2009-10-26, 05:01 PM
Another reason to be nice to the prisoners: Even if you really are on a war of genocide, and even if you actually succeed in clearing out Country X so that your people can settle it and take its resources, that's not the end of things. As long as there are other countries in the world, who don't like the idea of shooting prisoners, there will be repercussions. If the oppression is sufficiently bad, the remaining countries will band together and attack you whenever possible. You've already proved that it's no good for them to negotiate with you, or surrender to you. They have nothing to lose, so the remaining nations will escalate hostilities.

Good !! :smallsmile:
Gotta add that one, too.

On the other hand, you might exactly have the opposite logic :
"-This nation is ruthless if you mess with it. But it only attacks when provoked. Better let them do as they want, as long as they don't get too ambitious."

Also, let's add something :
You CAN afford to play it the hardcore way ("-Take no prisoner !!") if recruitment is cheap and you don't plan to actually conquer the land or make real investments there.

Look at most "failed states" of Africa : in any conflict there, the only faction to take prisoners were the U.N. peacekeeping force. The locals, whatever their origin, would just kill most prisoners on the spot or force them to enlist on their side. Reason ? manpower is cheap (most soldiers are only paid in pillage and bribes), patriotism is weak (though ethnocentrism is strong) and most warlords don't plan to seriously help their country. They just want to live on the local populace, ransom the mining companies and maybe harvest a few precious mineral for themselves. In that context, taking prisoners is a nonesence : what can you do with them that you can't with civilians ? Better make sure they never again wield a weapon against you.

Vmag
2009-10-26, 05:04 PM
Look at most "failed states" of Africa : ...taking prisoners is a nonesence : what can you do with them that you can't with civilians ?

You can't hold local civilians ransom for millions of foreign dollars.

Johel
2009-10-26, 05:18 PM
You can't hold local civilians ransom for millions of foreign dollars.

...nor can you do it with enemy soldiers, since all sides use the same tactic in that specific conflict. U.N. soldiers might be worth something but not local soldiers of either side.

As for other conflict, very few nations have ever paid ransom for captured soldiers. For civilians, yeah, but soldiers ? I think Italy did it but I'm not sure.

Lappy9000
2009-10-26, 05:58 PM
Just to make sure this topic stays away from politics, let's leave this discussion a purely strategic one and leave the actual morals of such actions up to everyone's individual conscience.Kill them and take their loot. Especially if they're "Always Chaotic Evil" Monstrous Humanoids :smallamused:

varthalon
2009-10-26, 06:20 PM
Tactical advantage
You have overwhelming tactical power but have a "bad" reputation for slaughtering everyone. Your troops will win this battle eventually but they'll have to fight hard, as nobody will surrender.

I'd have to agree with that... look at the example of Japan in WWII. One of the reasons for using atomic bombs was the projected casualties of invading Japan. Projections based in part because the rumors of the American's brutality to their prisoners meant that even the civilians would fight and fight to the death rather than allow themselves to be subjucated to the rape, pillage, and plunder of the American GIs.

Vmag
2009-10-26, 07:29 PM
...nor can you do it with enemy soldiers, since all sides use the same tactic in that specific conflict.

He brought up failed states in North Africa, so I brought up the Somali pirates. You could argue that those aren't exactly the unconventional fighters that fight in that area, but they are wholly one and the same. Same fighters, different targets.

So yes, I was bringing the point that particular warring sides active in the example region have indeed made big bucks keeping prisoner.

Solaris
2009-10-26, 10:11 PM
I'd have to agree with that... look at the example of Japan in WWII. One of the reasons for using atomic bombs was the projected casualties of invading Japan. Projections based in part because the rumors of the American's brutality to their prisoners meant that even the civilians would fight and fight to the death rather than allow themselves to be subjucated to the rape, pillage, and plunder of the American GIs.

Seriously, guys, politics.

Johel
2009-10-27, 04:28 AM
He brought up failed states in North Africa, so I brought up the Somali pirates. You could argue that those aren't exactly the unconventional fighters that fight in that area, but they are wholly one and the same. Same fighters, different targets.

So yes, I was bringing the point that particular warring sides active in the example region have indeed made big bucks keeping prisoner.

I was more thinking of Central Africa... though I agree that a warlord is a warlord, whatever his nationality or apparent motives.
As for Somalian pirates, while they do take CIVILIAN prisoners and make cash out of it, I've never heard of any soldier being ransomed by Somalians.

Yrcrazypa
2009-10-27, 04:39 AM
It is against the Law of Armed Conflict to kill someone who has surrendered. I don't remember all of the laws in LoAC anymore, but I'm an aircraft mechanic, I'm too valuable to the military to just send directly into combat, so I don't have to worry about it. If you ever have questions about military stuff, look up LoAC, the Geneva Convention, and even each individual branches codes of conduct to learn more.



Prisoners of war can also be used as bargaining chips, as forced labor, as living bomb shields or for fun medical experiments.


Absolutely not. Not to invoke Godwin or anything, this is what we fought World War II for, to stop horrendous acts such as this. Everything I bolded is completely against the Law of Armed Conflict, PoWs have to be treated humanely, they cannot be forced to work without being compensated, and we definitely can't use them for medical experiments.

Johel
2009-10-27, 06:12 AM
Absolutely not. Not to invoke Godwin or anything, this is what we fought World War II for, to stop horrendous acts such as this. Everything I bolded is completely against the Law of Armed Conflict, PoWs have to betreated humanely, they cannot be forced to work without being compensated, and we definitely can't use them for medical experiments.

Well, the fact that laws forbid something means only that you *shouldn't* do it, as in a "mutual respect of the rules" kind of thing.
It doesn't mean you *can't* do it.

The point of Miklus is valid : laws without might are meaningless in a war and therefore, it's entirely up to the warring sides to decide if they want to be respectful of international conventions or not.

So, to paraphrase somebody : YES, WE CAN :smalltongue:
It's just that we shouldn't...

pendell
2009-10-27, 08:00 AM
Johel has already won the thread by his mention of


Several reasons why you should take prisoners :


And I concur entirely with this.

You take prisoners:

A) To demonstrate how you want your enemies to treat *your* prisoners. That's why there is such a thing as the Geneva convention.

David Drake, in his fictional novels, had his mercenaries always take prisoners 'in the hope of encouraging their adversaries to the same professional standard'. Those enemies who killed prisoners, by contrast, were massacred.

ETA: If you're reading this, odds are good that you're living in a western democracy. Which means that soldiers don't exist in a vacuum -- they have voting mothers and fathers back home. And if said parents see too many of their children shipped home in boxes, why they get upset. And if they find out that their kids are coming home in bits
because the enemy is executing prisoners in direct reprisal for YOUR policy of taking no prisoners -- well, you'll be lucky if all that happens is you get voted out of office.

B) For intelligence value. Dead men tell no tales.

C) To make winning the war easier. My understanding is that war is primarily psychological -- far more men quit, or give up, then are ever killed in battle. If the other side sees that anyone who gives up to you gets hot meals and no torture, they're much more likely to just throw in the sponge than if they know that they must fight or die horribly.

I know that modern wars aren't typically fought that way -- but just because things are a certain way in 2009 doesn't mean they will never be that way again. It's a bit of wisdom that goes all the way back to Sun Tzu: Never make your enemy into a cornered rat. Always give him a way out, whether that's surrender or retreat. Useless if they think we'll kill them all regardless of what they do.

ETA: Look at many modern counterinsurgencies. A great deal of success comes from 'flipping' groups of insurgents. That's doable if you've got a reputation for fair dealing. It's not if you're committing atrocities. In fact, you can directly trace -- in some very recent wars -- the 'flipping' of some groups directly to atrocities committed by one side or the other.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

Krrth
2009-10-27, 01:39 PM
As an aside, it is not illegal to refuse to accept a surrender under certain circumstances.

More specifically, you are not required to accept a surrender if doing so puts you in undue danger.

Maelstrom
2009-10-27, 02:56 PM
I'd have to agree with that... look at the example of Japan in WWII. One of the reasons for using atomic bombs was the projected casualties of invading Japan. Projections based in part because the rumors of the American's brutality to their prisoners meant that even the civilians would fight and fight to the death rather than allow themselves to be subjucated to the rape, pillage, and plunder of the American GIs.

Oh really?

pendell
2009-10-27, 03:23 PM
Maelstrom



Projections based in part because the rumors [ of brutality ]


Emphasis mine.

Japanese propaganda in that war deliberately demonized Americans in the hope of getting their own people to fight harder, work harder, etc. It wasn't the first nor the last time that tactic -- inventing or exaggerating atrocities to give one's side a psychological boost -- has been done. One example (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kadaververwertungsanstalt). I recommend following the link and looking around. There's a whole catalog of 'atrocities' used by Allied propaganda in WW1 which were either exaggerated or outright fictitious.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

Johel
2009-10-27, 04:03 PM
It wasn't the first nor the last time that tactic -- inventing or exaggerating atrocities to give one's side a psychological boost -- has been done. One example (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kadaververwertungsanstalt). I recommend following the link and looking around. There's a whole catalog of 'atrocities' used by Allied propaganda in WW1 which were either exaggerated or outright fictitious.

The fact that Germans then used "corpse factories" in the next war, albeit not for the same reason, probably didn't help to invalidate the first rumors. :smallamused:

Love the sentence under the picture, by the way :
"And don't forget that your Kaiser will find a use for you alive or dead."
Soylent Green is made of people !!

Yora
2009-10-27, 04:05 PM
Actually, things here were much worse than any propaganda teams could make up.

pendell
2009-10-27, 04:57 PM
In the Second World War, yes. In the first world war, from 1914-1918?

Not so much.

Indeed, I suspect that is one reason it was so hard to persuade the allies to fight WWII -- they had become so jaded by lies that when *true* horror stories came out they didn't believe those , either.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

Bendigeidfran
2009-10-27, 05:39 PM
Surely there need be no casualties? I mean, can't the people having an arguement just rock/paper/scissors it?
Ahh, Where is the love? Where o where is the love?

Johel
2009-10-27, 05:57 PM
Surely there need be no casualties? I mean, can't the people having an argument just rock/paper/scissors it?
Ahh, Where is the love? Where o where is the love?

Why would I bother to rock/paper/scissors with you if I can just shot you, take your stuff and rape granny in the process ?
Most of the time, wars come to that : you don't want to play by the rules because rules aren't at your advantages...so screw the rules, I have power !!
[/cynism]

Yep, where is the love ? :smallamused:

Bendigeidfran
2009-10-27, 06:00 PM
*Looks in sack* Ooo! Here it is! :smallbiggrin:
*Hands out the love*

varthalon
2009-10-27, 06:02 PM
I think another important issue with all of this is the differences between law, morality, and culture mores. Most major powers in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century would be appalled at the prospect of one combatant killing another that has surrendered. In the 16th century many of the same countries would ahve been horrified to learn that someone was purposely shooting at officers during a battle. Signatories of the Geneva Convention will often (but not always) prosecute violators of that principle. But other cultures have a different outlook on life, the value of human life, and the dishonor of surrendering or of value of people of a culture other than their own.

The ancient Greeks were one of the first cultures to evolve an actual code of ethics for warfare. However these laws didn't really address what many people today would consider basic human rights and humanitarianism. Thucydides wrote after the surrender of Melian to Athens that "We both alike know that in human reckoning the question of justice only enters where there is equal power to enforce it, and the powerful exact what they can, and the weak grant what they must." (The Athenian army put to the sword all Melians that did swear to be subject to Athens after the Melian's surrendered).

In several cultures, including ancient Egyptian and Mayan, it was acceptable practice to sacrifice surrendered or captured soldiers to the gods.

I'd brought up the reference to Japan and America in WWII earlier as an example of how rumors regarding the treatment of prisoners could have tactical and strategic consequences for a fighting and resolving a war. I should have also mentioned that how different cultures treat their prisoner's has different impacts on the war-fighting ability of their soldiers. Several studies are out there that have interviewed veterans of various 20th century wars (WWII, Vietnam, Falkland, etc). It was found that in some cultures, the aversion to killing was so great that soldiers were actually less effecting in combat (purposely aiming to miss) and soldiers involved in killing prisoners/civilians had a much higher rate of suicides. Other cultures have the problems with suicides of soldiers involved in killing prisoners/civilians but didn't have the issue with killing in combat. Yet other cultures' soldiers/veterans had much less of an issue with killing in or out of combat.

So when considering if killing a non-combatant or a surrendered combatant is a good option you really need to also consider the cultural context involved, especially if the parties involved come from different cultures. Which can make for extremely complex moral and political issues of warfighting.

The_JJ
2009-10-27, 06:06 PM
...nor can you do it with enemy soldiers, since all sides use the same tactic in that specific conflict. U.N. soldiers might be worth something but not local soldiers of either side.

As for other conflict, very few nations have ever paid ransom for captured soldiers. For civilians, yeah, but soldiers ? I think Italy did it but I'm not sure.

Actually... ransoming captured soldiers was the name of the game in ye olde times. Not just the kings even, most everybody that wasn't a nameless peaseant. Either they were man-at-arms or knights, reasonablly weathy with folk back home, or professional soldiers, who were generally hard(ish) to train and thus worth the investment. One of the reason Henry V's decision to slaughter his prisoners (on a battlefield, littered with discarded weapons, whne badly outnumbered and unable to spare men to control the prisoners, mind you) was so controversial was that he was literally killing economic assests of the men who'd captured them.

Johel
2009-10-27, 06:08 PM
"We both alike know that in human reckoning the question of justice only enters where there is equal power to enforce it, and the powerful exact what they can, and the weak grant what they must."

Damn, I knew there was more than togas behind the whole "philosopher guy" stereotype. These people had understood life and put the crude cold truth in words, without any confusion about the meaning : Might makes Right. Only the nature of said Might may vary.

AstralFire
2009-10-27, 07:14 PM
It is my observation that most philosophers of historical note didn't spend much time philosophizing so much as they spent time being smart and practical.

averagejoe
2009-10-27, 07:37 PM
Damn, I knew there was more than togas behind the whole "philosopher guy" stereotype. These people had understood life and put the crude cold truth in words, without any confusion about the meaning : Might makes Right. Only the nature of said Might may vary.

Not always. Babies, for example, are all but powerless, but they are some of the safest people out there. Surely people would be much more willing to help a baby left on the street in a box than a (much more powerful) grown man in the same position.

Roland St. Jude
2009-10-27, 09:16 PM
Sheriff of Moddingham: Real world politics are an inappropriate topic for this forum. The rule isn't limited to modern politics, election politics, political advocacy, or any other subset of the topic. It's a broad subject matter ban on real world politics.

I'd scrub this down and return it to you, but despite the good start to this thread, veering back into rules violations seems inevitable. Sorry.