Learn more about the rules that govern warfare.
This article discusses the Law of Armed Conflict (LOA), also known as the Law of War, with a brief overview of the main purpose of LOA, applications and classes of combatants. This article is a summary of Army Regulation FM 6-27 The Law of Land Warfare. For more information, see the long version on YouTube.
The main objectives of the LOAC are:
Protect combatants, non-combatants and civilians from unnecessary suffering.
Provide certain fundamental protections to persons who fall into enemy hands, in particular prisoners of war, wounded and sick military personnel and civilians.
Facilitate the restoration of peace.
Assist the commander in ensuring the disciplined, ethical and effective use of military force.
Preserve the professionalism and humanity of the combatants.
Prevent war from degenerating into savagery or brutality
Military necessity: justifies the use of all measures necessary to defeat the enemy as quickly and effectively as possible which are not prohibited by the law of armed conflict. You can target anything of military necessity. But you can’t target civilians or hospitals.
Humanity: Protection of civilians base; prohibited from inflicting suffering, injury, damage or destruction unnecessary to accomplish a legitimate military objective.
Honor: Also called Chivalry. Requires a certain fairness and a certain mutual respect between the opposing forces. That is why we provide medical care to enemy prisoners of war and not just to our own forces.
Distinction: sometimes called discrimination, is used to distinguish between combatants and military objectives on the one hand and civilians and civilian objects on the other.
Proportionality: Requires commanders to refrain from attacks in which the expected civilian casualties or injuries and damage to civilian property outweigh the expected military advantage.
Classes of fighters:
Civilians. They are innocent bystanders who are not actively involved in hostilities.
Legitimate fighters. They are soldiers in uniform.
Spies, saboteurs and others engaging in covert and hostile acts. It’s James Bond or members of the CIA.
Military Attachés and Diplomatic Representatives of Neutral States. Think of this group as members of a neutral government making a peace talk or inspecting a military hospital or detention center.
Some humanitarian personnel. Think of this group as military medical and religious personnel.
Some civilian supporters of the armed forces. These are civilian translators and contractors who directly support the armed forces.
Unprivileged belligerents. They are civilians who take part in hostilities insofar as they lose the privilege of being considered as civilians.
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