Monday, October 28, 2013



To read the entire series so far in order of occurrence click here:

File:Berner Iustitia.jpg   

 The rules of "war" as they pertain to most practical elements of concern to sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and marines are neatly contained in the U.S. Navy publication "The Law of Armed Conflict (NAVEDTRA 1112-A). This publication addresses practical concerns in both blue and brown water environments and to some degree addresses matters of land warfare as well. Here are some of the basics.


  In combat you may attack and kill "lawful combatants" possessed of the means and will to engage in combat. Lawful combatants are generally members of a military force or civilian personnel actually armed and engaged in hostilities. Notice that this definition of "lawful combatants" is different from the definition for "lawful combatants" used to determine who is eligible for prisoner of war (POW) status. To qualify for POW status personnel must be part of a national force, the definition in terms of who a force may engage under rules of engagement derived from the law of armed conflict is broad enough to include terrorists and international criminal organization members at certain times and places and when they use certain tactics, and show signs of military like organization. The State of Texas at this writing would like the Congress of the United States to declare the Mexican Drug Cartel the "ZETAS" and others to be eligible for engagement by U.S.military forces. The ZETAS originated with a group of Mexican Army special forces deserters and now exhibit military like tactics and weapons in their encroachments into the counties of Texas bordering the Rio Grande. So far the Congress has paid little or no attention to the request so the threat still has to be engaged by law enforcement officers operating under police type use of force policies. We do note that the State police forces of Texas have commissioned patrol craft with belt fed machine guns and equipped two companies of Texas Rangers in line with the weaponry and tactics usually associated with army recon units; but so far the Zetas officially have to be engaged by law enforcement agencies, tactics, and weapons. The law of armed conflict is designed on the assumption that the armed combatants designing area or operations specific rules of engagement based on the law, are engaged in an armed conflict authorized by their government. The enemy may well be a non state organization and determined to not follow any rules or extend any humanitarian consideration. Nonetheless nations engaging such outlaws with military force follow the law of armed conflict. 

 Under the law of armed conflict forbidden targets include all persons who are not "lawful combatants" for the purpose of targeting. The list of protected persons would include unarmed, unengaged civilians; chaplains, medical personnel, prisoners, surrendering combatants, combatants under or displaying a signal of surrender or white flag, ejected air crewmen, and others. Forbidden targets generally include certain classes of buildings such as churches and hospitals, vessels like hospital ships and certain rescue craft, and any buildings, vessels, or installations whose destruction is not militarily necessary. 

 Certain tactics are forbidden in that there limits on how a sailor, marine, or Coast Guardsman may engage the enemy. One example of a forbidden tactic is the use of a surrender signal to bring the enemy closer to an ambush. 

 Certain techniques are also forbidden. For example you may not modify your personal weapon to increase enemy suffering.

 In summary the basics of the Law of Armed Conflict that must be mastered by every member of an armed force consists of a detailed knowledge of the forbidden targets,tactics, and techniques precluded by international law. Additionally, every member of a particular force element in a combat operation should know the rules of engagement. The rules of engagement are provided by military authorities for each operation and vary with the circumstances. However, all rules of engagement must conform to the Law of Armed Conflict.


No comments:

Post a Comment