to kill for reasons of state; it does not countenance the infliction of
suffering for its own sake or for revenge.
Unless troops are trained and required to draw the distinction
between military and nonmilitary killings, and to retain such respect
for the value of life that unnecessary death and destruction will
continue to repel them, they may lose the sense for that distinction
for the rest of their lives. The consequence would be that many
returning soldiers would be potential murderers.
As Francis Lieber put the matter in his 1863 army regulations:
"Men who take up arms against one another in public war do not
cease on this account to be moral beings, responsible to one another
and to God."
The history of American military practice with respect to the laws of
war is covered in Colby, "War Crimes", 23 Michigan Law Review482, 606
Department of the Army Field Manual FM 27-10, The Law of Land
Warfare ( 1956). The 1940 edition was in effect during the Second World
It is interesting to note that while most violations of the laws of war
consist of homicidal or other acts involving moral obloquy, this is not
universally true, even with respect to conduct capitally punishable. A good
example is spying. Of course, if one spies against one's country, then traitorous
or even treasonable elements are present. But spying for one's country, though
punishable by death under the laws of war (explicitly recognized in Article
68 of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians), is not
regarded as ignoble. We think of Major Andre as a blameless, luckless victim
of Benedict Arnold's perfidy, and Nathan Hale is honored with a statue on
the old campus at Yale and a plaque on the outside wall of the Yale Club
in New York City, near where he was hanged by the British in 1776. That
spying is not intrinsically criminal is interestingly recognized in Article 31
of the 1907 Hague Convention, which provides that a spy "who, after rejoining
the army to which he belongs, is subsequently captured by the enemy, is
treated as a prisoner of war and incurs no responsibility for his previous
acts of espionage." Thus deterrence of others, not retribution or condemnation,
is the object of capital punishment for spies caught in the act.
G. Lowes Dickinson, War. Its Nature, Cause, and Curse ( 1923); p. 16.
Rules of Land Warfare, War Department Doctrine No. 467, Office of
the Chief of Staff, approved April 25, 1914 ( U.S. Government Printing Office, 1917), par. 9.
Law of Land Warfare, par. 3.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: War, Morality, and the Military Profession.
Contributors: Malham M. Wakin - Author.
Publisher: Westview Press.
Place of publication: Boulder, CO.
Publication year: 1986.
Page number: 378.
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