The Laws of War and Moral Judgment,
DEPARTMENT OF STATE WASHINGTON DC OFFICE OF EXTERNAL RESEARCH
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The laws of war constitute an institution about which it is difficult to have other than mixed feelings. On the one hand, it seems clear that practices as ugly as those involved in warfare should be regulated, if only to secure society as far as possible against the emergence of unchecked brutality. But when the rules that have been devised toward this end are examined, doubt is cast upon even this cheerless justification by the various reprehensible forms of damage and destruction with which they are compatible. The laws of war appear to condone violence by belligerents whose purposes are morally indefensible, and furthermore to allow a degree of suffering by those affected by war that is often out of all proportion to the apparent advantages to be had from fighting. When violations permitted by the laws of war of what moral sensibility prescribes as right are so common, and even the laws of war themselves so plainly violated, the notion of legally regulating the violence that armed forces inflict upon one another and upon passively suffering people unfortunate enough to have been visited by war may come to seem a cruel joke.
- Sociology and Law