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War is no longer up close and personal, is that a good or a bad thing?

In the long history of humanity and its many wars there has never been a time before when more civilians could expect to be spared the worst privations of war. Go back to the time of Julius Caesar and his invasion of Gaul if you were a “civilian” you had a 25% chance that you would either die or spend the rest of your life as a slave. All of your property would be forfeited or looted and if you raised a hand to the occupiers and  everyone in your village or your  family could end up being crucified.

I have been sadly  amused by the legalistic arguments mounted here and elsewhere by authors who think that in the light of modern technology that soldiers should be playing as if war is a pugilistic conflict and that those soldiers are obliged to follow “Rules of Engagement” even if doing so jeopardizes their lives or the lives of their comrades.

I have been thinking of this comparison quite simply because I have just finished watching HBO’s excellent seres “Rome” It is no sanitized and stagey piece like the rather good in its own way  “I Claudius”. Rome  is bloody and visceral with a real feel for the way that Romans lived,  struggled and died.

Recommended viewing Comrades



  1. Len says:

    Gone are the days of colourful uniforms, parchment scrolls of intention, civilised discourse and rules, between combatants ? After seeing the vid, hmm, maybe none of the above here ?

    Unfortunately, some people think war is a game. One where generals off scene, manouver their troops around a massive chess type board, with rules that both sides happily abide by.

    History is always rewritten to favour the victor ?

  2. JM says:

    You don’t give up Len, do you?

    I’ve told you I don’t expect blood free wars, you’re setting up another strawman.

    But war is not an unrestricted, amoral bloodbath either, despite what you may want to think.

    Back in Caesars time, the primary purpose of war was capture of resources which required subjugation of the cities and people controlling those resources (so they could pay “tribute” aka tax), and if that wasn’t enough, enslaving them to capture their labor.

    Wholesale genocide was also popular when things got out of hand and the enemy was regarded as too dangerous or unreliable to be allowed to continue to exist. Carthage is the prime example.

    You might have noticed we gave up slavery a couple of centuries ago (and even the ancient Greeks had a few problems with it – they couldn’t reconcile their concepts of freedom of the individual with the enslavement of Greek citizens. Enslavement of barbarians was perfectly ok.)

    You might also have noticed that we gave up genocide as a legitimate objective of war around the end of the second world war.

    The world’s changed Len. Time to move on.

  3. Len says:

    Wrong again JM
    Sheez ! War was all about power, control, and land grabs. The wealth captured, whether monetary or resource, was part of the booty, the prize.

    I don’t think the world has changed much at all. Look at countries in the middle east, still engaged in civil war with their leaders, to gain their freedom. We have just had a massive discussion over one that immediately comes to mind. The relatively passive revolution in the USSR another. The world hasn’t changed, just the methodology has become a little more, I was going to say civilised, but hardly that is it ?

  4. JM says:

    Len: was going to say civilised, but hardly that is it ?

    I’d argue it was always civilized – at least usually, and mostly according to the standards of the time. There are many historical examples, even in ancient times, of magnanimity and valour amidst outbursts of brutality.

    It’s just that we have our particular standards in our time that we have codified. Those are standards we hold ourselves to, and to do that properly we have to abide by them and mean them; and hold those who violate them accountable.

    Unfortunately, we’re stuck with people like you who don’t like them, and want to return to barbarism, and to hell with the consequences.

  5. Len says:

    You’re the one who doesn’t like the standards JM.
    Your own words above admit that. Funny thing is, bugger if you are not partially right. Battle behavior is generally dictated by the aggressor. A wonderful expression comes to mind, perhaps you have heard of it, “proportional response” ?

    I’d argue it was always civilized – at least usually, and mostly according to the standards of the time

    Don’t you just love it when people criticise the hell out of how the world works ? The enjoy the benefits of conquest, and death and destruction, then complain as their big mac goes cold, the method of how those benefits were derived.

  6. JM says:

    Len, I don’t want to comment on your intelligence here, but

    a. “proportional” is not the right word, “proportionality” is
    b. in any case, proportionate to what? The balance between the threat and the risk to civilians in any given action is the right answer.

    Just try to wrap your head around that.

    Our modern standards are not set by the victor, they are set by ourselves as a prior condition.

    Sorry, but I really think at this point that this issue is either beyond your and Iain’s intellectual capacities; or your willingness to engage in serious debate and discussion or both.

    It appears to me you both prefer childish emotional slogans like “protect your mates”

  7. Len says:

    I am trying to read your posts JM, to attempt in the hell, between your cheap cat calls, where your opinions lie here. Fortunately, for you, obviously, you haven’t seen any action, or know anyone who has, otherwise you would understand what happens. I haven’t been involved in direct battle, but, I have flown into war zones, regularly, and have seen the results of the brutality. War in any form, is obscene, and unfortunately, needed every now and again on this planet, when all other avenues have been explored. The ferreting out of ding-bats such as Hussein, Somalian war lords, Milosovic, Pol Pot etc are just a few, in the last few decades ?

    Proportional is indeed the correct term, sorry you’re incorrect. Proportional Response, is surely a term that you have heard of before ? Proportional to what was suffered. If you get attacked by a small guy with a peashooter, you don’t respond with an A bomb do you ? That is out of proportion, or disproportionate.

    I said nothing about standards JM, what I did say, was history is always rewritten by the victors

    Your continual criticism of those that have served/still serving in the military, is not only unwarranted, but comes from an ignorant knowledge base. You have obviously no knowledge of how the military works, nor the people that are involved. The incredible discipline that is not only required, but enforced within its ranks. It is sad that you continue to criticise those that serve, especially when they are doing so, to ensure that you can enjoy your beer and peanuts in a free country ?

  8. JM says:

    Len: “Your continual criticism of those that have served/still serving in the military”

    What criticism Len?

    Really, what criticism? Show me a single example of a comment or statement I have made that applies to the military in general and not just the two shitbags in that helicopter?

    There isn’t one. Not one.

    Go home Len. You can stop hiding behind people who do things you won’t, and never have (not that I have either).

    Just go home, I’m sick of you.

  9. Len says:

    You have been caught out again, criticising people, and making uninformed judgements, about people who are talking about matters, that you know absolutely nothing about. Only this time, you have been caught out. Your arrogance, especially towards people who have obviously been around the block a few more times than your good self (and that includes me as well), is astonishing, and nothing short of belligerent.

    Your ego is only exceeded by your arrogance and apathy.
    I am home btw.

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