I am not entirely sure what the debate is but I’ll jump into the swimming hole.
Civilians in war are one thing and one thing only; in the way. Nothing makes a Grunt cringe more than entering a fire-fight hearing this, ‘check your targets there are civies in the area.’ The rules of war make pretty clear they are strictly off limits.
Now, when one considers ‘rules’ for war the trouble really begins. The whole idea that violence on such a large scale has a set of rules is well…ridiculous. Sure, they sound like a logical idea but fact is they will not work if one of the sides fighting decides to ignore those rules (Saddam’s human shields). Now, as a Marine, I knew the rules of war and what was and was not okay. But, if it comes down to one of my brother or sister Marines or some dumb civilian who was not smart enough to clear out when the poop hit the fan, sorry Geneva your getting put at the bottom of my ALICE Pack with orders written by analyst at Langley.
War is violence, now professionals realize it is a matter of proper application of the latter to end the former as quickly as possible. Snipers don’t succeed because they kill everything entering their field of fire. They kill leaders and sow confusion in an enemy to break his will to fight. This is why I laugh when some suit or pressed utilities wearing wienie at a press conference calls it a ‘surgical strike’ trust me, nothing surgical about a 2000 pound explosive going off near you. Makes for great Television (whatever that is) but fact is killing people wholesale is a sloppy way to do business if your job is to fight a war.
These definitions according to Grunts may help clarify the issue. Civilian- person who is unarmed and running away at the sight of me and my Fire-Team. Soldier or combatant- anyone not identified positively as on my team, carrying a weapon, and not running away. Now, if said person is in uniform or not matters very little difference to me and mine. Likewise rules of war are useful guides for how things should be. However, if I confine myself to acting to achieve what ‘should’ be then some other better shot may kill me because they ignore ‘should be’. I am not going to seek out to kill civilians. But, my job is to see to it that I leave the fire-base with so many serviceable Marines and then return with so many serviceable Marines. Anything beyond that is going to be situation dependent. Especially, when I fight any enemy who does not share my ‘civilized’ rule set.
While the politically-correct crowd may herald competition just for the ‘fun’ of it and avoids keeping score to ‘build’ self-esteem, I know in war its all about winning. And to me I win every time I accomplish a mission and return all my Marines home to their wives, mothers, or sundry others; ALIVE and WHOLE.
Aside from that the only people who should even formulate rules for war are those who have fought in one.
“You don’t know crap till you step in it and have to clean it off your own boots.” Sergeant Tomlinson was right.