On air: Do we need new rules of war?


The Israeli Prime Minister is calling for a new set of rules of war to fight global terrorism. Mr Netanyahu also wants other western countries committed to the war on terror to be part of an international coalition of nations that have laws protecting their right to defend their countries and their people.

The suggestion comes amid criticism from Israel about the Goldstone report – this UN backed report accused both Israel and Hamas militants of war crimes during the incursion in Gaza which ended in January this year.

So is Israel feeling the pressure as this blog suggests? Or does the Israeli PM have a point?

Just today it’s been reported that Pakistan is closing all schools and colleges after the university attack in Islamabad. Is this a drastic measure to protect it’s citizens, or does this play into the hands of militant groups who want to bring an end to normal life for normal people?

And going back to a change in rules of war, we know that rules of engagement already exist, but how effective would an update or change to the rules be? Should countries be able to decide upon their own rules to protect their citizens? Has the threat of global terrorism changed so much that existing rules of warfare don’t apply any more?

107 Responses to “On air: Do we need new rules of war?”

  1. 1 subra
    October 21, 2009 at 11:09

    War is war and all rules are discarded. Who is the soldier who will think of the rules when he is facing an enemy and be killed.
    The stronger power will definitely impose its rules. Who will compel countries like Iran and North Korea to obey any rules when they are now preparing to blow the world with their nuke.
    Instead of rules of war, one needs to preach peace and elimination of flafrant injustices against women and children and the poor.

  2. 2 claudine
    October 21, 2009 at 11:43

    On one hand we want to prevent people from a far right party not to speak on TV
    on the other hand we are listening to another radical strategist, Netanyahu.
    If Israel would be willing to negotiate, and would stop provoking Palestinians unnecessarily by expanding illegal Jewish settlements while the Palestinians’ life is made as difficult as possible…
    then no one would have to talk about war or changing tactics.

    • 3 tope
      October 21, 2009 at 13:57

      israel is not in anyway provoking the so-called palestinans. remember, the jews living there were also called palestinians. anyway, the arabs rejected un resolution establishing the state of israel in 1948; so israel should also not accept the un’s call for it to recognise the so-called palestinian ctate

      • 4 Halima
        October 21, 2009 at 21:29

        I think you do not understand what is happening there, tope. The conflict there involves a great deal of provocation. both sides, though one side is vastly more powerful than the other, but no less guilty of provocation and insult.

  3. 5 Nigel
    October 21, 2009 at 12:09

    If the new rules of war that Netanyahu proposes bring us all closer to the level of lawlessness that Israel applied in their attack on Palestine then it is a step back and down and brings us closer to the level of the militants who at least can convince themselves that their methods are justified by the huge military imbalance that they are confronted with.

  4. October 21, 2009 at 12:28

    Astonishingly, the need for change of rules of war comes from the PM of a country that has only recently committed outrageous war-crimes and has trampled on the human rights of innocent women and children in Palestine. He continues to provoke the Palestinians by building settlements on occupied territory. Does he want the International community to accept all that constitute war-crimes as legitimate rules of war? But for the Big Brother, US, Israel would be facing severe International sanctions for its barbaric conduct.

  5. 7 Roberto
    October 21, 2009 at 12:32

    RE “” If Israel would be willing to negotiate, and would stop provoking Palestinians unnecessarily by expanding illegal Jewish settlements while the Palestinians’ life is made as difficult as possible…
    then no one would have to talk about war or changing tactics. “”

    ———- As long as we have poorly informed statements as above representing large segments of the public from whom politicians spring, we will have WAR.

    Netanyahu is a politician supreme splitting both ends of the debate. He panders to his right wing backers by appearing on the world stage in his full authority as Israeli PM while engaging Israel’s global enemies in debate with the carrot of negotiations.

    As far as “feeling the pressure,” 60 years of being surrounded by an enemy outnumbering them 50 to 1 sworn to Israel’s destruction makes Israel immune to typical media mongering and diplomatic skulduggery.

    Israel has shown when there are proper rules of engagement and robust, honest diplomatic relations as are the norm with neighbors Jordan and Egypt, that war is not necessary.

    • 8 tope
      October 21, 2009 at 14:29

      egypt and jordan only signed up because they failed to destroy israel in thre wars. the peace they’ve signed is that of the graveyard. when they feel strong enough, they will attack. just watch out for the Muslim Brotherhood seize power in egypt.

  6. October 21, 2009 at 12:39

    One other fact we must bear in mind is that Terrorism that Israel is worried about is NOT global. It is targeted ONLY against those countries that occupy or meddle in Muslim countries and the allies of those culprits. The suicide bombers have repeatedly made this point. Why do we continue to ignore them? Remove the causes of terrorism and pave the way for a peaceful world.

  7. 10 paul8222
    October 21, 2009 at 12:53

    What does Netanyahu want, a butcher’s licence? The IDF use of massive artillery & airborne firepower frequently on partial civilian targets has been out of all proportion and as someone observed in Gaza had more in common with the Warsaw Ghetto.

    Claudine appears to have grasped the key issues in the Palestine context. It is a shift from intransigent Israeli land-grabbing and not a rewriting of the Hague & Geneva Conventions that is needed.

    (If the truth be told Britain as the Mandate power in Palestine dealt extremely ruthlessly with some situations, possibly outside of the Palestine Emergency Regulations & the Conventions in1946-1948)

    To do away with the Conventions & the spirit of public international law they represent merely plays into the hands of the terrorists. It produces the global anarchy that some of them want & which some would dress up as a Jihad.



  8. 11 VictorK
    October 21, 2009 at 13:12


    This is a transparent – and stupid – propaganda exercise by Israel. I’m surprised. Netanyahu is usually very slick and sure-footed when it comes to this kind of thing.

    Every country defends itself against terrorist violence as a matter of sovereign right. There can be no such thing as a ‘war on terror’, as opposed to a war against groups who use terror as a tactic.

    The US is welcome (from the linked article) to declare undying loyalty to Israel (and then pretend to be a mediator in the Middle East), come what may. Other countries will hopefully judge that their loyalty is to themselves alone and their individual national interest, not to Tel Aviv.

    • 12 tope
      October 21, 2009 at 14:34

      yuo must be anti-semitic for you to hold such a view. the surrounding countries had a culture of treating jews as second-class citizens even b4 1948. the mufti of jerusalem (haj amin) made himselft available to hitler in ww2 only 4 hitler to lose.

      • 13 Chrissy in Portland
        October 21, 2009 at 17:40

        @ Tope

        Why is it that people who are not in support of the Israeli goverment and it’s policies are so often judged and called Anti-Semitic? I for one am tired of Israel playing the victim all the time. It’s time for them to be held accountable for their actions by the international community.

  9. 14 gary
    October 21, 2009 at 13:25

    My suspicion is Mr. Netanyahu wishes license to wage war even more indiscriminately. However, that makes no difference; my answer would be the same for Mr. Meshal: You have always had the right to write new rules that rule out war completely. Please make use of this right.

  10. 15 Bob
    October 21, 2009 at 13:36

    It seems that all that Netanyahu really wants – as do the Americans, whose rules of warfare apparently allow them to bomb civilians from high altitude – is legal cover to murder civilians in the name of “fighting terrorism.”

    The legacy of Dresden continues to haunt us.

  11. 16 tope
    October 21, 2009 at 14:02

    i don’t understand why the whole world is blaming israel. we should go back to 1948 when the arabs rejected a un resolution (fo the very first time on the basis of ethnicity) establishing israel as a state. so who’s at fault for the attendant consequencies?

  12. 17 Jon
    October 21, 2009 at 14:03

    don’t believe what you read anywhere…none of us know anything..we just form opinions on what little information we are fed..how anyone can think they know anything about the situation of war anywhere without being in that territory angers me…its ignorant and naive to think you know it all by reading a book or watching the news..so dont bother..war is war..the more rules there are the more opportunities there are to break them.

  13. 18 scmehta
    October 21, 2009 at 14:08

    The rules of our war against any kind of terrorism must be laid down by the UN, like they did on the human rights (Geneva Convention). As I had suggested before, in a different programme, a long time back, we need to establish a Global Terror- Control Room (GTCR), under the control of the UN, fed exclusively by the terror-related intelligence by the world-wide National Terror-Control Rooms (NTCR) in all the countries. The intelligence, so gathered, will then be assimilated/collated/coordinated/analyzed by the GTCR, for organizing and executing quick global response/action, at the appropriate level with a suitable use of force.

    • October 21, 2009 at 16:15

      scmehta, you do not seem to get it that terrorism is NOT global. It seems that many gullible people fall into the trap sprung by America and its allies, who alone are the targets of terrorism, that the terrorists want to blow up the whole world. This shrewd propaganda is to enlist the support of the whole global community to fight their war.

  14. October 21, 2009 at 14:27

    We do not need international laws giving us a right to defend our countries and people. We already have a natural law to do that. And as far as rules to protect ones own country and people,then surely the end justifies the means. War crimes,in war,will always be committed,but there are laws in place to deal with that,after the war,of course.

    I think the question on Pakistan should have been on another page.

  15. 21 steve
    October 21, 2009 at 15:01

    It’s very difficult to minimize civilian casualties when one side deliberately uses civilian areas to attack from. It would make saying retaliating being a war crime, every response. So if you wanted to invade a nation, you could go to the populous areas on the border, and start shelling and attacking from your own civilian areas, then shout “war crimes” when the other nation responded. Think of Canada attacking the US from Windsor, ON, shelling Detroit. The US responds, and then the Canadians shout about warcrimes becaues the US attacked Windsor in response..

    So long as people attack from civilian areas, there will be responses to the areas the attacks are coming from. IF Hamas truly cared about civilians, instenad of using them for media purposes, they wouldn’t conduct operations from civilian areas. But who are we kidding, Hamas NEEDS civilian casualties to get support from the world, so without civilian casualties, they would be less relevant.

  16. 22 steve
    October 21, 2009 at 15:02

    @ Bob

    Are you seriously comparing Dresden to Gaza? Are are you going to next compare Rotterdam to Gaza, or Coventry to Gaza? When you make silly comparisons like that, I often wonder if you’re trying to cheapen what happened in those cities.

  17. 23 Mike in Seattle
    October 21, 2009 at 15:34

    I have a difficult time listening to someone call for a change in international law and policy after their nation has acted and not before. It smacks of wanting to change the rules after they’ve been broken, and we shouldn’t give any nation a free pass for doing so.

    Netanyahu’s call is nothing that should be taken seriously. The world ignored George W. Bush when he called for “new rules” and the world rightfully said no. Why should things change now?

  18. 24 Anthony
    October 21, 2009 at 16:18

    Yes. We should destroy their water and food supply, and not allow any products in or out. Then offer these to the “good” people, and turn the people against the terrorists. If they don’t join / help us, then they are on the “bad” team and it’s OK to destroy them. At least that’s how I would do it.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  19. October 21, 2009 at 16:22

    Professor Adam Roberts is editor of the book ‘Documents on the Laws of War’ he’s also a Professor of International Relations. He’ll be on tthe programme tonight and he says that he’s highly sceptical of any new rules of war when there’s no detail of what they are. However, he says there’s a real problem that terrorist attacks create , as they are concealed within civilians, on the line we can draw between military and civilian treatment.

  20. 26 Ibrahim in UK
    October 21, 2009 at 16:32

    I think we have plenty of rules and laws but not enough enforcing of those laws.
    There are laws against targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure There are laws against using civilians as human shields. There are laws against ethnic cleansing. There are laws against occupation. There are laws against settlements on occupied land. They are all ignored when it benefits us and our allies and any attempts at justice are vetoed.

    The Goldstone report is a good place to start to put an end to this culture of immunity from justice.

  21. 27 archibald
    October 21, 2009 at 16:39

    If there were rules that people actually followed in a conflict to solve international problems, they would not call it WAR. There can be no rules to indiscriminate killing and brutality, unless, it is considered a game and I think that many victims of WAR would beg to differ. Politicians play games while people die following their “rules”. Rubbish!

  22. October 21, 2009 at 16:41

    War is war, no matter what rules are in place. Military leaders as well as well as politicians will go any length to secure a victory. The term collateral damage is used as a pretext to justify military actions that are against the rules of war.

    What is needed is to establish a politically peacefully environment that can save the lives of both soldiers and civilians.

    The twentieth century is rich with wars of all kinds, from the nuclear bombs on Japan to massive genocide in Rwanda. Lessons must be learnt from these events to prevent major wars and not to invent rules to make them. Wars aren’t a game that needs rules. They need
    rules to be prevented within and among states.

  23. 29 patti in cape coral
    October 21, 2009 at 16:43

    It sounds like the new rules being called for are to benefit one side over the other. War is lawless by nature anyway. I agree with Mike in Seattle that this call for rule change is coming late.

    • 30 Nigel
      October 21, 2009 at 16:52

      Hi Patti……if you are comfortable with your military playing by the same rules as the militants fine but please leave me out as I don’t want to be a terrorist even a terrorist approved by some law.

      • 31 patti in cape coral
        October 21, 2009 at 17:21

        Hi Nigel – It’s not my military, what I want or don’t want makes no difference to them. I’m not really comfortable with the military, period.

  24. 32 Ibrahim in UK
    October 21, 2009 at 16:46

    I have a question for Adam Roberts:

    I would like to ask the professor what international law says about occupation: The rights/responsibility of the occupier, the rights/responsibility of the resistance. When can we call resistance terrorism.
    Specifically in the case of Israel where occupation is not only military, since it introduces illegal settlements with armed civilians on occupied land, are the lines blurred between a civilian and military target?

  25. 33 N.J.
    October 21, 2009 at 16:47

    No way. One must consider who is asking for those new rules. Some nations have used the excuse of terrorism, suspected development of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destructions, etc, to justify “pre-emptive” attacks when in many cases their ulterior motive was to seize territory from other nations.

    Adding the claim of terrorism will allow almost any nation to have a field day attacking its neighbors as well as more distant nations.

    If such rules are to come into existence, let them come the old way, under the United Nations and Geneva type conventions.

  26. 34 seyi
    October 21, 2009 at 16:47

    well,rules or no rules,wars are not acceptable under any circumstance.as regards terrorism,apparently rules of engagement dont work.a rule that is only observed by one party is unacceptable.terrorist dont observe the rules of engagement.therefore nwe rules are needed

  27. 35 Jerry Cordaro Cleveland OH
    October 21, 2009 at 16:55

    I wouldn’t compare Gaza to Dresden – I’d compare it to the Warsaw ghetto. A people locked behind walls, no access, controlled by a superior military force that allows in or out only what they deem appropriate.

  28. 36 K.Anaga
    October 21, 2009 at 16:55

    New rules on WAR? This would mean that we are trying to have new rules for murder and mayhem. Perhaps we have to set new rules for robbery and drug smuggling and rape and also as to how terrorism has to be practiced.
    The best thin is to avoid wars.

  29. October 21, 2009 at 16:57

    Rules of war aren’t worth much if everyone does not sincerely sign on. Mr. Netanyahu is posturing a “new” concept to cover Israel’s openly insincere position re: Palestinian peace. We have seen the “fight against terrorism” abused by Russia, China, Israel, Egypt, etc, etc. As threatening as terrorism is in the world, “anti-terrorism” is also now the euphemism applied whenever a state wants to cover its agenda against its historic enemies. Mr. Netanyahu’s best contribution to “anti-terrorism” would be to achieve peace with the Palestinians. I’m truly sick and tired of world leaders cheapening the very serious issue of jihad-ism by pulling their long standing issues under the anti-terrorism umbrella. He who riles against terrorism ought not be employing terrorist methods himself. Think Sri Lanka. Think Columbia. Think Pakistan. Think Sudan. Think Burma. Think Palestinians. Think Israel. Think Iran. Think North Korea… and the list goes on.

  30. 38 Sade
    October 21, 2009 at 17:02

    The Goldstone report really threw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans of Israel. Even though the US has vowed to stand by Israel, they are in desperate need of a new strategy. We need to change the rules of war, they say.

    There was no mention of the rules of war as long as Israel could ignore them and nobody noticed that the ones deemed to be the most moral were the ones who were breaking the rules.

    Pandora’s box has been opened. The glaring light of hypocrisy is now shining bright on Israel. It will be interesting to see how it will all play out.

  31. 39 Tom K in Mpls
    October 21, 2009 at 17:10

    Until a party in the conflict of that part of the world comes to a full agreement with others and finally keeps their word, they should be ignored. No trade, no subsidies, no say in international politics. As it is now, none of them have any influence beyond their neighbors. Israel is one of the last countries in the world that rates any consideration. Their history over the last forty years should be enough to convince anyone.

  32. 40 Corinna
    October 21, 2009 at 17:26

    The problem is that the good guys refuse to do the right thing because they have their hands soiled by economic decisions. Every democratic country would do exactly the same as Israel How come this seems so unacceptable to people living in the West who say they support Israel. Its crazy! Every country has the right to defend itself and yet this seems not so when it comes to Israel – I would reallllllllly like to understand the reason. The Palestinians have blown billions of dollars given them to enchance their lives but instead they just invested it in hatred and killing – why is the world silent about this? Something is terribly wrong and it reminds me very much now of how Europe appeased the Germans up till the very last moment – has the world not learnt a thing thru history. You cant give into bullying!! It will never work! and its wrong!

  33. 42 patti in cape coral
    October 21, 2009 at 17:27

    I couldn’t agree more, K.Anaga.

  34. 43 Chintan in Houston
    October 21, 2009 at 17:56

    My last post did not get published. 😦 But anyways, all Netanyahu is trying to do is giving legitimacy to the war crimes commited during the invasion of Gaza.

    This is preposterous!!

  35. October 21, 2009 at 17:59

    If we do draft a new set of rules, counties currently engaged in warfare should not be involved in the drafting.

  36. 45 margaret
    October 21, 2009 at 18:01

    This is way beyond the Palestinian Israeli conflict, though I do find the Palestinian situation appalling on many levels. New millenium; time to review the old rules and revise them. Can’t fight “fair” with conventional armies who do have strict rules of engagement with terrorists who use every trick in the book and then some to kill as many as possible, including specifically targeting innocent civilians by the thousands.

    Margaret Tacoma, WA USA

  37. October 21, 2009 at 18:02

    Politicians know how to twist the truth! Netanyahu is very adept in massaging the facts according to his way of thinking. He is a master tactician. But does he have a conscience? Israel and the Palestinians need to settle their age-old conflict; there has to be a new breed of politicians who could genuinely give peace a chance. Netanyahu belongs to the old school of thought where Palestinians are considered the arch villains!

  38. 47 Neil
    October 21, 2009 at 18:07

    If Israel is justified in attacking terrorists in the occupied territories, will India get the same legitimacy if it were to carry out similar operations against terrorists in Pakistan?

  39. 48 Mike in Seattle
    October 21, 2009 at 18:08

    One more thing: the world has had terrorism since the ancient Assyrians, if not earlier. It’s been around as long as organized war, and it’s silly to think that this is anything news.

  40. 49 steve
    October 21, 2009 at 18:08

    It’s bizarre how people complain about civilian casualties today, when they civilian casualties today are peanuts compared to WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Soviet-Afghanistan….

  41. 50 Chintan in Houston
    October 21, 2009 at 18:11

    Ros, ask the guest, what are these news rules his prime minister is talking about? Give us an example?

  42. October 21, 2009 at 18:15

    I just listened to a U.S. radio program on “drone warfare,” which is a major and growing element of the United States’ antiterror campaign.

    The technology and techniques involved have profound implications for future warfare–and in no way are current ethics, moral concepts, or “the rules of war,” as they are conceived and sometimes observed, equal to those implications.

    Yes, we need altered rules of war–along with changes in the concept of nation-states, what separates civilians and combatants, and many other aspects of human conflict and cooperation.

  43. 52 Steve/oregon
    October 21, 2009 at 18:17

    The rules do have need to be amended as a soldier who has fought terrorist/insurgents/resistance or anyother term you want to call it. The current rules only tie the hands of the soldiers on the ground. there was a reason germany was so compliant to occupation and restructuring after WW2. The allies used total war they bombed everything that could help germans put up a fight.
    This tactic of pin point targets only allows the opposing populace a chance to complain when something goes awry. civilian targets are justifyable if there is a good chance even one of the “civilians” is a person who may have attacked you.

  44. 53 Jasper Rijkeboer
    October 21, 2009 at 18:18

    More laws? There are plenty of laws concerning wars already. The biggest problem is the inability of the international community to bring violators to justice. Israel and USA are among the states that need to be punished for their transgressions. I still remember how the us denied to recognize the international war courts.

    I do agree though that more needs to be done to tackle stateless violence, but by their very nature these groups are very hard to tackle.

  45. 54 John Moses
    October 21, 2009 at 18:27

    Is Israel, or whoever advocates revisions to the Geneva Conventions, interested in protecting _all_ non-combatants or protecting the recognized state with an organized military that wishes to conduct operation in secret or with so-called secret evidence?

    From the very brief interview with the Israeli PM at the program’s opening, it sounded more toward the latter. I find it difficult to accept that any nation-state should have such rights.
    John M.
    Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

  46. 56 Dirk in Vancouver, WA
    October 21, 2009 at 18:35

    The tactics used to kill today are the same as those used since man began killing each other. Only the tools have changed.

    Maybe if we didn’t try to make war more civil by applying rules to it people would see war for what it is and be less war. I think they would definitely become shorter.

  47. 57 Jennifer
    October 21, 2009 at 18:37

    Don’t blame the laws of war! Would we scrap and/or adapt traffic rules based on the fact that drivers violate them continuously? Surely they serve an important purpose as a benchmark against which to measure the behaviour of parties involved in an armed conflict?

  48. 58 Joel Salomon
    October 21, 2009 at 18:40

    (From New York)
     We don’t need to rewrite the rules much; what’s needed is an update & clarification of how the rules try to protect non-combatants: Who is responsible for civilian deaths when a rocket emplacement is destroyed from a schoolyard? What restrictions on military actions are appropriate when being attacked from within civilian areas?

  49. 59 jens
    October 21, 2009 at 18:43

    the reason why wars grag on and on, is that we live in the make believe of being able to fight a politically correct war. we have laser guided systems, cruise missles and and and. we lie to ourselves that by using these weapons we will only kill the bad guy. reality is that any war is faught on the ground and that this will lead to casualties. we restrict our capability of striking back by self impossed ruels of engagment, while our oponents use human shields, hide amongst the civilian population, suvert this pubulation by selling jihad and paying for ind’s to be set-up and exploded.

    if you do not have the stomach to bring a war to it’s conclusion, then simply do not start it.

  50. 60 AJM
    October 21, 2009 at 18:45

    I agree that human right/ wars of laws should be updated but democracies should be held to a higher standard. The UK has prosecuted it’s own soldiers for outrages like the Baha Mussah death and has a credible military police, unlike some so called deomocracies like Israel, who never prosecute their own. Western countries shouldn’t run away from UN investigations, they should encourage them- if they’ve got nothing to hide.

  51. October 21, 2009 at 18:47

    Humanitarian war! Is that a joke.

  52. 63 John Moses
    October 21, 2009 at 18:48

    The person from the Heritage Foundation does not appear to care for the rule of law or for due process. Can we expect him to have any concern for non-combatants “in the way” of nation-state operation?

    John M.
    Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

  53. 64 Joel Salomon
    October 21, 2009 at 18:49

    (Addendum to previous post.)
     What “rules of war” are appropriate when the other side does not adhere to them? Which are universal, which are conditional on mutual agreement?

  54. 65 Tom D Ford
    October 21, 2009 at 18:49

    What we need are better teeth from an International Law enforcement group, so that people like Bush and Netanyahu can be brought before the ICC to account for their Crimes.

  55. 66 Kareem
    October 21, 2009 at 18:52

    LIes and distortions
    This gentlemen keeps saying that 3000+ Americans died on 9/11, and hundreds of old women and children died in Isreal. But what about the Millions of Islamic peole that have died from US Policies. What about thousands men, women and children who have died as a result of massacres from the Isrealis.
    The new rules of war, whatever the enemy must be humane! Or we will never be better than those that we seek.

  56. 67 Marija
    October 21, 2009 at 18:53

    Listening to the discussion I wonder how the participants feel about the Serbs in the Hague accused of War crimes?
    Would any changes to the concept of War crimes ever apply to them?
    In my view the worst crime is to start a war but I have not heard anyone question that.

  57. 68 archibald
    October 21, 2009 at 18:54

    War itself is a crime against humanity. How do you justify sanctioned killing, no matter how right it seems to be.

  58. 69 Bob/Washington State USA
    October 21, 2009 at 18:55

    In the New Yorker is a new article on the use of CIA drones to attack suspected terrorists in Pakistan (and whoever is near them). This amounts to assassination, which, prior to 9/11/2001 the US considered illegal. How about the rules of war in this? Who can govern the illegality of selecting who should be subject to this kind of attack?

    • 70 Joel Salomon
      October 21, 2009 at 19:24

      The ban on assassination was an internal US policy, not international law; the US are entitled to change their policies when circumstances change.

  59. 71 Tom K in Mpls
    October 21, 2009 at 18:58

    Most people are assuming you need to take a completely idealistic or practical view/stance/action. Idealism is valid and is the key to a good future. Practicality is the way to survive to get to the future. Both are equally important.

  60. 72 Jonathan Simeone
    October 21, 2009 at 19:05

    For conventional warfare updating rules of engagement makes sense. But a discussion, like this one, that tries to make rules for the types of insurgent-led wars we are seeing today misses the target. What we need are rules of humanitarian engagement. Most people are not extremists. Many of those who are driven to violence are done so, largely, because of the conditions they live under. The best way for the West to limit insurgent-driven wars is to begin doing much more for the people of the Middle East, South East Asia, and Africa. In many instances, groups, like Hamas, have been successful because they have provided the public with more in the way of resources than have more moderate Western-backed factions.

  61. 73 Pamela
    October 21, 2009 at 19:15

    I appreciated today’s topic but was unhappily distracted by the attitude of Ariel Cohen. As an American, I was embarrassed by his self-righteous and arrogant demeanor and his continual need to focus the discussion around the tragedy of 9/11. I am tired of those in leadership who choose to act the “cowboy” – this is so out of date to the more diplomatic values of our global community. I write this in the hopes that the world will know that Ariel’s domineering style is not supported by many Americans and also in the hopes that he might reflect a bit and learn from the other more dignified participants who better exhibited the ability to listen and be respectful of the other panelists.

    Thank you for this opportunity to respond.
    Portland, Oregon

    • 74 Halima
      October 21, 2009 at 21:47

      I found myself getting very angry at Ariel Cohen. I could not help it. He seems to understand so little about anyone outside of his own circle. Thank you for your comment Pamela, as now I know I was not alone in my reaction.

  62. 75 James Turner
    October 21, 2009 at 20:13

    Not the United States of America. We make the rules as we go!

  63. October 21, 2009 at 22:22

    It is difficult if not impossible to meticulously follow set rules to govern wars. When belligerent parties meet on a battlefield, what matters most is how to effectively rage and win the war. Innocent civilians and infrastructural damages are collateral damage.

  64. 77 Kevin PE
    October 21, 2009 at 22:41

    It is an exercise in futility to speak of rules of war when one or both sides engaged in the conflict believe that the objective of that war has or is being ordained by a “higher power”. Once such a conflict has commenced, its sole objective and purpose is total victory. Even a defeat in military terms is regarded as a temporary setback, a test of faith.
    Victories, however small are always celebrated as proof of divine support. To advocate adherence to” humanitarian warfare” in such circumstances is to misdiagnose the underlying force which drive such conflicts. Since there cannot be “rules” to which the divine must adhere, it would be impossible reach a mutual adherence.

  65. 78 Bert
    October 22, 2009 at 01:08

    War and humanitarian do not mesh together. The West should definitely seek the high ground, but cannot expect reciprocity.

    The best way to stop these wars in the Middle East is to wean ourselves of Arab oil. It always comes back to that. No, it is not by meddling even more into their affairs, calling it “aid,” “nation building,” or other such euphamisms. That only makes matters worse.

    It is instead to get out and leave them to their own devices. And only conduct trade when it is obiously in everyone’s self-interest to do so. It’s amazing how much more friendly people can be if they don’t feel that their are being meddled with.

    We actually had pretty good relations with Iran in the recent past, until we started obsessing over their nuclear interests. If we meddled less over there, perhaps Iran would be less intent on nuclear ambitions. If we didn’t depend so much on the Middle east for oil, we would not need to obsess over “stability in the region” at all. Imagine how things would change.

    Yes, there is Israel. Everyone over there brings up Israel when they need a convenient excuse for meddling or for terrorism. Remove the oil factor and I’ll bet you that the Israel angle is also eased.

  66. 79 Joseph A. Migliore
    October 22, 2009 at 01:24

    Astoundingly, that the PM and Israeli government are seeking to rally the international community, with pursuing an idea of changing the rules of warfare. I think this definitely sends the wrong message to the Palestinian people and to the international community, that “they wish to loosen” the framework for engagement of any conflict, whoever the enemy maybe…

    This seems to be a tactic to gain a un-conditional “carte-Blanche” for warfare, with little or no limitations for civilians and non-combatants. Come on Israel, “you’ve got to be ingesting hallucenogens on this one?”

    This definitely sends the wrong message to the entire international community, if this type of international law, charter or ammendment were sought, how would the ICC in the Hague pursue with indictments for Sudanese PM, Omar al-Bashir and for Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb wartime leaders accused of war crimes? And for Bosco Ntaganda, who has also been recently charged by the ICC for genocide & for crimes against humanity in the Rwanda civil conflict of the 1990’s?

    I really don’t think the rules of combat should take a step back and allow a total disregard for civilians during military operations. Gaza has civilians who live there, they are families, women & children who go about their daily lives. I am in complete disagreement with this concept & proposal by the Israeli PM, Netanyahu. The Isaraeli government should place the same effort and energy with pursuing a realistic and acceptible Palestinian state – a two state solution!

  67. 80 Tan Boon Tee
    October 22, 2009 at 03:26

    WHYS asks: Do we need new rules of war?

    I ask: Do we need any war at all?

    In which case, your question does not call for an answer.

  68. 81 Bryan
    October 22, 2009 at 08:16

    October 21, 2009 at 12:39

    You said:

    “One other fact we must bear in mind is that Terrorism that Israel is worried about is NOT global. It is targeted ONLY against those countries that occupy or meddle in Muslim countries and the allies of those culprits. The suicide bombers have repeatedly made this point. Why do we continue to ignore them? Remove the causes of terrorism and pave the way for a peaceful world.”

    You couldn’t be more wrong about that. The central and most worrying fact about today’s terrorism is that it IS global and certainly not limited to attacks on the US, Israel or their allies.

    When the regime in Khartoum sends the Jangaweed to kill Muslim civilians in Darfur, simply because they are black, what does that have to do with the West? Likewise when Muslim terrorists decapitate Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia or when Nigerian Muslims terrorise Christians in order to impose Sharia law on them, this has nothing to do with the US, Israel or their allies. And Iran’ s
    Revolutionary Guards, blown up by a suicide bomber a few days ago, can hardly be considered allies of the West.

    Stop kidding yourself. Terrorism is a global Islamic phenomenon and it certainly is high time that new ways to combat it are considered and implemented. In order for that to be done effectively, the goal of this terrorism needs to be frankly acknowledged and we can’t do that by putting out heads in the sand.

  69. 82 Brian Bevan
    October 22, 2009 at 08:57

    RIDICULOUS! War is War. Geneva Convention? Stuff and nonsense.
    When a war is on then the only rule is TO WIN and all and any method can and should be used. Talking is OK but whilst one talks a simple play for time, meanwhile the urstwhile preparation is a priority. Make no mistake Countries with irrational governments and lunatic leaders endanger the free world and should be removed before it is too late.
    Atom Bombs/Mines/Torture/Beheading What rules do these come under.

  70. 83 Ibrahim in UK
    October 22, 2009 at 10:11

    @ Corinna:
    The “right thing” for Israel to do is to end the occupation, give back the land it took from the Arabs, dismantle the illegal settlements on occupied Arab land, and allow the return of the indigenous Arabs that it forced out. Not only is this the right thing to do, it is a legal requirement which Israel has been violating for decades with the assistance of the US. Does the argument of “self-defence” apply when defending an illegal position?
    When Iraq was occupying Kuwait, did the world argue that Iraq has the right to self-defence against it’s surrounding enemies? The world ordered Iraq to end the occupation (“unconditional withdrawal”) or face the consequences. Why does Israel face no consequences for the occupation, while anyone who opposes the occupation faces consequences for excercising their right of resistance.

    • 84 tope
      October 22, 2009 at 13:58

      as far as the arabs are concerned all of israel is what soulb be given up. Israel should do whatever it takes to secure her borders, anything!

  71. 86 Bryan
    October 22, 2009 at 11:16


    It’s not a “legal requirement.” The return of land is subject to negotiation according to UN Resolution 242 of 1967. And there is no “legal requirement” for the return of the refugees. The Arab side of this conflict also has responsibilities and obligations. Do you know what they are?

    Israel faced terror from Arabs right from the establishment of the state. And decades before that Palestine’s Jews were the victims of terror attacks from Arabs. Neither Hamas nor the PA have renounced their stated goal of destroying the Jewish state. And any new guidelines for strategies to combat this threat have to take those facts into account.

  72. 87 Corinna
    October 22, 2009 at 11:54

    The right thing is that the Arab world first recognise Israel as a Jewish State.
    Then everything is possilbe – All Israelis want is to live quietly and in peace like any other country. What kind of response do you think Israel should give to countries or people that think Israel should be destroyed – you think that the response should be to give up disputed land to hatred. If Israel did this they would be laughed at! Its ridiculous to even contemplate. Does it make sense??
    I ditto what Bryan wrote.

  73. 88 steve
    October 22, 2009 at 12:35

    Also, UN 242 called for Israel to return lands for a negotiated peace, the Arabs refused to even negotiate with israel until the late 1970s, and Israel made a peace deal with Egypt, and returned most of the lands they captured in 1967 to Egypt.

  74. 89 chrys
    October 22, 2009 at 12:42

    i totally agree with Corina.Israel is a state and nations have to recognize that. If that can be done, war in that region would be a past issue.

  75. 90 Henry Nyakoojo, Kampala
    October 22, 2009 at 13:33

    War is a savage undertaking. Setting rules to regulate savagery is ridiculous.

  76. 91 Henry Nyakoojo, Kampala
    October 22, 2009 at 13:35

    It is amazing this argument about Arabs recognising Israel – and then what? So that they can engage in some civilised war, the ng the US is waging in Iraq and Afghanista?

  77. 92 jens
    October 22, 2009 at 15:00

    Ibrahim in the UK,

    last time i checked these wars were started by the arbas, who had their behinds handed to them repetativly after they attacked israel. you start a war and loose, don’t come crying that you lost land. the aim was to push the jews into the sea, but it backfired repetativly. if i was israel, i would not given an inch back.

  78. 93 Roberto
    October 22, 2009 at 15:08

    RE “” The “right thing” for Israel to do is to end the occupation, give back the land it took from the Arabs, dismantle the illegal settlements on occupied Arab land, and allow the return of the indigenous Arabs that it forced out. “”

    ———– Usual suspects coming out with the usual non-starter positions.

    And when will and when did “Arabs” ever end their illegal occupation, allow the right of return and give back the land it confiscated from Jews, Christians, and dozens of other native religions?

    Not talking about 100, 300, or 600 yrs ago either, I’m talking since 1948 and the creation of Israel that ended up with near a million displaced Jews and hundreds of thousands of Christian and other minority religions from the middle east and North Africa.

    As long as Syria, Saudis, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran primarily, but also Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Sudan to a lesser extent, as long as they refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist and refuse to allow Palestinian refugees full citizenship where they currently live in those countries, there will NEVER be peace, ever.

    I already know why that will never happen in my lifetime, but any of the usual suspects want to weigh in on why those countries block recognition of Israel and subsequent creation of a Palestinian State?

  79. 94 Ibrahim in UK
    October 22, 2009 at 15:59

    International law, even before the UN resolutions, does not allow countries to acquire land through conquest or war. Neither does it allow to populate occupied land with civilians/settlers.
    The right of return is in UN resolution 194 which Israel accepted as a condition for it’s acceptance in the UN.
    Seeing as UN resolution 181 which recognises Israel’s right to exist is legally binding, why are the others not equally binding?
    Yes, the Arabs have to play their part and abide by the rules too. The Saudi peace initiative is an indication that they are addressing their obligations too.

    As for terror attacks, you are stretching the definition of terror to include riots against the masses of illegal Jewish immigrants who publicly declared their intent on taking Arab land and creating a state for themselves.

    • 95 tope
      October 27, 2009 at 13:05

      they cannot be equally binding because the arabs have refused to accept it as such. besides, it came long before the others concerning the same issue.

  80. 96 Ronald Almeida
    October 22, 2009 at 17:02

    There is only one rule in all aspects of life. Might is right! We only fool ourselves that there are any rules or justice. Whether that might is purely physical, intellectual or economical or any other. Anyone who is able to take advantage of another will do so. Manipulation, hippocracy and cunning are just a few of the accepted methods used.

  81. 97 Ibrahim in UK
    October 22, 2009 at 17:16

    Yes, there are still some countries/groups that desire the destruction of Israel. But most Arab states already recognise Israel, some have even made peace. That is the whole purpose of the Saudi peace proposal: The Arabs recognise Israel’s rights, offer peace, security and normalisation of relations, in return for Israel recognising Arab rights, all in line with the UN resolutions.
    But Israel and the US are demanding a reduction in the rights that the Palestinians have: abandoning their right of return, reducing the amount of occupied land returned, keeping illegal settlements, a demilitarized Palestine with no control of its own airspace or borders (essentially another Gaza).
    That is not a serious proposal for peace or justice.

    I personally don’t think a 2-state solution is the best answer to peace anyway. Jews and Arabs have plenty in common and are not going to disappear or abandon their claims to the land. The ones that live together and share the land they live on are quite happy. While the leaders justify occupation, isolation and terrorism, I hope the people ignore them and move towards one state and peace for all.

    • 98 tope
      November 25, 2009 at 12:51

      the ones that made peace only did that after they were soundly and roundly defeated on the battle field; which left tham with no alternative.

  82. 99 Lino
    October 22, 2009 at 17:37

    I think that Tope, Corinna and David Price have got it right. No country in the world is in the same position as Israel. No country of 7 odd million is literally surrounded by millions and millions of enemies, all of whom are sworn to destroy it and its people. Since 1948, the Arab countries have sworn to “throw the Jews into the sea” and to “wash our hands in Jewish blood. Iran to this day, considers the Holocaust to be a hoax, refuses to answer questions made by Israeli journalists and is arming itself to face down Israel in the near future, possibly within our lifetime.

    This is why Netanyahu is asking the world to open its eyes and recall the acts of terror and the nature of the enemies it is constantly fighting against.

  83. 100 steve
    October 22, 2009 at 19:04

    @ Ibrahim

    last year, Russia invaded Georgia, capturing some of Georgia’s territory. How come the UN didn’t condemn Russia? Why is there no question being asked whether that was legal, if russia is illegally occupying Jordanian territory?

    Why does the UN focus every session on Kashmir like it does with Israel? You act like Israel is the only country occupying other territory.

  84. 101 Joseph A. Migliore
    October 23, 2009 at 00:32


    The UN didn’t condemn the Russia incursion of Georgia, beacuse the Georgian military attacked and killed Russian peacekeeping troops first.

    Similar to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, Georgia occupies disputed terretories with Russia, there are Russian peacekeeping troops in the region, that is why after the short lived conflict, the Georgia people were outraged with their Prime Minister, for allowing a violent attack on Russian peacekeeping soldiers who are present in the region.

    Israel is not the only country in the world occupying disputed territories, but they are frankly the most blatant example of oppression of other people, in this case the Palestinian people are certainly getting the short end of the stick.

    The WHYS question however is not specifically aimed at the Palestinian, Israeli conflict, but addresses altering the rules of warfare in general, whether in the Middle-East, Afghanistan or in Sub-Sahara Africa.

    Israel is seeking a “carte-Blanche” for conducting warfare.

  85. 102 Ibrahim in UK
    October 23, 2009 at 10:08


    Russia has a veto in the UN so it can block any resolution or censure against itself, just like the US blocks resolutions and censure against Israel.
    Even with this veto power, Russia has withdrawn from Georgia, agreed a peaceplan and agreed for international monitors to be based there. It received strong criticism from the West and accusations from human rights watch.
    That occupation lasted for one month and Russia was not allowed nor did it keep any land that it captured (even though the independent fact-finding missions declared that Georgia started the war).
    The occupation of Palestine has lasted decades, it is the longest occupation of modern times and faces no criticisms from Western governments. In fact it receives support and protection from accounting for its crimes, which is why it keeps coming back and will keep coming back until accountability is achieved. The Goldstone report demands as much. Will the US block those recommendations too?

  86. 103 Ibrahim in UK
    October 23, 2009 at 10:10


    Some Arab states reject the legitimacy of an external power giving Arab land away to foreigners. If the UN voted to give New York away to foreign immigrants, against the wishes of the American people living there, would the rest of the US states happily agree or would they reject the move. The Arab decision was to reject it and try to get it back. They failed. Their land still belongs to someone else. Some continue to reject it, most accept it and will make peace on conditions that Israel accepts its obligations too.
    Not sure which illegal occupation you are accusing the Arabs of either, nor which Christians were expelled from Arab land either (although Christian Arabs were expelled from Israel during it’s creation).
    Regarding expulsion of Jews from Arab land, it beggars belief that it is not even presented as an issue in the international arena. I suspect that this is because not many Jews want to return to the countries that expelled them, but it should be addressed as either the option to return or the option of compensation.

  87. 104 Dennis Junior
    October 23, 2009 at 12:05

    So is Israel feeling the pressure as this blog suggests? (I think that Israel is feeling the pressure)

    Or does the Israeli PM have a point? (Yes, the Israel P.M. is making a very important point….)

    ~Dennis Junior~

  88. October 23, 2009 at 18:00

    The number one rule to modern war is for civilians to distance themselves immediately from insurgents or armed people. It must become their responsibility to clearly get away from those who wish to fight and be killed.

    Civilians must decide whether they are with the enemy or against them. They should arm themselves and tell all armed groups to get away from their kids and families or they themselves will kill the people who put their families in danger.

    Get away or be quietly killed by the populous…….or …..be interpreted as in support of the enemy, and be killed by the other armed folks.


  89. 106 Jim Newman
    October 23, 2009 at 21:09

    Hello again
    I’ve already commented on rules of war in another area but I do think that people who commit crimes against humanity belong behind bars.

  90. 107 ewewale
    October 24, 2009 at 11:56

    As new threats, weapons and tactics of war are being fashoined so there should be new rules of war.

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