Saturday, March 17, 2007

What is the Difference between Policing and War?

Policing requires the use of retaliatory force (and to a much lesser extent, "preventive" force) to ensure that criminals, as individuals, are punished for crimes they have committed.

War is the use of force against a collective group to kill them, enslave them, and/or to prevent them from attacking.

From this perspective, policing is targeted at individuals, and war is targeted at groups. And, from this perspective, the natural inclination is to condemn all wars because they kill innocent individuals. (As an aside, anyone who feels that wars are unjustified under any conditions ought to be a proponent of assassinations, as only individual leaders would then be killed -- and not their innocent subjects.)

The trouble is: What to do when a collective army decides to declare war on your country? Should your army only target enemy soldiers who are suspected of actually harming anyone -- perhaps after each enemy soldier is tried by a jury of his peers?

And what if civilians on the enemy side "get in the way"? Should your army accept casualties to defend the principle of not harming the enemy's civilians? How many soldiers on your side are worth the life of an innocent enemy civilian?

Four questions:

1. How much of an increased risk to your life (and to your children's lives) would you accept to ensure that your army doesn't harm any innocent people on the other side?

2. How much increased risk do you think your enemy's civilians would accept to ensure that you and your children are not harmed?

3. Would you now care to change your answer to Question #1?

4. If you just changed your answer to Question #1, how do you think that would affect the way your enemy's civilians might change their answer to Question #2?

Sometimes policing is more effective, and sometimes war is more effective. And even then, no one really knows the answer until after the conflict is over.

No comments: