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In the current day wars, everything is a weapon


On September 3, 1939, Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. On Decmber 11, 1941, Germany declared war on the US. On August 8, 1945, Russia declared war on Japan. The point here is that for the best part of a thousand years, a convention prevailed that before one state waged war against another, it formally announced its intention to do so.
Belligerents’ diplomats were permitted to return unimpeded to their respective homelands — even the wartime Japanese and Germans went along with this, although they had launched surprise attacks such as that on the Day of Infamy.
The rights of prisoners under international law were sometimes respected, albeit sometimes not. Red Cross workers received at least intermittent protection.
Combatants wore the uniforms of their respective nations, and it was tacitly if not always officially conceded that armies — yes, including that of Hitler — had a right to shoot prisoners who were captured using guns while wearing civilian clothes without identifying marks.
It would be absurd to suggest that the “laws of war” commanded universal respect or obedience, even sometimes by democracies, and least of all in conflicts with guerrillas.
But there was a recognition that the worst effects might be tempered if some rules and conventions existed.
Today, almost all the above is out the window. If China invades Taiwan or Russia seeks to attack Ukraine, the only near-certainty is that their forces will attack without any prior declaration of intent. Moreover, if or when the shooting stops, it is unlikely that there
will follow a treaty signed by both belligerents.
Instead, there will merely be a unilateral announcement of whatever new reality Beijing, or Moscow, or the rulers of any other state which has committed a successful act of aggression, deems to be appropriate.
The old explicit delineation between war and peace has been abolished. It is replaced by a new dispensation that seems almost certain to be permanent, wherein rival states compete fiercely and perilously, at a level designed to remain just below the threshold of full-blown armed conflict.


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