The American Red Cross Headquarters is hosting an event that I think everyone in the DC area should try to attend. I’ve attended training and events at the ARCNH before and I’ve found their facility to be well maintained and their attending staff to be generally knowledgeable and pleasant to work with.
Humanity in War: Adapting to the Urban Theatre
“An estimated ten civilians die for every one fighter killed in battle. Cities are frequently becoming combat zones and with an expected 6.3 billion people living in cities by 2050 it is important to consider how IHL adapts to the rising prevalence of urban warfare. Join us for an in-depth discussion on distinction, proportionality, and other challenges in this changing realm of armed conflict”
The speakers are Nathalie Weizmann, a representative from the UN OCHA, Ben Wahlhaus, an advisor in the IDF’s law department in Israel, and Christie Edwards, director of the IHLARC.
Regardless of your views on Israel’s prolific bombing campaign of Palestine I think it’s always important to hear the rhetoric (or sound moral justification) for actions being taken in an international humanitarian law capacity.
For men of combat arms, this is a very important subject as it is not a question of if you will find yourself in urban warfare but when. As our population grows, it will be increasingly common to find urban centers as battlegrounds in the future of warfare.
As a young soldier, I took only passing concern with IHL. Unfortunately, I look back and realize that was a huge mistake. Luckily I have a moral compass that kept me out of any trouble. My unit, however, did end up convicting people of war crimes during my career. It is up to you to know what is right and what is wrong. It is your responsibility, your obligation, as someone with a higher status on the battlefield. As a soldier your job is to protect the protected statuses, that involves a lot more than just killing people.
For human rights advocates and NGO members, understanding what it means for belligerents to be locked in urban warfare and just how it colors a situation can be vital to deciphering the significance of certain actions or the intent of one side. For me, my interactions with NGOs have always held a common thread, that common thread is the universal ignorance of security protocols and a fundamental understanding of warfare.
I want to expound upon this a little more before I piss everyone off. Human rights advocates will know IHL better than any battalion commander. What they won’t understand is the significance of deploying howitzers inside a city versus 120mm mortars on the outskirts, or be able to differentiate what a firefight sounds like, whether it be between two squads or an entire company. They lack firsthand experience, often lack technical knowledge, and their organizations rarely, in my experience, seek to fill that void. Take the initiative, better yourself as an advocate, and attend these events.
At the very least, it will be yet another lesson in the lawfare. Links, time and date are posted below.