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GENEVA: In the wake of the attack on the United States and several previous and totally futile wars with unsatisfactory endings, a group of experts on War have recommended changes to the Rules of War.

The problem, according to Professor Claus Witz of the General Delivery University College of War, is that wars are being fought without clear goals, and as a result, it cannot be determined if someone has won or lost. Also, we are now fighting wars against organizations that aren't even governments.

"In the past," said Witz, "wars were fought to conquer territory and keep it."

Over the centuries, Rules of War, reflected by numerous "conventions" and "protocols" as well as treaties were adopted....not that anyone actually followed them.

"For example," noted Witz, "there were no treaties or agreements involving nuclear weapons until after they were used for the first time. And the only agreements relate to testing, not use."

The problem with nuclear weapons in the context of modern conflicts, is that they are seriously destructive. "There isn't much point in using nukes on an enemy if one wants to conquer territory, as the territory will be rendered generally useless for a few thousand years," said Witz.

The real problem today, noted several experts, is exemplified by Iraq and Osama bin Laden.

"One country is run by a mad man, and the other enemy isn't even a government. But there is a convention against assassinating the leaders of countries, and heads of organizations," said Witz. "Thus, it is acceptable to drop thousands of tons of bombs on the capital cities where enemy leaders live, killing many civilians (possibly in violation of the Geneva Conventions) in the hope that one might get lucky."

Destroying roads, dams, pipelines, electric generating stations, factories, and such is permissible. Shooting a despot is not.

"In order to economize on the production of weapons, and minimize collateral damage, the Rules of War need to be updated," Witz noted.

The first proposed New Rule of War is that "in certain circumstances with substantial international agreement over aggressive behavior and violations of international protocols, precise interdiction of the command and control structure of a country is permitted."

Translated, this would mean that if enough countries agreed that the leader, of say Afghanistan was a mad man, the guy could be taken out.

"Substantial international agreement" could be defined as a unanimous vote of the UN Security Council, in the hope that the UN would be smart enough not to give Iraq or Afghanistan a seat.

The thorny issue, according to participants in the conference, was over what degree of "aggressive behavior and violations of international protocols" would justify shooting a Saddam Hussein or a bin Laden. Blowing up ships doesn't seem to qualify...but killing 2800 Americans does.

"Merely invading another country may be justification for massive destruction of the invading country, but does not necessarily justify targeting the president of the invading country," said Witz. "However," he added, "invading two or more countries might be sufficient."

As there are numerous conventions and agreements regarding treatment of civilian populations, prisoners of war, the use of biological or chemical agents, and destroying endangered species, a consensus emerged that a country or organization which chose not to honor such conventions could not depend on others also playing by the rules.

"It should be an open and shut case that when the leader of a country or organization permits the execution of civilians, or deploys nerve gas or other weapons of mass destruction such as Boeing 757s, he should be immediately targeted for elimination," said Witz. "The mistake that the United States made during the 1st Gulf War was that they did not hunt Saddam down like the dog he was, and shoot him," Witz added. "And we've known bin Laden was a dangerous bastard for years and let him fulminate in Afghanistan."

The Second New Rule of War focused on civil wars. "The problem NATO had in dealing with Milosevich was that Bosnia, Kosovo and other places in what used to be Yugoslavia are purportedly part of Serbia." Thus, armed intervention into Kosovo was troubling to many nations, which have had (or may have) civil wars of their own. "I think the United States would have had a serious problem had Britain or France intervened in the US Civil War." This thought kept US forces out of the Soviet Union, and out of Russian internal conflicts.

"Oddly, there seems to be a difference in a war between provinces of a country, and between countries, even though the dead on the battlefield are still dead," said Witz. "The only distinctions that could be made are that rebels in a civil war are usually more poorly armed and dressed than in genuine wars between nations," he added.

Thus, the Second New Rule of War attempts to distinguish between ordinary civil wars and civil wars which permit international intervention. "In any conflict where at least one side utilizes tanks, airplanes, missiles, or any other weapon requiring fuel to operate, the conflict will be deemed a Real War as distinguished from a more primitive conflict involving equally matched forces utilizing primitive weapons. In the event of a Real War, any nation can intervene on the side of the more inadequately armed side." In plain English this means the US could've taken the side of the opposition to the Taliban.

The Third New Rule of War presumes that "once the poorly armed rebels can match their enemy in firepower, a cease fire would be immediately required, and an election held to decide whether the rebellion is legitimate or not." This is intended to eliminate frivolous civil wars where the rebels are not backed by the population they seek to liberate. "Once the election is held, and if the resident population supports the rebellion, the war can proceed."

The Fourth New Rule of War addresses revolutions. "Generally speaking, the international community is loath to become involved in internal revolutions, so as to avoid intervention in their own revolutions," said Witz. The Fourth Rule allows intervention "where a revolution is against a government that utilizes a secret police or other coercive and violent measures to retain power." The idea here is that a democratic country, such as the United States, ought to intervene in revolutions to overthrow dictators, as opposed to trying to keep them in power. Except of course where the dictator we support opposes a worse enemy, ie. bin Laden.

The Fifth New Rule of War attempts to stop genocide. "While genocide is generally agreed by the international community to be exceedingly evil, and in violation of most international conventions," Witz said, "it is also generally the case that no country, especially the United States, has ever tried to stop a genocide in progress." Genocide, it has been argued, falls within an exception to intervention based on interfering with domestic policies of a country. The Fifth New Rules states that "wherever genocidal acts commence within any political jurisdiction, all nations must intervene as swiftly as possible to reduce the loss of human life."

Witz concedes that it is unlikely any nation will subscribe to the five New Rules of War. "There is always some crazy sonofabtich who wants to impose his will on a neighboring country, or massacre a bunch of his own countrymen, and the rest of the civilized world likes to wait and see what happens before risking their own soldiers by getting involved."

"However, when the victims are thousands of our own people, then anything is possible when it comes to hunting down bin Laden and his cohorts and exterminating them."

Copyright 2001 by Hugh Holub