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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Warfare by Other Means

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Warfare by Other Means Economics, demographics, cultural, technological, and other factors that have affected the course of history.

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Old 21 Jul 15, 10:54
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The End of HE Ordnance in MOUT - through Lawfare?

Some of the readers here might be aware of a lengthy thread concerning a recent report by a fact-finding commission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council concerning the 2014 Gaza war. The thread is here:
http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...d.php?t=160716

While the full report is here:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC...rtCoIGaza.aspx

Since the conversation in that thread had always tended to veer to the political and away from the actual topic of the thread, but OTOH there are factual aspects that may be interesting in themselves and beyond this specific conflict, I have opened this new thread here to deal with just one of these aspects.

What I think I can discern in the report, among other things, is a desire, by the writers of the report, to try and put an end to the use of HE ordnance in urban terrain - through their efforts in lawfare.

Naturally, international law is the province of sovereign states. It should be up to them to initiate, develop and agree upon anything concerning the laws of war. But NGOs and UN agencies can of course apply significant lobbying pressure, and countries may be swayed depending on a variety of political or other factors.

This is a short excerpt from that weighty report:
408. As illustrated above, the IDFs ground operation was marked by significant use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated areas, including the use of artillery and tank shells, mortars and air dropped high explosive munitions.

The commission is therefore of the view that the use of such artillery is not appropriate in densely populated areas regardless of the legality of resorting to such weapons.


The use of artillery rounds, aerial bombs, and other HE ordnance is, as the commission has to acknowledge, entirely allowed by the laws of war, even in densely populated areas, provided that general principles for the protection of civilians are complied with.

Yet the commission is "of the view that the use of such artillery is not appropriate". They are suggesting that artillery, aerial bombs, mortars and even tank guns should be not used in built-up areas. That while they are legal now, even in built-up areas, depending on the circumstances of their employment, they should be made illegal, absolutely and in all circumstances, if in built-up areas.

Apart from the detail that tank guns can be considerably more accurate even in terms of first-shot hitting, when compared with artillery mortars, and aerial bombs; apart from the other detail that aerial bombs can be GP "iron" bombs or smart (guided) bombs; the fact is that such a prohibition would be an extremely remarkable change in the tactics that can be employed in MOUT. Even just the pressure on the militaries in the world that are or can be involved in urban operations could be remarkable, especially for the militaries of countries that have adhered to the ICC, but not just for them.

I can tell you that the pressure is already on.
I have further considerations to make about this, but I'd like to read other opinions, first. In particular I'd like to read about it, if anybody has any ideas about what consequences this all could have in asymmetrical operations in urban terrain, as in, a law-abiding regular army fighting guerrillas who exploit densely populated built-up areas.
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  #2  
Old 21 Jul 15, 11:54
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This report is in same category as Ottawa Treaty in my eyes. Trying to protect the civilian population and same time restricting effective ways of waging war. Of bloody course, not a single country that still has brains is going to agree on it.
HE will be very important part of MOUT, and nothing is going to chance that. With modern smart munitions and fire control, you can achieve ridiculously accurate fire, even with older artillery. The effectiveness and overall doctrine of artillery system which is used heavily shows in the results. For example, Russian way of using artillery usually means that block of flats in now a car park and city looks like Aleppo nowadays. Compared to Western/Finnish system, we can bring artillery withing 5m in first salvo, if FO and artillery crew has done their job.

Israel in this case, if this somehow goes through is just going to use smart munitions. They aren't going to let UN dictate how to deal with terrorists. A law-abiding regular army goes with what they have trained, if ROE restricts their doings, they must abide. Of course, if usage of artillery is restricted, more ways of clearing buildings are introduced, for example anti structure rounds for launchers.
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Old 21 Jul 15, 15:07
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Can't see how this will fly until someone finds a way to enforce a ban on the use of HE outgoing from populated areas (otherwise it was all covered in the late 19th century) and I suspect we'll be seeing ice hockey tournaments in Hades before then.
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Old 21 Jul 15, 18:56
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The UN commission are idiots. Trying to ban war, or even turn it into some sort of police matter, will never work unless the parties, every party on the planet, agrees to it willingly.
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Old 21 Jul 15, 21:21
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The simplest solution is to go back to telling the civilian population to get the hell out of the way when a war is going on.
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Old 21 Jul 15, 21:23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
The UN commission are idiots. Trying to ban war, or even turn it into some sort of police matter, will never work unless the parties, every party on the planet, agrees to it willingly.
Like all politicians and other lower forms of invertebrates, the members of the UN feel the pressure to justify themselves in order to keep their cushy jobs and live in New York City instead of whatever Third World cesspool they came form. Hence, the pontification leading to these meaningless "decisions", "recommendations" and "studies".
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Old 22 Jul 15, 02:10
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I don't think this will go any better than the ban on land mines. Look at all the mines being used in the Middle East!

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Old 22 Jul 15, 04:04
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Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
The simplest solution is to go back to telling the civilian population to get the hell out of the way when a war is going on.
This is what the Israelis have been trying to do, so it's not a matter of "going back" in this case. They used the traditional means, and even new and unprecedented ones, including personal messages by phone in Arab to civilian residents, and knock-on-the-roof warning shots.

Note the report acknowledges all of that - and goes on to conclude that it was not enough.

But of course the other side of the coin is that Hamas is doing all it can to prevent this from working. Hamas leaders are on record telling their population on live TV not to heed Israeli warnings. Hamas documents evidence that they want to fight from civilian-inhabited areas. Hamas practice is to set up firing positions close to mosques and on hospitals' grounds, and to store ammunition in UN schools.

Bringing this to a more general discourse, I do not believe that, historically, civilian populations entirely deserted built-up areas in which battles were being fought, if given the choice. But the notion was that if they remained there, it was to support, one way or another, one of the combatants. Therefore, they took their chances and stood in harm's way, and did not protest (too much).
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Old 22 Jul 15, 04:09
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Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
The UN commission are idiots. Trying to ban war, or even turn it into some sort of police matter, will never work unless the parties, every party on the planet, agrees to it willingly.
Well, that would exactly be the point of practicing lawfare: convincing all countries to sign a treaty, some day, further restricting the kind of ordnance or other forms of attack in certain terrains, for instance.

Naturally, there is the catch that even supposing that parties like Hamas or the Islamic State can, by some twist of divine intervention, be convinced to sign any treaty, there is the clear precedent of signatories of existing treaties who simply ignored the rules they had agreed to comply with (for instance, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan).
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Old 24 Jul 15, 09:02
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Wanten bombing of civlian areas is all ready covered. According to my little card.

"I will employ methods of attack to achieve the military objective with the least amount of harm to civilians life and property"
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Old 24 Jul 15, 10:34
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Originally Posted by andrewza View Post
Wanten bombing of civlian areas is all ready covered. According to my little card.

"I will employ methods of attack to achieve the military objective with the least amount of harm to civilians life and property"
Of course it is. That's why the tack chosen by this UN commission is so surprising.

It's a bit as if they'd want an additional Protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons 1980, regarding "wide-area" (so they call it) HE ammunition use in certain circumstances. To make a comparison, using flamethrowers to, say, destroy entire residential areas regardless of the presence or not of enemy combatants, la Warsaw 1944, was already illegal in 1979, not because of the type of weapon used, but because of the type of behavior. But then further restrictions were placed specifically on incendiary weapons, with the CCW Convention. It's like they want something like this for HE ammo.
With the obvious difference that the weapon types that got some restrictions on them with the CCW Convention Protocols were specialized, niche weapon systems. OTOH, HE is the weapon, well above small arms fire. All the more so if you lump together mortars, howitzers, tank guns and all sorts of aerial bombs!
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Old 25 Jul 15, 04:16
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Funnly enough UN forces in the DRC uses HE rounds against rebel held villages. Many had non combatants in them.
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Old 27 Jul 15, 04:05
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Originally Posted by andrewza View Post
Funnly enough UN forces in the DRC uses HE rounds against rebel held villages. Many had non combatants in them.
We should never think about "the UN" as if they were a monolithic entity with consistent policies. Here we're talking about two lawyers chosen to do this job by the UN Human Rights Council, which currently includes staunch defenders of human rights, such as Sauidi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan... The MONUSCO troops, OTOH, have practical objectives to pursue and respond first to their country of origin, and then to the UN.
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Old 29 Jul 15, 20:16
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Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
The UN commission are idiots. Trying to ban war, or even turn it into some sort of police matter, will never work unless the parties, every party on the planet, agrees to it willingly.
The human animal would have to cease to exist. Humanity would have to evolve to a point where emotion ceases to exist. We can't only be happy. For every smile, there's a frown.

So it will never happen. The Star Trek utopian Earth will never exist.

The concept of making war cleaner, somehow sterile does have its positives. A drone saves a pilots life. Precision munitions cause much less collateral damage. Spin the clock back 70 or so years, Blitzkrieg properly applied takes the most ground and produces the least casualties.

But I think it's getting to the point where certain types in official positions might actually believe that we have somehow evolved since WW2. We haven't. The same horror is just beneath the surface. And the pressure's building.
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