The Moral and Legal Obligations of Battlefield Neutrality

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The Moral and Legal Obligations of Battlefield Neutrality “If a body of enemy troops is repulsed, give to the wounded the same care as you would give your own men; treat them all the forbearance due to the one who is stricken…After the battle, restrain the fury of your troops; spare the vanquished…People should say of you: they fought courageously when they had to, but remained generous and humane throughout.” –General Guillaume Henri Dufour (Moorehead, 1998) No truer words have ever been spoken by a General to his men before battle. General Dufour not only understood the nature of war but also that of being humane. The General agreed with Henri Dunant, the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that certain basic rules should be in place to protect all sides in conflict. This argument is based on the idea that certain human rights should always be protected; that even in the worst of conflicts a sliver of hope should prevail. To distribute this hope evenly on the battlefield, there must be an organization to provide this aid impartially. For an organization to be truly neutral, it is never an easy path. Said organization will continually be pulled in all directions in a conflict by the interests of all sides. An impartial organization must answer the question of how to render aid, protect basic human rights, and yet not to become part of the conflict. Perhaps the answer to that very question is this: For the Red Cross to truly maintain battlefield neutrality they must offer training, medical aid, and support to friendly combatants, enemy combatants, and people on the battlefield who are not connected to either side. Some would argue that providing aid to each side would cause the conflict to b... ... middle of paper ... ...ccordance with international law, it is demonstrative of treating others as you wish to be treated. References Anderson, M. B. (1999). Do no harm: How aid can support peace—or war. London, England: Lynne Rienner Publishers Barnett, M., Weiss, T.G. (Ed.). (2008). Humanitarianism in question: Politics, power, ethics. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. Foot, R. (2010, May 26). Red Cross aid to Taliban reflects moral dilemma of Afghan war. Canwest News Service. Retrieved from http://www2.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=3076804 Geneva Conventions III. (1949). Article 3 & 4. Jordans, F. (2010, May 26). Red Cross defends first aid kits for Taliban. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.time.com. Moorehead, C. (1998). Dunant’s Dream: War, Switzerland, and the history of the Red Cross. London, England: Harper Collins.

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