From a utilitarian moral viewpoint once you decide on war you must have accepted that a minority of people are going to have to die for the greater good of the majority. Therefore, I find it rather bizarre to legitimise the killing of men in one case yet not in another where in both situations their continued survival can contribute to the enemies war effort. The difference I suppose is that in one case they are unarmed and cannot fight back, but this makes war into a strange sort of game with arbitrary rules. What happens if one side is armed with bows and arrows or knives does that count? Perhaps having seemingly 'humane' rules in war makes war itself more tolerable and therefore is less humane overall.
Perhaps this sounds a rather brutal conclusion, but take the following hypothetical scenario. What happens if you are a small force and take a very large number of the enemy prisoner. Do you kill them or severely compromise your mission/safety by guarding them? Something similar happened at Crecy didn't it?
Let's take it a greater extreme. Perhaps by not killing them you subject your own country to genocide. This demonstrates how silly it is to have contrived moral rules in war, other than an overarching principle such as utilitarianism.
Incidentally since my Grandfather was taken prisoner by the Germans in WW1, I would not be here if the above rules were obeyed. Of course in practise taking the enemy prisoner can make logical sense if you think it encourages the enemy to surrender or they might do the same with your men and compromise his own war effort in the process. Perhaps it may make life more tolerable for both sides in the long run, however in the genocide scenario above this doesn't apply.
I'm all in favour of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters. Frank Lloyd Wright
Last edited by perseus; September 6th, 2008 at 06:37..