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War Crimes

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Image Credit After assassinating Soleimani, Trump went on Twitter to threaten a “disproportionate response” to any Iranian retaliation and to destroy Iranian cultural sites. Intentionally targeting cultural property violates the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. As such, Trump seems to have been threatening to commit a war crime. To be fair to Trump, he probably had no idea that doing so would be a war crime nor any idea that the United States signed the treaty. He is, by all accounts (other than his own), the most ignorant American president in history. Laying aside Trump’s ignorance of matters critical to his job, this threat does raise matters of philosophical interest. Trump’s threat could be defended by noting that the United States military does allow for attacking cultural property when doing so is a matter of military necessity. This is certainly reasonable—no military could be expected to allow enemies to occupy and launch attacks from cultural property with impunity. The moral burden of the destruction of such property would weigh heaviest on those who turned it into a target, though those deciding to destroy or damage it would not be entirely blame free—they should attempt all reasonable alternatives. In the case of Trump’s threat, there is clearly no military necessity in striking those targets. The cultural sites do not seem to have any military value nor do the Iranians seem to be posting military forces in or near them. And even if they had some value or targets were nearby, there would still be an abundance of military targets to hit. It could be argued that Trump’s threat is justified because of its deterrence value. This takes us into the ethics of threats and a common issue in this area is whether it is wrong to threaten to do what would be wrong to do. One stock argument in favor of allowing such threats is utilitarian: if threating something that is wrong to do creates. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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