An interesting and very timely article on Rules of Warfare in Pre-Modern Societies. In the wake of Trump’s attack on the Syrians over their use of poison gas, with all the risks involved, apparently has ancient roots and is founded on keeping even the mayhem of war within bounds. From the article:
How have rules of war been maintained throughout history without a central enforcing agency? This question is fundamental to the understanding of the nation-state in IR theory, and is also an astonishing example of spontaneous order in an anarchic and chaotic scenario.
The quandary exists because even the laudable negative rights of life, liberty, and property ownership, as Eric Mack discusses in his essay on Just War Theory, require a positive enforcement by others. Similarly, “rules of war” – such as refraining from attacking non-regulars, not attacking neutral parties, abiding by the terms of treaties, treating prisoners of war with respect, etc. – are, theoretically, difficult to establish and dependent on positive enforcement. This is because if Party A respects these rules, they provide a perverse incentive to Party B to take advantage of Party A’s restraint, and if doing so gives Party B the upper hand, they can enjoy the benefits of betraying the rules of war with impunity. This is a classic Prisoner’s Dilemma, and if it generalized across many nations, the theory of rational choice would lead us to expect a coordination problem, in which those using the strategy of Party B would dominate the Party A’s.
Seems, however, not. If these things interest you, and I cannot see why they wouldn’t, you should go to the link.