Another silly season post: The Law of War and The Lord of the Rings

by Sarah Joseph
So this is a “storify”, basically a collated bunch of tweets from the night of 21/12 (not the end of the world as we know it) upon watching those war-loving men, elves, hobbits, orcs, wizards, goblins, trolls and dwarves in The Return of the King. Following is a discussion of the applicability of the Laws of War to Middle Earth … and a little bit more.
  1. Ok. That’s a controversial statement. After all he’s a little guy under a lot of pressure. But let’s get on with this law thing.
  2. profsarahj
    I’d like to point out that catapulting the severed heads of prisoners of war at their families is a grave breach of the laws of war #LOTR
  3. DAdeGroot
    @profsarahj But, it is rather effective on the demoralising front.
  4. profsarahj
    @DAdeGroot that won’t be much of a defence before the International Criminal Tribunal for Middle Earth
  5. Indeed! The whole point of the law of war is that anything does NOT go. “Whatever it takes” is not the standard norm. All is NOT fair in love and war.
  6. Easy to think Mr de Groot, but “victors’ justice” is NOT the way it’s supposed to be.
  7. electric589
    @AndrewRiddle36 @profsarahj There’s an alternate take on LOTR from the view of some orcs (actually just ugly people) written by a Russian.
  8. profsarahj
    @electric589 @AndrewRiddle36 ah. The famous Erkhit-Mukvol translation. Basically “just kill everyone brutally”
  9. Actually, there is a doctrine known as Kriegsraison that does adopt an “anything goes” approach to war. And the Jacksonian school of US foreign policy seems to adopt the same theory with a twist: Americans can do as they like. Both theories are legally wrong.
  10. profsarahj
    @AndrewRiddle36 the environmental harms clearly infringe Additional Protocol I
  11. I missed my cue here. The worst environmental harms were those of Saruman in The Two Towers. So bad the trees went to war with him (!)
  12. profsarahj
    I also have doubts about the legality of enlisting the actual dead to fight, Aragorn. Likely perfidy! #LOTR #LOAC
  13. There is a duty to treat the dead with respect. But how can one comply if the dead are actually engaged in combat? Huh Aragorn?
  14. profsarahj
    Tut tut Gimli & Legolas. A “competition” for numbers of dead sounds a bit dodgy too. #LOTR #LOAC
  15. The dwarf and the elf are allowed to target Orc combatants. But this sick competition is indicative of a “no quarter” mentality. Tut tut indeed.
  16. profsarahj
    Also. Mordor has breached the rules of jus ad bellum. #LOTR #LOAC
  17. Jus in bello is the law of armed conflict ie what one is allowed and not allowed to do in an armed conflict (eg said catapulting of severed heads is not allowed). Jus ad bellum regulates the actual use of force. I was presuming here that Mordor was in fact the initial aggressor. But things are often more complex, as noted by latenight journalist Andrew Riddle.
  18. AndrewRiddle36
    @profsarahj You can’t be sure of that. The origins of the conflict take place offscreen.
  19. AndrewRiddle36
    @profsarahj Gondor and Rohan created huge regional tensions with their excessive militarisation. They should have adopted a sunshine policy.
  20. Mr Riddle has a good point about “excessive militarization”. After all nothing gets Aragorn’s nostrils flaring like the prospect of futile death … except for futile death alongside his mates.
  21. AndrewRiddle36
    @profsarahj Note that Mordor represents a broad-based inter-species coalition. It’s quite possible that this is a legitimate police action.
  22. MWhalan
    @AndrewRiddle36 @profsarahj Been argued that Orcs while tribal were quite democratic choosing leaders, while Elves are racist hierarchists
  23. Microfissures
    @andrewriddle36 @profsarahj Frankly both Sauron&Saruman with their industrially based economies would have quickly dominated through trade.
  24. Hmm. Maybe “the world of men” concocted this war because (a) they really like fighting due to maturity issues and delusions of grandeur, and (b) this is effectively a trade war as hinted by the perceptive Mr Whalan. Clearly Middle Earth has no World Trade Organisation for the peaceful (if sometimes unsatisfactory) resolution of trade disputes.
  25. tim_chr
    @profsarahj What about the use of giant elephants as vehicles of war?
  26. This question brings up the interesting issue of permissible weapons.
  27. profsarahj
    @tim_chr I think that’s ok. Nazgul on the other hand …
  28. Not to mention Gandalf’s staff!
  29. profsarahj
    Frodo’s intentions are however in accordance with the principles of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty #LOTR
  30. The Ring of Power is clearly very dangerous and it is a very good idea to destroy it. Though, Mr Riddle raised an interesting issue in this respect.
  31. AndrewRiddle36
    @profsarahj The ring is a part of Sauron & vital to his survival. By destroying it, Frodo is illegally assassinating Mordor’s sovereign.
  32. profsarahj
    @AndrewRiddle36 disagree. Sauron is a legitimate target. Just like Voldemort
  33. AndrewRiddle36
    @profsarahj Hmmm, I was going to argue that he was a non-combatant political leader – but I suppose the All-Seeing Eye does gather mil intel
  34. It is an interesting issue – the targeting of non combatant political leaders. But, not really relevant here – Sauron certainly performed a military function.
  35. profsarahj
    Yes party hard you Middle Earth folk. Just wait til the charges! #LOTR
  36. profsarahj
    So. Are they going to Upper Earth? Where everyone speaks sloooowly. #LOTR
  37. AndrewRiddle36
    Note Frodo and Gandalf flee Middle Earth along with the cabal of elves who instigated the conflict. They know what they did. @profsarahj
  38. So there you have it. Gandalf, Frodo and the evil (and pompous) elves fled genocide charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Middle Earth. Note that it’s no defence to argue that the orcs themselves were war criminals (eg catapulting severed heads etc).
  39. profsarahj
    This hereditary king thing is a breach of Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights. #LOTR
  40. A quick segue here into international human rights law. There is probably an exception for modern day constitutional monarchies but not some dude turning up, claiming absolute power just coz he’s the son of Arathorn…. and finally a word on the bizarre tactics in this war.
  41. profsarahj
    Why didn’t Sauron just station an immoveable platoon at the Crack of Doom? #idiot #LOTR stupid eye!
  42. auspoltragic
    @profsarahj @MargaretSimons why didn’t the giant eagles fly them to Mt Doom from the beginning?

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