How exactly are certain weapons banned from being used in war?


What makes things like poisonous gas or some firearms banned? Most importantly, why would nations play by the rules?

Bonus question: what exactly is a war crime and how is it punishable?

In: Other

Why would anyone play by any rules or laws? Enforcement.

If one person uses the things, then everyone who agreed gangs up on them.

Mutually agreed by most 1st world countries. Failure to comply results in the U. N. ganging up on the user, but if you look at Syria’s use of banned chemical warfare on its citizens you’ll notice that the U. N. turned a blind eye to it.

> What makes things like poisonous gas or some firearms banned?

Because they cause undue suffering even beyond what you’d normally expect in war.

> why would nations play by the rules?

Because those that don’t want horrible weapons used on them will abide by the agreement to not use them on others.

> what exactly is a war crime

It’s any crime that is directly attached to individual or group actions related to actions taken in war. Often they are things that are unusually horrible, target innocents intentionally with no clear benefit, or violating whatever laws, treaties or international agreements on conduct during war.

> how is it punishable?

Depends on the crime and the country doing the enforcing, but usually they are enforced by the winning side(s) of that war.

Most “banned” weapons have a reason. But they’re only banned if others choose to enforce that ban. Basically the idea is that if you used banned weapons, the rest of the world will turn on you and that won’t be good.

The idea is to keep everyone in check. If you use a banned weapon, you’re taking a risk that others aren’t gonna be happy. Whether or not anyone cares enough to do anything though, is up in the air.

Poison gas / chemical weapons got real nasty in WWI and the big issue is that against an equipped army, they aren’t particularly effective, except as a first use when they’re not expecting it, otherwise you can prepare for it. All it does is make the army prep for chemical warfare and cause additional, unnecessary burden and suffering against soldiers, civilians, and the environment. Chemical weapons are also pretty nasty in their effects, but mostly, its really nasty and its not really “better” than other weapons, so no need for them to be used.

To my knowledge, no specific firearms are banned, I’m not sure were you got that from.

The most prominent things that are banned are chemical weapons (and bio weapons), certain types of bullets which are hard to extract fragments or bullets that expand when hit, and laser weapons specifically made and used to permanently blind enemies.

Some countries have voluntarily put self-bans on various other weapons, but this is far from as universal as the ones above, for example, many nations, but notably not the US, China, or Russia, have agreed not to use anti-personnel land mines.

“war crimes” are mostly an unrelated topic to this question, so you’re better off posting that on your own.

Basically over time certain rules about how we make war have been agreed on various peace conferences and treaties that codify limitations to how states should behave for either humanitarian or self interested reasons. Part of this has been an attempt to limit in some way civilian casualties and weapons that somehow seem more cruel or more dangerous for civilians perhaps in response to their previous use.

This body of international law has been given practical power and authority by their actual use in international courts and national courts though obviously they are only practically applicable by those that have enough power to enforce them. More recently perhaps it seems that some of these rules have been used to justify not just criminal prosecutions after the fact but military action to prevent or punish war crimes for example under the authority ofbthe UN.

well for the most part counties have ratified the un declaration on human right but that doesn’t stop anyone

Putting aside morals, there are two situations where nations would not want to commit war crimes.

The first situation deals with a powerful third party that wants to ban something. The third party will agree through treaties to stay out of the war unless one of the warring countries doesn’t play by the rules. You can think of this situation as “big brother” is making sure you play fair.

However, nations can still play by the rules even without a “big brother” nation. The second situation is when the warring nations themselves agree to ban something. This occurs when weapons are so horrible that both sides would rather no one use it instead of both sides use it. If a nation doesn’t play by the rules, then the other nation can stop playing by the rules as well.

For a more complex explanation, this is related to a mathematical phenomenon known as a Nash equilibrium where there are four options (each nation agrees to either play by the rules or not). Your nation not playing by the rules and the other nation playing by the rules is optimal for you, but it simply won’t happen because once you stop playing by the rules, then your opponent will too. So even though there appears to be four options, there are only two “stable” options, both sides playing by the rules or neither side playing by the rules. If both sides prefer the former option, then logically both sides will play by the rules even if at first glance this doesn’t make sense.

So to answer your bonus question without regarding morality, a war crime is simply a crime that if your country doesn’t punish, it will either get a third party involved against your country in your war, or will cause the enemy countries to start using weapons or tactics that they wouldn’t otherwise use

Fun bonus fact: I was thinking of this very topic earlier due to a thread about war crimes used in fantasy TV such as Star Wars or Avatar the Last Airbender. Again, not regarding morality, but you generally wouldn’t have the concept of war crimes in these fantasy worlds because they usually involve an evil, powerful force against a good but weak force.

In this type of fantasy world there is no stronger big brother nation to make sure the rules are played by. For example, no one is more powerful than the Fire Nation in Avatar, at least not until the end of the show when >!the Avatar is able to step into that role and enforce it himself!<. Also, the evil, powerful force generally would prefer all tactics be available to make their enemies tremble in fear, even if some of their own troops fall victim to some of those tactics. For example, the Fire Nation would rather have the option to enslave Earth Benders even if some rebels end up enslaving some Fire Benders from time to time as a result.

Any weapon that intentionally causes more suffering than outright to kill is often banned. Blinding someone with a laser; noxious gasses that can leave you with debilitating organ failure over a duration of time, etc.

By banning certain weapons the major military powers ensure that they dominate their local sphere of influence. If small poor nations were allowed to hold a can of nerve gas or something then powers like USA, China, or Israel wouldn’t be able to push them around. Military might is closely connected to economic fortunes, and economic fortunes are required for military might, so it is a system designed keep the already rich and powerful nations rich and powerful.

So why can’t we (the world) make bombing and shooting a war crime?

In the playground, you’re told not to throw stones. Who enforces it? The teacher (UN) and the big kids (powerful nations).

If you throw the stones at a little kid, the UN gets involved and takes away your stones. If you throw it at the big kids, they may take away your hands.

It comes in 2 forms:

1. An agreement by both sides. Both belligerents agree, Gas is bad. So neither side uses gas. If one side disagrees, well that’s that, but if you disagree, that means the enemy can use it too, and that’s why the bans are followed. Neither side wants to be gassed, e.g.

Breaking treaties is also grounds for war anyway.

2. Victor’s Justice. Beating the other guys in war allows you to enforce bans even if the other side disagrees.

Countries that agree to never use those types of weapons sign on it to never use them, so that way, if a country who didn’t sign uses them, it would be considered cruel and would not turn out great for that country.

Because most of the banned weaponry and gases cause damage to civilian populations and are absolutely horrible to experience or witness. It’s one thing to see someone get their head blown off, it’s another entirely to watch someone burn to death with napalm. Or watch someone melt from certain gases. It’s a list of rules that most countries abide by. Don’t use them on us, and we won’t use them on you. And most of the countries that agree to not use them, have stockpiles of them either way. Because like you said, if you’re losing, it may turn the tide of battle. When you’re backed into a corner and have a choice, let your country be destroyed andor occupied, or use banned weapons. The problem then is, if you use them, they will be used against you as well. A war crime is any crime committed during an active war, that goes directly against treaty agreements, and rules of engagement. For instance, if I’m in the U.S. Army, and kill a couple insurgents that attacked my base, that’s no problem at all. But if I stroll into their homes and start raping their wives and killing their children, those are war crimes. If I kill people simply for being a certain race, nationality, gender, or anything that I haven’t been directed to kill by my superiors, that’s a war crime. It’s an agreement between many, many nations to ban certain types of weapons and actions in war.

These things don`t make sense now because if a war starts between any countries its going to be the end of human civilization

Fun fact:

Laser weapons are banned by the Genova Convention… But not for the reason you would think… apparently after a certain distance laser weapons become less damaging, but can still cause permanent blindness. Under the Genova Convention all weapons that can cause permanent blindness are banned.

It is odd to me that bleeding out from a bullet wound or having your legs blown off by a bomb is ‘legitimate’ but poison gas is ‘bad’ – war is absurd really

Certain weapons are banned under the Geneva Conventions. I might not be 100% correct on this, but this is for nations that go to war with other nations. This stuff doesn’t really apply to civil wars and guerrilla warfare.

A lot of these weapons are banned because they have an adverse effect on the civilian population.

Anti personnel mines

Chemical agents

Nerve agents

Incendiary weapons

Nuclear weapons

Expanding ordinance (hollow points)

Cluster bombs


Nuclear weapons are a big one because of the whole mutually destruction thing. Example: you nuke a country and they nuke you…well now no one wins and everyone loses.

In terms of war crimes: war crimes are crimes that fall under international law. Most of these came about after World War II, because of what nazi Germany and Japan did to surrounding countries and their civilian population.

War crimes are punishable after the war has concluded. Investigations are then put in motion by the nations involved. After that the trials are held which follow similar guidelines as a trial you’d see in a regular courtroom. Evidence is provided and a sentence is handed down.

Side note: During WWII pacific theater, US combat medics would often take off their Medic identifiers (the Red Cross) because Japanese soldiers would actually target medics which is against the Geneva Conventions and is considered a war crime.

the real question is why are certain “war” weapons banned but wars are still legal? causing tragedies and devastation to hundreds and thousands of people whom have nothing to do with the feuds of government institutions should be….illegal??? governments agree that “certain” weapons cause terrifying damage but do not see the sane damage in “regular” wars? it’s confusing

The point of war is to defeat your enemy, not torture them. Generally agreeing not to use unnecessarily cruel weapons goes both ways. You would rather take a bullet than a gas that melts your inside over 3 weeks. Your enemies tend to feel the same.

Also, targeting civilians is frowned upon, and some of the more exotic weapons are harder to contain to your targets.