10-я ежегодная конференция по военной этике и городской войне – Берлин – 17-20 мая

Archaic stoneage type of warfare

Urban warfare represents one of the most challenging aspects of warfare. Viewed from the perspective of command & control, it is difficult to manage. Viewed from the perspective of the laws of war, it is troublesome. Viewed from the perspective of humanitarian relief, it becomes near-impossible to bring either safety to the people, or, alternatively, to bring the people to safety. Seen from the perspective of human rights, no basic rights appear to exist, other than the law of the jungle. Quarters, streets and even houses can change hands several times in as many weeks. Killing becomes, almost inevitably, indiscriminate.

Frequently, urban warfare is asymmetric. It is a war of David versus Goliath, where Davids of this world are able to reduce the military might of superpowers to a stone age type of warfare, almost literally. Urban warfare is also a propaganda war. It emphasises the collateral damage caused by one side, while non-sovereign pyjama-wearing fighters are firing RPG’s at civilian population centres from behind their own civilian population. They fight with virtual impunity; regular soldiers usually do not. These characteristics encompass the quintessential challenge of the military commander in practically every battlefield today. This challenge is characterised as humongous. Even where urban wars are not asymmetric, the stone age hallmarks are usually still in place.

Security and public order : challenges for civil-military cooperation

Once the fighting dies down and the appearance of victory of one side over the others looms, the problems are not over. The first hours, days and weeks after a victory can be claimed, can be the most frightening for the civilian population. The old order has been defeated; the new order, still unknown, has to assert itself. Transgressions can be conducted with impunity. Basic services need to be re-established, a functioning municipal authority needs to be in place; a minimum of security & order needs to be guaranteed.

Inevitably, a civil-military and humanitarian coordination effort faces its own challenges. Senior military personnel from within the allied coalition in Afghanistan, Iraq and other theatres are making the argument that warfare today is a 360° effort; the military mission can only succeed if it takes into account the humanitarian needs of the civilian population and coordinates with many other actors to allow the supply of humanitarian aid to be distributed not only in times of fighting but also during the immediate aftermath. To what extent does this fly in the face of humanitarian considerations of neutrality and independence?

Venue Berlin : Historical reference and new vistas for the future

At EuroISME’s 10th annual conference on “Urban warfare” the question will be what role military ethics, and the morally sensitive military can play in order to alleviate the problems mentioned. It will take place at the Julius-Leber barracks in Berlin on 18-20 May 2020, with an informal reception on the evening of 17 May.

EuroISME’s choice to convene in Berlin is not a coincidence. Just over a week earlier, the 75th commemoration of the end of the Second World War will have taken place. The Battle for Berlin and its aftermath exemplify in many ways the issues which are still valid today (divided cities, hunger, mass rape, a chaotic change in municipal authorities, a thriving black market, a difficult relationship between the municipal authorities and the military who have conquered the city, etc).

While a more definitive Call for Paper will be posted on EuroISME’s website in early November, we encourage with this advance announcement interested military officers, civilian academics, policy makers, cadets, midshipmen and civilian students to present a paper. Both accounts of professional experience and scientific analyses are welcome.

We specifically encourage submissions on the following topics:

  • What lessons can be learnt from historical examples to avoid unnecessary bloodshed?
  • Are the basic tactics of urban warfare still the same as in 1945? Should military doctrine be re-written, particularly in view of topics such as: house-to-house combat, targeting procedures, the use of drones, etc?
  • To what extent should weapons and weapons systems be re-designed by the arms industry?
  • Can a siege of a city – basically a medieval tactic – still be considered a permissible tactic?
  • Once the military has acquired control over the city, how should they deal with the immediate aftermath: the governance of the city, humanitarian supplies, maintenance of law & order, allowing children back to school, etc?
  • How should one prepare one’s own personnel for the horrors they will witness?
  • Can one avoid a day of reckoning and promote reconciliation?
  • How should one deal with the remnants of the defeated army?

Details on the submission process, the registration procedure and the conference fees will be made available in November. The working language of the conference will be English, although for a limited number of plenary presentations a simultaneous translation from German or French will be available.