The Distinction Between ‘Civilian’ and ‘Combatant’ No Longer Exists

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In every war or conflict, there are ‘civilians’ and there are ‘combatants’. Combatants for the most part are soldiers, members of a militia, police – essentially people whose job/duty involves fighting an ‘enemy’. Civilians are supposed to be the opposite of combatants – they are the average people who mind their own business and, for the most part, should have nothing to do with the war.

Ideally, a war would be fought only between combatants. Only combatants would fight, kill, and harm each other. The civilians would be safe from any danger and would not have to suffer. Of course, this is not the case in any conflict.

Although I am not a fascist, there is one tenet of fascist theory that I do 100% agree with – and that is that the distinction between civilian and combatant no longer exists in the modern era. The Italian Fascists of the 1920’s believed that modern technology and the advent of ‘total war’ created a world where civilians and combatants are no longer distinct.

And they are right. After all, a bomb doesn’t care if its killing civilians or soldiers. A land mind is unable to discriminant between the enemy and an innocent passerby. Toxic chemicals and biological weapons effect everyone in their radius – regardless of the persons role in the combat. Even guns and their bullets are chaotic – stray bullets can fly just about anywhere and hit anyone.

As time goes on, more and more civilians die as a result of warfare. In the Ancient and Medieval times, civilians causalities tended to be much lower (at least compared to today’s standards). The reason why is mostly due to technology. A sword and a few arrows can only kill so many people. Even combatant deaths in medieval era were relatively low. According to the book Medieval Warfare: A History, on average only about 5% of soldiers died per battle in Europe.

Before all this technological warfare (say in Ancient or Medieval times), soldiers would meet at a designated place and fight. Civilians were out of the way (sure, civilians were sometimes involved, such as with sieges or raids), but it was never to the extent that civilians are involved with nowadays.

However, modern technology has made it extremely easy to kill people. The problem is that most of these people are civilians. In World War I, there were 11 million combatant causalities and 7 million civilian causalities. 7 million! In a way, the only reason more combatants died here is because of Trench Warfare, which for the most part ensured that only soldiers fought other soldiers.

Out of the 80 million or so people that died in World War II, about 55 million of those people were civilians! 55 million civilians dead because of a war!

During the Vietnam War, about 2 million Vietnamese civilians were killed, whereas only 1 million NVA and Viet Cong soldiers were killed.

In the Iraq War (2003), there were 174,000 causalities – with only 39,000 being combatants. That means around 77% of the causalities during the Iraq War were civilians.

Now, the point of this post was simply to point out the Fascists were right. In our modern era, the distinction between civilian and combatant is no longer existent. Civilians, for the past 100 years, have been paying the price for wars that are supposedly fought between soldiers.

It is foolish of us to think that things will be different in the future. If anything, more and more civilians are going to die as a result or wars. Technology does not make a distinction between civilian and combatant.

One of the things that Fascists taught young children was how to defend themselves. The Hitler Youth for example taught young boys how to fight, shoot, work with weapons, and practice military drills. The underlying foundation behind Hitler Youth was the idea that at any moment a war could erupt, and that these civilians (young boys) must be prepared to fight said war.

The Gioventù Italiana del Littorio (Italian Youth of the Lictor) was an Italian Hitler Youth-esque group comprised of young boys receiving military and weapons training. Similar to the Germans, the Italian Fascists taught that war could break out at any time, and that civilians must be prepared to fight said war.

Now, it might seem crazy to give young boys weapons and to teach them to fight, kill and so on. But look at what happened to both Italy and Germany during World War II. Italy lost 153,000 civilians as a result of the Allied invasion. Germany suffered even more, with 1.5 – 3 million civilians being killed by Allied bombings, raids and so on. Pictures of the bombed ruined cities Germany, Italy and Japan from World War 2 are further proof that, in the modern era, civilians are the ones who suffer during warfare.

The point of this post is that the distinction between civilian and combatant no longer exists. People must realize that just because they are not conscripted soldiers does not give them a free pass to war. With modern technology and rising tensions between numerous countries, it is very much likely that a war could unfold just about anywhere. Americans have become largely ignorant of this fact, seeing as how the last war fought on US soil was the Civil War (there was the Aleutian Islands campaign but that was so minuscule it isn’t worth including). What I am trying to say is that civilians must learn to defend themselves. Civilians must realize that a war is no longer fought solely between soldiers.

Whenever a war breaks out – civilians are the ones who are going to suffer the most. Therefore, it seems reasonable that civilians must learn to arm and defend themselves. Civilians must take on the role of combatants and be prepared for anything. Civilians must toughen up and realize that soldiers will no longer be the ones protecting them – if anything, its the soldiers (enemy soldiers) who will be their greatest threat, since it will be the enemy soldiers weapons aimed at them.

The difference between civilians and combatants is in name only.

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