„Examination of the historical development of these laws reveals that despite noble rhetoric to the contrary, the laws of war have been formulated deliberately to privilege military necessity at the cost of humanitarian values. As a result, the laws of war have facilitated rather than restrained wartime violence. Through law, violence has been legitimated.“
The common rationale for the laws of war is the desire to humanize war by balancing military necessity with concerns for humanity. The fundamental principles behind these laws, distinction and proportionality, revolve around the need to maintain this balance. The principle of distinction requires belligerents to distinguish between military and civilian targets, and to attack only the former. The principle of proportionality requires belligerents to refrain from causing damage disproportionate to the military advantage to be gained. It is important to understand that the development of these legal principles did not introduce restraint or humanity into war. War has long been limited largely by factors independent of the law. For complex military, political, and economic reasons, belligerents tend to use the minimal force necessary to achieve their political objectives. Force beyond that point—gratuitous violence—wastes resources, provokes retaliation, invites moral condemnation, and impedes post-war relations.
with the enemy nation.
Chris af Jochnick; Roger Normand, The Legitimation of Violence: A Critical History of the Laws of War, 35 Harv. Int’l. L. J. 49 (1994), 54f