IRRC No. 859

Editorial: Means of warfare

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The history of war has been marked by the efforts of strategists to devise new weapons and new methods to secure rapid victory. However, technical ingenuity and arms superiority are not necessarily decisive on the battlefield. Methods of warfare have played, and often still play, a more critical role than means of warfare. This is particularly true in the present theatres of conflict, which are often characterized by asymmetry between the opponents in terms of means, power, organization and time. The greatest atrocities in recent years have been committed using technically primitive means. Machetes, machine guns and starvation have killed or maimed many more than sophisticated weaponry. The Cambodian mallet and the Rwandan machete have become well-recognized symbols of how internal wars can be fought. The most spectacular acts of terror have been perpetrated using mere box cutters. Technology influences warfare, but it does not determine moral or morality in warfare.

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