Rules of War
by Michael Signal
(1) A war happens when military forces from different countries battle each other. Wars produce tremendous damage, countless injuries, and many deaths. When two different armies fight each other, each side wants to win, but there are actually guidelines that countries are supposed to follow during wartime. There are rules about how to start a war, how to fight a war, and how to end a war. It's weird to think about, but warfare actually has rules that countries are supposed to follow.
(2) Everyone has disagreements; the same thing is true with countries. But when two countries have a disagreement, things can sometimes turn very serious. When countries can't resolve their differences, they may actually go to war over them. One thing a country is supposed to do before it attacks another country, is to make a formal declaration of war. A declaration of war is a document that explains that one country is going to attack another country. Sometimes a declaration of war will offer conditions to avoid a war, or things one country can do to convince another country not to start a war. A declaration of war gives countries an opportunity to keep more people safe by preparing for war, or even to avoid a war before it starts.
(3) Sometimes countries don't manage to avoid wars. If a war does start, the countries involved are supposed to follow certain rules of warfare. Many of these rules are designed to protect soldiers, but other rules help to keep civilians safe. These rules ban the most dangerous types of weapons. They also state that war prisoners must not be tortured or treated cruelly. Soldiers are also not allowed to attack civilians or use civilians for protection. Wars are very dangerous, but these rules can prevent some suffering.
(4) Just as the rules say that a war should start with an official document, a war should also end with an official document. Sometimes a war ends when one side surrenders to the other. Other times, both sides might agree that the war should end, even if neither country seems to have won the war. In either case, both sides must agree to a peace treaty. A peace treaty is a promise between countries that they will not fight against each other anymore. Most treaties have conditions that each side must follow. If either side breaks part of the treaty, a war could start again.
(5) Maybe one day, there won't be any more wars, but that time probably won't come soon. As long as soldiers continue to fight each other, rules of warfare can help to keep as many people safe as possible. Unfortunately, some countries and soldiers don't follow the rules. These rules won't stop people from dying or being hurt during wartime, but they can save lives and reduce suffering among soldiers and civilians.