The Second Version


Subtle Differences

I want to illustrate a couple of subtle differences that are important but appear elusive to a lot of people out there.

The first is the difference between civilian and non-combatant. The two terms are often used as synonyms, but they are not. A civilian is someone who is not part of a country's military (police forces are supposed to be civilians too, but it is not always the case). A non-combatant instead is someone who is not part of the military and is not involved in combat (against a specific enemy). The point here is that a civilian can also be a combatant, if he takes up fighting.

The second is the difference between national and international law. People living in a country must abide to the laws of that country whether they like it or not; partecipation is mandatory (in fact many countries these days allow a limited degree of choice - for example, conscentious objection to military service) and laws are enforced by indipendent and impartial police forces and judiciary. A country's partecipation to treaties and international organizations instead is voluntary; each country can decide what to do in this regard and the only way others have to influence its behaviour is to gather enough strength, alone or in a group, to apply pressure on it. Despite some fantasies such as the pathetic blue helmets, there is no effective, indipendent and impartial judiciary or police at the international level.

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