Stripped to the bone, war has one mandate and one mandate alone, win or die. The Laws of War are elementary.
The First Law of War is never begin a war when you are not prepared to do what it takes to win. When you are not committed to fighting and winning the war, you are only squandering the lives of your men and the lives of the enemy to accomplish absolutely nothing.
The Corollary to the First Law is never begin a war just to intimidate or bully the other side. That is a violation of rule one. When you start a war you are not prepared to finish just because you think it will intimidate the other side, you are violating the First Law of War by beginning a war you don't have the commitment to finish. What you are actually doing is bluffing and you had better hope the enemy doesn't call your bluff.
The Second Law of War is that ruthlessness is mercy. Indecisive commanders and leaders who want to minimize the deaths on one side or both sides drag out a war which only results in more deaths. One week of mass bombardment is better than three years of targeted attacks.
The American Civil War went on twice as long as it had to and cost three times as many lives because indecisive Union commanders were unable to commit to an all out war. Until they did the war remained stalemated with the Union on the verge of defeat.
In war, victory is mercy. It minimizes the deaths on both sides and begins the fighting to an end as quickly as possible. There is no 'nice' or 'gentle' way to fight a war. The only thing merciful about war is when it ends. The aim of a nation's leaders and generals should be to achieve a conclusive victory as quickly as is feasible with the use of unrestrained force. The longer the war goes on, the more the death tolls rises and the misery and suffering involved destroy entire societies. There is no morality in war. Only in concluding it
The Third Law of War is that the enemy is only entitled to as much discretion and mercy as he shows you. If the enemy executes or tortures your soldiers, bombs your hospitals or uses non-conventional weapons against you, you have not only the right but the obligation to do the same to him. Discretion does not produce reciprocity and modern warfare has nothing to do with gentlemanly lords in sitting rooms discussing strategic maneuvers. The only way to insure that the enemy follows any rules of war is for him to suffer the consequences if he does not.
Safeguarding enemy prisoners while the enemy tortures American POW's does not protect American soldiers. It endangers them. Only when the enemy understands that if American POW's have no rights, than neither do their men including their leaders, will any protection be
extended to American Prisoners of War. And only when the enemy leaders are made to understand that they will personally suffer the consequences of any violation of the laws of war backed by an absolute commitment to victory, will American soldiers be protected.
In every war American soldiers have been executed and tortured by the enemy because the enemy leaders understood that if the Americans won, they would not be treated as they had treated the Americans. The only way for that to change is for a new understanding to emerge. An understanding that whatever is done to the United States and to United States soldiers will be done to the enemy forces and their political leaders and military commanders in turn.
The Fourth Law of War is if your war is just then make no apologies for the aftermath. If you were right to go to war, then you are not responsible for cleaning up the aftermath. The hearts and minds of the enemy will not be won by aid packages or powdered milk. If it had every Russian, German and Iraqi and Palestinian Arab would love us to death. If the aftermath of victory leaves an unstable mess, then the goal of any post-war effort is to secure the area by suppressing all threatening elements. It is not your job to turn a country whose people were until recently trying to kill you into paradise. It only confuses them and such irrational behavior will never be understood or accepted by them.
Charity to an enemy will always be understood by the enemy as a conspiracy to weaken, corrupt and make him dependent on you. Which in truth it is. Providing welfare to your enemies does not make you loved, it makes you hated. The more you give the more their demands and their hatred grows you. Your attempt to win them over only creates an unhealthy relationship in which their self-respect conflicts with their needs leading them to demand that you go while demanding that you keep providing for them. Honorable conduct does not mean being a sucker and winning a war does not make you eternally responsible for the people you defeated. If you can't fight a war and move on, you will be eternally bogged down cleaning up after other people's messes.
It is not your job to save other people from themselves. Those who truly wish to overthrow tyrannies will seek you out and will put their lives on the line to fight against their tyrants. Those who do not are not worthy of your time. It is not your job to change nations or elevate peoples. Only a people can elevate themselves. Democracy and humanity cannot be forced on a nation nor can savages be coaxed into the virtues of a Republic. Societies choose their own governments and the benevolence of trying to foist a virtuous system on a barbaric society is nothing short of folly.
The Fifth Law of War is victory means never having to say you're sorry. War is a terrible thing but if you feel sorry for winning one, then you had no business fighting one in the first place. Just wars are wars which have two sides. Unjust wars have only side, the aggressors. If your war had two sides, then celebrate your victory, remember the dead and use their examples to teach the virtues of courage to the next generation.
Never apologize for winning. Apologizing for winning is asking for defeat. The moral fibre it takes to win wars will not long survive leaders who second guess their tactics and cry over every civilian casualty. If your war was just, then whatever tactics you used to win it are just too. Either the ends justify the means and if they don't, it was an unjust war to begin with.
Never feel sorry for being strong. Strength is a virtue created either by empowering their people or by enslaving them. If your nation draws strength from the power of its people, from their industry, their science, their resolution and their courage, your strength is a virtue and those nations who draw their strength from the enslavement of their people will always be weaker than you, lower than you and if you preserve your courage, they will fall before you.
These are the five laws of war. There are not only five, there are many. But in an age in which we go to battle uncertain of our own virtues and determined to fight in order to teach savages justice and law as if they were no different than us and yet an age in which the wisest of us seems more certain of the enemy's virtues than of our own, these five are worth remembering for what they teach us once again the purpose of war. It is not to ennoble man or to elevate him. It is a series of brutal acts meant to protect our nation, our citizens and our allies from an enemy threat. When we forget this, we forget the purpose of war and we are doomed to lose it.