Note: Extension activities generally address students directly. You can adapt these activities and their wording to fit your own students.
This activity takes up the idea of having rules for conducting war. It tackles questions such as “Doesn’t making laws for how to behave in war, in fact, legitimize war?”, “Don’t rules make war like a game?” and “Why not just outlaw war instead?”.
To explore such questions, consider this proposition:
Rules of war would not be necessary if the world simply made war illegal.
Explore some of the consequences of making armed conflict illegal. [For example: What would happen if war were outlawed and one nation then attacked another? How would the rule be enforced? Do you know of any attempts in history to do away with war?]
If enough time is allotted to the subject, students usually conclude that even if war were to be formally outlawed, such a prohibition would be very difficult to enforce. [See "About efforts to outlaw war."]
After the discussion, write an essay that presents your own conclusion with reasons in support of it.
Interview someone who has experienced some form of suffering that is typical of war: being caught in a fire, being hungry, being wounded or physically incapacitated, losing a close relative, being separated from his or her family, or being kidnapped, lost or held captive. Write a description of this person’s experiences. Include his or her feeling and thoughts, the ways in which this person’s life and human dignity were at risk, and what help, if any, he or she received.
These descriptions can be presented in later sessions, when the experiences of victims of armed conflict are discussed.
Discuss one of the following quotations.
Asked why he had risked his life to rescue people who were being persecuted, a young man said:
My father used to say that the world is one big chain. One little part breaks and the chain is broken and it won’t work any more.
The Russian writer Dostoevsky made the following statement:
We are all responsible for each other.
- What does the statement mean? Do you agree with it? Explain why or why not.
- How can the spirit of this statement be applied in armed conflict?
- Do you know of any other sayings or proverbs that express the same spirit?