The Civilians’ Role


In Rights of Man, Thomas Paine discusses how the old system of government is based on the assumption of power for itself, while the new system is about power for the benefit of society. While I do agree with that statement, I disagree that the old system was benefitting the people of the upper class and disregarding those from the lower class, or not giving a sustainable lifestyle. However, I do agree that the new system of the government should delegate its power for the benefit of society.

As Paine states, “To inherit a government, is to inherit the people…” (p.2). What I took from that is to take care of the people and to do what’s best for them. Because to inherit a government means to inherit responsibility and to fulfil your duty to the people. However, a hereditary government might not always be the correct way to lead. Paine states, “All the civil wars in France arose from the hereditary system; they were either produced by hereditary claims, or by the imperfection of the hereditary form, which admits of regencies or monarchy at nurse.” Hereditary governments can cause prejudice because there’s no democracy; the people have zero say on who should lead which is extremely important because they are the ones who will be most affected. In the end, the upper-class citizen that is elected will have only eyes for dominion and revenue.

An alternate solution to hereditary government is the representative system which has its advantages of leaders being public about their information. The citizens are now aware of how government actually is and hence are not kept in the shadows where they might have revolted.

Speaking of citizens, Kinsella’s The Image Before the Weapon discusses how from the 2001 Afghanistan war and the 2003 Iraq war, there has been a clear distinction between combatants and civilians. The protection of civilians during the conflict should not only be prioritized but be implemented in the strategy. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, stated that “the plight of civilians is no longer something which can be neglected or made secondary, because it complicates political negotiations or interests” (p.2).

I agree with this statement because civilians should not have to live with the brutal results of armed conflicts. While armed conflicts have their agenda, it should be made very clear where the civilians’ standings are, because that is their home; civilians should be seen as those who need protection from war and who are not a part of the military. The International Criminal Court identifies civilians as distinct from combatants in the statement: “criminalizing international actions against civilians.” This suggests that civilians are a category of international law, and only brought upon when referring to armed conflicts.

In addition, distinguishing between combatants and civilians is known as the principle of distinction. The principle of distinction has not been the strongest during the brutal armed conflict of war. This is because it is hard to define who a civilian is because it can vary by country and its laws. For instance, should child soldiers still be considered combatants because they are armed? Distinguishing a civilian is harder than it sounds, because if not all civilians innocent, do they still all get protection?