War crimes are an issue of particular concern to the field of trauma because they embody the capacity for organized and civilized societies to deliver collective acts of inhumane and amoral violence against vulnerable individuals and groups. The concept of imposing ethical standards on behavior in war seems a stark contradiction. However, studies of animal behavior highlight how much aggression is ritualistic and embodies many prohibitions. As the scale of warfare has become increasingly mechanized and organized by central governments, in the context of more sophisticated political and legal systems, ethical arguments about the rights and wrongs of war have proliferated. These principles have tried to counterbalance the immense capacity for destruction and terror that war can inflict while being justified as legitimate.

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