Analysis & Opinions - PRI's The World

The Stuff of Life and Death: Part II

May 04, 2021

Last week, Critical State took a deep dive into the objects that victims of human rights abuses carry with them in their long search for reparations and commemoration of their losses. This week, Critical State continues its examination of physicality in security studies by reading new research on the weaponization of water.

At one point in human history, water’s importance in war went beyond bearing convoys, hiding submarines, and slaking soldiers’ thirst. Water was often itself a weapon. In areas where it was scarce, armies took action to make it scarcer to force besieged enemy cities to capitulate, and in areas where it was abundant, combatants destroyed dams and watched the resulting floods carry their adversaries away. Today, however, most combatants recoil at the use of water as a weapon, and only the most depraved deploy it.

In a new article in International Security, political scientist Charlotte Grech-Madin traces the rise of this “water taboo” and explains how it has been enforced since it first appeared. In doing so, Grech-Madin makes the case that the taboo arose not from any decline in water’s tactical utility but from a moral response sparked by human rights advocates...

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For Academic Citation:

Sam Ratner, "The Stuff of Life and Death: Part II,” PRI's The World, May 4, 2021.