War crimes exist only under (a) Westphalian state responsibility for actions of all citizens and their agents – a monopoly on violence. (b) Soldiers under direction of the state.
War crimes were necessary under state run warfare in order to i) license states’ wars of aggression, ii) with conscripted soldiers, and iii) protecting the populace from harm, iiv) while preventing escalation that will prohibit the population from tolerating cessation and settlement.
In other words the purpose of war crimes is to facilitate the cooperation of the population with the state in the conduct of the state’s war.
Otherwise, war is war and there are no limits on behavior, and all else is pretense and deceit.
Islam broke the Westphalian peace with islamic terrorism
Russia broke the postwar consensus by seizing Ukraine.
We are in fourth generation warfare: the end of the european domestication of warfare.
The state no longer has or can have control over the monopoly of violence.
The non-state actors are more effective at fourth generation warfare in urban environments than are states and armor in the fields.
Total war is warfare that includes any and all civilian-associated resources and infrastructure as legitimate military targets, mobilizes all of the resources of society to fight the war, and gives priority to warfare over non-combatant needs. The Oxford Living Dictionaries defines “total war” as “A war that is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the laws of war are disregarded.”
Fourth-generation Warfare (Premodern Warfare)
Fourth-generation warfare (4GW) is conflict characterized by a blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians. The term was first used in 1980 by a team of United States analysts, including William S. Lind, to describe warfare’s return to a decentralized form. In terms of generational modern warfare, the fourth generation signifies the nation states’ loss of their near-monopoly on combat forces, returning to modes of conflict common in pre-modern times.
The treaties of Westphalia brought to an end a calamitous period of European history which caused the deaths of approximately eight million people. Scholars have identified Westphalia as the beginning of the modern international system, based on the concept of Westphalian sovereignty, though this interpretation has been challenged.