The Law of Non-Combatants
If I were George Washington, I would’ve proposed the following law in my first term as President. Then I would have crafted a very similar treaty, and encouraged other countries to sign it.
In the real world, this stuff is covered (in much greater detail) in the Geneva Conventions.
The Law of Noncombatants
At all times, including wartime and peacetime, members of the United States armed forces shall consider all persons as belonging to one of two categories: Combatant and Non-Combatant.
A person who is currently engaged in acts of violence is a Combatant.
A person who is not currently engaged in acts of violence, but who possesses the probable means and intention to commit violence in the near future, should the order or opportunity arise, is a Combatant.
A person who is not a Combatant by the previous two definitions, but who directly and intentionally causes violence to occur, is a Combatant. For instance, a military commander is a Combatant, even if he does not personally participate in violence, because his actions directly and intentionally cause violence to occur. But a person who is not a military commander, and who only advocates in general terms the desirability of combat, is not a Combatant by this definition, because his influence is not direct.
Any person who does not qualify as a Combatant is a Non-Combatant.
Combatants may further be divided into Friendly Combatants, Enemy Combatants, and Other Combatants.
A Friendly Combatant is one who assists the United States.
An Enemy Combatant is one who opposes the United States.
An Other Combatant is a Combatant who is not clearly either a Friendly Combatant or an Enemy Combatant.
Status and a Combatant or Non-Combatant may change.
A Combatant who voluntarily surrenders and disarms himself becomes a Non-Combatant.
A Combatant who is involuntarily captured and disarmed becomes a Non-Combatant.
A Combatant who is injured to such a degree that he cannot reasonably cause further violence is a Non-Combatant. This is especially true if injury renders him unconscious.
A person who has become a Non-Combatant, who later commits violence, becomes a Combatant again.
If the United States is involved in combat with some other nation or group, and some manner of treaty, armistice or other agreement is reached such that the United States and the opposing nation or group agree to cease combat, then the members of the other nation or group shall become Non-Combatants. They shall remain as Non-Combatants until such time that they violate the treaty, armistice or other agreement, or until such time as the treaty, armistice or other agreement expires, is repealed or otherwise becomes null.
In all cases whatsoever, members of the United States military shall refrain from killing, torturing or otherwise mistreating Non-Combatants. Any person who intentionally violates this rule shall be severely punished. Any person who accidentally violates this rule shall receive more moderate punishment, depending on the circumstances and the amount of negligence displayed.
All persons who intend to become members of the United States military shall be required to read the full contents of this law, and sign a document confirming that they have read it, before they shall be allowed to become members of the United States military.
(post updated 21 Jan 2012)