|German soldiers invading Belgium, August 1914|
Faced with claims and counterclaims concerning violations of the laws of war, too many historians despair of getting to the bottom of things and making a reasonable judgment. Instead, they refuse to judge; they fall back on the tu quoque defense. That position generally rests on the unspoken (and rarely examined) premise that every violation was equal, that every decision of statesmen or military leaders to break the law was taken for the same reasons, or taken as easily or thoughtlessly, or was arrived at in the same way, following the same procedure, or was justified or explained to themselves or the world with the same arguments, or in the same language. In fact, all these things could, and often did, differ.