Category Archive 'Laws of War'

01 Sep 2015

Guardian Takes Down West Point Law Professor

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Mecca-Bombed1
The hadj will now culminate at a glowing crater.

Last Saturday, the left-wing British Guardian launched a full-scale marginalizing and discrediting attack on William C. Bradford, an assistant law professor teaching at the US Military Academy at West Point.

The attack on Bradford was occasioned by his publication of an academic paper last April which made a couple of colorful and controversial proposals.

An assistant professor in the law department of the US military academy at West Point has argued that legal scholars critical of the war on terrorism represent a “treasonous” fifth column that should be attacked as enemy combatants.

In a lengthy academic paper, the professor, William C Bradford, proposes to threaten “Islamic holy sites” as part of a war against undifferentiated Islamic radicalism. That war ought to be prosecuted vigorously, he wrote, “even if it means great destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral damage”.

Other “lawful targets” for the US military in its war on terrorism, Bradford argues, include “law school facilities, scholars’ home offices and media outlets where they give interviews” – all civilian areas, but places where a “causal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incited” exist.

“Shocking and extreme as this option might seem, [dissenting] scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are – at least in theory – targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism,” Bradford wrote. …

[A] clique of about forty” scholars, Bradford writes, have “converted the US legal academy into a cohort whose vituperative pronouncements on the illegality of the US resort to force and subsequent conduct in the war against Islamism” represent a “super-weapon that supports Islamist military operations” aimed at “American political will” to fight. They are supported by “compliant journalists” marked by “defeatism, instinctive antipathy to war, and empathy for American adversaries”, but Bradford considers the lawyers a greater threat.

The offending legal scholars “effectively tilt the battlefield against US forces [and] contribute to timorousness and lethargy in US military commanders”, he writes. They are among several “useful idiots” who “separate Islam from Islamists by attributing to the former principles in common with the West, including ‘justice and progress’ and ‘the dignity of all human beings’”. …

The West Point faculty member urges the US to wage “total war” on “Islamism”, using “conventional and nuclear force and [psychological operations]”, in order to “leave them prepared to coexist with the West or be utterly eradicated”. He suggests in a footnote that “threatening Islamic holy sites might create deterrence, discredit Islamism, and falsify the assumption that decadence renders Western restraint inevitable”.

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Bradford’s paper: Trahison des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict Academy as an Islamist Fifth Column

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The Guardian’s hatchet job appeared on Saturday, and the next day Bradford was being bundled out the door of West Point, whose representatives were busily disavowing ever having known him.

Yesterday, the Guardian was gloating and finishing up a thorough job of carpet-bombing the heretic’s reputation.

‘Dr William Bradford resigned on Sunday,’ army lieutenant colonel Christopher Kasker, a West Point spokesman, told the Guardian on Monday. Bradford had taught five lessons for cadets in a common-core law course, from 17 to 27 August.

We are given to understand that Bradford is, naturally, some kind of complete crackpot and congenital liar. Bradford, you see, is alleged to have exaggerated his academical positions (never a problem in the case of University of Chicago Law Professor Barack Obama) and –with no actual proof– his military service.

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The Atlantic also piled on, noting that the National Security Law Journal had decided to denounce Bradford’s paper as an “egregious breach of professional decorum” unworthy of publication, to repudiate it, and to publish a four-page denunciation of the Bradford paper by Jeremy Rabkin.

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Rules for Radicals 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

05 Dec 2010

The New Moral and Humane Approach: No Prisoners

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David Ignatius observes that, in the new, morally-improved age of Obama, sleep deprivation, face slaps, and body shakes are out, but sudden death by high explosive is thriving as never before.

Liberal scruples about interrogation and unlimited detention and the significant percentage of released detainees returning to the jihad have very obviously modified the American approach to war. If you can’t gain any information from captured insurgents and you are going to wind up in the end playing catch-and-release, the likelihood that you are going to take any prisoners at all declines dramatically.

Most amusingly, the consciences of the intelligentsia have been found to be surprisingly comfortable with the more recent remote-killing campaign.

Every war brings its own deformations, but consider this disturbing fact about America’s war against al-Qaeda: It has become easier, politically and legally, for the United States to kill suspected terrorists than to capture and interrogate them.

Predator and Reaper drones, armed with Hellfire missiles, have become the weapons of choice against al-Qaeda operatives in the tribal areas of Pakistan. They have also been used in Yemen, and the demand for these efficient tools of war, which target enemies from 10,000 feet, is likely to grow.

The pace of drone attacks on the tribal areas has increased sharply during the Obama presidency, with more assaults in September and October of this year than in all of 2008. At the same time, efforts to capture al-Qaeda suspects have virtually stopped. Indeed, if CIA operatives were to snatch a terrorist tomorrow, the agency wouldn’t be sure where it could detain him for interrogation.

Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA, frames the puzzle this way: “Have we made detention and interrogation so legally difficult and politically risky that our default option is to kill our adversaries rather than capture and interrogate them?”

It’s curious why the American public seems so comfortable with a tactic that arguably is a form of long-range assassination, after the furor about the CIA’s use of nonlethal methods known as “enhanced interrogation.” When Israel adopted an approach of “targeted killing” against Hamas and other terrorist adversaries, it provoked an extensive debate there and abroad.

“For reasons that defy logic, people are more comfortable with drone attacks” than with killings at close range, says Robert Grenier, a former top CIA counterterrorism officer who now is a consultant with ERG Partners. “It’s something that seems so clean and antiseptic, but the moral issues are the same.”

24 Jan 2010

“Proportionality in Modern Asymmetrical Wars”

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I would give the following paper by Amichai Cohen, International Law professor at Ono Academic College, Israel, a gentlemanly C.

Excerpt

Armed conflicts of this type have sometimes been termed “asymmetrical” –- an adjective used principally with reference to the fact that the protagonists are a state, with all its might and force, and an organization with few heavy arms and a limited number of fighters. But such conflicts are also asymmetrical in a more complicated sense: they are fought between a state, in possession of sound reasons for following the laws of armed conflicts (LOAC) or international humanitarian law (IHL), and a high incentive and organizational obligation to do so, on the one hand, and on the other hand, an organization that almost never follows these rules and has very little incentive to do so.

States involved in these conflicts mostly attempt to follow, or are expected by the international community to follow, IHL as detailed in customary international law, in the Geneva Conventions, and in other sources of applicable international law. However, it has become increasingly difficult to abide by these laws, mainly because of the novel nature of the problems that constantly arise. This brief review will only deal with two of the most prominent of such problems:

    The first is how to apply the rule forbidding indiscriminate attacks on a civilian population when the enemy deliberately operates from within that environment. Direct attacks against civilians are of course always forbidden. However, what are
    the appropriate norms that a state should apply when the only possible way of fighting the enemy involves risking the lives of civilians whom the enemy is using for its own protection?

    A second problem arises from the fact that non-state actors are not susceptible to the range of formal and informal sanction which may be used against states. Since international law is not policed effectively, non-state actors may readily assume
    that their violations of the laws of war, including those mentioned above, will not be punished by law. For example, they may target civilians of the state actor in the knowledge that there exists very small chance that they will be punished for
    doing so by any international judicial body. Consequently, while one side to the conflict behaves in accordance with IHL, the other considers itself to be free of the limitations imposed by these rules.

Read the whole thing.

My criticism is that, although Professor Cohen does a workmanlike academic job of dividing alternative perspectives into models, his fundamental approach is fundamentally far too abstract, unempiric, and ahistoric.

Restricting consideration of the practical responses to terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and violations of the laws and customs of war to a small number of very recent, poorly handled examples which occurred under the leadership of democratic governments, which obviously failed satisfactorily to implement or articulate clear policies, was a fundamental mistake.

The world did not suddenly spring into existence in 1993. “Assymetrical warfare” and the cynical exploitation of the chivalrous instincts and humanitarian values of honorable and civilized armies by outlaws and barbarians has always been part of the human experience. Military commanders from Classical Antiquity down to WWII frequently dealt with decisive effect with the same problems without scandalizing posterity by cruelty and excesses.

Professor Cohen is too satisfied with the classification of perspectives into “models,” and too cautious and timid about identifying explicitly the major and important role played in the fraudulent framing of the issue as presented to the public by dishonest and ideologically biased humanitarian organizations and the media.


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