Category Archive 'Rules of War'

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.”

05 May 2010

Courageous (And Really Stupid) Restraint

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During WWII, we intentionally targeted civilian population centers for bombing raids and Axis enemies hiding behind civilians would never have worked because Allied troops would have opened fire anyway and shrugged off civilian casualties as simply collateral damage and the enemy’s fault anyway.

No one would have considered sacrificing a single American life to allow the enemy to get away with hiding behind civilians.

Today, in the age of the domestic war critic, Western military commanders are starting to balance their own casualties against the harm to the cause they are fighting for that can be inflicted by stories about injury to innocent civilians eagerly disseminated by journalists. The enemy hiding behind civilians works just great and is rewarded with immunity.

Yahoo News:

NATO commanders are weighing a new way to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan: recognizing soldiers for “courageous restraint” if they avoid using force that could endanger innocent lives.

The concept comes as the coalition continues to struggle with the problem of civilian casualties despite repeated warnings from the top NATO commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, that the war effort hinges on the ability to protect the population and win support away from the Taliban.

Those who back the idea hope it will provide soldiers with another incentive to think twice before calling in an airstrike or firing at an approaching vehicle if civilians could be at risk.

Most military awards in the past have been given for things like soldiers taking out a machine gun nest or saving their buddies in a firefight, said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall, the senior NATO enlisted man in Afghanistan.

“We are now considering how we look at awards differently,” he said.

26 May 2009

Don’t Hold Back, Ralph, Tell Us What You Really Think

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Ralph Peters has a simple solution to the indefinite detention conundrum which keeps wet liberals like Marc Ambinder up all night sobbing into their pillows over the neglected “rights” of terrorists given quarter and taken alive.

Silly narcissistic people, like Ambinder, who make moral statements along with their fashion statements and for the same reasons, will never recognize the inevitable fruits of their eager intrusion into the issue. Bang! goes the gun in the hand of the US soldier or intelligence officer who now knows better than to take any prisoners who are going to serve as the focus of such a costly, idiotic, and self-lacerating domestic debate.

There can be little doubt that what Ralph Peters advocates will de facto be the never-expressed policy.

We made one great mistake regarding Guantanamo: No terrorist should have made it that far. All but a handful of those grotesquely romanticized prisoners should have been killed on the battlefield.

The few kept alive for their intelligence value should have been interrogated secretly, then executed.

Terrorists don’t have legal rights or human rights. By committing or abetting acts of terror against the innocent, they place themselves outside of humanity’s borders. They must be hunted as man-killing animals.

And, as a side benefit, dead terrorists don’t pose legal quandaries.


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