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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Can terrrorist movements be defeated with Habeas Corpus?


I suspect that more than "yes", the answer has to be "how else?", because it is typically a fools errand to think that conventional war stratagems ('capture and kill') are at all sufficient to carry the day.

This is why I think Andrew Sullivan has bitten from the poison tree:

I believe this is a war, not some kind of lesser counter-terrorism operation, or a global criminal operation. ... what I continue to call a war on Jihadist terrorism - AS

This is a verbal jibberish. Terrorism is a form of political violence. You can't be at war in any literal or legal sense with a form, just metaphorically (even then, "war" just becomes a general expression of moral disapproval, like "war on murder").

At the heart of the matter is the fundamental mis-conceptualization of the struggle with terrorism, probably done out of Rumsfeld's office.


The fundamental challenge, from terrorism, to the populace is a moral one, not a military one, including the fortitude to not overreact and thereby lose the fight. The fundamental challenge, from terrorism, to the government is to fight the crisis of legitimacy and the intimidation that political violence seeks to foment. Extra-judicial assassination is seldom an effective tool tipping the scales, useful perhaps for only particular kinds of terrorist networks. Good intelligence is.

It really is that simple, at the highest level. Except that it flies in the face of much that might be called "gut reaction", in favor of what one might call 'the thinking man's solution'.

Perhaps Andrew would be okay with a "highly kenetic global counterinsurgency effort." But "war" is the bastion of power grab and willful distortion, historically and conceptually.

The potential scale of terrorist attacks (WMD, etc.) doesn't change what is known to be effective in the long, twilight struggle against them. It's merely a statement that the stakes are higher. But reasoning from that to lower levels of legitimacy (legal proof), responsibility (toward the population itself), and civility (respect for dignity of the individual) is no apt answer. Put another way, one doesn't play a high stakes game of poker any differently than a low stakes game, except incidentally.


In any case, it doesn't matter, in terms of political power in the US and what little the average US citizen can do about it.

It's quite possible that the Democrats will lose the House, possibly the Senate, over the economic crisis fallout and redress, in the midterms, and will have a real trial on their hands for the Presidency in 2012, when the GOP, who have been silent to date, take up the "failed wars" - yes, plural, the lack of a government in Iraq could move from simmer to boil over. One can cynically look at the increase in activity as "one last attempt" to "do all that could be done" before pulling the plug on an effort that was lost given away under Rumsfeld/Bush's wrong conceptualization and miserably resourced/directed effort.

Thus, if anything has changed in our dimly lit Republic these days, it is that Obama is a welcome hiatus from torture, but without a real reckoning on torture. Torture is not practice, under Obama, but so far as I'm aware, the practice could be changed in the next Admin. The GOP and lackies have already blocked or severely hampered the closure of Gitmo, by refusing funding specifically for that activity, no?

I suppose Obama could be heartily credited with not exploiting fears for political gain and for a more thoroughgoing and deliberate posture to force-deployment than the derelict Presidency of Bush. These linear calculations do not include the effect of Israel's attack on Iran, with or without overt US support.

Notwithstanding, we are almost in la-la land. If the President can target individuals for extra-judicial execution, then why can't he torture first?