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October 29, 2008

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Now, those kinds of strikes in the region can occur at the discretion of the incoming commander of Central Command

If I'm understanding correctly: in the first 200 or so years of the United States' history, the decision to invade another country was subject to the approval of two branches of civilian government: Congress must pass a bill to authorize it and the executive must carry it out. Following the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, it has (apparently) been generally understood that Congress need not authorize such an act of war, as long as the President decides to engage in war. And as of this week, the President can take himself out of the loop and leave the war-making to the military -- after all, they know best how to do it, and can't be held accountable by democratic process. Good deal.

Good point.

Lake: The new order could pave the way for direct action in Kenya, Mali, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen--all places where the American intelligence believe al Qaeda has a significant presence, but can no longer count on the indigenous security services to act.

Awesome. You know, when you can no longer count on one hand the number of countries you're actively bombing, and by my count we're at least up to four right now, there's a problem.

Lake: In the parlance of the Cold War, Petraeus will now have the authority to fight a regional "dirty war."

Even awesomer, cause, as well all know, the dirty wars we fought in the Cold War turned out splendid.

Lake: The big mystery now is whether the next administration will dismantle this policy or permit Petraeus to follow it to fruition.

Which means if Petraeus is allowed to continue: Ponies! (or maybe puppies!)

Do these fncking people ever listen to themselves? I mean, "The new order could pave the way for direct action in Kenya, Mali, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen...." Love the euphemism there, "direct action." Great, let's create even more people who hate the U.S. and actively wish and cause us harm.

I need a fncking drink.

One military official told me that the elimination of Abu Ghadiya represents a significant triumph over al Qaeda in Iraq. "The organization is pretty much finished now," he told me.

Hey, let's hang up a banner someplace to commemorate the occasion. How does "Mission Achieved" strike y'all?

Lake does a really good impression of not understanding how the hypothetical "X implies Y" and the truth of Y doesn't tell one anything about X. (ie Just bc Obama agrees that strikes might be justified under specific circumstances does not mean that this is one of those circumstances).

And as of this week, the President can take himself out of the loop and leave the war-making to the military -- after all, they know best how to do it, and can't be held accountable by democratic process.

Also- did Dubya get the new release of Guitar Hero or something? He can't even be bothered to dispense the sort of justice he used to give to death row appeals for clemency when he was governor (ie glance at the papers and sign them)?
Maybe he's just tired of playing preznit.

Screw Kyoto, screw SALT. These guys want to roll back the Peace of Westphalia.

What the hell, we never signed it anyway.

Thanks -

And as of this week, the President can take himself out of the loop and leave the war-making to the military -- after all, they know best how to do it, and can't be held accountable by democratic process. Good deal.

It's the dreaded reverse Clemenceau:

War is too important to be left to the Congress
President
Generals
Colonels
Majors

etc...


At this rate, methinks we need to increase the pay scale for junior officers and NCO's considerably, given the serious constitutional role they will be taking on their already heavily laden shoulders.

Too bad we don't have things like secure encrypted global communications technologies so the person in the White House could have some idea what is going on out there in the field and relay decisions back.

Maybe somebody will invent those some day.

OTOH, maybe this just reflects their view that the "we'll-keep-bombing-you-until-you-love-us" strategy hasn't failed, it's just that the true "we'll-keep-bombing-you-until-you-love-us" strategy has never been tried! Think of all those countries we didn't bomb! No wonder they don't love us!

Now, I could sort of understand it if the President were to pre-authorize strikes in a specific area, aimed at a specific target or objective (eg strikes just over the Syria-Iraq border, aimed at high-priority targets or disrupting enemy supply)- when getting WH approval might cost too much reaction time. But this carte blanche thing is just ridiculous- can Petraeus now bomb Damascus if he decides that this is the right move, militarily?

Im wondering what the angle is: Avoiding responsibility for strikes? Forcing Obama to rescind this & take heat for "tying the hands of our commanders in the field"? Creating diplomatic snafus that Obama will need to spend time and energy fixing (eg a strike on Iran)? A final sop to the PNAC crowd, so that at least a tiny few will think him less-than-completely-disasterous?

Im wondering what the angle is

Sheer madness and lunacy. Or to paraphrase, "I don't see any angles at all, sir."

Uh, I don't think "dirty war" means what Lake thinks it means. The "dirty war" was the disappearing and execution of thousands of so-called "leftists" by Argentina's military regime in the 1970s. On the other hand, given the neocons general disdain for all norms of international relations, that might be exactly what he has in mind.

At this rate, methinks we need to increase the pay scale for junior officers and NCO's considerably, given the serious constitutional role they will be taking on their already heavily laden shoulders.

Imagine Sarah Palin's son with the authority to attack Iran.

But seriously, this is merely the logical outcome of the recent American idolatry for "the troops".

If "the troops" think it's a good idea to invade Fredonia, all good citizens must pretend that invading Fredonia equals "fighting for our way of life", and pay homage to "our brave men and women in uniform" on every public occasion.

These reflexive pieties have got to stop. I'll start the bowling: if "the troops", on their own, are henceforth going to have the authority to start wars, then
I don't support the frickin' troops.

--TP

At first I thought TMK was on to something with his "CentCom is now authorized to start wars" theory, and he still might be. But I have an alternate take. If Bush has authorized CentCom to attack certain countries at will, hasn't he already started wars with them? Is the key step authorizing your generals to attack a country, or the generals actually attacking it?

But seriously, this is merely the logical outcome of the recent American idolatry for "the troops".

If "the troops" think it's a good idea to invade Fredonia, all good citizens must pretend that invading Fredonia equals "fighting for our way of life", and pay homage to "our brave men and women in uniform" on every public occasion.

I don't think that's totally accurate. Some people have taken that line, but many policy-makers have also argued that we need to end the war in Iraq to "support the troops". It would probably be convenient to blame the military for failures of the last 8 years once the Bush administration is filed into the dust bin of history and out of the public eye. The new administration's gotta point the finger at somebody. I don't really look forward to it.

In truth, Obama is neither bound to endorse airstrikes aimed at targets such as Abu Ghadiya in places like Syria simply because of his stance vis-a-vis high ranking al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, nor would Obama sanctioning such strikes necessarily rule out pursuing normalized relations via negotiations.

If he's going to be the CinC, I hope he can make those tough decisions, and not "take himself out of the loop" like Modesto Kid mentioned.

It would probably be convenient to blame the military for failures of the last 8 years once the Bush administration is filed into the dust bin of history and out of the public eye. The new administration's gotta point the finger at somebody.

I don't see this happening.

Nobody's pointing the finger at the military. As far as I can tell, the blame is being placed firmly at the foot of the Bush administration, and nobody is waiting for them to leave office to make that clear.

Whoever the new administration is, I don't see the military being made the scapegoat for anything.

Thanks -

Whoever the new administration is, I don't see the military being made the scapegoat for anything.

I hope you're right, but "vote for the best, prepare for the worst" as a wiser man than me once said.

Whoever the new administration is, I don't see the military being made the scapegoat for anything.

LT Nixon,

I agree very much with what russell is saying, and as evidence I would cite the very high levels of support enjoyed across the political spectrum for providing better care to our vets, both medical care and in the form of educational benefits - c.f. the Webb bill for example. I have a very hard time seeing how the country is even remotely thinking of trying to make scapegoats out of the military for the policy failures of our civilian leadership.

If you or others serving with you have concerns about coming home to a resentful nation which looks askance at your service, please lay those fears to rest as from what I can see they are groundless. If anything, the impression I get from casual watercooler conversation is that civilians in the US are highly conscious of the fact that the Vietnam vets got a raw deal and determined that this sorry history not be repeated.

Obama will be our President and the Dems are going to increase their power in Congress. There will be no need for scapegoats. All blame will be firmly, and appropriately, placed at the feet of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the entire GOP Congress including John McCain.

FYI: My sister is in the Army National Guard, and one of my closest and longest-tenured friends has done two tours in Iraq.

When he came home last October, and didn't have a place to stay, he became my roommate until a couple months ago.

My friend still works at the armory on Lex for the Fighting 69th, and I go up there and hang out with the soldiers quite frequently.

My point being: Blaming the troops would be the absolute last thing that would occur to me, and I would do my best from what podium I have to squash that sentiment the minute I spotted it.

Luckily, I have complete faith that I won't have to. I haven't even caught a whiff of that from any of the progressive venues - online and off.

LT, you mentioned Paul Rieckhoff. You know that IAVA has solid backing from - and is a functioning part of - the progressive movement. Why would people abandon the likes of Paul? And Phil Carter?

Don't see it. At all.

LT Nixon: It would probably be convenient to blame the military for failures of the last 8 years once the Bush administration is filed into the dust bin of history and out of the public eye. The new administration's gotta point the finger at somebody. I don't really look forward to it.

This schtick of predicting or positing nonexistent public and Democratic blame of the military is getting really old, LT.

The Bush administration's responsibility for the disaster of Iraq is not going to disappear into history. No one blames the military leadership, much less the troops, for the debacle.

Just the opposite.

The politics of resentment is just tiring. Manufactured, imagined persecution cuts you off from seeing things as they are. Please work on losing this knee-jerk response.

It would probably be convenient to blame the military for failures of the last 8 years once the Bush administration is filed into the dust bin of history and out of the public eye.

Why would that be convenient? Obama wants to keep Bush- or at least a caricature of Bush- in the public eye. His campaign is built around being the anti-Bush, so it's very convenient for him to have a Bush-shaped piñata around to beat up any time he needs a political lift. Troop bashing wouldn't have the same advantage, especially if he still needs those troops in Afghanistan or some future battleground.

And McCain's foreign policy narrative is also built around competent troops and incompetent leaders. It's just that he wants to lay the blame on Rumsfeld for mishandling the war rather than Bush for starting it. But he can't give credit to THE SURGE® while denying credit to the soldiers who carried it out. I suppose he could in a gratuitous attempt to be as illogical as possible and betray absolutely everything he ever stood for, but it's hard to imagine even him going quite that far.

Nell: The politics of resentment is just tiring. Manufactured, imagined persecution cuts you off from seeing things as they are. Please work on losing this knee-jerk response.

I don't think that's going to happen, do you? It works too well the other way round. Ignore people who really do persecute the US military and attack people for their service - former Sergeant Joseph M. Darby, for example, is not residing at an undisclosed location under military protecton for fear of attacks from "leftists". The rawest mockery Vietnam veterans received in the last five years was when the 2004 RNC ran with the idea that people awarded Purple Hearts in Vietnam got them for band-aid wounds.

There is no contemporary evidence that the stories of the Vietnam veterans being attacked for their service were anything but the same right-wing self-serving myth we hear about today. From Spitting on the Troops: Old Myth, New Rumors

Similar stories became quite popular during the Gulf War of 1991 which raised my curiosity about where they came from and why they were believed. There is nothing in the historical record — news or police reports, for example — suggesting they really happened. In fact, the Veterans Administration commissioned a Harris Poll in 1971 that found 94% of Vietnam veterans reporting friendly homecomings from their age-group peers who had not served in the military. Moreover, the historical record is rich with the details of solidarity and mutuality between the anti-war movement and Vietnam veterans. The real truth, in other words, is that anti-war activists reached out to Vietnam veterans and veterans joined the movement in large numbers.

Fred Clark at Slacktivist wrote a couple of posts last month on why people continue to pass on stories that they know are not true: False Witnesses and False Witnesses 2. Although by habit I point out that Lt Nixon's claim is untrue, Fred's right: the facts make no difference:


This is why the rumor doesn't really need to be plausible or believable. It isn't intended to deceive others. It's intended to invite others to participate with you in deception.

Are you afraid you might be a coward? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend to feel brave. Are you afraid that your life is meaningless? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend your life has purpose. Are you afraid you're mired in mediocrity? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend to feel exceptional. Are you worried that you won't be able to forget that you're just pretending and that all those good feelings will thus seem hollow and empty? Join us and we will pretend it's true for you if you will pretend it's true for us. We need each other.

You can't be doing well if it seems like an improvement to base your life and your sense of self on a demonizing slander that you know is only a fantasy. To challenge that fantasy, to identify it as nothing more than that, is to threaten to send them back to whatever their lives were like before they latched onto this desperate alternative.

If I am reading Eric correctly, the issues are (1) delegating the discretion to cross sovereign borders to the military (I agree this is unwise, to say the least), (2) whether Obama will ratify this policy (unlikely, I hope) and (3) whether crossing a sovereign border for a limited strike is an option that a president would want, at least in theory to retain (yes, it should be a retained option).

Mckinney: That's correct, and I agree with your assessments in each case.

Tangential issues: (a) whether military incursions preclude negotiations; and (b) whether Iran should be included on the list of potential targets using the criteria of this new doctrine.

(3) whether crossing a sovereign border for a limited strike is an option that a president would want, at least in theory to retain (yes, it should be a retained option).

No, it should not, unless we are prepared to cede this "option" to the leaders of every other country on earth.

Of course, there's nothing principled at all about the way in which sovereignty is respected or not. Some countries (U.S., Israel, Russia) are hyper-sovereign and get to retaliate in an unlimited way against any attack, whatever the scale, or against some imagined future attack. Others, because of military weakness, international unpopularity (often richly deserved), or a combination, are subject to attack with no consequences whatsoever to the attacking power: Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia...

No, it should not, unless we are prepared to cede this "option" to the leaders of every other country on earth.

Agreed.

Sorry Nell, but if we had actionable intelligence on Osama and Zawahiri and he was in the FATA, I'd want the option on the table.

Eric: Sorry Nell, but if we had actionable intelligence on Osama and Zawahiri and he was in the FATA, I'd want the option on the table.

We have actionable intelligence against George W. Bush: do you want the option on the table for Iran to launch a military strike - regardless of how many American civilians they may kill in doing so?

That's Nell's point.

In theory, the issue is hypothetical, since no other country in the world has the military machine of the US. In practice, the issue is not hypothetical at all: 9/11 was a military strike against the US by Saudi Arabia, which was fully justified by right-wing American standards - sure, massive "collateral damage", sure, it didn't follow international law on war, but... neither does the US under George W. Bush, neither will the US under John McCain.

Assume that the US can afford to say that it's okay to attack other UN members without getting the authorisation of the Security Council, because no other nation would dare do it to the US (and you don't care what other UN members do to each other): that just leaves the US wide open to terrorist strategies, and countries which have suffered from US military actions against them will feel the terrorists are justified.

So it goes. If you want international law, the biggest player has to be prepared to accept the rule of international law, not declare themselves to be the Mafia.

Now I think this is Bush's response to Obama's willing to negotiate with "enemies." Kind of a "so you think you're going to talk to them, huh? Good luck with that after I drop a couple 'a dozen JDAMs on their a$$."

Nell: [plea for abandoning knee-jerk resort to manufactured, imagined persecution]

Jes: I don't think that's going to happen, do you? It works too well the other way round.

Well, in the particular case of LT Nixon, I'm retaining some hope that it might. He's been hanging out here for a good while, and until recently has been contributing in a way that honors the purpose of ObWi as a civil space for discussion across the political spectrum. I'm ready to write off recent excesses as the regrettable but understandable outcome of heightened sensitivity characteristic of the closing weeks of a major election campaign.

However, I'd note that LT's tendency to promote the idea that the military are blamed and persecuted has been a constant since his first appearance here. (And that I've been pushing back on it for that long, as well.)

This theme is a real issue in U.S. society, and will become more of one if and as troops return home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Your point's well taken about the Republican party's recent institutional support for a smear campaign that they extended to all decorated Viet Nam vets in order to discredit the service of a political opponent. (In case anyone thinks it was restricted to Kerry, true believers extended it to Webb, though they would not say such things in print or out in the wider public.)

I also heartily second your recommendation of the Slacktivist posts examining the phenomenon of spreading lies that the spreaders know are lies.

The all-volunteer armed services was created in the aftermath of the U.S. war in southeast Asia partly with the idea that it would act as a political check to U.S. involvement in wars lacking popular support. Because of the efforts of intervening administrations and Congresses, and the failure of both parties to abandon an imperial, interventionist foreign policy, the volunteer military has not proved to be more than a minor check on unpopular wars.

The powers that be have proved willing to abuse the troops and degrade the quality and readiness of the services in order to continue these wars: stop-loss, multiple deployments, shrinking dwell time, near-total federalization of the National Guard, lowering of educational and criminal standards, recruiting lies and abuses, training skimped or foregone entirely, post-deployment care and services difficult to get and inadequate to the need, etc. etc.

The combination of these abusive practices with economic depression and the reality that military service has been confined to a small and shrinking portion of the population creates conditions favorable for dangerous polarization -- even if there weren't demagogues working to promote imagined slights.

That's why my tolerance for manufactured grievance of this kind is extremely low. We need truth-telling, clear-eyed assessment, compassion, and mutual respect now more than ever.

This theme is a real issue in U.S. society, and will become more of one if and as troops return home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's a big issue to me personally, but I doubt it's a big issue to society at large. Primarily due to the small percentage of Iraq/A-stan/GWOT veterans (less than 1% of the American population). If you want some "clear-eyed assessment", I would say this election cycle has been mostly about the economy, something that directly affects everyone.

We have actionable intelligence against George W. Bush: do you want the option on the table for Iran to launch a military strike - regardless of how many American civilians they may kill in doing so?

That's Nell's point.

Osama and Zawahiri are members of an organization that attacked us and killed roughly 3,000 civilians. Do I think that we have the right to hit them back without UN approval? Yes.

Did I say that we should disregard civilian casualties? No, and in prior posts, just the opposite.

Does that mean Iran has the right to strike Bush? I'm not so sure. Is that analogous?

Does that mean Iran has the right to strike Bush? I'm not so sure. Is that analogous?

More pointedly: does Afghanistan? Does Iraq?

If I was an Iraqi and I decided to attack Bush or America, could someone claim that I didn't have the right?

No.

Does that mean, as an American, that I want my President to let them?

No.

LT: It's a big issue to me personally, but I doubt it's a big issue to society at large.

Sorry, LT, I used the wrong preposition to convey what I meant; I should have said a big issue for U.S. society, not in it.

That is, the conditions favorable to fanning manufactured and misdirected resentment among active duty and recently-active duty military create a potentially serious, dangerous issue for U.S. society, especially in the next four years in the event of significant troop withdrawals from Iraq.

I didn't mean that it's an issue that many people think about right now -- much less that it's something people are making election decisions based on. That's obviously and overwhelmingly economic issues.

Clearly, whether or not service members are being blamed and defamed is a big issue to you. So is it to the many commenters above who contested your prediction about blame for the Iraq war. Do you accept the validity of their points? If so, but despite them you persist in believing that the troops will be blamed for the Iraq debacle, what is it that makes you think so?

If I was an Iraqi and I decided to attack Bush or America, could someone claim that I didn't have the right?

Not the correct analogy. We're talking here about a head-of-state-authorized, official military strike against the U.S. to "take out" someone who's organized a previous attack against that country or its citizens. Cuba or Venezuela mounting an operation to capture Posada-Carriles, let's say. There is no such "right", nor do we have it elsewhere.

Bob Gates stated the Bush Doctrine as recently as yesterday, speaking to the Carnegie Institute for International Peace (!):

Today we also make clear that the United States will hold any state, terrorist group or other nonstate actor or individual fully accountable for supporting or enabling terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction — whether by facilitating, financing or providing expertise or safe haven for such efforts.

He's the cabinet officer for an administration that claims the right to strike anywhere at our discretion alone. It's his job.

I'm much more surprised to learn that you uphold the Bush Doctrine.

"If I was an Iraqi and I decided to attack Bush or America, could someone claim that I didn't have the right?

No.

Does that mean, as an American, that I want my President to let them?

No."

Okay, but then there's a moral obligation to prosecute and jail high-ranking American war criminals. I'm willing to give money to groups that will work towards this goal, but not optimistic about ever seeing it happen, unless someone gets arrested overseas. And then we'll have a huge bipartisan push by our political class and the Very Serious people in the press to force the release of whoever is arrested.

should be 'Carnegie Endowment for International Peace'. /GF

OT: Speaking of GF, consider augmenting the serotonin high that Gary will (if all goes well) be experiencing on election night by helping chip away at his new unexpected medical bills. Or just stop by to wish him well. Crutches are teh suck.

Speaking of foreign terrorists in the US, Emmanuel Constant was just sentenced to 37 years in prison in a Brooklyn court. Unfortunately it was for mortgage fraud.

Eric writes (and i don't know how to italicize):Tangential issues: (a) whether military incursions preclude negotiations; and (b) whether Iran should be included on the list of potential targets using the criteria of this new doctrine.

(a) sometimes yes, sometimes no. In the Balkans, negotiations failed, then force was applied, then negotiations succeeded. History is replete with examples of force producing or enhancing negotiations. History is also replete with force producing an even greater conflagration--Pearl Harbor was designed to bring about negotiations with the US, not eventual unconditional surrender.

(b) since I don't agree with the doctrine, it follows I don't think it should be applied anywhere, including Iran. But, I can see a limited--and probably already a standard part of the rules of engagement--discretion to act preemptively where the threat is immediate, and I wouldn't put a geographical limitation on where the imminent act originates from as a limiting factor on the right to self-defense. Missiles coming out of Russia, Iran or China are an attack, and our troops shouldn't have to wait for the missiles to land to fight back.

Nell writes: No, it should not, unless we are prepared to cede this "option" to the leaders of every other country on earth.

Well, I think we do, in the sense that any sovereign nation retains the right to act defensively, even if it means crossing another sovereign's border. This is a statement of theory, not policy endorsement.

As for Gates' statement, that is not so much the Bush Doctrine, as it is the bipartisan policy of the US. Obama and his advisers say the same thing.

Eric's point on actionable intelligence is nothing more than common sense. If a terrorist leader is hiding out anywhere in the world, one who has already taken or caused to be taken American lives, no serving President can refuse to act if other circumstances permit. "Other circumstances" is a broad concept: our relations with the country housing the terrorist, collateral casualties, etc. all need to be taken into consideration. But, the 'right to act' is more in the nature of a duty for a president.

Well, I think we do, in the sense that any sovereign nation retains the right to act defensively, even if it means crossing another sovereign's border. This is a statement of theory, not policy endorsement.

That's right in the UN Charter, mckinneytexas, yes: but it does not apply to the US attacking Syria from Iraq. It did not apply to the US attack on Iraq, either. It cannot apply to the threatened US attack on Iran.

It would, however, apply to Iran launching an attack on the US to destroy the US's military capability if John McCain becomes President, given that McCain has declared he wants to attack Iran... and it equally applies to any attack Syria makes on US forces attempting to cross the border to launch an attack on Syrian soil.

That neither country likely would, given the disparity in military forces, does not affect their legal right to do so.

You italicise, by the way, by enclosing an I in pointy-brackets at the start of text, and ending (this is VERY important) with a backslash and an I enclosed in pointy-brackets at the end of text. Thus: You italicise, by the way, by enclosing an I in pointy-brackets at the start of text, and ending (this is VERY important) with a slash and an I enclosed in pointy-brackets at the end of text.
This is the HTML "italic" tag, and all tags must be closed in the same comment as you post them. Always always always.

Bloody hell. I hit preview twice, and New Improved Typeface still ate my explanatory carefully formatted codes to let me show mckinneytexas how to use tags.

It's {I} and {/I} except with pointy brackets (greater-than / less-than signs) instead of curly.

I'm much more surprised to learn that you uphold the Bush Doctrine.

I find myself in the curious position of being violently opposed to the Bush Doctrine, and also agreeing with Eric that a raid into Pakistani territory to kill or capture Bin Laden would be legitimate.

Part of this is that the Bush Doctrine covers more than just "surgical" violations of sovereignty. It allows for attacks against nations which pose no current threat to us, but which we think *might* threaten us in the future. It also allows for military action to replace sitting governments in the interest of promoting democracy (an interesting irony there).

Going into Pakistan after Bin Laden and/or Al Qaeda seems different to me, perhaps because he's not a country, but a member of a non-state militia who have killed Americans. Or, maybe, it's just because it's Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

I do, however, agree that it's *very* problematic, and also agree that we would not be happy if the tables were turned.

How would we react if a band of Cuban guerillas snuck into Miami and assassinated Luis Carriles? Or whisked him out of the country to face trial in Cuba?

What if they killed Anerican 100 bystanders in the course of doing either?

What if they blew up the local CIA office, or killed the judge that granted him permission to stay here, in the course of doing either?

Those are all things we might consider fair game in the pursuit of Bin Laden. It's pretty thorny.

Terrorists present an odd problem. They aren't a state, but they are political actors. They are criminals, but they are kind of a unique breed of criminal in that their M.O. is pretty much exclusively the wreaking of murder and mayhem. In other words, what would in other contexts be called "war".

I think what's needed, which somewhat remarkably (to me) has not been addressed in the 7 years since 9/11, is the creation of some kind of international legal category for terrorists -- for non-state purveyors of military, or at least militant, violence.

Congress used to have the prerogative of sanctioning forcible actions at a level short of war, through granting letters of marque and reprisal. Letter of marque -- government sanction for private individuals to seize foreign property -- are not what's needed here, but it seems like something more than international criminal law, and less than declarations of war, is needed.

It's a hard problem.

Thanks -

How would we react if a band of Cuban guerillas snuck into Miami and assassinated Luis Carriles? Or whisked him out of the country to face trial in Cuba?

Well, we were OK with Chilean operatives committing a terrorist act in Washington DC that cost an American his life. But that was different. I guess.

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