Saturday, July 05, 2008

Another response to Stephen Carter, via Megan McArdle 
I'm responding to another post by Megan...actually, responding THROUGH Megan to Carter. Here's the post by Megan:

I just asked Stephen Carter a question--and I'm going to ask the Aspen Institute for the video of his answer. The question is one that I've been worrying at for a while: what do you do with captives of an entity that considers itself at war with you, but when there is no state to declare an end to the conflict?

His answer is too rich to do justice, which is why I want the video, but a couple of points:

1) Captives who fight out of uniform are not covered under Geneva. This presumably includes the prisoners at Guantanamo. Nonetheless, he says, we should treat them as if they were.

2) Geneva, and more broadly just war theory, is meant to deal with states. This is a gigantic problem with quasi-military terrorism.

My response:

Carter is dead wrong.

Megan, you are a libertarian and an econ blogger. You're all about incentives. If you incent something, you get more of it. If you remove the incentive, you get less of it.

If you treat combatants in and out of uniform the same way, you remove the incentive for the enemy to abide by the laws of land warfare. You give him every incentive to blur the distinction between combatant and noncombatant. You give him no reason whatsoever to do anything else.

(Historically, we've executed enemy combatants who did this (c.f. the Battle of the Bulge, when the Germans put English speaking Wehrmacht soldiers in US uniforms to sow discord in the rear. We shot them when captured).
If you remove all incentive for our enemies to adhere to the laws of war, they never will. They can avoid American firepower by hiding among civilians - and inevitably increase casualties among civilian noncombatants due to the confusion that Carter wishes to enable and reward.

Tell me, where is the ethics in that? We're doing a favor here for precisely whom?
Answer: Terrorists, and ONLY terrorists.

I hope you're actually misrepresenting Carter here, because if your characterization of him is accurate, I'm not very impressed with him.

As for how long to keep an illegal combatant prisoner, the answer is NOT complicated, and is EXACTLY the same whether there is a state to declare surrender or not: You keep them until the cessation of hostilities.

In the case of Al Qaeda, that could be a very long time, because Al Qaeda has no responsible chain of command with the authority to order its members to lay down their arms and cease hostilities.

This is our problem, exactly, how?

Let the word go forth to the entire world that if our enemies have a problem with the prospect of being held in prison until they rot, then they should not adhere to nonstate terrorist groups, and they should comport themselves in accordance with the laws of war.

Make it AL QAEDA'S problem, not ours.

This isn't difficult reasoning.

Labels: , ,

Without looking at the posts, I would guess that one issue under discussion is the (IIRC) third Geneva convention, which does allow for all sorts of combatant protection to illegal combatants. We don't recognize that convention, and didn't ratify it. Others, particularly the transnational progressivists and the lilliputianists, would like to tie the US down to this set of rules.
I hate to nit pick, but how do you define "uniform"

I have seen this question argued left and right, but no one has actually explained to me how we define the term. I know that in Iraq there are many "uniforms" many of which we would not recognize as a uniform. But when you ask the locals, they can tell you who everyone is, which tribe they are from and which district they hail from, from looking at their dress, ei. uniform. This question has always puzzled me.
In the case of a militia, it has to be a marking recognizable at a distance.

The purpose is for everyone to be able to discern them from the civilian population, so that civilians need not be uneccessarily harmed in targeting the belligerents.

If only the indigenous can discern their markings, and they are further indistinguishable from, say, the way a Syrian or Yemeni or Iranian ordinary civilian would dress, then they are not a marking at all.
That makes sense to me. But how do you translate it to the parts of the world were we are currently operating in. The population is poor and my not have the money to buy "uniforms". I hate to use the words, but we are the invaders, we came to their part of the world and are imposing our set of rules. In a part of the world that could not be more disconnected. I know that is part of the problem, their disconnectedness is why we needed to invade, but do we save them from their disconnectedness, while at same time condemning them for being disconnected and not having uniforms and or being organized in the same way we are.
Taking the devils advocate position, their only strength is their irregular formation and tactics. How do we expect them to act any other way?

They have no chance at all if they try to go heads up with our modern infantry. We would just crush them like bugs.
Assuming this as a fact can't we expect all future war to be fought in a similar way. Are we going to sit around complaining that they don't play by the rules, or are we going to rewrite the rules to fit the problem?

Seems to me at some point we are going to have to address this problem.

A "uniform" doesn't have to be complicated. As Michael Yon reported in July 2007, it could be as simple as wearing a specific color, as the 1920s Brigade did when they stopped fighting with Al Qaeda and starting fighting with us...
The men in this photo wear German steel helmets, but note their armbands (which are red and white). They are Polish partisans:


If militants the world over choose to fight without identity markers, that is their prerogative. But they are not protected by the Geneva conventions, and their conduct may pose a threat to civilians, particularly in urban environs.
So Jason do you accept the red jump suit of the 1920 brigades as a uniform? If I remember correctly prior to their turning to our side they were an irregular guerrilla force, many of which were capture and charged as illegal combatants.

And the pictures clearly show that not all the 1920 brigade member were in the same dress, some had black jump suits, some looked dressed in baggy pants and shirts, common in Iraq. Yet I don't think anyone would argue that the 1920 guys are a deadly fighting force.

The question remains, how legal were they. Or are they legal when they fight on our side, and illegal combatants if they fight against us.
John, the partisans in that picture were all in what I could easily recognize as a uniform, even without the armbands.

The question is not about having or not having identity markers. The question is where do you go and register your easily recognizable local markers to make them recognizable to us, and so legal.

To expand on my question. If we invade a island where all the locals can tell each other apart, civilian from military depending on the placement of head feathers. But to our eyes they all look alike and we shoot and kill a bunch of civilians by mistake, who is at fault?

In the article from Yon I linked to, I didn't say they were "wearing red jumpsuits". I said they were "wearing red". Sometimes it was a red shirt, or a red bandana. It was something they decided upon to make themselves identifiable at a distance, so they wouldn't be confused with the actual bad guys. Yeah, the 1920s Brigades had been on the bad guy side, but they got tired of AQ killing innocent people. The 1920s guys would still like to see us go, and sooner rather than later, I'm sure, but they also know they need our help to get rid of AQI who WERE NOT planning on leaving at some future date, like the US eventually will.
I have no dispute with any of that Miss Ladybug.
Except what the 1920 brigades really want from us. I think they can handle AQ on their own. They want us to help with the Iranians, those in Baghdad, as well as those in Iran.
The question is where do you go and register your easily recognizable local markers to make them recognizable to us, and so legal.
--The Warsaw fighters didn't consult the UN - or the SS - about their choice of emblem. (That said, not every Polish (or Polish Jewish) partisan wore an armband or a recognizable uniform). It was an obvious sign of Polish nationality.

In Iraq, militants and militia have two choices; use a visible common symbol of paramilitary membership (like an armband, or a headscarf, or an all-black outfit), or wear mufti.
We may have invaded Afghanistan. But the Third Geneva Convention requires their militias to wear a distinctive marking in order to qualify for the GC protections, period.

Afghanistan didn't seem to think this was a problem. After all, Afghanistan is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions.

Tom, do you do anything else all day long except try to invent bogus excuses for terrorists?

Maybe you need a new hobby.

I could be wrong, but I'm not aware of any detainees captured in Iraq, 1920 Brigade or otherwise, who is being held in US custody as an illegal combatant.

To my knowledge, the US decided to process all Iraq detainees in accordance with the Geneva Conventions as a matter of policy. I'm not able to find any 1920 Brigade exceptions.

The Iraqis, of course, may have had some ideas of their own. But Iraq, as sovereign over its own territory is perfectly free to treat them as criminals, rather than as PoWs, uniform or no uniform.
I'm not trying to excuse terrorist. What I do is try to understand the issues. That way when I do argue with the terrorist I have something to say.

By the way, so Afghanistan is a signatory of the convention, but Russia was not a signatory when it came to that arms treaty because it was singed by the USSR..interesting
I'm not sure if you noticed the inconsistency between your last answers and the incentives argument you were making.
Dangit, I gooned it. Commeter over at McArdle's schooled me. I was thinking of the extra protocols and the reservations, and thought I was talking about the 3d convention instead. Argh.
"I hate to use the words, but we are the invaders, we came to their part of the world and are imposing our set of rules."

The GC are WORLDWIDE rules, so in that instance we are imposing nothing. This argument would make sense if we were fighting the Skinnies or the Arachnids, but on Earth, the GC cover it - from Birmingham to to Berlin to Baghdad to Bombay to Beijing.
Yep. That's why I prefer to spar over there. You get more resistance.

Actually, a great place to spar used to be the old Straight Dope message board, though I haven't been there. You had to have your ducks in a row there.

Here, I don't have a critical mass of informed people on both sides of the ideological spectrum, except on purely warfighting topics. I'd love to, but I don't have the traffic these days.
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter

Prev | List | Random | Next
Powered by RingSurf!

Prev | List | Random | Next
Powered by RingSurf!