February 23, 2004

Response to Terrorism: War v Law Enforcement

Tacitus sports a message by Bird Dog on why it is important that our 9/11 response be a war response.

He gets savaged in the comments. Here's my response in support of him:

One of the most basic differences has yet to be covered here, the difference in penalties.

Killing a civilian on purpose as a criminal act - 25 yrs to life in prison for 1st degree murder, lots of appeals and release on many technical grounds.
Killing a civilian on purpose as a military act - war crime, death penalty, limited appeals process, and technicalities won't save you so easily from the hangman.

The entire strategy of most terrorist groups center around what are known conventionally as war crimes. To declare war, really declare war means a lot of business for the hangman or the terrorists radically change their tactics.

If terrorists change their tactics for fear of the war crime convictions, that's a great victory. It means King David Hotel and Cole type attacks targeting our military forces, not strikes at the Sears Tower.

This is one aspect of things that most people don't really understand but hopefully the Gitmo tribunals will jumpstart the educational process. When war is declared, you change judicial codes from the normal US code to a much more sparse, and spartan code generically called the "rules of war". Terrorists largely center their campaigns around strategies and tactics designed to violate the rules of war. They do so because they have been confident until now that they will be judged by the civilian codes, not the war codes. They are now mistaken and they need to understand how much that mistake will cost them.

There are other reasons why it's good to use a war response but I think that this one is the least appreciated.

Posted by TMLutas at February 23, 2004 01:20 PM