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Posts published in “Day: November 27, 2015”

A matter of war


To formally declare war against any terrorist group as a reaction to ordinary criminal acts, whether against France, some other country, or against us, would be a dumb mistake.

To do so just to best Vladimir Putin in some sort of attempt to get ahead of Russia in the Middle East would be even dumber. We know we cannot defeat an idea with conventional weaponry. We know we have no business involving ourselves in civil wars in the Middle East, especially where those disputes spill over into unwinnable theological differences within factions of Islam that have been at odds with one another for a thousand years.

We also know better than to interfere with a regime change driven from without; a lesson learned from Iraq and Libya.

Finally, we must know that we cannot continue to assign the responsibility for warfare to just the 1% of our young and hearty, expecting them to return again and again to the hellish nightmares of battle while the rest of us continue on without inconvenience or sacrifice.

This means that to avoid running amok into the same moral, legal, political and practical quagmire we found in Afghanistan and Iraq, we must keep the situation with Syria and ISIL or ISIS, or whatever it wishes to be called, in careful perspective. If our real objective is to seek out and hold the individuals responsible for these atrocious terrorist activities accountable to society, which is a legitimate objective, and which we have proved we are very good at doing, then the obvious solution lies in our criminal courts, not warfare. The acts are crimes, and are best handled as crimes wherever they are found.

To date, the overwhelmingly successful prosecutions of radical jihadist terrorists has been in the federal courts of the United States. With a conviction rate of close to 90%, more than 500 terrorism related cases have been prosecuted there since 9/11.

Meanwhile, the effort to prosecute detainees in military tribunals at Guantanamo under the war powers act has become hopelessly snarled and bogged down. There have been three convictions out of Gitmo since 9/11. Three. There are only seven detainees currently being tried in military tribunals there, and indications are that the Pentagon only intends a total of fourteen prosecutions in all – out of the entire 780 detainees incarcerated at Guantanamo in its history.

We have the personnel, the processes, and the knowledge to manage the entire matter of terrorist acts completely under the direction of our United States Attorneys’ offices and within the criminal justice system of our federal courts. Terrorist acts are crimes and should be treated as such. This is where it all belongs, and this is where it all should stay

First take/Kurdistan

A couple of experts on the Kurds - the 40 million or so people stretched across Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria - make a good argument on The Daily Beast today that the time has come for an independent Kurdistan.

As a practical matter that simply seems not to have been in the cards up to now. To get the independent state they have been seeking would mean getting several independent countries to give up a significant chunk of their population and territory, some of it oil-producing. And the leadership of some of those countries, present or past - Iraq and Turkey maybe most visibly - have been violently against the idea.

And trying to offer up independent countries to every ethnic group around the globe is, Woodrow Wilson to the contrary, not a real good idea.

However. Something like the protagonist in the Kipling poem "If," the Kurds - who long have had a sort of shadow government in place and a military to go with it - have been a solid bulwark against their neighbors Daesh, holding their ground better than either the Syrian or Iraqi states. They are proving themselves a coherent force, and nation status could make them more effective. On top of that, they generally have been aligned with the West; the United States has worked with them informally for years.

Writers Aliza Marcus and Andrew Apostolou argue, though, that a single Kurdistan may yet be impractical, just because conditions in the four countries are so different. Iraqi Kurds have been all but independent for close to a quarter-century, while those in in Turkey are still struggling with the federal government there. Those in Iran remain repressed, while those in Syria are moving toward the Iraqi model.

But they do argue that giving the group international help is not beyond reach. Maybe, with the recent shootdown of a Russian plane by Turks kept in mind, the right leverage may be here to do that. - rs