Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ron Smith: More on justice and war

Two assumptions lay behind the argument in my recent posting, ‘Droning on’ (2 October).  One was that the appropriate moral framework, within which to discuss targeting in the on-going conflict between Islamic extremism and the West (the so called war on terror), is that of ‘war’, and not ‘crime’, notwithstanding that the actions of the insurgent parties are generally crimes, within the jurisdiction of the state in which they occur.  I also took it that the crucial criterion for legitimate combatant status in such conflict is ‘participation in the hostilities’.

I should add that I am taking the term ‘Islamic extremism’ to encompass both an attachment to a fundamental interpretation of Islam, which promotes a way of living as close as possible to the teachings of the Prophet, and, most importantly a commitment to violent means in order to achieve it. 
It was also assumed, in the previous posting, that the same principles (the same moral requirements) ought to govern all who are involved (on whatever side). 

Insofar as it is right to discuss these issues within the context of ‘war’ (which I define as the use of violence for a political purpose), it should be noted that this is how Geneva law sees these things:


“The provisions of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols must be fully applied ….. without adverse distinction based on the nature or origin of the armed conflict or on the causes espoused by or attributed to the parties to the conflict.”  (Preamble to Protocol I (1977) to the Geneva Conventions of 1949). 

If we decide that, notwithstanding international agreement on the matter, this even-handed principle should not be applied, we need to articulate what degree of relative military weakness, or moral virtue for the cause (or whatever), would justify what degree of latitude in the application of international law, thus making it seem not entirely self-serving to an independent observer.  The only other policy would be to judge the two sides by different criteria.  In this case, the non-state (‘insurgent’) party would be merely criminal and no use of violent means would be justified.  There are obvious problems here, too.  Are we to condemn the Syrian people who are presently trying to defend themselves against a government that is using the major weapons of war to resist democratic change?  Clearly, what they are doing is contrary to Syrian law.

To return to the ‘war on terror’, the recent shooting by a Taliban gunman, of a 14 year old schoolgirl (Mala Yousafzai) puts the issue of ‘civilian’ victimisation in a very clear light.  In this case the gunman identifies his target by name before firing, so there is no possibility of a collateral harm defence.  The person that was intended to be harmed, was harmed.  Indeed, a Taliban spokesman has confirmed that if she survives they will, again, try to kill her because she is a ‘symbol of western infidels and obsenity’.  She is a combatant in a ‘cultural’ war (a ‘clash of civilisations’, as Professor Huntington has said.).  How are we to view this? 

There is an obvious move to make here.  At fourteen, Mala Yousafzai is not a legitimate combatant.  She is too young to be a legitimate target, whatever she is doing.  This is very likely to be the basis of the popular outrage in Pakistan at the incident, where plenty of persons have been killed for their opinions over recent decades, and without much outcry.  However, the larger point must surely be, that she was not ‘participating in hostilities’; she did not represent a physical threat to anyone (unlike, say, a fourteen year-old advancing on potential victims, carrying an AK47).

To take another case, how are we to view the recent assassination of the US Ambassador to Libya?  Again, there is no doubt that he was the intended target but should he be counted as a combatant?  He was not a member of the American armed forces but he was part of the US Administration.  On the other hand, he was not obviously participating in the hostilities; that is to say, he was not himself a threat to adversary parties.  To apply the test in Protocol I (Part 3, Article 44) he is not engaged in an attack, or in activities preparatory to an attack.  On the other hand, that might have been said of some of the Taliban persons I listed in the previous discussion (persons ‘carrying messages’), insofar as they were intended/acceptable victims.  We are on difficult ground here, with distinctions hard to make and judgements difficult to sustain but we cannot resolve these dilemmas by making strong moral claims in respect of some actions whilst, at the same time, ignoring others.

International humanitarian law, based on the Hague and Geneva Conventions and precedents from Nuremberg and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, was developed with the model of formal (interstate) conflict in mind.  It is not easily applied to contemporary informal, asymmetric warfare.  But it is not impossible.  The process begins with the Geneva principle of holding all parties to the same standard and protecting those who are not directly part of the violence.  It also requires us to condemn, in an unqualified way, those who do target the innocent and those who support them.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Send in the B52s with low-yield nukes and turn the Middle East (with the exception of Israel), Afghanistan, and Pakistan into a parking lot.

If someone's declared intent ("You are commanded to fight until Islam is the only religion" and "Kill infidels wherever ye shall find them") is to kill or enslave you it's time to load your rifle.

Making peace signs and singing "Kumbaya" to them isn't going to make them go away.

If Western Judeo-Christian culture is to survive, we must immediately repatriate all Muslims to their country of origin and outlaw Islam in our countries as 'hate speech.'

The lesson to be learned from Europe is that Muslims are only peaceful and accommodating until there are enough of them to talk each other into flexing their muscles.

Cities like Rotterdam and Copenhagen have a population that is 40 percent Muslim. Muslims take over entires suburbs and ghetto-ise into them.

These suburbs effectively become effectively "no go" areas for non-Muslims in which the law of the land no longer applies,but Islamics rule themselves according the shariah law.

Police are too scared to go in without the support of army units with armoured vehicles because Islamics will rapidly gather in hundreds and even thousands to riot violently should police attempt to enforce the law.

Islamics believe that once Islamic law has prevailed somewhere, that place is "Islamic" forever.

The civilised world cannot afford to remain ignorant of the consequences of allowing this Medieval superstition to establish and propagate itself in non-Islamic countries.

Unlike other ethnic and religious minorities, Muslims will never assimilate, because their religion (on pain of being killed by the more pious) refuses to allow for out-marriage.

Muslims women rarely work, they just stay home and pump out babies, meaning Islam will eventually swamp its host cultures demographically. Muslims are actually encourated to do just that in a process dubbed by the Muslim Brotherhood "Civilisation Jihad."

This makes Islam a growing cancer within the body politic of any country in which it is allowed to establish.

Nick Nikora said...

Ron, I realise that this is off topic but I'm wondering what is your analysis of the recent spat between China and its neighbours in the East Asia Sea and South China Sea over the Senkaku, Paracel and Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal and its implications for New Zealand.

My own personal view is that China has no legitimate claims to the Paracel Islands, Senkaku Islands and the Spratly Islands in particular the Scarborough Shoal. China's claims are based on historical documentation such as maps, surveys and books going back more than 1000 years. That being the case then why is China so reluctant to front up to UNCLOS in order to prove its case as challenged recently by the Philippines?

By the way I think you and I met very briefly more than 20 years ago when you visited Waiouru Army Camp to give a presentation at the Waiouru Officers Mess. You were accompanied by Laurie Barber. At least I think it was you!

Nick Nikora

Brian said...

#Insofar as it is right to discuss these issues within the context of ‘war’ (which I define as the use of violence for a political purpose), it should be noted that this is how Geneva law sees these things: Excerpt “More on Justice and War” Dr. R. Smith
While having reservations on whether it would be possible to have a working moral framework on the “Rules of War” ie Geneva Convention as quoted; there is, I would observe in the above paragraph an omission, which is a crucial part of any Islamic conflict.
#“Besides being the use of violence for a political purpose.” the omission being a greater emphasis on the Religious implications of such a conflict.
This opens “war” and any crimes committed into a new and far wider field. The Religious Wars i.e “The Crusades”, “the advent of Protestantism Europe and The Thirty Years War” all spread violence into their civilian populations.
My question, and I recall asking some time ago is “If we (the West) wage war as per the Rules of Engagement how can we be assured that the opposition will do the same”? We cannot have a referee as at a soccer match determining one side or the other is “offside”. And how “even handed” can we be?. Just how can International law or the “Rules of War be upheld ?
I appreciate and understand Dr. Smith’s two assumptions in his argument, but I tend to look at this from a different standpoint, that of a military one. Simply, because the view from the trenches is, and always was, a good deal different from that at “Company H.Q”! let alone at a political level so far removed from reality!
The other point I would raise regards Syria, we are backing the rebels because that regime is oppressive, dictatorial, undemocratic, and unjust. (Very True) High motives, but do we not lay ourselves open to the charge that we are the sole arbitrators of whether or not we back a particular political system; and by so doing, determine “that any government anywhere could be undemocratic” ?
“Therefore opening us politically that it would be right to support “Rebels/Freedom Fighters or any of those against a legitimate Government, in order to change that Regime? “
Abraham Lincoln certainly thought so when some years before the Civil War when he stated “Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.”
The Confederates took Lincoln at his word, and Lincoln’s immediate response was to call for volunteers to put down an insurrection!!!) “Seeing the outcome of that war, perhaps we might judge then that the “The Victor is always right”!!!
How for instance would we view a similar challenge from Maori (“insurgents/freedom fighters/rebels”?) whatever; claiming a right to total ownership against the rest of the population? ; Without being open to a charge of Hypocrisy!
But still it is not the worse of crimes, and indeed, just where would the great comic writers from Moliere to the present day be without it?
So after playing the “Devil’s Advocate” I must now find my old de-horners.
Brian

Anonymous said...

ARABS I
It's also about time the media stopped being an echo chamber for the Soviet-manufactured "Palestinian" cause.

It is often said that the truth is one of the first casualties of war. This is certainly the case regarding the late, unlamented Palestinian Authority chairman, Yasser Arafat. Arafat once declared Jerusalem his birthplace: "This is my city. This is where I was born." But he was not born in Jerusalem. Nor, as some of his comrades have claimed, was he born in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza; but in Cairo, Egypt, in 1929.

Arafat presents himself to the world as a victim of Zionism who only took up arms because he lost his home and worldly goods when the Israeli state was created. While it is true that his parents came from Palestine, it is important to note that they were not "refugees" or "exiles." They had simply moved to Egypt in the mid-1920s, more than two decades before the state of Israel came into being in 1948.

Arafat then lived in Cairo until age 28 and identified as an Egyptian. He first became involved in radical politics in 1951 while a student at Egypt's Fuad University, working as a student organizer for the Marxist-Leninist Moslem Brotherhood.

One of the goals of the Brotherhood was to infiltrate the Islamic fundamentalist movement, in order to spread among Arabs the Soviet propaganda claim that Israel was an outpost of US imperialism. This would destabilise the Middle East, aid anti-American regimes into power, and build up Soviet influence in the region.

In 1956 Arafat, along with fellow Arab Marxist-Leninists Salah Khalef and Khalil al-Wazir, attended the Soviet-run Prague World Festival of Youth where they formed the nucleus of the terrorist Al Fatah. This radical cell would later become the core of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Anonymous said...

ARABS II
Arafat first came to public prominence in the West after the 1967 Arab-Israel war, with the help of the Soviets and their media stooges. He was one of the organisers of a 1972 conference held at the Baddawi refugee camp in Lebanon that established what international terrorism expert Yossef Bodansky refers to in his book Target America as "an alliance of progressive movements and terrorist organizations."

Besides the PLO, this would include terrorist cells from Europe and the Third World. This conference institutionalized international left-wing terrorism directed from the Kremlin, intended to undermine Israel and the West and lead to socialist victory.

The makers of the US documentary "The Russian Connection" interviewed several PLO members and were told that in the 1970s, no terrorist attack on Israel would occur without first being cleared with the Soviets.

The PLO itself boasted of Arafat's regular weekly meetings with Soviet Ambassador Alexander Soldatov. The Soviets, according to the documentary, supported the PLO with arms, training, planning and propaganda.

These planned attacks were not military actions, but the killing of innocent civilians. They continue to this day in the wave of cowardly suicide bombings splashed across newspapers all over the world. The strategy is that Israel can be defeated and destroyed by the terrorist murder of as many Jewish men, women and children as possible.

In his ongoing use of terrorism, Yasser Arafat continued to deploy political methods learned from his Soviet masters, displaying a consummate mastery of the Marxist-Leninist tactic of "dialectical materialism."

For Marxist-Leninists, as Mao Tse-Tung puts it, "There is nothing in this world but matter in motion." The material world is made up of a thesis (the status quo) and an antithesis (the change agent, or revolutionary). Out of the clash between these two opposites, a new socialist society will one day be born. In an operational sense, the revolutionary wherever possible rolls back the status quo, but feigns to give ground whenever the status quo holds firm.

Hence, the dialectic is best understood in terms of the analogy of a hammer hammering in a nail. The hammer smashes down onto the nail, driving it further into the wood. At that point the force is expended and no further progress towards the goal is possible. The hammer then draws back and re-gathers its force before smashing down again. Marxist-Leninists therefore view any retreat or concession as merely temporary and tactical.

Anonymous said...

ARABS III
The Palestinian Arab leadership employs the dialectical tactic of "peace" and/or violence, often offering both at the same time, at strategically advantageous points on the road to its ultimate goal of destroying the Israeli state.

What are the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict? Within hours of the historic 1948 United Nations decision to create a Jewish state, Israel was attacked without warning by six Arab nations promising to complete Hitler's work. Despite repeated assurances from Jewish leaders that all non-combatants would remain unmolested, many Palestinian Arabs then fled to refugee camps in Lebanon and the Gaza strip, at that time part of Egypt.

They expected to return to their homes in a few days once the Arabs armies were victorious. But the unthinkable happened. The Jews won. Ever since that time, the Palestinian Arab leaders have kept their people trapped in squalid refugee camps as a political weapon.

This demonstrates Yasser Arafat's mastery of another Marxist-Leninist political tactic, "The National Question." Based on the works of Lenin, Marxist-Leninists have for decades encouraged the independence aspirations of indigenous peoples and minority groups to bring about the overthrow of the existing social order, and eventual socialist control.

Arafat's Soviet instructors soon helped him to see that world opinion could be mobilised behind his cause if the refugees became "Palestinians" rather than Arabs. By becoming "Palestinians," the Arabs succeeded in turning the Arab-Israeli conflict from a war of annihilation against the Jews into a struggle of dispossessed natives against colonialist invaders.

Anonymous said...

ARABS IV
On all the evidence, Yasser Arafat was no Palestinian nationalist, but a professional Soviet-trained revolutionary who has hooked into a group of people with a grievance and seamlessly shaped them into a political force in the pursuit of his socialist nightmares.

While the Soviet Union and its Evil Empire has imploded and Moscow is no longer the epicenter for world socialist domination, the political strategies set in motion by the Soviets decades ago continue to find expression in the present-day Arab-Israeli conflict.

The barrier to co-existence between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, most of whom want peace and economic prosperity, is a Palestinian Arab leadership wedded to Marxist-Leninist ideology and endorsed in its hatred, division and violence by Western intellectuals of the same stripe who are perennial cheerleaders for the destruction of any free society.