Re: A Hudna in the Battle of the Bobs
I would guess that 2 & 4 are VERY important to Bob Wright (in fact he has made use of them several times in explaining scenarios in the past) but I think he wanted to focus on 1-safety/security, because the Bob Kagan's of the world always want "safety" to be their trump card to justify whatever extreme measures they have in mind. Conservatives love to use the tactic of taking a complex situation that has several overlapping and sometimes competing factors, and break it down into one element like security, that has the most emotional resonance. It's a great debating tactic because it essentially forces their more broad-view opponent into having to defend their position based on a hypothetical scenario that no American would want to support (eg: letting somebody free who then comes back with a loose-nuke and kills 100K Americans.) But while it may be a great debating tactic for putting your opponent on his heels, it distracts from the reality that these situations DO have several components. So I think Bob Wright was trying to make the argument that his viewpoint is not only the one that pays more heed to the traditional American spirit of justice (ie; a fair trial, due process, humane treatment, presumption of innocence etc.) but that it ALSO can be imagined to be the better position as far as the safety/security aspect. Granted, as even Bob will acknowledge, that angle (security) is a very slippery one to try to measure, but that doesn't mean it's impossible (this, i think was the heart of what he was trying to say.)
I do agree with Kagan in that I think people like Bob Wright should put more emphasis on the "Values" side of his viewpoint. One of the things that I'm the most proud of when it comes to being an American is the fact that we have strived and designed our justice system in a way that puts the rights of the individual/accused on a higher level than any other system in history. With great familiarity and contempt for the abusive potential of governments, our founding father's crafted a brilliant system for trying to minimize that threat and focus on the rights of the accused. By re-writing the guidelines with terms like "enemy combatant" and declaring a new kind of war we have ventured astray from America's most cherished values. The hazy definition of this new kind of war (which seemingly can go on forever) negates all established rules for warfare, but more importantly it goes against the spirit of American justice. This opens up the possibility for endless wars, inhumane methods (waterboarding), indefinite confinement, no legal representation and little/no oversight on the process as a whole. Most essentially it tosses out the notion tha these captured people are humans and entitled to some rights and due process regardless of their innocence or guilt. It has opened up innumerable instances for abuse by the government and has convinced many in America that it is ok for the entire operation to be based on the idea that we can hold these people under a presumption of guilt and we don't have to prove their guilt in a court or grant any recognition of their rights to a trial or representation, because, well, they're guilty...we think. It's inconsistent with the general logic of the American approach to justice and it also has other elemental flaws. If Al Qeada closes shop tomorrow and never again attacks the US, is the GWOT over? What if Hezbollah takes their place in the global enemy list? Do we still have the right to detain AQ members? Can some terrorist organization (who has no Geneva commitments) in a foreign country (say Saudi Arabia) declare a global war on the US and thus capture our soldiers on what they define to be the field of battle, and hold our men/women as long they want and subject them to torture etc. Not only does our little about-face to our established principles of justice degrade the image of America, but it opens up a major can of worms and presents us as hypocrites. America has always "led by example" when it comes to the way we act in areas of justice and war, even in the toughest of times. Bob Wright and many Americans feel like we have shamefully lowered our standards in the past 8 years, and would like us to get back to a more shining example for the rest of the world rather than sinking to the level of those we abhor.
PS I would say in response to JR's comments that the beauty of the American system of justice is that even Ted Bundy went through a process and had to be convicted with legal representation. Before he was convicted, the State had certain restrictions that prevented us from unjustly holding him without trial or torturing him etc. A judge had to verify that it was justified to detain and try him, and without enough evidence, he would have been free to go. Obviously it's an apples/oranges analogy, because he was a citizen and it wasn't a war, but I think the same principles and considerations need to be applied to the way that we treat enemy combatants.
Last edited by uncle ebeneezer; 01-19-2009 at 02:47 PM..