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9/11 and the Successful War
By George Friedman, STRATFOR

Reviewed by Sam Holliday, Col., USA (ret.)

In 9/11 and the Successful War, George Friedman asks two critical questions that Americans — no, all thinking people — need to answer: What is success in the type of conflict we have faced since 9/11? What is legal in this from of conflict? Though he knew what to ask, no one — including Friedman — has offered satisfactory answers, especially to the latter.

After outlining the conflict that began on 9/11 and soon swept into Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries, Friedman describes America’s successes and failures. He also recognizes that some believe the conflict is with al Queda but that others think it is a conflict with a worldwide Islamic challenge to Western culture. Another difference is between those who see al Qaeda’s conduct as criminal behavior to be handled in domestic civil courts and those who see it as a war crime deserving attention at the court in The Hague — though sending it the full number of insurgent “criminals” would surely overwhelm that body.

To demonstrate that both approaches fall short, this reviewer wishes to clarify some key points: Criminal law uses precepts designed to restore domestic peace following a violation of a state’s domestic law, and International law operates between states and their legitimate agents and aims to punish any legitimate combatants whose behavior represents a war crime. Insurgents, not being controlled by states party to international law, are illegal combatants and do not fit well within either category. They do not therefore merit trial in either a civil court or being packed off to The Hague. They have not acted on behalf of a state, and they utterly reject adherence to Geneva Convention principles, whose protections they do not deserve.

It is better, therefore, to regard the present struggle against insurgents as Warfare, as distinct from Peace or War as generally understood. With one party to a conflict respecting the Conventions and the other totally ignoring them, Warfare creates the need for military confinement and commissions or a new international legal regime as a replacement for unsatisfactory ad hoc methods for dealing with insurgents as international outlaws.

Friedman got the problem partially right when he observed: "As satisfying as it is to capture someone who did something, the real point ... [is] killing and capturing people who have not done anything yet, but who might." In fact simply becoming part of an insurgency should be considered an act outside the law and punishable by any state, whether the individual has acted violently, attempted the subversion of a state, or simply trained for or planned to do so.

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