Free Markets, Free People


Inside Our OODA Loop

Something that’s been bouncing around inside my head the past couple of days is that it really seems like al Qaeda (and terrorists in general) have gotten inside our OODA Loop.

For those who don’t know, you can find a really good description of the OODA Loop here and a good summary here. Briefly it’s the decision cycle (“observe, orient, decide, act”) of those engaged in some sort of struggle or competition. The faster and more accurate one’s decision cycle, the more quickly he can disorient and defeat his opponent. By forcing your opponent into a defensive posture, where your moves are not readily or easily discerned, you can outmaneuver and even control what your opponent does — hence, you are inside his OODA Loop. So when I say that the terrorists have gotten inside our OODA Loop, I mean that we are fighting them from predictable, even enemy-dictated stances that make it easier for them to survive and continue fighting.

To some extent, of course, that’s almost entirely what terrorism is designed to do: i.e. affect our decision-making process in such a way as to turn the populace against the government. The terrorists attack soft targets, and the government responds by restraining the freedom of its own citizens, maybe even going overboard. In fact, in countries where a considerable amount of freedom is the norm, most if not all such government restrictions will seem like they are going overboard, because only the terrorists really know how and when they are going to attack next (recall the famous IRA admonishment to Margaret Thatcher: you have to be lucky every day; we just have to be lucky once). The people eventually get tired of the restraints and overbearing policies of the government and either demand a stop to the war against the terrorists or join the terrorists’ cause. Indeed, the whole concept behind Petraeus’ counterinsurgency was an attempt to reorganize our OODA Loop in a way that was not affected by the terrorists’ actions. The idea was to win over the populace to the coalition side by taking the fight to the terrorists and protecting the citizens. When it comes to fighting terrorism on as a nation, however, we don’t seem to have any similar strategy, and that appears to be helping al Qaeda, et al.

That’s not to say that the terrorists will ever truly defeat America and the West, because that’s not ever going to be possible. Militarily, whether speaking in terms of strategy, tactics, policy or just sheer power, they are simply no match for us on any level. Even so, they have become somewhat adept at pushing our buttons in a way that makes us turn on one another, thus weakening our resolve. Keep in mind too that they don’t have to “win” in this struggle, they just have to tie. If we leave Iraq and/or Afghanistan before those nations are able to effectively capable of governing themselves in a peaceful manner, including the ability to keep terrorists at bay, then they will count that as a victory and we will face an emboldened enemy. If we react in predictably defensive ways to every terrorist act, and let them dictate how our government rules her citizens, then we hand them all the controls they need to thrive. And when we do that coupled with a near-pathological fear of offending a protected class of persons, even when we have some really well-founded reasons for distrusting a certain, easily identifiable class of persons, we practically write a script for the terrorists to help us implode.

Just consider how we treat foreign nationals who wish to come to America. On the one hand we keep productive, job-producing citizens out, while allowing watch-listed BVD-bombers easy access:

The question on the visa is critical. No one has a right to a visa to the US. If we have credible information that someone constitutes a threat — and a father’s testimony should be considered at least credible enough to hoist a red flag or two — then the visa should be canceled until more investigation can take place. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we’re kicking out Anatolie Vartosu for being too successful in America while keeping Adbulmutallab’s visa in place because we’re just not sure he’s a radical jihadi. It’s as ridiculous as doing strip-searches on Grandma while allowing a Nigerian on a watch list to pass through two sets of security without a patdown.

The whole point the watch-list and no-fly lists, not to mention the ridiculously random and complicated TSA security measures in general, was to prevent another 9-11 from happening. Yet the only people whom seem to be at all hampered by these government restrictions are those who have no intention of blowing up airplanes.

So in response to the attempted terror attack over Christmas, TSA will apparently adopt a new policy prohibiting passengers from moving during the last hour of a flight. Also, no pillows or blankets during that last hour.

In addition to keeping with its usually [sic] tradition of making policy on a reactionary [sic] basis, this one wouldn’t even have done anything to prevent the attempt over the weekend. The guy was in his seat when he tried to light the explosive device. And the passenger who confronted him got out of his seat to do it.


TSA … equates hassle with safety. For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.

If you’re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they’re really only interested in the appearance of safety. They’ve simply concluded that the more difficult they make your flight, the safer you’ll feel. Never mind if any of the theatrics actually work.

That’s one way of explaining how the cycle of terrorist act/government restriction/citizen agitation works. Or, you could say that al Qaeda is inside our OODA Loop. And we can’t seem to find an effective way to remove them.

Well, that’s not entirely correct. The best way we’ve found of dealing with terrorists is by taking the fight to them, and forcing them to fight for their own ground. When we did that, we severely disrupted their ability to form and execute new plans, and made it increasingly difficult for state-supporters to remain hidden or passive. Of course, our government still took the ridiculous, theatrical approach to safety at home anyway, so the system isn’t fool-proof. Essentially it’s Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy writ large in a place that’s not sanguine about a military presence, but where plenty of us will whine and moan if the theater doesn’t put the show on anyway (while remembering to annoying everyone equally, even if our business cards declare us to be soldiers for Allah). We put them on the defensive, and that’s right they belong now.

Victor David Hanson predicts that we will see the Obama administration start heading that way in the near term, and perhaps it already has. I hope that’s right. Because taking our foot off the gas is not getting the job done. It just lets the enemy get back to steering our bus in the direction they want. Back inside our OODA Loop.

Ft. Hood, Hasan And Some On The Left’s Tone Deafness

You can’t beat the left for not getting the message or understanding the problem, can you:

[Montel Williams, on his Air America program] suggested on Monday that the Fort Hood backlash against Muslims could be so great we would put Muslims in internment camps like the Japanese under Franklin Roosevelt:

WILLIAMS: We pulled something like this back in World War II when we decided to round up all Japanese Americans and put them in internment camps. This is something that I think before we can blink, the [anti-Muslim] rhetoric, Doc, could get out of hand. What do you think?

FRANK FARLEY, psychologist, Temple University: I agree totally. I mean, the possibilities of prejudice and racism and so on are incredible here. You know, we should be treating this as a unique incident and look at the factors involved in this very unique and specific incident, and not overgeneralize. Unfortunately, we tend to overgeneralize all the time. The idea that all Muslims are the same is ridiculous….

Everybody’s got their own personal qualities and individual differences and let’s just treat this as a very specific incident and try to figure out why this particular person did this particular thing.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. No matter what it comes out to, at the end of the day, even if it comes out in the last five months and all his anxiety around his impending deployment, he decided his frame of reference was his religion and that was what was giving him, you know, the power within himself to make his stand, that doesn’t mean that the religion is to blame.

FARLEY: Absolutely, it’s his interpretation of everything, and his interpretation [of Islam] may vary dramatically from his fellow Muslims.

Wow. As much as I cautioned people to give the facts a chance to come out before coming to conclusions about Hasan, this is just an example of some incredible denial going on here. We now have facts – lots of facts – and informed conclusions can be drawn.

And let’s deal with the internment camp nonsense. That happened because a liberal Democratic president signed an Executive Order (Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942) which enabled US citizens of a particular national background to be interned (a total violation of their civil rights). Is he really suggesting that because we have a liberal Democrat president again in the White House that history may repeat itself. Or is he as ignorant of history as most and assuming it was done by mean, nasty right-wing types?

Something else that sort of hits me here – if there was no “backlash” against muslims after 9/11, why do these yahoos think there will be one now? Who is it who will be involved in this backlash and why is this incident so different from 9/11 that it will spark the backlash 9/11 didn’t?  I don’t know.  But I would think that the American people, who sorted that out the last time, will sort it out this time as well.

Are there prudent steps to be taken in light of what has happened at Ft. Hood as concerns muslim soldiers? Yes. Given Ft. Hood, the Little Rock incident and the fragging incident in Iraq, all involving muslim soldiers or muslims attacking soldiers, I’d say that it would be prudent to screen the reported 3,500 muslim military members (discretely and unobtrusively as possible) given the deadly action of two (as I recall, the left was all for a purge of the military to look for neo-nazis and white supremacists) . And yes that means, given the unique situation our military is in (fighting in two muslim countries) and the possible conflict that may bring to the minds of some who are of the dominant religion of those two countries – that we’re “profiling”. But then, while it is the antithesis of political correctness, it is the smart thing to do.  Show me a compelling reason to screen the rest of the military for those who might be in a similar situation and I’d be for that as well.

Should there be procedures put in place that would encourage the reporting of language or actions that appear to support a radicalized person – be it through religion or ideology? Yes, there should. And the chain of command must be made to take such reports seriously, investigate them thoroughly and act if necessary. Or said another way, political correctness and the fear of being censured if you do report such utterances or actions, must be banned from the military.

Finally, people like Williams and Farley must be pointed out and ridiculed because it is their sort of denial which leads to incidents like Ft. Hood. We all need to grow up a bit, quit taking everything as an insult and understand that your feelings don’t take precedence over someone else’s life. Yes, we’re diverse. Yes, we’re an amalgamation of peoples.

However, if you are consistently being bitten on the leg by dogs, you don’t go looking for cats or chickens. We have to learn to honestly and forthrightly address the threat.  Radical Islam has been attacking us since the embassy takeover in Iran 30 years ago.  They are the ones we should be looking for right now – and you’re not going to find them among Christian, atheist or Jewish military personnel.

The threat appears to be a segment of Islam that becomes violently radicalized and strikes out at those it considers “infidels”. In the case of Hasan that was obviously anyone within reach.  And, as experts say, self-generated jihadis are not unusual and are, as we’ve found out, more dangerous than those with organized connections (those with organized connections are easier to find and track). Given all I’ve read about Hasan – and it has been a lot – that’s what I believe he is. A self-generated jihadi who became increasingly radicalized over the years to the point that he finally decided he must act.

I understand and appreciate the attempts to warn us off of using too broad a brush.  That was one of the points of my previous post that generated so much discussion. But it is no longer a secret that there are radicals among the religion of Islam who find it to be their duty to do similar acts to those of Hasan. Pretending Hasan wasn’t one of those stretches credulity to the max. The first day of the shootings – yes, a perfectly acceptable argument. We had few facts and much of what was reported we subsequently found out was wrong.  However now, given the veritable avalanche of information which has been provided about this man and verified, it is more than a little lame to pretend he might have been something our experience and the facts tell us he’s not.

Willams and Farley do a disservice to us all by claiming those who have concluded his religion radicalized him and was the reason he did what he did are “overgeneralizing”. Not anymore. Sure it was a “specific incident” as Farley claims, but so was 9/11. And after we learned about each of the radicals who committed that atrocity we found men not unlike Nadal Malik Hasan, didn’t we?


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AfPak: Indecision May Negate Possible Strategic Success

Pakistan’s army is on the march against both the Taliban and al Qaeda in South Warziristan where there is a large concentration of both:

The Pakistani army pushed farther into a mountainous Taliban and al-Qaeda haven Sunday, as civilians continued to flow out of an area that has become a full-fledged battleground.

On the second day of a ground offensive in the restive border region of South Waziristan, the military said at least 60 militants and five soldiers had been killed. The Pakistani Taliban, which the government says has plotted a cascade of recent attacks on security forces from its base in the area, told the Associated Press that its fighters had inflicted “heavy casualties” against the army.

The fight in South Waziristan is a key test for Pakistan’s military, which is tasked with shattering a rising Islamist insurgency that has killed nearly 200 people in bombings and gunfights in the past two weeks. American officials, who have urged Pakistan to get tougher on militants operating on its soil, say the region is also a hub for militants who plan attacks on U.S.-led forces across the border in Afghanistan.

According to reports we’ve been asking for and encouraging the Pakistanis to take exactly this sort of action since the Obama administration has been in office.

Question: How long do you suppose the Pakistanis will commit to such operations and continue to push back against the Taliban and al Qaeda if we continue to dither about our commitment? Here we have a desired result in action.  You’d think that would be extremely useful against the very target candidate Obama said we’d taken our eye off of with Iraq – namely Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Are we conducting  a complimentary and supporting NATO operation right now?  And if not, why not?

I’ll tell you why – the administration is instead worried about the results of a run-off election in Afghanistan and can’t manage to separate that from the supposed strategic goal that candidate Obama laid out as our purpose for being Afghanistan in the first place.

All things being equal, it would be wonderful to have a popularly elected government free of corruption and connected across the country with provincial and local governments. But what has that to do with that primary goal of defeating (i.e. eliminating) al Qaeda and those who support it who are now located between Kabul and Islamabad? Eliminate the threat, go home, and let the Afghan’s sort out who they want in charge and what sort of government they’d prefer.

In the meantime, we’re undermanned to do what we claim, or at least claimed, was our goal – kill al Qaeda and its supporters. We’ve finally seen Pakistan get off its collective posterior and do what we’ve been asking them to do for years and we’re unprepared to support the operation even though we’ve had 10 months in which to make a decision (IOW, why aren’ t we engaged in an operation that supports theirs?).

If Pakistan’s losses mount while we (and NATO) sit on our rear ends, how long do you imagine Pakistan will commit to proactive and costly offensive combat?


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2996 Project – Lt. David Halderman, FDNY

A post I did in September of 2006, originally entitled “September 11th, 2001 – “We Lost David”.  It is the ongoing fulfillment of a promise made in the last sentence of the post.  This is what 9/11 should be about.


Each week I do a tribute, called Project Hero, about a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman who’s been awarded a medal for valor in combat. Those medals represent their actions above and beyond the call of duty. But, as we all know, valor and courage aren’t exclusive to the military or combat. And no better example of that is what the courageous men and women of fire, rescue and police did that awful day in September of 2001 when terrorists attacked our country by flying commercial aircraft into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

A few weeks ago I signed on to an effort called the “2996 Project” organized by a blog to do a tribute to each and every one of those who died on that day. Three thousand bloggers are participating. The names were assigned randomly. When you signed up, you got whoever was next.

I was honored to draw the name of David Halderman Jr.

Of course, I never knew David Halderman. I’d never previously seen his name or if I had, it never registered beyond that of a person who’d died that day in those barbaric attacks. But when I began to research David, I found a man for whom my admiration and respect knew no bounds.

You see, David Halderman was a firefighter with Squad 18 of FDNY.

On that grim day in September, FDNY lost 343 of its finest who, disregarding their own safety, rushed toward the scene of the disaster while others were running away. It is estimated they saved over 20,000 souls that day. In the finest tradition of firefighters everywhere, they never hesitated. David Halderman, Jr. was among them.

Squad 18 is located in Greenwich Village. When the towers were hit, Squad 18 responded immediately. All seven firefighters on duty that morning were lost.

A visitor to New York just prior to 9/11 happened to remember Squad 18 for a particular reason:

This past Labor Day weekend, one of the youngest attendees, my nephew Beau, was walking with his mom and aunt past Firehouse #18 in Greenwich Village. Beau asked if they could stop. Three firefighters took the time to show Beau and his sister the fire truck and posed for some pictures.

Among the three firefighters who so made those visitors feel so welcome was David.

After returning home to Alaska, and following the terrible events of 9/11, Beau asked his mom if the guys in the picture were OK. After checking back with Squad #18, and showing them the picture, my sister in New York learned that “Chris and Harry made it. We lost David.” The photograph was the last picture taken of him.

As I looked further and further into the life of David Halderman, I found a man who was worthy of love, admiration and respect. He was a 2nd generation firefighter, following in the footsteps of his father and namesake who had very recently died. His brother also was with FDNY.

The fact that he’d taken time out of his day to spend with a young visitor from Alaska seemed something completely in character for him. The fact he’d responded immediately to the disaster of the World Trade Center came as no surprise either. His mother remembers the night before:

On Monday night, David Halderman called his mother in Brentwood to comfort her, as he has done regularly since his father died on Aug. 8.

“I asked him to have a good night, to be careful, to be safe, and I told him I loved him,” his mother, Geraldine Halderman, said. “That was the last time I spoke to him.”

“I love you, take care of yourself.” That was how David Halderman always ended his telephone conversations with his mother.

The next day fate and tragedy took David Halderman while performing the duty to which he’d dedicated his life:

On Tuesday morning, Halderman, a firefighter with Engine-Squad 18 in the West Village, entered the World Trade Center to help victims escape. He is now among the missing city firefighters.

“He was in the building when it collapsed,” Geraldine Halderman said. “They found his helmet. That’s all they found.”

The helmet was identified by its badge – No. 10652, the same badge number used by Halderman’s late father.

Where do we get such men? In the face of every human instinct which tells us to flee, they resist that and walk into danger, risking their lives to help others escape and live. Courage and valor are rare commodities. That’s why we revere and reward them. Those attributes were displayed by hundreds of the fire and rescue people who responded with David Halderman Jr. on that grim and horrid day in September of 2001. As a nation watched in stunned horror, men like David were saving lives.

A few days ago, David’s mother left this message on his memorial site:

Dear David, Five Years! My son you are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I have moved from the house where you grew up,it was too much for me alone. I carry all my memories in my heart. I know you are with me always, you are the voice within me that says “don’t be afraid” when I am sad or anxious. The ache in my heart remains, dulled with time but always present even through the laughter and happy times. There have been weddings and a birth since you left us,and you have been missed so much and remembered at those times. I love you forever.

Life goes on but the hurt never goes away, and mothers suffer a special agony which comes with losing their children. But we are all poorer for the loss of David and those like him. It is they who define what is good and right about us. It is they who show us what man can be. It is they who give us hope for the future.

September 11th is the day to remember those, who like David Halderman Jr., gave their lives in the service of others. I didn’t know David Halderman before this year. But I do now. He was a man to both admire and respect. And every subsequent September 11th I will remember and honor his name. It is the least we can do for the heros among us.


Left Wing Terrorism? (Update)

What would the left be claiming right now if  it was an abortion supporter killed?

State police at the Corunna post have confirmed a well-known anti-abortion activist was shot multiple times and killed this morning in front of Owosso High School.

The victim’s identity has not yet been released but the shooting occurred around 7:30 a.m., after most students were off the buses and safely inside the building, said Owosso schools transportation supervisor Jayne Campbell.

State police also confirmed that a suspect was taken into custody about 8:15 a.m. at the suspect’s home.

Of course we don’t know if this is the result of a domestic problem, a grudge, or something totally unrelated to the dead person’s activism.

But if it is an action precipitated by victim’s activism, it will be interesting to see how it is handled by the MSM which is always ready to talk about right-wing hate groups, militias and gun lovers at the drop of a hat.

I wonder if the Southern Poverty Law Center will be asked for comment.

UPDATE: So is this now a “hate crime” or just plain old murder 1? Terrorism?  Or the act of an extremist loon?

Given this reason reported by police, let’s compare and contrast how this guy is labeled by the MSM vs. the guy who shot up the Holocaust museum:

As to the reason for the killing of pro-life activist Jim Pouillon, Harlan Drake has told police that he was “offended” by Pouillon’s anti-abortion messages. Neighbors of Jim Pouillon say that he was a quiet man in recent years but his checkered past was a result of his boisterous protests. They have commented that some might not have agreed with his message or his graphic displays of aborted fetus’ on his protest signs but he was quiet man in his older age.


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Darn Right-Wing Militias

Via The Jawa Report, a little “domestic terrorism” update. First St. Louis:

A federal search warrant obtained by the Post-Dispatch connects a former Democratic campaign strategist to a Clayton bombing last year that seriously injured an attorney.

About two months after the October bombing, federal law enforcement officials searched the downtown loft of Milton H. “Skip” Ohlsen III, seeking “evidence related to the planning, execution, and/or cover-up of the bombing in Clayton, Missouri, on October 16, 2008.” Ohlsen in recent weeks has been at the center of a swirling political scandal that is threatening the political careers of at least two Missouri Democratic legislators.

Then, Austin, Texas:

A Texas woman faces trial this month in Austin on charges she threatened to kill a government informant who infiltrated an Austin-based group that planned to bomb the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., last fall…

…Crowder and McKay were part of a group of activists that had gone to the Twin Cities to take part in street demonstrations. The FBI had infiltrated the group with Darby. Crowder and McKay built eight of the gasoline firebombs but didn’t use them, a fact law enforcement officials credited to Darby.

Members of the Austin protest community heaped scorn on Darby, saying he had betrayed longtime friends and colleagues.

I’m headed over to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website to see what they have to say about these right-wingers and their hate crimes …. oh, wait …


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Send In The Thugs (update)

Irony, as we’ve all learned, is not something with which the left is well attuned.

For instance, until the Obama administration unleashed the unions, the townhall meetings were a little raucous, but not violent.

But now that the White House has all but explicitly condoned the demonization and thus the marginalization of those who disagree with his attempt to “reform” health care, and further called on the unions to send in paid operatives to “punch back”, we have violence.

The irony? This, from Dennis Rivera, health care chairman of the SEIU after six of his goons had assaulted a protester in St. Louis:

“These are the times to clearly speak out in a civilized way, and tell them we won’t be prevented by these terrorist tactics from participating in these town hall meetings,”

Always nice to know how the opposition defines “civilized way” isn’t it?

Yup, raising your voice in a townhall meeting and not just shutting up and listening to the nonsense the man or woman (does anyone understand what the word “representative” means?) who works for you is spouting is now a “terroist tactic” according to the SEIU.

Solution – assault people in a ‘civilized way’, bar those who disagree with the administration from a place in the meeting while packing it with handpicked union members and call it a “townhall”.

Pure, unadulterated cowardice on parade is what it is. Apparently the Dems are not only unaware of the irony of the situation, but also unfamiliar with the first law of holes. And trust me, they are digging a deep one with their present behavior.

UPDATE: What are union members from Chicago doing at a St. Louis townhall meeting?


Know Thy Enemy – And Loath Him

And after reading this, it won’t be hard to do:

Pakistan’s top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is buying children as young as 7 to serve as suicide bombers in the growing spate of attacks against Pakistani, Afghan and U.S. targets, U.S. Defense Department and Pakistani officials say.

A Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said the going price for child bombers was $7,000 to $14,000 – huge sums in Pakistan, where per-capita income is about $2,600 a year.

“[Mehsud] has turned suicide bombing into a production output, not unlike [the way] Toyota outputs cars,” a U.S. Defense Department official told reporters recently. He spoke on the condition that he not be named because of ongoing intelligence efforts to catch Mehsud, a prime target for a U.S. and Pakistani anti-Taliban campaign.

People like Mehsud claim to represent a religion of peace and act on its behalf. Yet no religion of peace would ever sanction or condone actions such as this. Perhaps it is time we quit accepting their stated claims that they’re Islamic warriors and call them what they deserve to be called – animals barely worth the price of a bullet.

Rarely will you find me using the term “exterminate”. But when I read things like this, I truly believe that the Taliban are more than deserving of complete and utter extermination. This is a “seed” which needs to germinate no further.

God speed to the 4,000 Marines who’ve just launched Operation Khanjar. May their aim be true enough to bring down this miserable swine somewhere along the line.


Well “Duh”!

I guess this just wasn’t considered true until the boys at al Qaeda said it was true, huh?

If it were in a position to do so, Al Qaeda would use Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in its fight against the United States, a top leader of the group said in remarks aired Sunday.

Not only would it use Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, it would use Iran’s, North Korea’s, Russia’s or anyone else’s they could get their hands on.

And that says what? That we have every reason to consider it a national security priority to ensure a) they (AQ) don’t get their hands on such weapons and b) those nations most likely to develop them and hand them over to AQ don’t get the opportunity to do so.

Anyone – what would be an indicator that a regime might hand that sort of weapon over to AQ?

Answer? If the regime already actively supports terrorists and supplies them with weaponry .

I’ll leave it to you to figure out which country that is and why now is a perfect time to be taking a much stronger stand in support of dissenters there. If you’re still in the dark, read this interview, especially the last few paragraphs.  If what the interviewee says is true, we’re talking sea change, folks.


Miranda and War

An interesting discussion broke out in the comment section of the Miranda post, which I’m hoping will continue. The primary issue (and I’m simplifying here) centers around just how detainees caught on a battlefield should be handled if they don’t fit the established parameters of soldiers under the Geneva Conventions. Although there appears to be agreement that reading detainees Miranda rights is a step (or three) too far, there is also wide agreement that we should be skeptical about allowing our government so much latitude as to hold anyone indefinitely. I think closing the gap on those parameters is the challenge to be met, but I don’t think it is possible to do so without understanding how war differs from law enforcement.

Clausewitz defined war as “continuation of policy with other means.” The crux of his definition is that “war” is simply a tactic used to further political goals. War is not waged as end in itself, but as a means towards other ends which, for whatever reason, could not be accomplished through non-violent tactics. There are always exceptions, of course, but certainly a rational state will not expend blood and treasure when the same goals can be accomplished without. Even an irrational state, with irrational goals, will not waste such resources if it understands that it does not have to.

The other tools in the box for continuing policy include diplomacy and capitulation. Once those are deemed exhausted or unacceptable (as the case may be) then the tool of war is likely to appear. In other words, if agreement cannot be reached between erstwhile enemies, and surrender by one side or the other is not acceptable, then actual battle will be necessary to decide whose policy will be continued. At that point all manner of understanding between the parties is dead and only victory or a credible threat thereof will allow the discarded tools to once again be used in the construction of policy.

In the absence of war, there is general agreement as to how competing parties will conduct themselves in the pursuit of their policies. Citizens may vote, senators may argue, special interests may agitate, and whole nations may barter. The agreements may deal with how citizens deal with one another, how governments deal with their citizens, or how violations of the agreements are handled (i.e. law enforcement). In the modern world those general agreements are reduced to treaties, constitutions, rules, regulations and the like, all of which may be considered law. The policies themselves may also be enacted into law, but without some understanding as to the mechanisms for peacefully deciding which policy will be followed, then war is the only tool available. A rule of law, which is only useful where there is broad agreement on it, obviates the need to use war to advance policy. All of the foregoing are the hallmarks of a civil society that depends on pursuing policies through peaceful tactics. To turn Clauswitz’s definition around, law is the continuation of war by other means.

To be sure, transgressors of law will be dealt with at times in violent ways, but there is at least a tacit agreement to the law’s authority to do so where the violator is operating from within the society and generally partaking of its benefits. If enough transgressors get together then the agreements have broken down, and civil war or revolution may occur. Therefore, war can be understood as the tactic that is used when the law has ceased to be of use. More simply, war is the absence of law.

Given the above, which is nothing more than a condensed version of my personal views on the subject, it is difficult for me to understand how legal concepts can be introduced into war. Opposing factions may agree with one another to fight under particular rules of engagement, or to treat enemy prisoners a certain way, but when those rules are broken there is no legitimate authority to enforce them. The Geneva Conventions represent a more elaborate attempt to impose limits on warfare, but even those were never intended to apply to non-signatories except in very limited circumstances (pre-Hamdan anyway). More importantly, it seems obviously ludicrous to apply laws outside such limited agreement to any of the parties involved in battle, because there would be no battle if such laws were being adhered to in the first place.

So while any number of parties may agree amongst themselves to fight under self-imposed rules, that does not give any of them authority to impose those rules on others. Furthermore, except where explicitly agreed to otherwise, such rules would not govern war between a party to such an agreement and a non-party. To look at it another way, if Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield agree to fight under certain sanctioned rules, that does not mean that either fighter must adhere to the same rules if attacked by a third party on the way home from the match.

Accordingly, in a world of asymmetrical warfare, the basic principle that “war is the absence of law” seems to apply. In this context, the very idea of approaching war with terrorists in foreign countries under a rubric of law intended to govern domestic life appears absurdly out of place. Treating detainees captured on the battlefield to the luxury of legal niceties intended to protect the very citizens those terrorists seek to harm defies all logic. And pretending that reading any of them Miranda rights will do anything more than hamper our ability to defeat these cretins is an exercise in serious delusion. In short, law is a manifestation of the agreements underlying a peaceful community, and war is the means of protecting those agreements from those who seek to subvert them.

When considering just where the line should be drawn then, between reading enemies their “rights” and allowing the government to detain them indefinitely, I think it’s useful to understand that we are not really talking about a “rule of law.” Instead, we are talking about how best to utilize the tactic of war in furthering our policy of not allowing crazed radicals to murder our citizens. While I find great merit in placing the government (i.e. our instrument of war) on a firm leash, I don’t think it is at all useful to conflate the means by which we protect ourselves from an overbearing government with the means by which the government protects us from enemies bent on our destruction.