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The Iraq War, the Next War, and the Future of the Fat Man 380

Posted by Soulskill
from the make-the-robots-do-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Stanford Law Review Online has just published an Essay by Yale's Stephen L. Carter entitled 'The Iraq War, the Next War, and the Future of the Fat Man.' He provides a retrospective on the War in Iraq and discusses the ethical and legal implications of the War on Terror and 'anticipatory self-defense' in the form of drones and targeted killings going forward. He writes: 'Iraq was war under the beta version of the Bush Doctrine. The newer model is represented by the slaying of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen deemed a terror threat. The Obama Administration has ratcheted the use of remote drone attacks to unprecedented levels — the Bush Doctrine honed to rapier sharpness. The interesting question about the new model is one of ethics more than legality. Let us assume the principal ethical argument pressed in favor of drone warfare — to wit, that the reduction in civilian casualties and destruction of property means that the drone attack comports better than most other methods with the principle of discrimination. If this is so, then we might conclude that a just cause alone is sufficient to justify the attacks. ... But is what we are doing truly self-defense?'"
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The Iraq War, the Next War, and the Future of the Fat Man

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  • SlashPol? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OakDragon (885217) on Monday January 16, 2012 @04:58PM (#38717646) Journal
    Why not spin off SlashPol now?
    • by trout007 (975317) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:07PM (#38717766)

      It's already registered to a BDSM website.

    • Re:SlashPol? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:09PM (#38717810) Homepage Journal

      Please I have the politics section not on my frontpage for a reason. Hey if you really want to read slashdot's political stories that is fine but does anyone here really believe that this belongs under "technology" and not Politics?
      Really?
       

      • Re:SlashPol? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:25PM (#38718024)

        [...] but does anyone here really believe that this belongs under "technology" and not Politics? Really?

        It's "morality" as a consequence of "technolgy", the newly acquired opportunity to kill opponents without too much "political" risk. No body bags or television footage of dead soldiers from downed Blackhawk (e.g. in Mogadishu). I think it is a very relevant story.

        • Re:SlashPol? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Monday January 16, 2012 @06:35PM (#38718944) Journal

          Its still a political story, its just one where they have a single piece of tech in there which does NOT make it a tech story. They could just as easily do the same thing with mercs (and probably do I wonder how many "suicide" and "accidental" deaths of those that mouthed off weren't someone taking care of a problem) but this is all about the political implications of having a government that can kill anyone at anytime. Well guess what? Its been that way for many years now, you piss the wrong official off its trivial to use you CC history to make a damned accurate schedule of where you are gonna be and when, you could have an accident, suicide, failed car jacking, the possibilities of making someone that pisses you off go bye bye when you have THAT level of political power is staggering, look at the Stasi which is what I'd argue those in power ultimately want.

          But all of that is political, its the insiders deciding which direction they want to steer the land under their control. Just sticking the word drone in it doesn't make it a tech story anymore than that hit on the Iranian nuke scientist was a tech story because the mine they used was magnetic. We have sections for a REASON people, its so those of us that don't want to deal with sections don't have to and sticking stories where they don't belong just breaks the whole thing.

  • targeted killing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16, 2012 @04:59PM (#38717656)

    assassination by any name is just as illegal
    so is torture and a war of aggression

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550)
      But if you assassinate Obama using a drone, it's "not hostile". He said it himself. ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16, 2012 @04:59PM (#38717658)

    It can be stretched to mean defense of any US interests abroad. How many military actions since WW2 have truly been about protecting the homeland from attack?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:01PM (#38717678)

    Were these ever about self-defense?

    • by g0bshiTe (596213) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:02PM (#38717700)
      I was under the impression it was about business.
      • Afganistan wasn't. While it wasn't directly the country of Afghanistan who attacked us they were aiding and harbouring those who did.

        Problem is by deviding our attention with Iraq well, I'll paraphrase Charlie Wilson: "We fucked it up[...again]".

        • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Monday January 16, 2012 @06:18PM (#38718728)

          I agree that while the war in Iraq could never be considered as self defense, the justification about Afganistan does have some merit. However, I also think that there was probably an element of opportunistic regime change too. Let's face it, the 911 attackers were mostly from Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden was eventually found in Pakistan (with no thanks to the Pakistan government) and yet we managed to refrain from actually invading those two countries. I guess the difference was that those countries allowed us to enter them in force. I presume Afganistan would not (did someone actually ask them?).

          Iraq was absolutely about regime change, and was a serious misstep IMHO. A lot of countries around the world rallied behind the US after 911, but were caught off guard by the sudden posturing by the US against Iraq about WMDs. It came out of the blue, and seemed to be quite unprovoked. A lot of genuine goodwill towards the country evaporated, almost overnight. The real shame is that while the war in Iraq may have divided the nation, the reaction to the criticism by other countries seemed to unite everyone again. Look at the strong feelings that are still prevalent towards France because they dared to question the existence of WMDs, even though they turned out to be right.

          The people who still harbor a grudge against the French seem to be as arrogant as a bloodly Frenchman!

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Look up the minerals under Afghanistan friend, its a fricking motherload of untapped mines just waiting to be exploited by Halliburton and friends! Sorry friend but there hasn't been a war since WWII (which FDR ignored the will of the people and purposely started shit with both Germany and Japan despite the majority wanting to stay the hell out of it and by doing so I'd argue he helped the USSR become the powerhouse it became by not letting Germany and the Russians kill each other) that somebody up high was

          • The part about minerals is nonesense, it's not enough to warrant the military expenditure. Afganistan has been a strategic crossroad for 8,000yrs (and has had mines for even longer), there is one ancient Afgan city (forget the name) that has been levelled 800 times in the last 7,000yrs. In the old days it was silk and spice from the far east that gave Afghanistan its stratigic importance, today its strategic value is due to the oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian sea. It's also interesting to look at a m
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Yes, it's strictly business [blogspot.com]...

  • No no but hell no. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by F34nor (321515) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:01PM (#38717682)

    The Iraqis were NEVER going to attack us. The doctrine is a lie.
    The Taliban / Pashtuns were NEVER going to attack us. The doctrine is a lie.
    Al Qaeda was an is a huge threat and needs an asymmetric warfare response to its tactics.
    Never forget that we adopted the Blitzkrieg and our modern army's systems from the Nazis all we needed to become the monster wee defeated was a president to fucking stupid to know that he was a fascist ( in the classical Mussolini definition ) and a people to complacent and stupid to know that we had been cooped from within.

    • by rubycodez (864176) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:07PM (#38717768)
      I don't think it's too much about any particular president, fascism just needs mega corporations with government in its pocket. Obama is continuing the Bush/Cheney agenda just fine, because it's the marching orders.
    • by digsbo (1292334)
      Why the hell was this scored Troll? It's all bascially true, more or less, with the possible exception of Al-Qaeda requiring asymmetric warfare response. I'd suggest a review of foreign polcy FIRST.
      • Heck, given the so-called "visa applications" of the original 9-11 hijackers, I'd say a review of *domestic* customs and visitor visa policy and procedures would be my first action- something NEITHER the Obama nor the Bush administrations undertook. Not a single one of the 20 should ever have gotten a student visa to begin with.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sjames (1099)

      I have no idea why this is modded troll. The first two are practically indisputable. The 3rd is debatable, but not an unreasonable proposition.

      I WISH I could say the 4th had no merit whatsoever, but I don't think that would be very honest. It's fairly clear that the whole leadup to the Iraq war was was a fabrication directed from the top. Not only were no WMDs found, but nothing that could have been misinterpreted as WMDs was found.

      • That last is incorrect- they did find some old gas canisters, labeled in cyrilic, manufactured in Germany, with an expiration date of 1986. So something that could have been misinterpreted as WMDs, WAS found.

        Just nothing very active or deadly.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)
        "wee"..."to" (instead of too)..."was an is"... and of course, Godwinning the thread. Yeah, looks like it deserves a troll moderation to me. Flamebait might be more accurate, but either way. Also, as the AC above me mentions, Taliban were official sponsors of Al Qaeda, so they did, in effect, attack the US. Don't know how the hell you could consider that part of what he said "indisputable." No one else does.
    • by DG (989) on Monday January 16, 2012 @06:10PM (#38718620) Homepage Journal

      I spent seven months in Kandahar City as part of ISAF. I say this so you know that I have seen the ground truth, not just whatever story comes out of whatever news outlet you care to believe.

      The Taliban were providing direct aid and sanctuary to the people who carries out the 9/11 attacks, and then refused to hand them over for prosecution - or indeed, to enforce any limits on their activities in any way. This makes that regime an active accessory to international terrorism and indeed a legitimate threat.

      On top of that, I cannot imagine any group of people less suited to govern a nation than the Taliban. During my tour, a couple of Taliban chose to douse a group of Afghan schoolgirls with concentrated acid, killing some, and horribly disfiguring the others - for the crime of attending school. Not a Western-funded school; an Afghan-started, Afghan-operated school teaching girls to read. This sort of despicable and flatly inhuman act was Taliban policy. There is NOTHING good about the Taliban. They are bigoted narco-thugs who actively seek to erase any sign of civilization, law, and order in the attempt to eliminate opposition to their drug farming slavery campaigns. The Afghan campaign was, is, and remains a just war.

      The crying shame of the Bush administration was that, instead of applying a full-court-press to Afghanistan following the initial defeat of the Taliban and seeing the country Marshall Planned back to some form of stability, they took their eyes off the ball to go adventuring in Iraq. This allowed the Taliban to re-invent themselves as an insurgency, rebuild, and become a destabilizing force that has slowed reconstruction to a crawl.

      Although the world does not morn the passing of Saddam, Iraq was completely unjustified and the diversion of resources away from Afghanistan is, as far as I'm concerned, criminal. Afghanistan is NOT Iraq.

      DG

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Try using that one in court...

    Your honor, I shot my next door neighbour because I knew in a week's time he would start some shit.

  • by trout007 (975317) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:02PM (#38717692)

    There is no way this can be considered self-defense. Defense by definition is stopping an aggressor. This is executing people suspected of terrorism without trial.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499)

      There is no way this can be considered self-defense. Defense by definition is stopping an aggressor.

      So, when a SWAT team shoots someone who has already killed people, has said he's going to kill more people, and shows every sign of preparing to do just that, that's self defense (of the inevitable victims), or not?

      How is that different than using lethal force to stop al-Awlaki, who was involved in numerous deaths (and the attempt to kill hundreds in Detroit), swore he's keep doing it, and was haning out with people training, financing, and arming along those lines? He and the guys he was in the middle

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The real question is ofcourse if you would allow an other country to send drones into american soil to kill americans that they think are a threat. The answer is the same in every country. Drones is only allowed in one direction...

      • by trout007 (975317)

        The way the law works is that the police attempt to capture the suspect and bring them in for trial. If during the capture attempt the suspect takes an aggressive act like shooting at the police the police are allowed to return fire in self defense. You don't send the SWAT team in as an execution squad.

      • by gnick (1211984) on Monday January 16, 2012 @06:02PM (#38718500) Homepage

        So, when a SWAT team shoots someone who has already killed people, has said he's going to kill more people, and shows every sign of preparing to do just that, that's self defense (of the inevitable victims), or not?

        No, that's not self defense. In that case, unless the suspect was immediately threatening the SWAT team there to execute the warrant or another innocent, if they shoot him they're in serious trouble. If he has a gun to somebody's head or pointed at the team, they can drop him. But even if they know he's already blown up a dozen crowded churches and they find him with blueprints of the church he said he's targeting next, a van full of ANFO, and a manifesto announcing his intent to light it up in 30 minutes time, they'd better take him alive unless there are lives in immediate danger or they'll be facing charges. So, if I understand your purposed case correctly, that is not self-defense.

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:31PM (#38718114)

      This is executing people suspected of terrorism without trial.

      If it was one bullet, I would agree with you.

      The problem is that we use rockets launched from drones. And those rockets take out an entire building when we are "targeting" one person.

      There is no way this can be considered self-defense./blockquote>Not only that, but worse. Innocent children die in these "Preventive warfare" strikes (to use the terminology of TFA).

      Using one bullet to kill one guy AND NO ONE ELSE would be "assassination". And if the USofA wants to support that, that's one thing.

      Using one HELLFIRE rocket to take out a building with the one guy you wanted dead ... and a few other people in his family ... and a few other families with children ... That's a military strike on a defenseless civilian population.

      • That's a military strike on a legitimate military target with relatively light collateral damage. You don't get to redefine terms.

        • That's a military strike on a legitimate military target with relatively light collateral damage. You don't get to redefine terms.

          Okay, what military was it? Who's their Commander in Chief? Where is their version of the UCMJ published?

          Or have you redefined "military target" to mean "apartment buildings"?

          Here, why don't YOU define what is NOT a "military target" by YOUR "logic"?

        • by auLucifer (1371577) on Monday January 16, 2012 @06:24PM (#38718812)
          Relatively light collateral damage? What is that? I don't think the families friends of the innocents killed would see this as being 'light'. I don't think anyone that has respect for the lives of their fellow man would see this as 'light' so please, what's your definition of 'light' collateral damage?
    • by jo42 (227475)

      It's terrorism in itself -- the victim has become the greater terrorist pure and simple.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:03PM (#38717716)
    After all, they could grow up to be resentful teen agers that could vandalize my property. So I really had no choice but to slit their throats, chop them up into kibble and feed them to the hogs.
  • by rubycodez (864176) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:04PM (#38717746)
    War gains power, profit, and political coin for those in charge and for their lackeys. The USA will have war without end, what voters want is irrelevant.
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2012 @06:07PM (#38718578)

      The USA will have war without end, what voters want is irrelevant.

      For an example, read through some of the posts here.

      There are people in the USofA who seem to WANT endless war.

      As long as it is against someone far away and weak enough to never pose any real threat to them.

      But send our military in? Hell yeah!
      Kill people with drones? Fuck yeah!
      Borrow money to do the above? Hell fucking yeah!

      • by chrb (1083577) on Monday January 16, 2012 @07:30PM (#38719414)

        "Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." - Hermann Goering

        Of course, Goering was speaking in a time of conscripted armies... people are happier nowadays to send others to war. The systematic problem is that there is a huge profit to be made from war, and so the people who would profit will find ways to drag the country to war. The vast majority of people have nothing to gain from war. Smedley Butler proposed several ways to fix the system: [wikipedia.org]

        1. Making war unprofitable
        2. Acts of war to be decided by those who fight it
        3. Limitation of militaries to self defence

        Interesting ideas. There was another interesting proposal that I once saw on slashdot: insist that every war must be fully funded ie. when a war is declared, then an immediate tax must be enacted to pay for all of running costs, and for all of the long term medical and care costs of all the soldiers who are injured. I suspect that would make the war cheerleaders think twice.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The morality is irrelevant. For the family of the "collateral damage" the US will be exactly the same as any other terrorist.

    This kind of thinking will only result in MORE people thinking that terrorism is a legitimate way to combat terrorists. Guess what the result will be.

  • Robert E. Lee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by medv4380 (1604309) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:12PM (#38717848)
    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      well, now that we have drones doing the killing for us, it is becoming less terrible

  • And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

    And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
  • New Label = Profit! (Score:4, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:28PM (#38718068) Homepage Journal
    From summary:

    ...that the reduction in civilian casualties and destruction of property means that the drone attack comports better than most other methods with the principle of discrimination.

    relabel every corpse created as a "terrorist" or "enemy combatant," and bang! Less "civilian" casualties.

    Winning the hearts and minds, one bullshit semantic after the next; the sad part? it fucking works.

    What sheep we've become...

    • It's been kind of interesting to watch the differences of culture here. Our doctrine of trying not to cause "civilian" casualties is seen as attempting to be noble and of a military/cultural doctrine that grew out of European warfare and mentality. The Geneva Convention sort of works with a european land war because most of the cultures have at least some common stance on morality and ethics. I've often said that outside of Europe the Geneva Convention need not apply, because it doesn't. The cultures ar

      • Precisely why we should not be involved in that region.

        Our current situation of constantly being embroiled in Mid-East warfare is a direct result of our unbending support of Israel (as long as we're being honest with ourselves).

        Perfect example of why General Washington (and Ron Paul, much to the chagrin of, for lack of a more descriptive term, morons) was an isolationist.
  • by rts008 (812749) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:47PM (#38718284) Journal

    IMHO, any preemptive military action is damned difficult to justify as self-defense.

    However, I cannot agree with the stated argument that poses this question to start with:

    From the summary:

    Let us assume the principal ethical argument pressed in favor of drone warfare â" to wit, that the reduction in civilian casualties and destruction of property means that the drone attack comports better than most other methods with the principle of discrimination. If this is so, then we might conclude that a just cause alone is sufficient to justify the attacks...

    Bush is blamed as the source in this essay, but he was just the most recent and blatant example since WWII.
    Think about it...we can blame WWII on Pearl Harbor, but since winning that one, we started becoming more meddlesome globally.
    Korean War(War on Communism)-we got run out
    Vietnam War(War on Communism)-we got run out
    Global(War on Drugs)-we are losing that one
    Global(War on Terror)-we lost that one as soon as we declared it a 'War'
    Not to mention Panama, but we did have one winning moment in the clusterfuck of Granada!

    And we are continuing that decades old losing streak in the Middle East to this day.

    Methinks there could be a pattern here.....

    • You forgot the "nuclear weapon" that Reagan dropped on Tripoli, but I guess Obama and the UN recently finished that one off.

    • Korean War(War on Communism)-we got run out

      Pardon me, the fact that the Republic of Korea still exists some 60 years later would like to have a word with you.

    • North Korea, with Russian equipment, mostly overran south Korea prior to US involvement. Then the US overran most of north Korea, then China got involved and it settled in the middle, with the US still maintaining bases in South Korea. South Korea is relatively 'free', and North Korea is still pretty screwed up. That's not getting 'run out', in contrast to Vietnam.

      Korea would probably be less screwed up than North Korea had the US not gotten involved. China wouldn't feel like it needed a dysfunctional p

  • by PhysicsPhil (880677) on Monday January 16, 2012 @06:11PM (#38718628)
    The big question is what will happen when the shoe is on the other foot? When another country decides that one of our citizens is a threat, do they have the right to level their home with a drone or cruise missile? If the neighbours get wiped out in the process, are they just collateral damage?
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday January 16, 2012 @06:14PM (#38718668) Homepage Journal
    The situation in Iran and North Korea have been made much worse by the war in Iraq(and Libya as well). The Ahmadinejad government would not be NEARLY as willing to risk their domestic standing(which is getting worse as the oil embargo hits, as the government often buys popularity with oil revenues) if it thought there wasn't a lot to gain by pursuing nuclear weapons. However, after seeing what happened in Iraq when Saddam DID give up his WMDs, and what happened with North Korea after they tested a nuclear weapon, the regime realizes that the best way to protect itself was to pursue WMDs at all costs.

    Bush picked Iraq out of his "axis of evil" precisely because they were the country that was least able to defend itself(at least in a conventional sense). He wanted to score a cheap political victory and he did so by starting a war he thought would maybe last 6 weeks. And more recently Gadafi, who ditched his WMD program, is now dead as well. The message to dictators is clear, want to stay in power? Get weapons. THe world is a far more dangerous place because the man-child of a president decided he wanted to play army.
  • Realize this.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Monday January 16, 2012 @06:19PM (#38718740)
    A doctrine of pre-emptive strike allows anyone to do anything to anyone at any time. All you need is to instill some fear and get away (quite literally) with murder.
  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Monday January 16, 2012 @06:52PM (#38719102)

    We don't think to oppose the pursuit of criminals by our police. That's effectively what has happened to the terrorists. This is made much easier with the drone war because we don't take the same sort of causalities. We just play whack-o-mole with the terrorists. And assuming we can manage the politics, we can logistically sustain the campaign indefinitely.

    I'm not saying we should or shouldn't. I think he's right in saying that if we don't oppose it soon it will just become an institution like the drug war. This thing that sits there and we do but we don't actually think about it. It just happens. It has it's own momentum, budget, and everyone just expects it to keep rolling along for various reasons forever.

    It's possibly too late to stop it already. The CIA has built it into their budget and that is one of the harder budgets to penetrate.

    I'm torn... I don't want to fight anyone or kill anyone. But of course I recognize that if people are going out of their way to kill me or people I care for then they must themselves be engaged and destroyed. The whole fat man thin man situation is somewhat confusing in that we're not really dealing with any fat men. It's all thin men... lots of them. It's a very target rich environment. And we're capable of icing them with a high degree of efficiency. But then there's blow back, reprisal, revenge... it just this endless struggle to balance an enemy's fear and hatred. I don't want to be hated. But I do want to be feared if only because I think it will make me safer.

    Fear might not be the right term. Respect would be a better term. And i don't mean respect as in liked or admired. I mean respect in the same way you respect a tidal wave, the sun, or a mountain. You don't mess with these forces. They will break you if you don't respect them. That's how I want my nation regarded. Like the mountain, I don't have any ill will against anyone else on the planet. But don't mess with my people or I'm going to find a reason for you to change your mind. Lets just not go there. Everyone go to their little corners and swear peace. First bastard that breaks the peace gets pounded into the ground like a tent peg.

    • "We don't think to oppose the pursuit of criminals by our police."

      We used to, but that was when we had a Constitution that meant something, and a 4th Amendment to which we actually adhered.

  • Asked and answered (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Monday January 16, 2012 @07:19PM (#38719322) Homepage

    But is what we are doing truly self-defense?

    To answer that question just ask yourself how people in this country would react if some other country started defending themselves in the U.S. the same way.

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