Friday, February 04, 2005

Don't believe the hype

The San Francisco Chronicle's Open Forum has an excellent article defending Alberto Gonzales: "Geneva Convention isn't the last word."

I've discussed this topic before, but it's worth spending some more time on, and I think this analogy is especially appropriate:

To believe that the Geneva Convention should apply jot-and-tittle to such enemies reminds us of the first generals of the Civil War, who thought that the niceties that were ideals of Napoleonic warfare could be applied to battles fought by massive armies, armed with ever more advanced weapons and aided by civilian-run mass-production factories and industry. War changes, and the laws of war must change with them.

Studying the Civil War is painful, as I read about the mass casualties inflicted as row upon row of Soldiers advanced into cannon fire shoulder to shoulder. Such tactics we appropriate for armies armed with swords and spears, but failure to adapt to a changing battlefield yielded thousands of needless casualties, and we should take care not to make a similar mistake today.

The Geneva Convention was conceived in a different era of warfare:

Unfortunately, multinational terrorist groups have joined nations on the stage of war. They operate without regard to borders and observe no distinction between combatants and civilians. Our weapons for controlling hostile states don't work well against decentralized networks of suicidal operatives, with no citizens or borders to defend.

From everything I've read, I believe Gonzales is an intelligent and reasonable man, and an excellent nomination for attorney general. He is right on in advocating a critical look at what rights we afford prisoners.

(ht RealClearPolitics)