28th August 2012
Distinguishing clearly between three ways the state can take HUMAN LIFE: war, police action and aggression
THE THEORY, FIRST
NO USE OF FORCE by the state is valid EXCEPT clearly and precisely for the defence of our life and liberty. That, by the way, is a general principle, and the life and liberty of other humans is almost equally to be valued as the life and liberty of citizens of our own nation.
If that is settled, then the SAME concept of freedom with accountability that applies to each of us, applies also to state action.
Just like we are not free to murder someone without facing the penalty, so also the state can be empowered to kill but NOT without VERY GOOD (!) reason. Else, its actions to kill human beings being in violation of principles of liberty, it must be held to account.
The following sorts of LETHAL violence is undertaken by the state:
a) capital punishment of individuals who have committed heinous crimes;
b) defensive war against those who have attacked the nation;
c) aggressive war against those who MAY attack the nation; and
d) aggressive war for the sake of acquiring lands or slaves.
Of the above four, the first two are FULLY justified. Having said that, there must be a due process of justification.
i) In the first case (capital punishment), the state must ensure that a court has clearly determined the death penalty before it takes a citizen's life.
ii) In the second (defensive war) it can initiate retaliatory action within seconds, if need be (e.g. if Pakistan attacks India with a nuclear missile), BUT must, as soon as practicable, take authorisation from the nation's people, generally through a parliament.
A key feature of a justified war is its clear limitation on violent action. There can be no war that goes on for ever. A war must have a specific goal, defined in advance, that must relate (generally) to the decapitation of the head (boss) of an attacking nation, and to the degradation (not elimination!) of the armed force capability of the attacking force. These two goals must be specified in detail, else the executive could well take it to mean a blanket cheque for ENDLESS war. Also, the mere fact of authorisation by a parliament DOES NOT define war. War is defined by its purpose and urgency, not by any piece of paper.
It is particularly important to note that attacks are ALWAYS launched by individuals, not by nations. When Hitler attacked Poland, it was not Germany that had attacked Poland (although German soldiers were used) but Hitler. War must therefore always be directed against a SPECIFIC individual: generally the head of a nation, but in the case of Al Qaeda, against the head of the organisation.
War must have all the sense of war. It must be urgent, focused on decapitating the head of the enemy nation/organisation, strategic, sharply (and even widely) destructive, and shoot from the hip – and RAPIDLY – in order to achieve its goal.
There is no sense in war of years of time to "plan".
It is, above all, characterised by urgency to defend.
There is no lingering sense in war that this is just another job – like taking cows out to pasture and bringing them back home each night.
It has to FINISH. And quickly! it is not a life long occupation.
To the extent that any action is needed AFTER the war (e.g. "reconstruction"), it must be clearly distinguished from war, and treated entirely as police action. At that stage the state can have no authorisation to shoot from the hip. All due processes must henceforth be followed. NO LIFE MUST THEREAFTER BE TAKEN WITHOUT JUDICIAL AUTHORISATION.
(iii) The third type of killing (aggressive war against those who may attack the nation) can be justified, too, in some very exceptional cases. E.g. Hitler should have been attacked by European nations well before he became such a huge monster. That would have been fully justified. But only the removal of Hitler. NOT the occupation or acquisition of Germany. In this case the parliament must authorise. The executive cannot commence action without such authorisation! There is plenty of time to seek authorisation in such cases.
(iv) The last one (d) is NEVER justified. Period. An aggressor is the enemy of mankind – in a way – and all nations must unite in attacking the aggressor nation. Hitler should have been attacked at least the moment he launched his attack into Poland. That was IT. It was more than enough cause for ALL nations to come together to decapitate him. They did not. That was a huge blunder.
NOW, THE PRACTICAL DEMONSTRATION
With the theory in mind, let us examine the case of US and Afghanistan.
When Osama bin Laden launched the 9/11 (or rather, 11/9/2001 in English/Indian notation) attacks, he was NOT a nation, but a generally disaffected party with capacity to organise against US. To that extent he was an aggressor. While no nation had attacked or intended to attack USA, its enemy was now clear: not the entire Al Qaeda but Osama bin Laden. Taliban were supporting Osama bin Laden, so they needed to be removed, as well.
So far so good.
Now, it turned out that removing Taliban was very easy, but getting Osama was particularly hard. That created a problem. We had "reconstruction" going on ALONG with the war – against Osama. To the extent there was any reconstruction underway, that needed to comply with all standard limitations on taking human life. It was police action, and there was no basis to kill people without judicial authorisation.
To the extent that Osama bin Laden had not yet been killed, it was valid to say that war was still underway. So we had a situation where both police action and war were underway. That's possible. So long as we know what is what.
Now, when Osama was killed, the LAST PRETEXT OF WAR came to an end. That day, regardless of any US parliamentary authorisation, war was OVER.
All further action was police action.
Any action to take HUMAN LIFE after Osama was killed (as with – as should already have been the case – any action against non-Al Qaeda combatants during the reconstruction period) needed judicial authorisation.
It was almost certainly wrong for America to press a button somewhere in USA and kill people on the ground in Afghanistan/Pakistan (the exceptions are discussed below), but now, after Osama has been killed, it is ENTIRELY wrong to kill people in Afghanistan/Pakistan without due judicial authorisation.
Therefore, it is sufficiently clear that today, US action in Afghanistan has morphed from justified DEFENSIVE war into AGGRESSION.
WHY THIS BLOG POST
I've already explained these concepts at length earlier, but I think these need to be repeated again and again (I'm going to take some of this material into DOF, for future ready reference).
No analysis of drone attacks can be made without reference to a VALID theory of state violence.
Accordingly, in some cases a drone attack is EMINENTLY JUSTIFIED. Consider a drone attack that ends the life of Hitler BEFORE he attacks any nation. That would have been a swell idea. I would have applauded. The world would have been saved mindless destruction of tens of millions of lives. (Of course, the Keynesians would have been unhappy, for to them it is war that makes the world go round).
Even in defensive war, a drone attack against Osama bin Laden is perfectly justified. It can even be justified against key Al Qaeda leaders.
But once these top few commanders are killed, then further justification becomes very weak indeed. The war must END.
After Osama bin Laden has LONG been killed, and top Al Qaeda leaders captured or killed, then any use of force against every tom dick harry soldier is an ABUSE OF POWER. These poor Taliban fools think they are fighting an enemy who has encroached their land. They see themselves as freedom fighters. And who is to say that they are wrong. Americans would do the same if Chinese soldiers, armed to the teeth, were hanging around in their backyards.
In general, hanging around with arms in someone else's house is not very friendly.
Taking the life of someone is not something anyone should do unnecessarily. USA is taking many lives UNNECESSARILY now. That's something it should not do. It must leave Afghanistan at once!
Don't give me nonsense about "strategic geopolitical interests". The world is not taken in by nonsense. There is no case for war. Just leave. This idea of hanging around in someone else's land LONG AFTER ALL REASONS for war are over, is a very bad precedent.
It doesn't matter whether Taliban are bad to Afghan women or not. That is a civil matter that people can deal with through other means. Just go!!