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War on terror must be fought

August 18, 2007|By ROBERT GARY

In a war against a global religio-martial movement, militant Islamist Jihadism, the war must be fought on two fronts: 1. The physical/military front and 2. The metaphysical public relations front.

The enemy can lose 90 percent of its manpower on the military field of battle, but if it wins on the public relations front, it can turn around and recruit 200 percent of what it had before. Each cycle, the enemy comes out 210 percent ahead, even if we kill or neutralize nine out of 10. While we are winning the fight on the ground, we are actually losing the war because our foes are growing at an exponential rate.

How this two-front war unfolds depends largely on collateral damage. The more we cause, the more we lose the public relations war, thus ensuring that we will wind up fighting a huge percentage of the human race. A billion people - now that's a war we surely could not win.

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Homicidal Islamist jihadists raised in the Madrassas are human weapons, indeed, human bombs, and they do not fit into any system of law except their own version of Koranic Law (or Sharia).

These persons live in an altered state, following the lights that have been placed before them since infancy. They are alternatively lawful persons or outlaws. In the Old West there were outlaws and they lived in the badlands and many of them were "Wanted, Dead or Alive."

By their deeds, and as continuing clear and present dangers to all innocent life, their own lives were deemed forfeited. They could be shot on sight. This was the law of the Old West. It was a law born of cruel necessity, not one crafted in plush chambers of comfortable deliberation about what is philosophically ideal.

Such persons exist today in Waziristan. We will obtain actionable intelligence on one or more at some point, and strike by air, so the legal, moral and strategic issue of collateral damage is relevant. There will be unintentional victims of surprise airstrikes.

Surprise means airstrikes that we don't tell Gen. Pervez Musharraf about before they happen. A man can run 100 yards in less than a minute. The secrecy half-life of any information we give to General Musharraf is about 10 seconds. So if we want to use small bombs, not 500 pounders or 2,000 pounders, then we have to keep our actions secret until after they happen.

We do a service for all humanity when we do what is necessary and proper for the continuance of civilized life on Earth. "Necessary" relates to the clear and present danger of loss of innocent life, i.e., a homicidal Jihadist who is operational, not just one reciting holy verses in a Madrassa.

The whole purpose of all law everywhere throughout history has been to prevent the loss of innocent life or the unjustified forfeiture of property. The U.S. Constitution requires more. The action must also be "proper." This is best illustrated by three cases.

Case 1: Many innocent American lives will surely be lost unless we take an action that will surely result in the deaths of a few innocent foreigners - say a ratio of 100 Americans to one foreigner. The action is necessary and proper.

Case 2: A few innocent American lives will surely be lost unless we take an action that will surely result in the deaths of many foreigners - say a ratio of one American to 100 foreigners. The action is necessary but not proper, so it's not necessary and proper.

Case 3: Some innocent American lives will surely be lost unless we take an action that will surely result in the deaths of an equal number of innocent foreigners - say a ratio of one American to one foreigner. Again, the action is necessary but not proper.

The burden under the Law of War is on the moving party to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed action is morally valid and legally sound. Absent such a showing, the status quo ante should be maintained. We can't use our emergency as a basis for the sacrifice of an equal number of innocent foreign nationals, since all innocent lives must be given the same value.

It's OK to shoot altered-state homicidal persons in Waziristan as long as we don't kill too many bystanders. Use small bombs, not big ones - and we need to learn to do warning-free strikes, in the spirit of the true scout-sniper. Diplomatic feather-smoothing can come later. The Pakistan "sovereignty" issue is vitiated by Gen. Musharraf's de facto abdication of control in Waziristan or by whatever secret deal he has made with the Taliban government there which rules openly, notoriously and unchallenged.

Accuracy counts. So does patience. We may have to quell outlaws for many decades, so we might as well get good at it.

Robert Gary is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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