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  • The Battlefield or the Courtroom: Where Should We Fight the War on Terrorism to Win?

    CHICAGO – This morning, the Chicago Committee for Heritage hosted a panel discussion titled “Lawyers, Terrorists, and the Common Defense: Has the Obama Administration Signaled Surrender to America’s Enemies?” The discussion featured Heritage policy expert Secretary Cully Stimson and Senator Jim Talent, and focused on the Obama Administration’s approach to foreign policy and terrorism.

    Sen. Talent opened the discussion by stressing the U.S. Constitution’s emphasis on the government’s duty to provide for the common defense, to provide and maintain a Navy, and to raise and support Armies. He also pointed out that none of the provisions relating to the conduct of war are found in Article III., the article dealing with courts and judges. That is because courtrooms are not the appropriate forum for prosecuting wars.

    Cully Stimson further argued that treating terrorism solely as a criminal act harms the rule of law, is insulting to the Geneva conventions, and rewards enemy combatants for violating the laws of war. It is a dangerous approach to winning wars and is regarded by our enemies as a sign of weakness.

    Stimson offered a troubling overview of America’s history of fighting terrorism. The Clinton Administration treated Al Qaeda attacks and bombings during the 1990s as crimes, not acts of war, he reminded the audience, and Osama Bin Laden responded by issuing fatwas against the United States. Fast forward to 2010: the current Attorney General Eric Holder is reluctant to speak of radical Islamic extremism, and this reluctance is impeding an honest, comprehensive response to the threat.

    Throughout the discussion, the panelists took care to emphasize the facts and figures of the War on Terrorism, so many of which have been obscured by the current Administration and through biased media coverage.

    Stimson, for example, sketched a history of U.S. detainee policy. Since 9/11, the Department of Defense detained roughly 100,000 people in Afghanistan and Iraq. The CIA’s program, which was much maligned by the current administration, had 100 detainees. Of those 100, they water-boarded 3. CIA interrogations were conducted according to strict legal guidelines. The CIA is confined by Army Field Manual techniques, so they are actually more constrained than your local cops. For example, they are not allowed to lie to detainees, because lying is not recognized by the military as an interrogation technique.

    Nevertheless, the Administration publicly released the details of the CIA’s interrogation methods and investigated the law enforcement officials who were acting according to established guidelines. Of course, Administrations can have legitimate disagreements over which methods are most appropriate, but the appropriate way for the Administration to change course would have been to respect what was done under the previous administration and to choose a clear set of new policies consistent with its political philosophy and appropriate to the changing security environment.

    Instead, the Administration ordered the closure of Guantanamo with no new plan in place, and without having visited it. It stopped the CIA interrogation program, and promised to establish a special high value interrogation unit, which still didn’t exist a year later.

    Meanwhile, Sen. Talent explained, the Administration has cut important military programs in the absence of a National Security Strategy from the President or adequate strategic justification. Our Navy and Air Force in particular are suffering from shrinking build rates and inadequate recapitalization, and stand to lose critical capabilities and assume ever more dangerous levels of risk.

    Furthermore, the Administration has taken the wrong approach to missile defense and to the nuclear and biological threats. The Administration has cut the missile defense budget, capped the number of interceptors in Alaska, and canceled the Third Site program to deploy radar and interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic–and it seems they’ve done so without securing stable, adequate funding for an alternative. It has reduced the tools at our disposal for responding to biological or chemical attacks, and its failed policy of engagement has merely bought time for Iran’s nuclear program.

    What should our leaders do instead? Jim Talent and Cully Stimson offered a clear alternative:

    We’re at war, so act like it. Set up a comprehensive system to deal with it. Establish appropriate interrogation techniques, and don’t tell our enemies in advance which techniques we’re going to use. Strengthen our military–don’t weaken it. Build a comprehensive missile defense system. Fight from a position of strength. Go on the offense and win.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to The Battlefield or the Courtroom: Where Should We Fight the War on Terrorism to Win?

    1. John, Rhode Island says:

      Does the Heritage Foundation really believe the "War on Terrorism" is a winnable war? Really, how can you "win" when you fight a decentralized group of individuals? We've gone in to 2 countries fighting terrorists, but there are countries all over the world with residents who would like nothing more than do us harm. Do you suggest we go into each country?

      Our founding fathers proclaimed that *all* people are born with inalienable rights. Our founding fathers made no mention those rights (and the ones noted in the Miranda warning) only applied to US citizens or residents. We assume people to be innocent until proven guilty. How do you know a person is or is not a terrorist until they have faced trial and have been proven guilty by a court of law?

      Since these individuals do not operate under the flag of a government, they are not soldiers, they are civilians. Therefore I don't see how a military trial is the proper venue for these individuals.

      What say you?

    2. Pingback: What is the aftermath of the American open-wheel civil war 15 years after it …,The Battlefield or the Courtroom: Where Should We Fight the War on Terrorism …,Alex Rodriguez's home run vs. Boston Red Sox is evidence of his greatness,Polansk

    3. Laurel Anderson, Whe says:

      We are at WAR ! Even though most of America does not believe it, our Military is fighting a REAL WAR ! When terrorists are caught they should be tried in a Military Court and not a Civil Court. They are not citizens of America and do not have the right to be given the Miranda warning. Terrorists, Insurgents, Radicals,Fanatics are all enemies of the U.S.A. They would like nothing better than to have a Civil Trial, but as enemies of the U.S.A. captured in a War, they must get a Military Trial. While the U.S.A. is not known for torturing Prisoners of War (like many of our enemies do) we also owe it to our Military who put their lives on the line 24/7 to keep our U.S.A. free, to gain as much information from the POW to try to keep our Military safe. Much information can be obtained by interrogation of POW. All the people who believe they should be tried in a Civil Court should sign up to serve their country and see for themselves what WAR is really like. It Is Not A Tea Party !!!! GOD BLESS AMERICA

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