Terrorism, liberties, and the new kind of war
whoooo26505 at yahoo.com
Sat Dec 17 11:18:00 PST 2005
One of the things that bothers me about these issues -- spying on people, new rules of war -- is that the information is being processed within a traditional civil liberties paradigm. What I want to know is how these issues score outside of this paradigm. That is, I want the public discussion to be based upon game theory and whether the factual claims being asserted are sound within this framework.
The basic idea here, often forgotten, is that game theory dictates what Bush and Rumsfeld are doing. When nation states lack the traditional ability to wage war against another country, it is rational for them to resort to "Fabias" strategies (terrorism, guerilla tactics, etc). So now, instead of bombing cities with planes, you simply bomb them with a clandestine network. The rogue states each contribute money, intelligence, training, people, supplies, teaching, etc. -- but all the while, they say "we are not doing this." Hence, war is being waged not via a territory or a flag, but with a kind of "mafia." This is the most rational way to wage war when the other side could defeat you in a traditional contest. Now, traditionally, we treat mafias as a crime problem. But you know, if these clandestine organizations are working toward the ability to explode a suitcase nuke or dirty bomb in New York City, this is no longer a simple law enforcement problem. It would be a mindless!
formalism to say that war can only exist if the bomb comes via a nation state with a flag and a declaration of hostility. If you can commit mass destruction against an enemy regime with a terror network, that is indeed war in every material respect.
So the issue, to me, boils down to this: I don't want to know whether they are violating civil liberties; I want to know whether the picture that is being painted about this -- a new way to wage war, needing different rules -- is true FACTUALLY. What I want to hear is: (a) is this, in fact, the best way to counter these organizations (does it work?); (b) does it sacrifice long-term safety for the short run (is holding these people increasing the terrorist labor pool by making others join?); (c) how credible is the fear of future mass destruction in our cities (you know, if terrorism would go back to simple car bombs and embassy bombings, we could go back to treating it as a law enforcement problem and use the old paradigm)? All you get in the mass media are speeches designed to push your buttons.
I just don't think there is enough debate on the core factual issues, using the right paradigm. To have this discussed as a civil liberties issue assumes that it is 1974 and Nixon is in office. That may not be the right comparison. I wish we could hear a better analysis of whether (a) the gaming of this problem is correct; and (b) the strategies used are optimal and necessary for the long term prevention of mass destruction by enemy political regimes via clandestine acts of war.
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Penn State University
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