war on terror

Guantanamo in the Rearview Mirror

by on 2013-07-30- 7 Comments

Here at the Duck and elsewhere, there has been much discussion of the gaps between academia and the policy world.  I took part in a program that seeks to bridge that gap--the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship--which I have mentioned here before.   One thing I did not discuss here before is that such experiences can put one in morally challenging situations.   Whenever Guantanamo comes up in the news, I am reminded of this.  Why, see my tale belowe:

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Obama, Drones, and the Matter of Definitions

by on 2013-05-30- 1 Comment

Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Tobias T. Gibson, an associate professor of political science and security studies at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. 

In the buildup to President Obama’s speech at National Defense University on May 23, the administration suggested that the speech would clarify US policy on the use of drones in targeted killing. Although the president took pains to describe the limitations set forth by his administration, the speech provided little genuine clarity.

The working definitions of three very important words play a key role in undermining the putative "transparency" provided by the speech.  In a key passage, the President states that

Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces. Even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists – our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose – our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty. America does not take strikes to punish individuals – we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set. [emphasis mine]

These three key constraints on the administration may amount to very little in the way of genuine barriers to the use of drone strikes.

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What We’re All Missing in the “Zero Dark Thirty” Debate

by on 2013-01-23- 5 Comments

This is a guest post by Peter S. Henne. Peter is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University. He formerly worked as a national security consultant. His research focuses on terrorism and religious conflict; he has also written on the role of faith in US foreign policy. During 2012-2013 he is a fellow at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia

I appreciated Jeffrey Stacey’s recent post on the debate over “Zero Dark Thirty.” It’s useful to point out what is being obscured by the criticism of the movie’s depiction of torture. But I think his piece missed a broader aspect of the movie, as well as director Katherine Bigelow’s other war, “The Hurt Locker” (which focuses on an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team in Iraq): what it reveals about the civilian-military divide in the United States.

Many critics have praised Bigelow’s work for its artistic value, and its significance for understanding the post-9/11 era. Much of this has to do with her filmmaking skills. But a good amount of praise focused on her ability to faithfully tell the story of contemporary military activities. In The Washington Post, Ann Hornaday exclaims that Bigelow demonstrates early in the film that “she will not turn away from the most unsavory aspects of the history she’s chronicling.” The New York TimesManohla Dargis discusses the movie as “a seamless weave of truth and drama.” Similarly, many praised “The Hurt Locker” for its “authenticity."

At the same time, many critiques of these movies focus on their lack of authenticity. By now, we are all familiar with the attacks on “Zero Dark Thirty” for misrepresenting the role torture played in the hunt for bin Ladin. But similar attacks arose after “The Hurt Locker” came out. The film was full of inaccuracies in its depiction of EOD teams, resulting in the head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America calling it “disrespectful."

Now, I realize the obvious response is: “it’s a movie.” That’s correct, but if the biggest selling point of a movie—or two—is their faithfulness to reality, and they get that wrong, then we’re all missing something, right? No one worries about inaccuracies in “Apocalypse Now” because of, well, Marlon Brando. But we should worry about inaccuracies in Bigelow’s war movies.

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Magical Thinking in the Sahel

by on 2013-01-16- Leave a reply

This time last week, international intervention plans in Mali consisted of a rather under-powered African (ECOWAS) force, which was expected to arrive no earlier than September.  This force was not backed by overpowering consensus. Nigeria and Mauritania, the two best-equipped militaries in the region, were reluctant to pledge serious troops. The United States insisted that free and fair presidential elections must precede any international intervention, even after a December coup rendered this unrealistic.  And the Malian government itself seemed an obstacle.  The December coup signaled the resurgence of hardliners within the junta, who claimed that the Malian military – broken and demoralized as it was – could deal with northern insurgents on its own.  Tweets out of Mali (and even statements in the press) took a nationalist turn, and international intervention, even by an African force, began to seem fraught.

And now, seven days later, we’re in a brand new world.*

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Liberalism all the way down? …. six hours on a plane with Judith Butler’s Frames of War

by on 2012-12-30- 2 Comments

On a plane ride a couple of days ago, I picked up Judith Butler's Frames of War, perhaps a couple of years after I should have. Though there is a lot of the book that I disagreed with, reading it was a transformative experience. It is perhaps particularly relevant to the subject and content of Megan MacKenzie's latest post, given Butler's suggestion that "specific lives cannot be apprehended as injured or lost if they are not first apprehended as living" such that "if certain lives do not qualify as lives or are, from the start, not conceivable as lives within certain epistemological frames, then those lives are never lived or lost in the full sense" (p.1).

Butler spends the book carefully considering the relationship between precarity, violence, and war - considerations that made me think a lot, about the book, about gender/violence more generally, and about the role of reading in our lives as scholars. My thoughts about the book are below the fold, and a separate post about reading is forthcoming.

Frames of War is to me a frustrating combination of absolute and piercing brilliance and letdown ...

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Newly Disclosed Memo Proves Ben Shapiro’s a Partisan Hack

by on 2012-04-27- Leave a reply

The assassination of Osama bin Laden by US special forces certainly has created a political problem for the Republican party. They spent years demagoguing the war on
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“Truth to Power”: Louise Arbour on Human Rights and International Justice

by on 2012-04-25- Leave a reply

CBC - CP file photoThe Canadian International Council recently organized an interesting public event with Louise Arbour on her role in speaking "truth to power."
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A View to Kill: Should states engage in assassination?

by on 2011-12-15- Leave a reply

I have a lengthy piece on targeted killing/assassination up at the Canadian International Council’s Open Canada blog. It touches on some of the issues I’ve
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Be Concerned but not Informed: Radical Islamic Terrorism and Mainstream Media since 9/11

by on 2011-09-20- Leave a reply

The website e-IR asked me to review how mainstream media have represented radical Islamist media in the past decade, and what this means for the
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Making me Mlad: Why you can’t compare the Mladic and Osama bin Laden raids

by on 2011-06-02- 3 Comments

Charli has been writing about international justice, arguing against ‘myths’ – and comparing the efforts to bring Mladic to justice as opposed to the rush
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The bin Laden Killing and Assassination Explained in 4 Paragraphs Not By Me

by on 2011-05-10- Leave a reply

At the risk of beating a dead terrorist horse, I want to cite W. Hays Parks (former Special Advisor to the Office of Legal Counsel
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The 2003 Iraq War will not be forgotten

by on 2011-05-06- Leave a reply

The killing of Osama bin Laden allows political leaders to further disentangle Iraq, Afghanistan and the whole war on terror concept; to wind down some
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Osama Dead: Are We There Yet?

by on 2011-05-02- 3 Comments

My reaction to the news was essentially that of a five year old after a long car ride -- can we be done now? I
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Cause and Effect in the “War on Terror?”

by on 2011-03-03- Leave a reply

 It is impossible to know at this point whether there is any connection between these two disturbing events reported yesterday:  NATO forces’ mistaken killing of
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The “drug war” is over?

by on 2011-01-22- Leave a reply

Over the years, the so-called global "war on terror" (or "war on terrorism") has had its ups and downs as a foreign policy framing device.
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Kandahar and My Lai; Drone Strikes and Carpet Bombing

by on 2010-10-04- 4 Comments

 The New York Times recently posted reports about the U.S. military's trial of soldiers accused of randomly killing civilians in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, “for sport.”  Apart
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Another war on terror outrage: asylum denied

by on 2010-09-28- 1 Comment

Did anyone else know about this additional outrageous consequence of the "war on terror"? You may have to be a subscriber to see this note
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Driving Parents Crazy: Why are some violent radicals fathers?

by on 2010-09-17- 7 Comments

My blogging has been light lately as I have been on the road travelling a lot. This recent period has had me travelling like something
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The Latest in Mole Whacking

by on 2010-09-16- Leave a reply

Yesterday, the New York Times had a story about huge proposed increases in military assistance to Yemen, framed around the "war on terror." Since the
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It’s radical, man.

by on 2010-07-07- Leave a reply

Through the very good King’s of War blog I was directed to a post on Jihadica on the recent emergence of an apparent Al-Qaida affiliated
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