Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Playing By The Rules

For those of you who may not have noticed, I have been rather silent on the execution of Osama bin Laden. Don't get me wrong, it's not because I don't believe that this was an evil man, a murdering thug, and and a terrorist who deserved to die. Like many others in this country, I am quite glad to see bin Laden gone. I have even managed to take off my tin foil hat long enough to get past the inconsistency of the information released by the White House after the raid. 

We are after all, talking about self-serving politicians attempting to speak about the selfless acts of a group of elite soldiers (sorry, sailors) that they have no better chance of understanding than men have of understanding women. It's to be expected therefore, that getting the story 'straight' (you know, telling it in a manner that would make the politicians sitting in a nice, safe room in Washington and facing danger no greater than from paper cuts or their own misstatements) might take a couple of tries and perhaps some creative 'spinning' from the professional writers around them. 

What does concern me however is the continuing level of arrogance that this latest strategy in the 'War on Terror' illustrates. Perhaps it's simply something about this war that I don't understand. It is after all, like the 'War on Drugs' and the 'War on Poverty' a rather ambiguous conflict with imprecise goals, indefinite strategy, and equivocal declarations of success. In fact, if we are to believe what we have been told in the last couple of years, it's not actually a war at all. 

So you can imagine my confusion when an elite military unit is sent in to take out what must be considered a military target under a kill order in a war that doesn't exist. Was this action taken under the auspices of the 'War Powers Act'; and if so are there now any effective limits that Congress will place on this exercise of Executive power? (If not, an even greater question exists as to its limits.) Is it now considered right and proper to violate the national sovereignty of any nation we choose in order to execute (a term I use guardedly) such a strategy? Is it now acceptable for the US government to send troops across any border, without the permission of Congress or any nation (enemy or ally), to work the will of the Executive branch of government against any individual, a group, or government?  

At this point the whole thing becomes less about bin Laden than it does about us. Whether Pakistan is a poor ally or not, that doesn't justify the government of the United States kicking them to the curb to meet out punishment decided upon without any pretense of abiding by the rule of law. Criminals don't play by the rules in this country either (hence the term criminals), but the police are not excused from following the rule of law when dealing with them, no matter what terrible acts they may have committed. 

One might also question the lack of outrage of the American people on the subject at a time when so many are concerned over the security of our own borders; but only if one were seeking consistent logic and reasoning in those people. Most of us, however grudgingly, accept that there are rules in a modern society that we must conform to or civilization simply fails to exist. Many of them we follow with little conscious thought, as they are conventions of little import or concern. 

We agree on things as simple as where to place a knife, fork, and spoon in place settings around the table. We agree to obey local, state, and federal laws so that we may live in an ordered society. We likewise form a government, limited in what it has the power to do, based on the Constitution of the United States in order to create and enforce those laws to protect us not only from each other, but from that government. And just as there are rules and laws to protect people from each other, there are rules and conventions to protect one nation from another. 

This country has gone to war more than once to protect other nations from those considered despots for violating those rules and conventions. How then are we to view our own nation acting as the worst sort of bully in this recent act? Flush still with military power (stretched however thin) and still willing to buy friendship and compliance with our wishes around the world, we coerce cooperation of friend and foe alike. Claiming to be a bastion of the principle of the 'rule of law', we are apparently not above violating such principles in the name or working our will upon our enemies. Assuming a mantle of menacing omnipotence, we justify acts of strong-armed persuasion that we would fight to the death to defend ourselves and others from. 

 It may be past time that we took a hard look at not the ability, but the right of this nation to impose its will upon the world regardless of the consequences. It may be time to ask ourselves whether it's more important to win at any cost, or to play by the rules.

1 comment:

Roland Hansen said...

What a wonderfully worded commentary that puts it all in proper perspective.

Unfortunately, it does appear as if large numbers of Americans and politicians have fine-tuned the art of selective perception and selective reasoning into a science that is now second nature to them in their daily practice of choosing which parts of the Constitution and of American ideals upon which our great nation was founded are applicable to whom, when, and where at whatever cost to freedom and liberty.