June 30, 2006

They Don't Call Us "Yanks" for Nothin'

Trying to get my head around the recent Hamdan v Rumsfeld ruling on the treatment of al Qaeda prisoners. By extending protection of the Geneva Convention to al Qaeda it appears to support the Moveon war opponents, by observing that captured al Qaeda detainees have the same rights as captured prisoners of war, even though they're non-state actors who wear no uniforms and adhere to no politically sanctioned statutes, constitutions, or governments. (Hard to imagine calling al Qaeda a "government" when its practical decisions don't have any such legitimacy with most of the people fighting for it. They do what the heck they want to do, including sawing the heads off infidels with a dull knife.)

But some are speculating that there's been a profound shift here. From The Belmont Club (building on a conjecture by Chester):

If protections that normally accrue to states after debate and ratification can now be given over to non-states which have no mechanism for ratification, let alone debate, one can easily imagine a scenario in which non-state organizations form themselves and immediately possess the rights of a state, with no corresponding need to adhere to any laws in their own activities.

If this is the case, then we have the answer to the war: it will be privatized, and its ultimate victories won by uninhibited private military actors, not the hamstrung citizen militaries of nation-states.

The Supreme Court has pulled out the stops. So, who would have the advantage in a privatized war? Ultimately it boils down to tactical and strategic, organizational and technological expertise.

Anyone laying odds?

I'm not sure we've taken the plunge yet, since as some have pointed out the congress might be able to correct and clarify, avoiding the implications above. However, if it does mean the "privatization of war" then the impact is difficult to predict. Essentially I think that because of their inherent advantages in the area of organization and materiel, states would still be the primary actors. But we might also see the return of the privateers, who could play a pivotal role in the conflict. And this might also signal an emergent "next stage" in the development of states, where the traditional nation state might no longer be the primary actor. Or at least no longer the only significant actors. There will now be actors on either side of that level of aggregation, in the form of near-state-like multi-state alliances as well as "privateers" who act in concert with states or multi-states. And no, I'm not talking about the UN. I'm talking, in our case, about something with elected officials and a Lockean Bill of Rights, because we simply wouldn't join anything less and any significant multi-state alliance will need the US as a member.

The problem with nation-states is that they're often too big for some things and too small for others.

By Demosophist at 09:12 AM | Comments |