May 27, 2011

IF THE ENDS DON'T JUSTIFY THE MEANS...:

Rough Justice (LIONEL SHRIVER, June 2011, Stanpoint)

The legalities seem straightforward. A non-state actor yes, but bin Laden and his comrades had declared unequivocal war on the US, and the rules of war applied. Wartime killings are nearly all "extrajudicial"; enemy combatants in the field aren't put on trial before becoming fair game. Legitimate targets needn't be brandishing a weapon, either; thus the Seals were not obliged to wait patiently for bin Laden to scrounge his AK from under his bed before they fired. No evidence suggests bin Laden made an effort to surrender. Case closed.

Yet it is worth scrutinising this nitpicking obsession with due process. European liberals are prone to get so het-up about ends not justifying means that they forget all about the ends; the only thing that matters is how you get there. While I'd broadly advocate following legal protocol, I also care about what happens. The European Left is living in a lofty, purist universe while the rest of the world is adhering to the old rules of brute force. Facilitated by Western moral vanity, thugs can easily play the goody-goodies for suckers.

The most dramatic example of Western prissiness being played for all its worth is in the shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia, where pirates are making hundreds of millions of dollars annually from ransoms for hijacked vessels. Earlier this year, the ransom for the chemical container ship Marida Marguerite alone was $5.4 million, and the captured seamen were tortured on board. The greater part of the western Indian Ocean is now designated "high-risk", and the threat of ever-escalating Somali piracy could soon paralyse shipping lanes as far as the Suez Canal. Yet even when the culprits are captured, most of these cutthroats are simply let go, because crews are befuddled about jurisdiction and the complex niceties of bringing the pirates to trial.

Here's a novel idea: shoot them. Is that against the rules? Are ships not allowed to carry armed guards without going through a forbidding rigmarole when they come into port? Then change the rules.


...you're likely pursuing the wrong ends.


Posted by at May 27, 2011 6:18 AM
  

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