May 9, 2004
Kasparov on the War
Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.\"\;
Garry Kasparov has a good editorial in the Wall Street Journal today, well worth reading, on the nature of the war and the necessity to name the enemy.
I've long been of the opinion that we need to declare war and in the process to name our enemy. This would not only free the hands of this and future presidents to pursue the war effectively, it would also end the ambiguous nature of the fight. It almost doesn't matter how the war is named, as long as it's against an identifiable enemy (rather than, say, a tactic, such as terrorism). My preference would be "people and organizations which practice terrorism; nations, organizations and people who support people and organizations which practice terrorism or protect those who do so; and nations, organizations and people who proliferate nuclear weapons technology to nations, organization or people who practice terrorism or support or protect those who do so." There needs to be a term for this, because that's a mouthful.
More to the point of Kasparov's article, it would change the terms. Right now the opponents of American or Israeli or coalition action can simply change the terms any time they see fit. Israel is the classic example of this: armed Arab fighters who are in the process of attacking Israeli children are "militants", while armed Arab fighters who are not in the process of attacking Israeli children (but who were on their way to do so) are "civilians". When Israel raids terrorist bomb factories, only "civilians" or "Palestinians" are killed, and they are always named and, if under 18, given an age. The same does not happen to Israelis, where terms of derision are applied to the victims of Arab violence, and they are seldom given names, ages or pictures.
By naming the enemy in a declaration of war, everyone would have to take sides. One couldn't avoid this by changing the terms, because a declaration of war makes the issue concrete: either you are with us, or you are with <insert enemy here>.