Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Justice Comes to Iraq

In principle, people choose not to commit crimes when the risks exceed the potential rewards.

How then, can you deter terrorism when the terrorist embraces death, even to the point of considering it a fitting and honorable conclusion to an honorable action.

Let’s complicate the issue. Everyone knows that today’s terrorism is nearly always Islamic in origin and roots. We also understand that while Islamic terrorists occasionally target Westerners, their victims are almost exclusively their fellow Muslims,

It is also clear that the reputation of Islam in the world has suffered grievously from the behavior of terrorists who declare that they are acting in the name of Islam.

In the best of worlds law-abiding members of the Muslim community would simply step up and put an end to the terrorism that us compromising their own honor and dignity in the world.

The vast majority of Muslims are honorable and law-abiding. It would appear that they have been so completely terrorized by al Qaeda and its fellow-travellers that they have been beaten into inaction.

Some Muslims have asked, reasonably: how do you figure deter people who clearly and simply want to die? Isn’t capital punishment the ultimate price?

It is not an easy problem, and the solution is not likely to be very pretty.

Take the example of what has been happening throughout Iraq since the tide turned against the terrorists and insurgents.

It is not pretty. The New York Times reported this yesterday: “Tribal leaders say that scores of family members of insurgents have been attacked and killed in recent years as Iraqis turned against Al Qaeda and other militant groups. Insurgents’ families have been driven from their homes and villages, accused of being complicit in their loved ones’ crimes or simply guilty by association.”

Or try this: “There is little sympathy for families associated with the foreign and homegrown Qaeda fighters who slaughtered thousands of Iraqis and tilted the country toward chaos. The militants’ wives and widows are pariahs. Their young children are not legally recognized by Iraq’s government.”

You might think that this extremely rough justice can only pertain in a lawless nation, where the judicial system is barely functional.

Yet, there is no such thing, to my knowledge, as a legal system that metes out punishment to the innocent wives and children of criminals, even war criminals.

Some of this involves shaming and shunning, but some of it also involves summary execution.

As we should know, shaming as punishment, is not limited to the individual. If you are related to Bernard Madoff, his disgrace will be visited on you and yours. That was why his son hung himself in his Soho loft.

In a better world we would say that economic growth and development is the cure for terrorism. In our world, we still have a very serious problem with terrorism. Muslims are, in some ways, the ultimate victims of these activities.

The question I have been mulling over is twofold: do you have anotherway to disincentivize terrorist actions? If revenge merely involved shunning and ostracizing the families of terrorists, without the summary executions, would you consider it an acceptable deterrent? If there is no other way, could you approve the kinds of actions that are taking place in Iraq today?


Susan said...

Interesting article and question.

One very, very courageous imam, followed by another, then another, then dozens, then hundreds (despite what will surely be persecution and death) have to make public declarations to the effect that not only does Allah deplore terrorism, but also that there will be no reward of any kind, no honor, no afterlife, no rest, even for murderers; that on the contrary their acts will bring everlasting shame, dishonor and terrible suffering on their families;that currently, terrorists are being totally deceived by the carrot of 72 virgin because, on the contrary, women, men, and children alike will shun the memory of terrorists....
A cultural/religious sea-change, in brief....I don't think it will happen anytime soon.

The utter defeat of Iran or Syria or Hamas or Al Queda (the more the better) might produce a similar effect.

Jim said...

We bombed the cities of the Germans and the Japanese and killed thousands of their civilians. The children were the only truly innocent ones as it was the adults that made the war effort possible and supported their evil leaders. The allies dropped leaflets on many cities warning them about the bombing raids so the civilians could have a chance to flee, but in the end many were killed anyway. But it broke their will to fight and ultimately saved more lives. The US is afraid to leave Iraq because it knows that anti terrorist Arabs will seek revenge against terrorist supporters and will kill many. Unfortunately that is they way they do things in that part of the world and that may be the way to stop terrorism. General Curtis LeMay, the US general who managed a large part of the air campaignes against Germany and Japan is believed to have said, "If you kill enough of the enemy, they eventually stop fighting." Keep in mind, the Nazis and Imperialist Japanese were even more suicidal than the Islamic terrorists, yet they eventually succumbed.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

In a war it is obviously a good thing to kill the enemy. The problem here is: how to identify the enemy.

When the enemy is around the world, it isn't so easy to isolate and kill

Malcolm said...

Andrew McCarthy answers the question


"Here is the unsettling but sedulously avoided truth: What radicalizes Muslims is Islam."