Thursday, March 19, 2009

The idea of the "Enemy"

In a previous note I disagreed with the reasoning behind the Nuremberg Trials. There was no standard code of justice that the Nazis had signed up to. None of the people tried were breaking any German laws. In fact they were obeying those laws. We befuddled and confused ourselves by imagining that there was a “Universal Code of Justice” that the Nazis ought to have known about and ought to have known they were in violation of. Spencer Tracy was very righteous-seeming in the movie, but he wasn’t very logical.

Matters could be cleared up, in my opinion, if we moved away from our imaginary and non-existent “Universal Code of Justice,” and created a clearer idea, in legal terms, of “the Enemy.” It would help if we considered this “enemy” not as someone who has violated a Universal Code of Justice but as someone very like a homicidal maniac. Our laws against such maniacs would suit the “enemy” quite well. We don’t bother with what the maniacs motives are. We establish that they are incompatible with the common good and either execute him or put him in jail for the rest of his life. He has proved by his acts that he is a danger to the common good. And that is precisely what our enemies have done.

Consider our current enemies, the Islamists. They have their own system of beliefs which they claim is just as good as ours (and, unfortunately, our Leftists agree with them). They claim they have a right to their beliefs, and they do. What they do not have is the right to attack us as an “enemy.” When they do that, they become like the homicidal maniac, a danger to the common good. We don’t need to enter into the Islamic legal system. We don’t need to put our own Liberal-Democratic legal system on trial. We only need to determine that he is an enemy. If he has committed the acts of an enemy (by attacking our citizens or people under our care), the matter is clear. He is a danger to them and must be removed to a place where he can do no further harm.

The idea of “preempting” the enemy is interesting. Surely we don’t have the right to preempt him if he just “believes” enemy thoughts. Thoughts can’t be punished. But if he acts on those thoughts then he moves into the realm of the homicidal maniac. He is planning an attack; so should we wait and try to catch him in the act? Or should we prevent him from acting. The level of danger represented by our current enemies suggests that we should prevent him from acting if we can.

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