The New Republic this week is devoting itself to suggestions for how Barack Obama might have a more successful second term. I was sort of intrigued by this suggestion, “REWRITE THE LAWS OF WAR,” to wit:
One of the most persistent criticisms of President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism policy is that he has not definitively broken with the troubled legacy of George W. Bush. But he could put that judgment largely to rest by pushing to modernize the laws of war.
The Geneva Conventions and other similar instruments were designed to deal with traditional armies—not groups with no ties to state sponsors or that operate in failed states. Obama should organize an international conference to establish new standards and agreed-upon interpretations for such subjects as the definition of enemy combatants, the treatment of detainees, and the rendition of suspected terrorists. Drones could also be considered—especially standards to minimize civilian casualties and to establish whether targets pose an imminent threat…
Things have changed, so maybe we should convene a new gathering in Geneva. Or somewhere. If we do, here are some ideas of new rules that the president might want to suggest, but which might not go over well with other potential signatories:
- If you make my personal list, I get to take you out with a drone, like Zeus hurling thunderbolts from Mt. Olympus. And if you don’t like that, you just made the list, buddy.
- If you make our special short list, we will send in the bully-boys to give you a triple-tap in the forehead in your boudoir in the middle of the night, no matter where in the world your boudoir happens to be. As for countries who object to our doing this within their borders, you, too have a special right under this agreement: You get to try to stop us. Heh, heh.
- All battles must take place at night. In the event that night-vision equipment becomes sufficiently ubiquitous that all of our potential enemies have it, this rule will be revisited.
- Guantanamo will close when I damn’ well get around to it.
And so forth. You get the idea. I’m sort of kidding, sort of not, given the way this president has continued to conduct the War on Terror. Not only has he “not definitively broken with the troubled legacy of George W. Bush,” as TNR so daintily puts it, he has in some ways been more aggressive than his predecessor in employing the Bush Doctrine.
Basically, the way I just worded all that is probably pretty close to the way folks in some other nations out there see the current U.S. policy. And they’d probably want to address these perceptions at a convention.
So maybe POTUS would like to convene such a gathering, and maybe he wouldn’t…