A few years ago, when certain folks were talking about how terrible it was that we weren’t treating captured terrorists and illegal combatants like common criminals, with all the rights that go with that status, I made a prediction: once word of this trickled down to the men and women on the front lines, we’d start seeing a lot fewer prisoners. It was simple pragmatism: if you make it far more inconvenient to capture the enemy vs. just killing them, and imposing all kinds of conditions and restrictions and requirements for our forces when they start capturing, then you’d most likely see a rise in the “screw it” mentality.
That was what I predicted — a change in policy from the bottom.
Now I’m wondering if the change in attitude might be coming not from the bottom, but from the top.
One major shift in policy that the Obama administration has made in the
War On Terror Overseas Contingency Operation has been an increase in strikes on terrorists with unmanned drones.
The political appeal of this is obvious. Drone strikes don’t put American lives at risk. They’re considerably more deniable than “boots on the ground” And what’s there not to love about dead terrorists?
But while I like the idea that President Obama has discovered something that seems to resemble testicular fortitude, I am slightly troubled at one aspect — the loss of potential intelligence that could be garnered from those terrorists captured alive.
When we interrogated the EunchBomber for those precious 50 minutes before someone suddenly remembered that we ain’t really at war and Mirandized his fried ass, we got quite a bit of useful information from him. Had the passengers simply killed Abdulmutallab after he tried to kill all of them, we’d have been spared a lot of aggravation and arguing — but lost out on a bit of useful intelligence.
Dead terrorists are, by and large, a good thing. And President Obama is to be lauded for his efforts in making some very bad people “good” terrorists.But I can’t help but wish he was both a bit more open about it, and he’d be more aware of the usefulness of occasionally capturing and sweating of select bad guys.