Terrorism As War Or Crime

In terms of appropriate (e.g. Constitutional) activities, some confusion seems to come from the weirdness of deciding whether we're dealing with War or Crimes. So it seems useful to compare them - but the key is to figure out why they differ, not just to note those differences

In War (maybe these aren't fair generalizations, maybe they only apply to a certain narrow type of war, which is just what we've come to expect, kinda like thinking that life was always like it was in the 1950s - prosperity, etc.):

  1. There's an identifiable opposing nation-state.

  2. War gets declared by Congress; there's an end-point (treaty?)

  3. There are gentleman's rules about War actions (e.g. Geneva Conventions, etc.), though they aren't always followed (e.g. Japan, maybe us).

  4. Both parties are expected to follow the same rules.

  5. Soldiers aren't punished for following (most) orders of their superiors. They are held as prisoners until the war ends, then returned to their homeland!

  6. While civilian deaths are supposed to be unintentional, they are accepted as collateral damage

With Crime:

  1. The main attacks are often not formally associated with a single nation. You're dealing with individuals and NonGovernmentalOrganizations.

  2. There's an ongoing fight against crime. It never ends.

  3. Criminals aren't expected to follow any rules, though certain actions (e.g. killing a cop) are expected to result in more extensive reprisals.

  4. Police, conversely, are very tightly constrained in the rules they follow. This seems appropriate because

  • alleged criminals are US citizens - "one of us"

  • people are presumed innocent

  • the State has lots more power, and we don't want that power abused to railroad innocent parties

  1. Each criminal is held responsible for his own actions. Lower-tier soldiers may actually face harsher penalties, since they are "hands-on", while the capo seems a bit more "white-shoe".

  2. Bystander death is unacceptable (esp at the hands of the police)

With International Crime (where crime is committed on soil not native to the criminal) (this may be the better comparison to War, rather than using general domestic Crime)

Edited: |

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