Moral and Legal Authority
A government with moral and legal authority promulgates written rules and universally, impartially and uniformly enforces the rules, which provide a predictable and stable legal order on which to base economic and personal decisions. The law prevails, not the proclamation or arbitrary decision of a ruler, government bureaucrat, the enforcer (e.g., policeman) or judge.
Glenn Greenwald of Salon properly worries about the indifference of Americans to the rule of law. Particularly, how does the killing of bin Laden fit … into broader principles and viewpoints about state power and the War on Terror.
Similarly, Victor Davis Hanson asks in Real Clear Politics: But what, exactly, are the moral, legal or practical rules in going after terrorist leaders or the savage dictators of rogue regimes? We went into a foreign country to kill, not capture, bin Laden.
Americans must debate, resolve and codify how to define and engage rogues. Elementary, are they enemy combatants or are they criminals?
If they are combatants, do we declare war? After declaring war do we have authority to kill the enemy? Do we have the right to invade another nation for the purpose of killing and capturing an enemy?
If they are criminals, do constitutional protections apply – Miranda rights, availability of an attorney, jury trial, etc. Must we attempt to capture? May we kill only in self defense?
The killing of bin Laden raises all of these questions. Unfortunately, these ethical and political decisions are not new or unique. Many presidents have taken police and military action against many “rouges” as Hanson cites:
In recent years the United States has been in a number of undeclared wars against terrorists, insurgents and authoritarian dictators — Mohamed Farrah Aidid, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Slobodan Milosevic, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Manuel Noriega, Mullah Omar, Muammar Gadhafi, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and others — whom we sought to kill, capture or put on trial.
What is the proper delegation of power to the President, to Congress, to the military and the police? What force is authorized and proper? What civil protections should be upheld? These are serious questions that must be determined.
Americans must debate, resolve and promulgate written rules which delegate powers to the President, Members of Congress, police and military leaders. Along with a clear delegation of powers, there must ardent restrictions on these vested powers. Always, the enormous power of government must be limited and restrained.