Osama, Obama, and torture

In surprisingly good English, the captive quietly answers: “Yes, all thanks to God, I do know when the mujahideen will, with God’s permission, detonate a nuclear weapon in the United States, and I also know how many and in which cities.” Startled, the CIA interrogators quickly demand more detail. Smiling his trademark shy smile, the captive says nothing. Reporting the interrogation’s results to the White House, the CIA director can only shrug when the president asks: “What can we do to make Osama bin Laden talk?”

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The Accidental Guerrilla and the deliberate interventionist

The Australian soldier and anthropologist Dr. David Kilcullen’s new book — The Accidental Guerrilla, Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (Oxford, 2009) — is receiving a good deal of attention as the manual with which the Obama administration will forge a successful conclusion to the U.S.-NATO campaign in Afghanistan. The title, The Accidental Guerrilla, refers to those locals living in an insurgent environment who pick up weapons and fight counterinsurgent forces because of tribal mores, because they like to fight, because the West has invaded, or because they are intimidated by what Kilcullen claims to be the limited number of dedicated insurgents or jihadists, in the case of Iraq, Afghanistan, or other Muslim locales. This being the case, Kilcullen argues, the U.S.-NATO goal in Afghanistan should be to split the “accidental guerrillas” away from the jihadists. Echoes of Kilcullen’s thesis can already be heard in public statements by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Afghanistan guru Bruce Reidel, and others who have claimed that up to 75 percent of the Afghan insurgents can be peeled away from the Taliban and its allies and brought over to Karzai’s regime.

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Professor Dershowitz encounters a worrying future

On 25 March 2009, I participated in a “Doha Debate” held at Georgetown University under the auspices of the Qatar-Based Doha Foundation. The Oxford Union-style question before the house was: “This house believes that it is time for the U.S. administration to get tough with Israel.” The “no” team consisted of Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and former Israeli foreign ministry adviser Dore Gold. On the “yes” team were myself and Avraham Burg, a former speaker of Israel’s Knesset. Each speaker made a 2-minute opening statement and then was question by the moderator, Tim Sebastian. Thereafter, the debaters fielded questions from the audience for about an hour, and then the audience voted. The “yes” team won 67-percent of the vote, the “no” team 33-percent.

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