Beyond the U.S. War on Terrorism: Comparing Domestic Legal Remedies to an International Dilemma




This paper summarizes the key insights from the conference. (1) Competing definitions of terrorism and war yield different diplomatic, legal, and military consequences. The definition a policy maker chooses is a key consideration. (2) The United States defined the September 11, 2001, attacks as acts of war rather than crimes outside a war context. The resulting response was due in part to a lack of legal flexibility in U.S. law, not understanding the power imbedded in criminal categorization, and reliance on structural changes for solutions. (3) European countries have a long history of individually and collectively responding to terrorism through their legal systems and the United States could profit from examining those responses. (4) Latin America has a long history of contending with terrorism in a context of guerrilla warfare. (5) Strategists and policy makers often incorrectly view the Islamic world as homogeneous and unchanging in its relationship to the West and to terrorism. (6) Policy formulation could benefit from the many historical examples, some in U.S. history, of problems associated with applying laws of war to insurgencies and other irregular warfare. (7) The United States should avoid the following: limiting itself by adopting overly simple definitions; characterizing offending groups by a tactic used and forgetting that they have many other dimensions; one-dimensional reactions to attacks; and underestimating the value of legal solutions to international problems.



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