The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Slouching Toward Mordor

November 5, 2013

As part of World Politics Review‘s new feature on “winding down the war on terror,” I rant about the US’ continuing use of a war paradigm for global law enforcement operations:

The term “shadow wars” aptly describes the U.S. approach to the war on terror. Policymakers perceive they are fighting an enemy composed of shadow and dust, one hidden in and facilitated by the dark underworld of global politics. But to prosecute this campaign, the U.S. has itself, to borrow a term from the writer J.R.R. Tolkien, “fallen into shadow”: Its moral high ground and once-principled politics have been replaced by a recourse to policies such as arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial killings that have tarnished its reputation and bolstered its enemies.

The blowback from these policies demonstrates that a just war cannot be fought using unjust means—indeed their use erodes the moral authority to fight truly just wars when the need arises. Winding down this “war” both necessitates and provides a window for stepping out of the shadows and adhering to basic standards of international law and human rights.

Read the whole thing here.

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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.