In the Same Old Way
The decision by the Supreme Court to grant the full protection of the Geneva Convention to al-Qaeda type prisoners essentially codifies the asymmetrical treatment of prisoners in terrorist hands and terrorists who may be in civilized, or at least American hands. The former will be treated with unimaginable brutality and the latter according to the Geneva convention. Nothing can be done to change this now. All that can be accomplished is to emphasize that this handicap will reduce our effectiveness in fighting the enemy. It may be possible to compensate with better technology, a greater willingness to bear losses and above all a greater determination. It is important not to lose heart but to increase the resolve that within these limits we shall still try to win.
But there remains the possibility that society, as expressed in the total sum of its attitudes, really doesn't want to continue the fight, though one shouldn't take Hamadan as a basis for concluding that. That is society's prerogative too. Israel, for example, has in the course of its own struggle already ceded certain things to its enemy which have not only determined its position on the battlefield; but also altered Israel's perception of itself; the most fundamental of which is the acceptance that its own survival under certain circumstances is illegitimate. It is the nature of experience to engender second thoughts; and if Israel is already having doubts about whether any survival in accordance with its standards of justice is possible; then there may be third or fourth thoughts, which could return to the original conception but will very probably move in new directions.
Hamadan, I think, may come to be regarded by future historians as a blow against the Geneva Conventions. Not because anyone will disobey them; but because their fulfillment -- as fulfilled they now must be -- will have the effect of undermining the very institutions on which they are based; of reinforcing not reciprocity but asymmetry in battlefield etiquette. In a word, of producing exactly the opposite of their reason for existence. If so then in some strange way Hamadan will have performed a necessary function. Making it impossible to win the War on the cheap it will make it necessary to win it -- if that is still possible -- in the old way: in fear, doubt, pain, despair and finally, if victory is granted, in surprised gratitude.