REWRITE THE RULES OF WAR
George W. Bush, in the absence of broadly agreed-upon guidelines for fighting and meting out justice to terrorists, stumbled badly in attempting to write his own rules for the "war on terror." Barack Obama has done better, but his administration is just as bollixed up over the right way to detain and try suspected terrorists.
Nine years after 9/11, let's get it right once and for all. Obama should lead an international effort to clear up confusion and ambiguities surrounding terrorism, war, and the "right" to resistance invoked by groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah to justify attacking civilians and using them as human shields.
Specifically, Obama should call for a new Geneva Convention -- the fifth -- to provide a common legal framework for combating terrorism. This would help the world resolve the "neither soldier nor criminal" quandary that has bedeviled two successive U.S. administrations. More importantly, it would stigmatize the routine use of violence against civilians in fragile or disordered countries around the world.
A tough new anti-terrorism convention would give the international community new weapons in the struggle to discredit violent extremism. By designating mass casualty and suicide terrorism as crimes against humanity, it would take some of the glamour out of violence. It would also provide the legal basis for international tribunals to indict those who recruit the killers and plan the attacks. Finally, leading the charge for a new Geneva Convention would reinforce a core theme of Obama's foreign policy: restoring U.S. moral leadership within a framework of international cooperation for mutual security.
Because terrorism is a global scourge, it makes no sense for every country to write its own rules for combating and punishing terrorists. It's time to arm the civilized world with the legal tools it needs to fight and defeat terrorists -- in a civilized way.
John Moore/Getty Images