Certainty in the War on Terror

Those of us in the US, the UK, and other places too, have been waging war against Terror for quite some time now. (Well, not us personally in most cases, but those who act in our names.) It’s a funny old battle – not least because most folks are rather puzzled as to what or who the Enemy actually is. We may also be confused about the rules by which this particular war is being waged. Philosopher Robert G. Brice has some interesting thoughts on the latter matter in his piece Is “Near Certainty” Certain Enough?:

One year ago, on January 14, 2015, a U.S. drone strike inadvertently killed two hostages, a 73-year-old American, Warren Weinstein, and a 37-year-old Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto. While President Obama said that he grieves “when any innocent life is taken,” he also said that preliminary assessments indicate that this particular strike “was fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct our counterterrorism efforts.” Included among these guidelines is a strict policy—mentioned briefly in a speech at the National Defense University and more fully articulated in the President’s Counterterrorism Policy and Procedure Directive—which requires “near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” But what does it mean to be “nearly certain”? Is such a level of assessment even attainable?

Go have a read…

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