Is Obama Striking the Right Balance?

President Obama has both undermined national security and eroded the foundation of human rights law.

Obama declares that "We are indeed at war with al-Qaeda," but he argues that we must treat terrorist threats as police matters. Citing the convictions of Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 World Trade Center bomber, and Zacarias Moussaoui, the 20th Sept. 11 hijacker, Obama says, "Our courts and juries . . . are tough enough to convict terrorists." Convictions, however, require evidence available only after an attack. Safeguarding national security means more than just picking up the pieces.

More misguided is Obama's extension of constitutional rights to terrorists. The Geneva Conventions do not apply fully to all prisoners. To qualify for maximum protection, combatants must wear uniforms, carry arms openly and adhere to the laws of war. Terrorists fail on all counts. To bestow rights regardless incentivizes future noncompliance. If combatants face no penalty for using schoolchildren as shields, then why not set up arms in a school yard?

Our constitutional principles must remain sacrosanct, but to preserve them we must not misapply them.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI.

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