The Geneva Conventions are contracts between sovereign peoples stipulating how they will treat each other’s people during war. They accord with natural justice because they are entirely reciprocal. Accordingly any attempt to convert them from a contract between belligerents into a general code of conduct should be rejected as unjust to nations that find themselves fighting insurgents and terrorist groups.
This does not mean that a nation and insurgent group cannot also agree to a code of conduct. For example, an insurgency group might undertake:

  • To tattoo all its members with a mark identifying their membership (in lieu of a uniform and dog tags).
  • Not to attack civilians or medical facilities.
  • Not to lay a second bomb in the location of a first bomb (so the dying and injured can be attended to without fear).
  • To treat prisoners of war with respect, including seeking no more than their name, rank, and serial number.
  • To respect safe zones.
  • To truthfully confirm or deny responsibility for attacks.

In return, the sovereign country might agree to:

  • Accept surrender of any insurgent caught engaged in active hostilities who is properly tattooed.
  • Agree not to interrogate tattooed insurgents for any more than their name, rank, and serial number.
  • Agree to exchange military prisoners within a certain period of time.
  • Refuse to employ paroled prisoners either directly or indirectly in government service for the duration of the war.

This perfectly legitimate compact would benefit both sides. Absent such an agreement, a sovereign people should be guided solely by its own conscience.

Winning against an insurgency

There is a tried and trusted method of defeating insurgencies which should be employed wherever an insurgency needs to be defeated.

  • The British won the Boer War by removing the Boer women and children into camps, and the men into detention centers overseas. These actions, together with the use of blockhouses, sweeper columns, and scorched-earth policies, starved the Boer commandoes of logistical support and harried them into capitulation.
  • In the Philippine–American war of 1899–1902, the United States used detention camps and scorched-earth tactics whereby the guerrillas were separated from the populace and hence their logistical base. Once this was done, resistance crumbled.
  • During the Mau Mau Uprising, the British declared various zones of the country to be out of bounds. They then closed off the cities and swept their populations for rebels, transferring them to detention camps and reserves where they set up compulsory villagization in order to allow more effective control and surveillance. Eventually the resistance movement crumbled.
  • During the Malayan Emergency, the British adopted similar tactics with the implementation of the ‘Briggs Plan.’ This involved resettling the belligerent Chinese into fortified villages with round-the-clock armed sentries. Once this was done, the villagers could no longer be recruited, or supply the guerrillas, and once again resistance crumbled.

The lesson to be learned from these wars is that the best way to succeed is to isolate insurgents from the population by placing the entire population in cities and camps so they cannot effectively support or participate in an insurgency. The Malayan Emergency proved that this can be done in a humane fashion. Modern technology, including GPS location bracelets, DNA testing, facial recognition software, and databases means that such tactics can now be more effectively and humanely implemented.

Winning against terrorists

Terrorism can be prevented through diligence and thoroughness. Extensive use should be made of phone and Internet tapping, computer and audio bugs, surveillance cameras connected to facial recognition databases, and the like. No honest, law-abiding person could claim to be harmed if he is filmed or his communications are intercepted and his data searched by pattern recognition software for evidence of terrorist planning. In fact, citizens should feel more secure knowing there are security cameras at a bank or full-body scans at airports. So long as the data is
scrupulously used only for the prevention and prosecution of crimes, a warrant should not even be required to establish such surveillance.

Countries like France and Britain are in a tricky situation, because they have foolishly allowed large-scale immigration from countries that lack an entrenched cultural respect for the rule of law. Many of these new ‘citizens’ wish their fellow citizens dead, and some of them act on this impulse by blowing up busses and trains. The best way to weed them out is to use agents provocateur, eavesdropping and deportation. If there are persons who would, in the right circumstances, become murderers, then it is only proper that they be uncovered and expelled.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove