How Should We Treat American Jihadists?
February 25, 2013
By Andrew C. McCarthy
If a plane full of 200 American citizens is hijacked by foreign jihadists, the law does not tell us whether the president should shoot down the plane or let it be plowed into a skyscraper and kill 3,000 American citizens. It is the kind of excruciating decision that war makes necessary. Legal niceties do not tell us how to resolve it.
That is the problem with our debate over the treatment of U.S. nationals who join the enemy's forces in wartime — most urgently, over the targeted killing of our fellow citizens. We want the legal answer. But the legal answer is not going to help us. Under the Constitution, Americans who join the enemy may lawfully be treated like the enemy, which includes being attacked with lethal force. That, however, tells us only the outer limits of what is permissible. It does not tell us what we need to know: What should we do?...