Memo to Reporters Covering the Mark Martins Appointment

By Benjamin Wittes
Thursday, June 23, 2011, 10:03 PM

For the benefit of reporters writing on the appointment of Brig. Gen. Mark Martins as chief prosecutor of the military commissions--and all others interested in the subject--here are links to the extraordinary series of posts Martins wrote on this blog last autumn. The concern the subject of lawfare and the rule of law operations in which U.S. forces are engaged in Afghanistan.

The first, entitled "Lawfare in Afghanistan?" reintroduced a question Jack had posed to Martins earlier: whether the U.S. rule-of-law-building efforts in Afghanistan constituted an attractive form of lawfare--a word normally used with strongly negative connotations.

The second, entitled "Building the Rule of Law in Theory," argued that "Law is . . . a powerful potential tool for COIN, though I pause before ever calling the law a 'tool.'"

The third, entitled "Building the Rule of Law in Practice," described on-the-ground efforts to build functioning legal institutions in Afghanistan.

The fourth contained a series of "Reflections on 'Lawfare' and Related Terms."

The final post, "Lawfare: So Are We Waging It?" concluded: "This is affirmative lawfare in Afghanistan: a conscious and concerted reliance upon law to defeat those inside and outside of government who scorn it. Surely, it must be waged as part of a comprehensive COIN campaign and must be focused upon the building and protection of those key rule of law nodes and institutions—formal and informal—upon which the authorities’ legitimacy depends. Great care must also be taken to preserve the initiative of the individual troops who continue to shoulder the most dangerous and significant burdens of this decentralized conflict. But if prosecuted effectively within these ground rules, it may well prove decisive."

Needless to say, I share Jack's enthusiasm at this appointment--and raise the Cup of Lawfare, into which I have poured a nip of very fine Scotch, in a toast. My one anxiety about Martins' new role is on account of the operations in Afghanistan that he will have to leave behind. I will take on faith that the Rule of Law Field Force, and its essential mission, will be left in the right hands.