By Alex Chartier
Arriving early at Houston’s The Black Labrador we found that the venue was still being prepared for the evening’s program. Fortunately, this gave us the opportunity to engage in a short-lived game of giant chess, which was available to guests in the restaurant’s courtyard. While awaiting for the night’s main attraction, we enjoyed the company of the other attending guests and snacked on the appetizers that were offered. But it wasn’t long after that the speaker of the evening was introduced.
Retired Lt. Colonel Geoffrey Corn, now a professor at South Texas College of Law, spoke at length about the law of war, the reality of combat, and the effects of combat on soldiers. He explained that for a decade the U.S. involvement in the Middle East has not been a war but an “armed conflict.” He further elaborated how the U.S. has not been fighting a foreign government or country, but rather an ideological group spread amongst an area undefined by borders.
Lt. Corn also pointed out how the U.S. soldiers fighting against this poorly defined group are not fighting the same fight as the enemy. In previous conflicts the enemy was clearly distinguishable from local civilians. This held true up until the Vietnam War, where the guerrilla tactics employed blurred the lines in the ever-present turmoil of a live battlefield. The fog of war was thickened by the fact that these combatants now acted differently than most armies in history. We learned how international laws have been set in place to try and bring civility to conflicts such as these, but the situation is still tricky for our men and women fighting over seas.
A comment Lt. Corn made near the end of his speech stuck out to me and forced me to think long and hard on the drive home. “How we choose to fight our enemies and how we treat our prisoners is a reflection of us and not of our enemies.”
It was an enlightening presentation, and we very much enjoyed the presentation and the chance to meet Lt. Col. Geoffrey Corn.