Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guantanamo Bay Soccer Field

Fox News is running a story about the Defense Department's decision to build a soccer field in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The article suggests that this is an extraordinary waste of money and an unwarranted reward to undeserving terrorists. I disagree. 

The money, $750,000, is nothing in terms of the overall DOD budget - which is over $600 billion/year. At the same time, setting up this soccer field has major potential benefits. First, by reducing US-inmate security escort time (as the news report comments) it reduces the risk of Guantanamo inmates using force against our security garrison. 

Second, it offers the chance for better morale in the camp (which serves US interests by making inmates more amenable to co-operation with US authorities on other issues). 

Third, observing the social interactions of the detainees while they play will allow US intelligence officers to identify social hierarchy/interaction dynamics and then use this information for intelligence purposes. 

Fourth, the soccer field is good PR for the US. While I agree that the camp should stay open, the negative PR connotations that surround Guantanamo in the eyes of many in the muslim world, are unquestionably damaging to US interests. This negative PR undercuts our true (albeit imperfect) narrative of standing for democracy and empowerment in the 'war on terror' and helps feed the propaganda/support base of groups like Al Qa'ida. As David Galula would suggest, the 'war on terror' is 80% an ideas war. This soccer field is a small price for the prospect of real American strategic gains.

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