Theses Master's

Special Operations Forces: Guardians of Human Rights and Our Constitutional Legitimacy

Heitz, Michael Paul

Human rights advocates seem to buy into only the “Magna Carta” theory of human rights. That is, for the most part, they point only to written instruments like the Bill of Rights or the ICCPR to define what our human rights are. These rights are ordained and granted by the elites and the powerful. This has its merits. However, I argue that, although written instruments are important, in the United States our system is based on the idea that we set our own human rights through a lived constitutional system that facilitates the reification of the values of the people. The people do not need to be granted our own rights because we are the referent to which any right must cohere. That is, beyond courts, gods, societies, ethnic groups, and treaties, there is the people, and it is up to us to decide what counts as a “human right.”

Given this idea of human rights, despite what one may think, Special Operations forces can and do protect human lives, human rights, and our constitutional legitimacy in counter- terrorism situations. They are the most effective response to global decentralized terrorist groups. They are capable of fighting amongst civilians, protecting and sparing civilian life, in ways that conventional military forces are not. They spare other soldiers’ lives by carrying out tasks that would take a higher death toll on conventional military units. They work with locals in ways that older counter-insurgency scholars could not have imagined possible. They are more capable of taking hostages and rendering enemies hors de combat than conventional military units. Finally, in doing all this the protect the legitimacy of our human rights regime, the legitimacy of our Constitution, and most importantly innocent people.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Paradis, Michel David
Bobbitt, Philip C.
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
November 2, 2018