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Ryan Vogel discusses the United States’ Practice of Wartime Detention

On March 28, 2019, Professor Ryan Vogel of Utah Valley University presented a lecture at The Institute of World Politics titled “The United States’ Practice of Wartime Detention.”

Prof. Vogel’s lecture began by first identifying key facts about the United States’ usage of detention in wartime. He argued that detention is a time-honored practice of war, and stated that it is normal, legal, and humane. Mr. Vogel also argued that a state must have the capability to detain in wartime, as a matter of military necessity. Prof. Vogel further elucidated his stance, noting that all states should treat detainees in full accordance with their legal obligations.

Proceeding into the next part of his talk, Prof. Vogel presented additional information about the practice of wartime detention. He noted that wartime detention is “preventive, not punitive” and that it could legally be applied to both civilians and combatants during wartime. Mr. Vogel also explained that wartime detention is by its very nature indefinite: it may last as long as a conflict is officially ongoing.

Next, he explained why the United States detains individuals during times of war and the benefits that can be derived from engaging in this practice. Mr. Vogel identified “operational purposes,” “humanitarian purposes,” and “strategic purposes” for engaging in the practice of wartime detention. “Operational purposes” ranged from straightforward reasons, like simply removing a combatant from the battlefield, to more nuanced benefits, such as intelligence collection or future prisoner exchange opportunities. “Humanitarian purposes” also included some more salient advantages, like simply being able to avoid killing a combatant, to the more intricate, such as the ability to avoid civilian casualties. Prof. Vogel finally expounded on the “Strategic Purposes” of wartime detention, including the idea that humane wartime detention can incentivize the enemy to surrender, potentially helping to end conflicts sooner.

Having related the potential benefits of wartime detention, the speaker delved into the more nuanced and controversial facet of this practice: how detainees should be treated. Mr. Vogel stated that detainees should be treated with dignity, and in the same way we would want our prisoners treated. He also relayed that prisoners should be treated “non-punitively” and as humanely as possible.

After outlining this criteria for U.S. wartime detention, Prof. Vogel expounded on the diverse challenges of contemporary wartime detention. Some of these challenges included the fact that the U.S. often detains “unconventional enemies” in modern warfare, “evidentiary/criminal standards,” and “public confusion over legal frameworks.”

After reviewing the many challenges contemporary wartime detention poses to the United States, Mr. Vogel made his case for why the United States needs to re-embrace the practice. He stated that the United States should build a credible, sustained, and principled policy of wartime detainment and continue to employ and modify detainee review processes. Mr. Vogel noted that the United States should maintain a leading role in developing the ethical practice of wartime detention and continue to develop processes that challenge the legitimacy of detention outside the confines of international armed conflict.

Mr. Vogel concluded his lecture with a final statement: “Detention is the right thing to do — morally, operationally, and strategically. And it must be done the right way.”

Prof. Vogel is an assistant professor of law and national security and the founding Director of the Center for National Security Studies at Utah Valley University. Before coming to UVU, Mr. Vogel served at the Pentagon as a senior policy advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He began his career at the Pentagon through the presidential management fellowship program and was awarded the Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service in 2014. Mr. Vogel was the principal drafter of several key DoD doctrinal directives related to detention and detainee review processes. Mr. Vogel has taught international and national security law courses at American University, Brigham Young University Law School, and the Chicago-Kent College of Law. He completed an LLM in public international law, with a certificate in national security law, from the Georgetown University Law Center. He earned a J.D. and an M.A. in international affairs from American University and graduated from Utah Valley University with a B.S. in Integrated Studies.

Prof. Vogel’s lecture was part of a lecture exchange that IWP and Utah Valley University established as part of a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2018.