My dear friend, Georgetown University Professor Anthony Arend interviewed on the legality of USA's strikes against ISIS (or ISIL or IS, as you prefer):
As always, clear and cogent.
My dear friend, Georgetown University Professor Anthony Arend interviewed on the legality of USA's strikes against ISIS (or ISIL or IS, as you prefer):
As always, clear and cogent.
As regular readers know, I have always been fascinated by military history. The First World War has always been of special interest: Such an amazing and tragic holocaust that was so unnecessary. The paradigmatic march of folly. Here are some books I've found especially valuable to understanding this tragedy:
Interesting commentary from Dan Hodges on the West's dilemma:
If Boko Haram don’t bring back our girls, what are we going to do about it? I ask this question because yesterday I saw our Prime Minister do a very strange thing. During a break in his interview with Andrew Marr, he sat next to CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, and held up a bit of paper that asked the Islamist terror group to do just that. “Bring back our girls,” Her Majesty’s first minister demanded.
He’s not alone. Earlier in the week Michelle Obama, the wife of the most powerful man on the planet, stood in the White House and did the same thing. Having held up her sign, she then proceeded to deliver a radio address – unprecedented for a First Lady – in which she said: “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters.” ...
OK, we’ve decided “something must be done”. So I repeat, what happens if nothing is done? What then? Do we put up more signs. Bigger signs. Get more high-profile advocates. A fundraiser. A pop concert perhaps. Get “Bring back our girls” to number one.
Or should we actually go and get our girls. Send some big, rough men, with very big guns to say to Boko Haram: “We’ve come to take our girls back. And if you try to stop us, it’s the last thing you’ll ever do.”
I'm not unsympathetic to the argument that "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us." On the other hand, my views on interventionism are roughly those of Russell Kirk, who wrote that "presidents of the United States must not be encouraged to make Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, nor to fancy that they can establish a New World Order through eliminating dissenters." The USA cannot be the world's policeman. Instead, as Kirk wrote, "armed conflict, for all involved, ought to be the last desperate resort, to be entered upon only when all means of diplomacy, conciliation, and compromise have been exhausted." And then the Powell Doctrine must govern.
But that brings me back to Hodges:
Do we want to be the world’s policeman, or do we not? If we don’t, then fine. But let’s take down the signs, and the hashtags, because all we’re doing is communicating our own impotence.
So take them down.
John Aziz acknowledges that "a world war is still possible," but nevertheless opines that:
The world has become much more economically interconnected since the last global war. Economic cooperation treaties and free trade agreements have intertwined the economies of countries around the world. This has meant there has been a huge rise in the volume of global trade since World War II, and especially since the 1980s. ...
In other words, global trade interdependency has become, to borrow a phrase from finance, too big to fail. ...
Of course, world wars have been waged despite international business interests, but the world today is far more globalized than ever before and well-connected domestic interests are more dependent on access to global markets, components and resources, or the repayment of foreign debts. These are huge disincentives to global war.
I'm reminded, however, that before World War I Norman Angell argued in The Great Illusion that the increased global economic interdependence of that age would make a major European war futile and therefore that war was obsolete. As Paul Krugman observed in connection with Russia's last militaristic adventure:
Some analysts tell us not to worry: global economic integration itself protects us against war, they argue, because successful trading economies won’t risk their prosperity by engaging in military adventurism. But this, too, raises unpleasant historical memories.
Shortly before World War I another British author, Norman Angell, published a famous book titled “The Great Illusion,” in which he argued that war had become obsolete, that in the modern industrial era even military victors lose far more than they gain. He was right — but wars kept happening anyway.
So are the foundations of the second global economy any more solid than those of the first? In some ways, yes. For example, war among the nations of Western Europe really does seem inconceivable now, not so much because of economic ties as because of shared democratic values.
Much of the world, however, including nations that play a key role in the global economy, doesn’t share those values. Most of us have proceeded on the belief that, at least as far as economics goes, this doesn’t matter — that we can count on world trade continuing to flow freely simply because it’s so profitable. But that’s not a safe assumption.
Angell was right to describe the belief that conquest pays as a great illusion. But the belief that economic rationality always prevents war is an equally great illusion. And today’s high degree of global economic interdependence, which can be sustained only if all major governments act sensibly, is more fragile than we imagine.
"And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars ...."
Violence in Iraq in 2013 was worse than at any time since 2008 – when Iraq was still in the throes of its all-out civil war that had led to over 100,000 deaths. And Iraq’s problems are getting worse, not better. Although there are many differences, the situation in Iraq today reminds me in some ways of where we were in Syria two years ago: we knew the situation was bad, we knew the situation was getting worse, and we were unable to devise a coherent policy response. We all know the results. I worry that in 2015 we’ll be looking at Iraq as we do Syria today, wondering how to manage a strategic and humanitarian disaster and lamenting the opportunities we missed before the conflict was completely out of control. The latest reports in the New York Times that Al Qaeda in Iraq have at least temporarilycaptured large swathes of territory in Anbar and threaten major cities are particularly alarming
Although I do not exonerate President Obama for his own policy failures in the last 5 years, the ultimate blame must go to President Bush. Many years ago I wrote an op-ed entitled Bush 43 has been a disaster for conservatives, in which I argued that:
As for Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, it is clear that the administration lacked a plan for succeeding with the occupation. We still don’t have a handle on the security problems in Iraq. Our feckless handling of the country looks likely to breed another generation of jihadists, and there is no sign that Bush has a viable exit plan. Worse yet, he created an American gulag: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, secret renditions, the use of water-boarding and other coercive interrogation techniques that are little short of torture.
As conservative icon Russell Kirk observed of George H.W. Bush’s Middle East policy, "devastating Iraq (and the rescued Kuwait) is an uncompromising way of opening an era of sweetness and light. Peoples so rescued from tyrants might cry, as did the boy whom Don Quixote de la Mancha had saved from beating by the muleteers but who was thrashed by them not long later, nevertheless — ‘In the name of God, Don Jorge de la Casablanca, don’t rescue me again!’ "
The question now is whether the neoconservatives and other chickenhawks who got us into Iraq will admit that their war would make an admirable case study for an historian updating Barbara Tuchman's classic The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam?
It's frequently said that more people have been killed by AK-47s than by any other firearm in history. I'm pondering the question of whether its designer Mikhail Kalashnikov bears moral responsibility for all those deaths. I'm a firm believer in the proposition that guns don't kill people, people kill people, but what about the people who made it possible? Kalashnikov didn't think so, but was he right?
Mikhail Kalashnikov refused to accept any responsibility for the many people killed with the weapon.
"My aim was to create armaments to protect the borders of my motherland," he said.
"It is not my fault that the Kalashnikov was used in many troubled places. I think the policies of these countries are to blame, not the designers."
Today my thoughts turn to my Grandfather Irwin Gottschall, who served in the Seventeenth Cavalry before and during the First World War, and my father Clarence A Bainbridge III, who served as an enlisted man in the Coast Guard during World War II, and was a career Chaplain in the US Army between 1956 and 1985. Both were Protestants, but I suspect they would not object to my offering this Catholic prayer for them:
O God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
As someone who dabbled in international law in his youth (and once roomed with the leading expert on the law of war), as well as an avid amateur military historian and Army brat, I retain an interest in international law and the use of force. Today's WSJ contains a fascinating article, co-authored by friend of the blog Kenneth Anderson, on the evolving laws of war governing autonomous military machines:
If the past decade of the U.S. drone program has taught us anything, it's that it is crucial to engage the public about new types of weapons and the legal constraints on their design and use. The U.S. government's lack of early transparency about its drone program has made it difficult to defend, even when the alternatives would be less humane. Washington must recognize the strategic imperative to demonstrate new weapons' adherence to high legal and ethical standards.
This approach will not work if the U.S. goes it alone. America should gather a coalition of like-minded partners to adapt existing international legal standards and develop best practices for applying them to autonomous weapons. The British government, for example, has declared its opposition to a treaty ban on autonomous weapons but is urging responsible states to develop common standards for the weapons' use within the laws of war.
Autonomous weapons are not inherently unlawful or unethical. If we adapt legal and ethical norms to address robotic weapons, they can be used responsibly and effectively on the battlefield.
I learned politics from reading Russell Kirk and his essay on political errors keeps coming to mind as I ponder Obama making the same errors that Bush made by waging wars of choice in the Middle east. here's a key excerpt but please go read the whole thing.
Are we to saturation-bomb most of Africa and Asia into righteousness, freedom, and democracy? And, having accomplished that, however would we ensure persons yet more unrighteous might not rise up instead of the ogres we had swept away? Just that is what happened in the Congo, remember, three decades ago; and nowadays in Zaire, once called the Belgian Congo, we zealously uphold with American funds the dictator Mobutu, more blood-stained than Saddam. And have we forgotten Castro in Cuba?
So now the supposedly anti-Bush Obama's starting yet another war, this time in Syria, where the odds are that either Assad or al-Qaeda will end up beating "our" "moderate" rebels.
Whenever we start up one of these wars of choice, I go back to Russell Kirk's classic essay Political Errors at the End of the Twentieth Century. Even though he was dealing with Bush 41's war against Saddam, his basic point still holds true today:
Now indubitably Saddam Hussein is unrighteous; but so are nearly all the masters of the "emergent" African states (with the Ivory Coast as a rare exception), and so are the grim ideologues who rule China, and the hard men in the Kremlin, and a great many other public figures in various quarters of the world. Why, I fancy that there are some few unrighteous men, conceivably, in the domestic politics of the United States. Are we to saturation-bomb most of Africa and Asia into righteousness, freedom, and democracy? And, having accomplished that, however would we ensure persons yet more unrighteous might not rise up instead of the ogres we had swept away? Just that is what happened in the Congo, remember, three decades ago; and nowadays in Zaire, once called the Belgian Congo, we zealously uphold with American funds the dictator Mobutu, more blood-stained than Saddam. And have we forgotten Castro in Cuba?
Momentum of Its Own. I doubt whether much good is going to come out of the slaughter of perhaps a hundred thousand people in Iraq. "For one of the troubles of war," Butterfield writes, "is that it acquires its own momentum and plants its own ideals on our shoulders, so that we are carried far away from the purposes with which we began -- carried indeed sometimes to greater acts of spoilation than the ones which had provoked our original entry into the war. Before the war of 1914 had lasted a year, its own workings had generated such a mood that we had promised Russia Constantinople and had bought the alliance of Italy with offers of booty, some of which had later to be disavowed by President Wilson. And it is a remarkable fact that in wars which purport to be so ethical that the states attached to neutrality are sometimes regarded as guilty of a dereliction of duty, the great powers primarily concerned may have required an iniquitous degree of bribery to bring them into the conflict, or to maintain their fidelity. The whole ideal of moderate peace aims, and the whole policy of making war the servant (instead of the master) of negotiation, is impossible -- and the whole technique of the 'war for righteousness' has a particularly sinister application -- when even in the ostensibly 'defending' party there is a latent and concealed aggressiveness of colossal scope, as there certainly was in 1914."
You may perceive some parallels between Butterfield's description of the course of the Allies during World War I and the course, so far, of the coalition against Iraq. Already there is talk of what shall be done with the "remains of Iraq." Mr. James Baker talks of rebuilding Iraq; others talk of dismantling Iraq altogether, by way of spoilation. And what promises and bribes were provided by the government of the United States, in recent months, to secure the assent of such murderous governments as that of Ethiopia to strong measures against Iraq; to secure, indeed, by holding out prospects of massive economic aid, the cooperation of the Soviet Union, Iraq's former patron?
Was not Egypt's cooperation obtained by forgiving the Egyptian government's indebtedness of several billion dollars? Was not Syria's assent gained by America's ignoring of the Syrian conquest of the Lebanon, with a massacre of General Aoun's Christian army? What began as determination to restore a legitimate (if somewhat arbitrary) government in Kuwait may result in the overturn of several governments in the Levant. As for regarding neutral states as guilty of dereliction of duty -- why, the United States has done just that to Jordan, by cutting off economic aid at the very time when Jordan is crammed with destitute refugees from Iraq.
Disagreeable Consequences. In short, deliberate entry into war commonly brings on consequences disagreeable even to the seeming victors. Prudent statesmen long have known that armed conflict, for all involved, ought to be the last desperate resort, to be entered upon only when all means of diplomacy, conciliation, and compromise have been exhausted. In Iraq, we have crushed an insect with the club of Hercules. Temporarily, Mr. Bush's stroke is popular. When a democracy goes to war, at first there occurs a wave of enthusiasm: "Bop the Wop; sap the Jap; get the Hun on the run!" But afterward, when troubles arise....
True, we did not suffer a long war in the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq. But we must expect to suffer during a very long period of widespread hostility toward the United States -- even, or perhaps especially, from the people of certain states that America bribed or bullied into combining against Iraq.
In Egypt, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Algeria, in Morocco, in all of the world of Islam, the masses now regard the United States as their arrogant adversary; while the Soviet Union, by virtue of its endeavors to mediate the quarrel in its later stages, may pose again as the friend of Moslem lands. Nor is this all: for now, in every continent, the United States is resented increasingly as the last and most formidable of imperial systems.
In this century, great empires have collapsed: the Austrian, the German, the British, the French, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Italian, and the Japanese. The Soviet empire now languishes in the process of dissolution. "Imperialism" has become a term of bitter reproach and complaint; all this within my own lifetime.
American Empire. But there remains an American Empire, still growing -- though expanding through the acquisition of client states, rather than through settlement of American populations abroad. Among the client states directly dependent upon American military power are Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Israel, and El Salvador; and until the withdrawal of American divisions from Germany for service in Arabia, Germany, too, was a military client. Dependent upon American assistance of one kind or another, and in some degree upon American military protection, are the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, and Panama; and also, in the Levant, Egypt and Jordan, and formerly Lebanon. Now Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are added to the roster of clients. I hardly need mention America's earlier acquisitions: Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgins, and lesser islands. I refrain from mentioning America's economic ascendancy, through foreign aid or merely trade, over a great deal more of the world. In short, although we never talk about our empire, a tremendous American Empire has come into existence -- if, like the Roman Empire, in a kind of fit of absence of mind. No powerful counterpoise to the American hegemony seems to remain, what with the enfeebling of the U.S.S.R.
Such a universal ascendancy always has been resented by the lesser breeds without the law. Soon there sets to work a widespread impulse to pull down the imperial power. But that imperial power, strong in weapons, finds it possible for a time to repress the disobedient. In the long run -- well, as Talleyrand put it, "You can do everything with bayonets -- except sit on them." In the long run, the task of repression is too painful a burden to bear; so the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has discovered in the past few years. Napoleon discovered that hard truth earlier and King George III and the King's Friends discovered it between the years 1775 and 1781. Doubtless George Bush means well by the world near the end of the twentieth century. He is a man of order, diligent, dutiful, honest, and a good family man. But he lacks imagination, "the vision thing." And power intoxicates; and, as Lord Acton put it, power tends to corrupt. The love of power tends to corrupt both speech and actions. It may corrupt a grave national undertaking into a personal vendetta. It may corrupt what began as a chivalric rescue into a heavy belligerent domination. (Talk continues to come to our ears of a "permanent American presence" in the Persian Gulf.)
President Bush and Americans of his views doubtless intend the American hegemony to be gentler and kinder than the sort of hegemony that prevailed in the ancient Persian Empire, say; more just even than the Roman hegemony that gave peace, for some centuries, to several lands -- relative peace, anyway, at the price of crushing taxation and the extinction of earlier cultures. But devastating Iraq (and the rescued Kuwait) is an uncompromising way of opening an era of sweetness and light. Peoples so rescued from tyrants might cry, as did the boy whom Don Quixote de la Mancha had saved from beating by the muleteers but who was thrashed by them not long later, nevertheless -- "In the name of God, Don Jorge de la Casablanca, don't rescue me again!"
Don Jorge de la Casablanca has toppled and imprisoned one Central American despot -- somewhat small fry -- and is in the process of dealing after the same fashion with one Mesopotamian despot, somewhat larger fry. "Well done!" some cry. It has all been rather like deer hunting in my Michigan back woods.
Yet presidents of the United States must not be encouraged to make Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, nor to fancy that they can establish a New World Order through eliminating dissenters. In the second century before Christ, the Romans generously liberated the Greek city-states from the yoke of Macedonia. But it was not long before the Romans felt it necessary to impose upon those quarrelsome Greeks a domination more stifling to Hellenic freedom and culture than ever Macedon had been. It is a duty of the Congress of the United States to see that great American Caesars do not act likewise.
Echo of 1984. If that duty is forgotten, before many years are out we may receive such television communications as follows.
The voice from the telescreen paused. A trumpet call, clear and beautiful, floated into the stagnant air. The voice continued raspingly:
"Attention! Your attention please! A newsflash has this moment arrived from the Malabar front. Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. I am authorized to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within a measurable distance of its end. Here is the newsflash -- "
Bad news coming, thought Winston. And sure enough, following a gory description of the annihilation of a Eurasian army, with stupendous figures of killed and prisoners, came the announcement that, as of next week, the chocolate ration would be reduced from thirty grams to twenty.
Perhaps you have already recognized the preceding passage from Orwell's 1984. Orwell describes our world of 1991, too. Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace comes to pass in an era of Righteousness -- that is, national or ideological self-righteousness in which the public is persuaded that "God is on our side," and that those who disagree should be brought here before the bar as war criminals.
Interesting article in today's WSJ on the potential for private cyberwar:
As companies weather a spate of high-profile computer attacks, support is growing for an option that for now is probably illegal: fighting back.
The Justice Department has long held that if a company accesses another party's computer network without permission, for whatever purpose, it is breaking the law.
But the idea of allowing the private sector to retaliate against hackers, euphemistically known as "hacking back," has gained momentum as U.S. companies wake up to the pervasive threat of cybercrime.
I've thought for some time that a science fiction triller about a corporation waging cyberwar would make a great story. If I had any skills at all at fiction, I'd be working on one of the Amazon 99-cent jobs. Lacking such skills, however, I'd love to be able to draft Charles Stross to write it. His prior work experience in the computer industry coupled with his demonstrated skills at thrillers (see The Laundry series) make him the ideal guy to tackle this subject. (See my list of favorite Charles Stross novels).
President Obama has declared that the Global War on Terror has put al-Qaida "on the path to defeat" and reduced the scale of terrorism to pre-9/11 levels:
"Make no mistake," he said, "our nation is still threatened by terrorists," noting that the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, last September and in Boston last month were tragic reminders.
But he also left little doubt that he thinks it is time to turn the page on the post-9/11 approach. He was referring not only to the controversial use of armed drones to target terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries, but also the commitment of tens of thousands of U.S. ground troops in conventional fighting.
"For all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe," he said. "We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root," adding that "a perpetual war — through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments — will prove self-defeating and alter our country in troubling way."
The trouble with that proclamation is that it doesn't take into account the domestic side. In Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Robert Higgs demonstrated that wars and other major crises typically trigger a dramatic growth in the size of government, accompanied by higher taxes, greater regulation, and loss of civil liberties. Once the crisis ends, government may shrink somewhat in size and power, but rarely back to pre-crisis levels. Just as a ratchet wrench works only in one direction, the size and scope of government tends to move in only one direction—upwards—because the interest groups that favored the changes now have an incentive to preserve the new status quo, as do the bureaucrats who gained new powers and prestige. Hence, each crisis has the effect of ratcheting up the long-term size and scope of government.
There's a slew of domestic restrictions on our liberties that came into place after 9/11. The TSA's security theater apparatus at airports is just the most noticeable. As Jonathan Turley has noted:
For civil libertarians, the legacy of bin Laden is most troubling because it shows how the greatest injuries from terror are often self-inflicted. Bin Laden's twisted notion of success was not the bringing down of two buildings in New York or the partial destruction of the Pentagon. It was how the response to those attacks by the United States resulted in our abandonment of core principles and values in the "war on terror." Many of the most lasting impacts of this ill-defined war were felt domestically, not internationally.
Starting with George W. Bush, the 9/11 attacks were used to justify the creation of a massive counterterrorism system with growing personnel and budgets designed to find terrorists in the heartland. Laws were rewritten to prevent citizens from challenging searches and expanding surveillance of citizens. Leaders from both parties acquiesced as the Bush administration launched programs of warrantless surveillance, sweeping arrests of Muslim citizens and the creation of a torture program.
What has been most chilling is that the elimination of Saddam and now bin Laden has little impact on this system, which seems to continue like a perpetual motion machine of surveillance and searches. While President Dwight D. Eisenhower once warned Americans of the power of the military-industrial complex, we now have a counterterrorism system that employs tens of thousands, spends tens of billions of dollars each year and is increasingly unchecked in its operations.
Obama's speech strikes me as an opportunity to unwind these infringements. Unfortunately, if Higgs is right about how the ratchet effect works and Turley is right about the creations of a counter-terrorism complex, it will take more than just a single speech to overcome the ratcheting down of our civil liberties.