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.
I've been watching Rand Paul's talking filibuster of CIA director nominee Brennan's appointment. Brilliant theater. A reminder of what the Senate ought to be about. And all in service of what strikes me as an eminently reasonable question. Does President Obama believe he has authority to order the assassination of noncombatant American citizens on US soil without benefit of due process?
It's a simple question deserving a yes or no answer and not the mealy-mouthed crap AG Eric Holder's offered up so far.
Which finally has even some liberals recoiling from Obama's drone war:
As we move into the second decade of war what little is left of our principles is being chipped away. In a white paper given to NBC News theObama Administration asserts the right to kill Americans with no due process.
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S…
[T]he confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches. It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.
The white paper, if nothing else, is smoking gun evidence that Barack Obama has completely abandoned his 2008 campaign pledge to rein in executive power in wake of Bush Administration abuses – meet the new boss, same as the old boss. ...
Also troubling is that, according to the white paper, the authority to kill American citizens without due process is not restricted to the President. ...
According to the federal government an informed high-level government official can now kill an American citizen without due process. Yes, for those playing at home, this is what tyranny looks like.
Scales are falling off eyes all over the place.
For my many and manifold sins, I have been subjected to an administrative duty at the law school this semester that has entailed reading a great deal of second-rate, deeply biased, and one sided "scholarship" by so-called "progressive" scholars. As you can imagine, it is a universe in which George Bush is the epitome of evil and there is no imaginable defense for anything the Bush administration did to defend us after 9/11. Conversely, almost none of the so-called scholars have anything to say about the Obama administration's decision to keep Guantanamo open or to ramp up the use of unmanned drones to confuct essentially lawless targeted killings. Note that I very carefully chose the word "lawless." It may be that the killings are legal under the law of war, but there is no clear domestic US law governing their use.
My annoyance with the double standard I see in these articles--damning Bush while giving Obama a pass--came to a head today, when I saw the latest news account of how Obama planned to respond to the issue if Romney had won the election. I quote Althouse's summation:
Fearing election loss, the Obama administration rushed to "develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones."
The NYT reported the other day. Its sources say they wanted "a new president [to] inherit clear standards and procedures."
That means that the President was fine with the lack of rules/standards/procedures to confine his own power.
Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.
Why are they still working on it? I imagine that every attempt to put the rules in writing and to cover everything they've already done (and want to keep doing) ends up with something they can't justify explicitly saying.
Like any thoughtful person, I have serious qualms about the Bush policy on issues like detention and interrogation. (Check the archives as far back as at least 2004.) I just wish that my fellow legal academics on the other side of the aisle were as eager to condemn Obama's policies as they were those of Bush 43. After all, the moral distance between Bush and Obama has gotten quite narrow.
There's an interesting article at Strategy Page on the DoD's preparations for waging offensive cyberwar, which notes that it likely will entail a public-private partnership:
Since the military cannot afford to pay enough to recruit qualified software and Internet engineers for this sort of work, it has turned to commercial firms. There are already some out there, companies that are technically network security operations, but will also carry out offensive missions (often of questionable legality, but that has always been an aspect of the corporate security business.)
Some of these firms have quietly withdrawn from the Internet security business, gone dark, and apparently turned their efforts to the more lucrative task of creating Cyber War weapons for the Pentagon. It may have been one of these firms that created, or helped create, the Stuxnet worm.
Which got me thinking. First, it's an odd procurement system that doesn't allow the Pentagon to pay expert individuals a high enough salary to bring them in house, but allows the Pentagon to outsource the same work to private companies and pay those companies enough for the companies to afford hiring such individuals. I frankly don't see the logic.
Second, why would these offensive cyberwar firms necessarily limit themselves to working for the DoD? It's widely known that Chinese hacker collectives sponsored by the Chinese government "are responsible for the majority of cyberattacks on U.S. businesses and government agencies":
The bulk of the attacks are stealthy in nature and have resulted in the loss of billions of dollars’ worth of intellectual property and state secrets from the private and public sector. ... “Industry is already feeling that they are at war,” said James Cartwright, a retired Marine general and the former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Imagine a corporate CEO of the more imperious type who arrived at work one morning to be told that his firm's trade secrets had once again been stolen in a cyberattack launched from Chinese hackers. Frustrated that the US government is doing more to put a stop to Chinese industrial cyber spying, the CEO hires one of these internet security firms and launches his own private war against China. Or maybe it's the CEO of an outfit like Google or Microsoft, which probably has the capacity to wage cyber war in house.
It'd make a great thriller. (Of course, corporate wars have been a staple of science fiction for a long time.)
It'd also make for some very interesting legal issues. And not just in the usual suspects like international law re the use of force or domestic laws on private armies and cyber crime.
Assume, for example, that the CEO got board of director approval before declaring war on China. A shareholder files a derivative suit in the Delaware Chancery Court. Would the business judgment rule protect the directors in this case? Assuming the company has a Section 102(b)(7) exculpation clause in its articles of incorporation, would that clause preclude monetary liability in such a case? Does it matter whether the company wins the war? What are good corporate governance practices for a company that goes to war with a nation-state?
Mary Dudziak posts on the growing concentration of military service within certain segments of the population:
"A smaller share of Americans currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces than at any time since the peace-time era between World Wars I and II," according to a new report from the Pew Research Center (hat tip New York Times).During the past decade, as the military has been engaged in the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history, just one-half of one percent of American adults has served on active duty at any given time.1 As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broader civilian population appear to be growing more distant.
The data reveals is "a large generation gap." According to the report, "more than three-quarters (77%) of adults ages 50 and older said they had an immediate family member –a spouse, parent, sibling or child – who had served in the military." In contrast, for people under 50, "57% of those ages 30-49 say they have an immediate family member who served. And among those ages 18-29, the share is only one-third."
Military service is now more concentrated in certain families: "Veterans are more than twice as likely as members of the general public to say they have a son or daughter who has served (21% vs. 9%)." And overall, what the report calls a "military-civilian gap" is more pronounced among younger people.
Dudziak worries about the political consequences of this growing gap:
The more distant and isolated Americans are from their nation's wars, the less they are politically engaged with American war policy.
Legal scholars argue on this blog and elsewhere that the tendency of presidents to initiate military action without congressional authorization can only be reined in if Congress insists on playing its constitutional role. But Congress will never play a more meaningful role in American war politics if the people aren't engaged. The Pew Report helps us to see what appears to be a growing distance from the costs of war, potentially reinforcing contemporary political disengagement.
In my new book, War Time: An Idea, its History, its Consequences , ... I argue that keeping the war powers in check requires a politics of war, and that requires a citizenry attentive to the exercise of military power. Our ideas about "wartime" play a role in the current disconnect, as a cultural framing of wartimes as discrete and temporary occasions, destined to give way to a state of normality, undermines democratic vigilance over on-going wars.
As Americans become more isolated from the costs of war, military engagement no longer seems to require the support of the American people. Their disengagement does not limit the reach of American military action, but enables its expansion.
As regular readers know, I'm an Army brat and have a life-long interest in military history. (One of these days I've got to figure out how to do military history in my day job. Suggestions?) As I read Dudziak's post, I was immediately reminded of Byron Farwell's wonderful book Queen Victoria's Little Wars. Farwell explains that:
From 1837 to 1901, in Asia, China, Canada, Africa, and elsewhere, military expedition were constantly being undertaken to protect resident Britons or British interests, to extend a frontier, to repel an attack, avenge an insult, or suppress a mutiny or rebellion. Continuous warfare became an accepted way of life in the Victorian era ....
Although Farwell is mainly concerned with military history and biography, there are some interesting historical lessons that echo Dudziak's concerns:
Victorian England "developed a sound military caste, a narrow, closed society with its own values and standards of conduct." (xviii) The Pew study data suggests we're headed in that direction.
The British public paid almost no attention to the pervasive little wars: "Even at the time, punitive excursions, field forces, and minor expeditions were so commonplace that most Britons never knew of them." (200) As Dudziak observes, public disengagement led to a lack of political oversight. It's instructive, for example, that there is no entry for Parliament or House of Commons in the very extensive index for Farwell's book. Even more striking, Farwell relates that "no one below the prime minister controlled the Empire's army, and even his ability to direct it was doubtful ...." (xviii) The latter half of that aspect of Victorian-era military-political relations may not (yet) hold true in the USA, but Obama's Libyan adventure forcefully illustrates -- as did many Bush and Clinton adventures before it -- the ability of a modern President to send our forces to war without much in the way of Congressional oversight.
Just as the Afghans frustrated the Soviets, they did the same to the Victorian British.
While always protesting friendship, the British repeatedly invaded [Afghanistan] and shot at its inhabitants. Always unable to subdue the proud, fiercely independent Afghans, [they kept trying for fear Russia or Persia would]. (4-5)
[The campaign of 1880] proved once more that the British could defeat the Afghans in open battle but they could not hold the country. (216)
... the Afghans had a disconcerting habit of not knowing when they were defeated... (201)
So it's not very surprising that we've struggled with the Afghans too.
In sum, history seems to be repeating itself. The USA increasingly wages continuous warfare with decreasing political checks on Presidential power. It's like we've become a country of neo-Victorians.
Finally, it's worth noting that Farwell closes with a quote from Lord Wolseley that seems to be drawing ever closer to coming true:
The Chinese, he said, “are the most remarkable race on earth and I have always thought, and still believe them to be,the coming rulers of the world. They only want a Chinese Peter The Great or Napoleon to make them so…..and in my idle speculation upon this world’s future I have long selected them as the combatants on one side of the great battle of Armageddon, the people of the United States of America being their opponents.
Whenever I read that quote, I can't help but recall that the era of Britain's little wars ended with the catastrophe of World War I.
We forget it now, but there was a day, not so very long ago, when members of our most prestigious law schools and law firms feared that the government's war on terror posed a graver threat to America than did al Qaeda.
Those were the dark days before Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office. Whether the issue was the detention of terrorists, the interrogation of terrorists, or the idea that we were even at war with terrorists, one man—John Yoo, formerly of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel—was held singularly culpable. No one expressed these concerns more vehemently than a former professor of Mr. Yoo's, Harold Koh, then dean of the Yale Law School.
What exercised Mr. Koh wasn't merely that Mr. Yoo's office had sanctioned waterboarding; it was the theory of executive authority behind his war advice. This theory Mr. Koh opposed with vigor, deporting himself in the manner of an Old Testament prophet. ...
Now Mr. Koh is a legal adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Now the same Mr. Koh who assailed Mr. Yoo for his broad view of presidential authority has offered up his own justifications for an expansive executive power. These include the argument that we're not really engaged in hostilities when we fire at Libya because the Libyans aren't firing back.
Folks are noticing. An op-ed this summer in the New York Times says it is as if Mr. Koh "has torn off his team jersey, mid-game, and put on the other's side's." A headline at the Volokh Conspiracy blog put it this way: "Is Harold Koh the Left's John Yoo?"
This is unfair . . . to Mr. Yoo. Whether or not one agrees with him, Mr. Yoo has been consistent in his views—before he served, while he served, and after he served. In sharp contrast, the old Harold Koh would have eviscerated the Harold Koh who now offers ludicrous redefinitions of "war" and "hostilities" so he can get the policy conclusion he wants.
Koh's name surfaces periodically in the list of liberal candidates for the Supreme Court. Add this episode to the long list of reasons why he should never be anything but a spectator when it comes to the court.
People like Andrew Sullivan and left-liberals (or is that redundant these days?) would be having a fit. After all, assassinating an American citizen without anything remotely approaching due process of law is stretching the bounds of lawful warfare to the breaking point. But because Barak Obama did it, it seems to be okay. Which is damned lame.
Update: Commenter Chris Tompkins opines that "Andrew Sullivan is ambivalent. Glenn Greenwald is definitely having a fit."
Greenwald is indeed having a fit. As well he should. But that's hardly surprising. Greenwald has been on the side of the angels on these issues for a long time and has never put party ahead of principle. In cintrast, I don't think Sullivan is at all ambivalent. There's nothing ambivalent about what he said:
My own position is that we are at war, and that avowed enemies and traitors in active warfare against the US cannot suddenly invoke legal protections from a society they have decided to help destroy. ...
Back in 2001, I wondered if Bush would be the president to win this war, while hoping he would. I wondered if his errors might lead to a successor who learned from them. That hope has now been fulfilled - more swiftly and decisively than I once dared to dream about.
As far as I call tell, Sullivan still views Obama through the proverbial rose colored glasses most of the time.
Risk and uncertainty, of course, are bedrock principles/problems of business and business law. I just read an interesting paper on the distinction between the two, which fortunately is free at the moment at the Journal of Applied Corporate Finance but soon will be buried behind the Journal's paywall. Here's the abstract:
In this edited transcript of a presentation at the CARE/CEASA conference, a U.S. army officer who teaches economics and finance at West Point discusses the Army's approach to managing uncertainty and risk while reflecting on his own two tours of duty in Iraq. The U.S. military makes a clear distinction between risk and uncertainty. Whereas “risks” are threats to a mission or operation that can be identified, and at least to some degree controlled or mitigated, “uncertainty” applies to unknown or ambiguous hazards that resist any application of probability theory or quantitative methods. The risk mitigation process begins with assessments of the probability and severity of a given risk followed by the development of controls designed to limit that risk. Once the controls are implemented, the process becomes a continuous feedback loop in which the controls are evaluated and, if ineffective, either adjusted or eliminated. The Army has two main ways that it tries to mitigate uncertainty: the “information‐focused” solution and the “action‐focused” solution. The information‐focused solution aims to reduce uncertainty by getting better information, and processing and disseminating it more quickly than the enemy. It also aims to avoid the illusion of precision that can come from too detailed predictions and instead plans for a worst‐case scenario as well as a most‐likely scenario. The action‐focused solution acknowledges that, no matter how good your information, some uncertainty is unavoidable, and the aim of this part of the program is to develop, train, and maintain units that can fight and win in the face of uncertainty. Much of this capability is attributed to training and a mission command framework in which intensive strategic planning (involving “the who, what, when, where and why of an undertaking”) and communication of the plan to field commanders and subordinate leaders is combined with heavy emphasis on the exercise of initiative by those field commanders and leaders.
This is not a partisan poke, for once. I really don't get what drives Obama's foreign policy decision making.
Libya had given up its WMD program and been very careful for a long time to avoid antagonizing the USA. When the Libyan government uses force to put down an insurrection, Obama goes to war with Kadaffi. Yes, I know, Obama supposedly turned the Libyan adventure over to NATO, but the reality is that the US military is still deeply involved in prosecuting the war against Kadaffi. Except, we're not really fighting Kadaffi or anybody else. We seem to be going to great lengths to only blow up buildings, not our putative enemies, which strikes me as a very odd sort of war. In any case, hundreds of millions of US taxpayer dollars have been sunk into that quagmire. Meanwhile, the French who did so much to get Obama into this mess are about to cut and run, leaving Obama where exactly?
Meanwhile, there's Syria. Front-line state that still hasn't made peace with our key ally Israel. State sponsor of terrorism. Long-time f*cker-uper of Lebanon. Patron of Hezbollah and Hamas. History of brutal repression. Currently, using security forces armed with heavy military weapons to kill thousands of protestors against the regime. Provoked protests aimed at breaching Israel's borders so as to distract Syrians from problems at home. And now the Syrians are aping their Iranian masters by sending government thugs to attack the US embassy, not to mention the US ambassador's residence.
The French fought off a similar embassy attack using live ammo.
Meanwhile, what does Obama do about Syria? He has a minion give them a very stern "tsk, tsk."
So the policy seems to be use force when no US interests are at stake and don't use force when US interests are at stake. If that's not the policy, I'd sure be curious to know what the policy in fact is.
And how about adopting a policy of only going to war with people who actually attack us or our vital national interests?