Friday, November 12, 2004

Never Let a Poly Sci Professor Read a Bedtime Story

From the comments section of Daniel Drezner's latest baby blogging (the objective is to fill his daughter's "thought bubble"):
"Daddy, can you read me the Mearsheimer bedtime story where Goldilocks, the mama bear and the baby bear gang up on the papa bear and take his porridge?"

Let's play a game...submit different versions of fairy tales as told by various politicians/political theorists/activists! Best answers get much adulation and praise (I'd give a real prize, but I'm a poor, miserly college student).

This would work SO much better if I had more than ten readers...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The FRC Goes Off the Deep End

So far, I've refrained from quoting the Family Research Council because while they often say stuff that sets off my wingnut alarm, it's such a part of their character that it almost seems redundant to point it out. But they've finally gone so far off the deep end that I am compelled to point it out.

The FRC has made known their opposition to Senator Arlen Specter's ascension to the chair of the Judiciary Committee on the grounds that he might not be friendly enough to pro-life nominees. Fair enough. But in their daily Washington Update, group President Tony Perkins makes the outrageous argument that the constitution mandates that the Senate consent to any nominee that the President puts forth, no matter how extreme or unqualified he or she may be.
"The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsed Sen. Specter this year because "he would be in a position to block some of the ideologically extreme federal judges likely to be nominated by President Bush in a second term, some of them for the Supreme Court." With all due respect to Sen. Specter's journalist pals, but the Constitution makes it clear that the Senate's role is to "advise and consent" when it comes to judges, not "block and dissent."

With all due respect to Mr. Perkins, the constitution actually makes it clear that the President can only appoint judges WITH the advice and consent of the senate. Presumably, the senate is well within its rights to NOT give this consent, and I would argue that this is PART of the senate's constitutional responsibilty, not an abrogation of it. The constitution specifically mandates that judicial nominees go through the senate to maintain the system of checks and balances that prevent any one branch of government from monopolizing power. This balancing act is integral to our constitutional scheme of government, and it is shocking to see the FRC advocate throwing it away for short-term political gain. Or rather, it would be if the FRC had any respect for the constitution beyond the point where it affirms their particular ideological standing.

If Mr. Perkins would like to brush up on what the constitution actually says, he can access it online here.

Solving the Insurgency

The insurgents strategy of dividing Iraq along religious lines is continuing throughout the Fallujah assualt. The LA Times reports that Iraqi reaction to the attack on Fallujah breaks heavily along secretarian fault lines, lending credance to the fear that the assault will push the country further in the direction of civil war. Worse yet, Defense Tech notes that the US army isn't following its own guidelines for combating an insurgency. Whereas the guidelines emphasize mobility, precision, minimization of civilian casualties and kill-counts over territory, the US incursion has done a far better job at securing territory rather than getting the top terrorist leaders (and has laid waste to the town while doing so).

So what can be done? I won't claim to be an expert on military affairs, but on the civilian side of things The New Partisan (God I hate that name!) argues that the Iraqi government can leverage its immense oil reserves to divide the population from the insurgency.
"Iraq’s new government should simply announce that as of a date certain, it will establish a new national investment fund — call it The Iraqi People’s Freedom Trust — which will be credited with a major share of all future Iraqi oil earnings. A popular real world model might be the Alaska Permanent Fund, which grants a share of that state’s oil revenues to every citizen. Revenues directed to Iraq’s Freedom Trust could be invested in Iraqi government bonds, keeping a small cash reserve to provide for cash withdrawals from the Trust by individual Iraqis.

All 27 million Iraqis — men, women and children — would be eligible for an equal, personal account in the Freedom Trust simply by proving Iraqi birth and pledging their allegiance to the government. With assistance from coalition allies, registration for ownership shares in the trust could go hand in hand with registering citizens for the upcoming national elections. Any adult citizen of Iraq would then be free, at any time, to ask for a calculation of their account’s value and withdraw up to their full balance — no questions asked."

My first thought upon reading that was: "Oh great. More oil-based croynism." And it's true that oil has been a death sentence for many countries seeking to democratize. John Judis writes for The New Republic on March 23rd 2003 (sub. only):
"After the colonial powers departed at the end of World War II, oil provided the newly independent governments of the Middle East a veritable windfall--either through concessions or later through outright ownership of their country's oil facilities. With their new income, the states' kings, emirs, and sheiks were no longer dependent on their countries' merchants or workers for tax income. They could finance their governments entirely out of oil revenues. They could also use these oil revenues to buy off the citizenry through social-welfare systems, state jobs, land grants, and lucrative contracts. Their citizens became passive recipients of government largesse--paying no taxes and receiving no representation."

However, upon further reading I became convinced that the New Partisan's plan could dodge these harms.
"For the first time in the history of Iraq, indeed of oil nations generally, the new government would be offering each and every citizen a real, guaranteed ownership share in an asset that has been long since nationalized and regarded as a public patrimony. Establishment of the Freedom Trust would dispel the fantasy that this war was waged by the U.S. to somehow steal Iraqi oil. The Freedom Trust would instantly offer a stark contrast with the Saddam regime’s practice of stealing and wasting oil revenues on weapons, palaces and luxuries for a tiny elite of privileged cronies."

By putting the oil revenue in private accounts, rather than in the control of easily corruptable government bureaucrats, this plan sidesteps the potential for cronyism present in most oil-based democratization schemes. Instead of being dependent on the government for oil largesse, the people gain a direct ownership stake in their society independent of whatever the government chooses to do. By giving them that stake, suddenly the terrorists aren't fighting against the American infidels, they're fighting against the Iraqi future. This, in turn, could take the rug out from under the insurgencies support. And because it can be applied equally to all the ethnic groups in Iraq, it can help mend the secretarian-based divides the insurgency has helped to create. All in all, an intriguing plan.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Cards on Minorities and the Courts

Some Cards on minority access to the courts I've found interesting.

William Brennan, Plurality Opinion Fronteiro v. Richardson 411 US 677 at 684-686 and n.17 (1973)
"There can be no doubt that our Nation has had a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination. Traditionally, such discrimination was rationalized by an attitude of "romantic paternalism" which, in practical effect, put women, not on a pedestal, but in a cage...As a result of notions such as these, our statute books gradually became laden with gross, stereotyped distinctions between the sexes and, indeed, throughout much of the 19th century the position of women in our society was, in many respects, comparable to that of blacks under the pre-Civil War slave codes. Neither slaves nor women could hold office, serve on juries, or bring suit in their own names, and married women traditionally were denied the legal capacity to hold or convey property or to serve as legal guardians of their own children...It can hardly be doubted that, in part because of the high visibility of the sex characteristic, women still face pervasive, although at times more subtle, discrimination in our educational institutions, in the job market and, perhaps most conspicuously, in the political arena...It is true, of course, that when viewed in the abstract, women do not constitute a small and powerless minority. Nevertheless, in part because of past discrimination, women are vastly underrepresented in this Nation's decisionmaking councils...this underrepresentation is present throughout all levels of our State and Federal Government"

Jack Balkin, Professor of Law at Yale University. "WHAT BROWN TEACHES US ABOUT CONSTITUTIONAL THEORY." Virginia Law Review Vol. 90, No. 6, October 2004. Pg. 1531-1577
"Law students are usually taught that it is the job of courts to pro-tect what United States v. Carolene Products [304 US 144, 152, n.4, (1938)] called 'discrete and insular minorities.' These are groups that have suffered a long history of discrimination, are relatively politically powerless, and are unable to protect themselves in the political process. This portrait is quite misleading. In general, courts will protect minorities only after minorities have shown a fair degree of clout in the political process. If they are truly politically powerless, courts may not even recognize their grievances; and if they have just enough influence to get on the political radar screen, courts will usually dismiss their claims with a wave of the hand. Conversely, as a reform movement for minority rights gains prominence through political protest and legislative lobbying, courts will increasingly pay attention to minority rights and take their claims more seriously." (1551-1552)

Jack Balkin, Professor of Law at Yale University. "The Constitution of Status", 106 Yale L.J. 2313, 2340 (1997)
"[L]egal elites...usually respond to ‘disadvantaged’ groups only after a social movement has demanded a response. Ironically then, a status group must display some degree of political power—whether at the ballot box or in the streets—before it can be considered ‘politically powerless’ and hence deserving of legal protection...[G]roups that are truly politically powerless usually do not even appear on the radar screen of legal decisionmakers—including courts—because the status hierarchy is so robust that few in power even notice that there is a problem."

This one's just funny:
Jack Balkin, Professor of Law at Yale University. "WHAT BROWN TEACHES US ABOUT CONSTITUTIONAL THEORY." Virginia Law Review Vol. 90, No. 6, October 2004. Pg. 1531-1577
"Judges are sort of like place kickers in football. Most place kickers are pretty bad at making an open-field tackle to stop a speedy running back returning a kickoff. But place kickers can help pile on after the other players have tackled or slowed down a runner. That is sometimes how I imagine courts and their relationship to social change: They see the running back lying on the ground, groaning under the weight of a huge pile of linebackers. The judges say to themselves, 'It’s time for us to do some justice!' and they throw themselves on the pile." (1549)

Just How Bad Was It SUPPOSED To Be?

"U.S.-led troops hold most of Fallujah; Insurgent resistance is weaker than anticipated": Frontpage Headline, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/10/04

"In Fallujah, a bloody fight for every inch": Headline, Minneapolis Star Tribune, same day.

"A bloody fight for every inch" is WEAKER than anticipated? I suppose we can be grateful it isn't "a bloody fight for every millimeter."

Meanwhile, Fallujah seems to be a rollout of the new insurgency strategy: "Pushing for a secretarian-based civil war. TNR's "Iraq'd" blog reports:
"Politically, the insurgents have significantly advanced what could be called the Sunni persecution strategy: That is, to gather recruits, material, and political support for the insurgency by aggravating the sense among Sunnis that they have no future in the U.S.-sponsored political process. The only Sunni political party in the Allawi government has quit in protest and the largest Sunni religious organization has formally called for their adherents to boycott the January elections. One member of the Iraqi Islamic Party who refused to resign his position--and who has since been renounced by the party--explained his decision: "It will be a big mistake not to have the Sunnis' participation in the election. We would have problems for decades to come."

Exactly. That's the insurgents' strategy: Ensure that the U.S.-backed process takes on an overwhelmingly sectarian character, with the Shia dominating outright alongside a restive Kurdish delegation waiting in the wings to seek independence. Since the insurgency will by all estimates continue on into January, a Shia victory sets the stage for pushing the vicious cycle of Sunni alienation and violent resistance forward. That is why attacks have been occurring in Shia areas like Karbala and Najaf, and why, except for the occasional outburst by Moqtada Al Sadr, no Shia are coming to the aid of Falluja this time. Understood through this prism, the Sunni insurgency is in a revolutionary situation, viewing itself as far more likely to gain what it seeks--restored domination of Iraq and the removal of U.S. forces--through violence than through any political settlement. Much of the Sunni insurgency appears to be figuring that they can win a civil war, and as such are looking to start one."

This, unfortunately, is a sadistically brilliant strategy. By specifically undermining the prospects of a future democracy (by claiming that the Sunni's voice is going to be suppressed by the new government), the insurgents virtually guarentee that a) they'll continue to be able to get new recruits no matter how many the US kills and b) that the Shi'a majority government that will be formed in January will be unable to govern. And of course, if the Shi'a government launches into a widescale offensive against the nation's Sunni population, well, that's what would be impolitely called a "civil war."

It's about time US politicians and foreign policy elites start discussing what happens if the US loses this war in Iraq (I define "losing in Iraq" as the emergence of either a civil war or a non-democratic tyranny as the government in Iraq). I'm not saying we're past the point of no return, but the consequences of losing in Iraq are so dire that we need to have contingency plans in place now if we're going to prevent a total foreign policy disaster (we all remember the problems that go along with a lack of advance planning, right?)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Washington Sampler

Two bits of news I'd like to discuss here.
First off, Crooked Timber excerpts from a Financial Times article by Adam Posen of the IIE (talk about hearsay!). The money quote:
"However, the Bush administration is putting its political staying power ahead of economic responsibility - indeed it is weakening the independence of those very institutions on which Americans rely to check economic radicalism. For example, the current Republican congressional leadership is trying to override the constitutional design whereby the Senate acts as a brake on the executive branch and on the self-interest of “majority faction”. Bill Frist, senate majority leader and George Allen, the Republican senate campaign committee chair, said their unprecedented direct campaign against Tom Daschle, the defeated Senate minority leader, should warn moderate Republican and Democratic senators not to be “obstructionist”, even though that is precisely what the Founding Fathers intended the Senate to do.

… Markets tend to assume that the US political system will prevent lasting extremist policies so, even now, observers discount the likelihood of the Bush administration fully pursuing - let alone passing - this economic agenda. If the thin blue line of Democrats and the responsible Republican moderates in the Senate bravely fulfil their constitutional role, perhaps the damage will be limited. If not, we can foresee the US economy following the path to extended decline of the British economy in the 1960s and 1970s and of Japan in the 1990s."

Those commentators who think that the Senate should just rubberstamp whatever the President throws at it are seriously missing the point. The Senate has the obligation to take seriously its role as a check against unbridled executive power. This isn't to say they should just become liberals for the sake of opposition. But the trend towards excessive party discipline and partisanship needs isn't healthy for America as a whole, regardless of whether we're talking about economic policy or judicial nominations.

Second, the first two Bush cabinet officials to resign are Don Evans and John Ashcroft. I couldn't care less about Evans. Ashcroft's resignation is most certainly welcome (though I've read some reports that say Ashcroft actually was a moderate voice inside the administration and his tough-talk outward persona didn't match what he really felt), though I'm worried about who will replace him. Also, this quote, apparently from his resignation letter, immediately struck me:
"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

On what planet, exactly? Even if you think that America has made significant progress toward making ourselves safer from terrorist assualt (something I'm not sure I believe), we certainly aren't there yet. If Bush insiders think that America is safe and are going to shift their focus away from American security, it does not bode well for America as a whole.

Law Enforcement and the War on Terror

In off-blog conversations about the Bush administration, I've argued that this presidency has, more than any Democrat, viewed the war on terror through a pre-9/11 mentality that emphasizes the importance of states rather than the non-state actors (IE: Al-Qaeda) that actually threaten us. In both Sudan and Afghanistan, terrorist groups have shown that they can survive and thrive without a supporting state structure (both of those countries had, at best, anemic central governments not in control of the whole country). Hence, the policy of attacking states rather than attacking terrorists is counterproductive, as Al-Qaeda can just "stick and move," dodging recrimination as we get bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and whatever other states we decide to intervene in.

Now, Phillip Carter gives another area in which the Bush admin is looking at the war on terror through the pre-9/11 lens: It sees it as a law enforcement issue (Thanks to Kevin Drum). Obviously this is quite ironic, as one of the Bush campaign's key charges against Kerry was that he didn't see the war on terror as a war at all. But as Carter notes:
"I can't even count the times have we heard this administration said it was fighting a war against terrorism — not an intelligence and law enforcement endeavor. I think this critique hits the nail on the head. The Bush administration is waging a war on Al Qaeda. But it continues to use metrics better suited for law enforcement in measuring its success in that war. To date, the administration has not devised a grand strategy for measuring political, moral, economic or strategic progress against Al Qaeda, much less what victory might look like. And thus, we measure our success using crude metrics like the body count — something which is ananthema to most military planners today, but still used in the prosecutorial context by officials who measure their success by convictions and imprisonments."

Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA's Bin Laden unit supports, remarking in The New York Times:
"I think Al Qaeda has suffered substantially since 9/11, and it may have slowed down its operations, but to take the two-thirds number as a yardstick is a fantasy.[...] To say that they have only one-third of their leadership left is a misunderstanding. That is looking at it from a law enforcement perspective. They pay a lot of attention to leadership succession, and so one of the main tenets of Al Qaeda is to train people to succeed leaders who are captured or killed."

I pointed out in reference to the Iraq insurgency that measures of success based solely on body count (either ours or theirs) are flawed and don't take into account the political realities of the ground situation. Unless we want to continue fighting this war into perpetuity, we need to win the war of ideas as well as the war on the ground. We could be killing 100 Al-Qaeda operatives a day, but if they can replace them as fast as we can kill them we aren't making progress. The Bush administration, by not creating a comprehensive strategy for winning the war (and by mucking up the closest thing they have to one: Democratizing Iraq and the Middle East), is making the world a more dangerous place and hampering the war on terror.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Guantanamo Bay Trials Illegal

The US District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled in Hamdam v. Rumsfield that current procedures for military commissions in Guantanamo Bay are illegal and void. To briefly sum up the 47 page ruling:
The order that accompanies this opinion provides: (1) that, unless and until a competent tribunal determines that Hamdan is not entitled to POW status, he may be tried for the offenses with which he is charged only by courtmartial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; (2) that, unless and until the Military Commission’s rule permitting Hamdan’s exclusion from commission sessions and the withholding of evidence from him is amended so that it is consistent with and not contrary to UCMJ Article 39, Hamdan’s trial before the Military Commission would be unlawful; and (3) that Hamdan must be released from the pre-Commission detention wing of Camp Delta and returned to the general population of detainees, unless some reason other than the pending charges against him requires different treatment.

Nothing too shocking in the opinion. It does seem to validate my suspicion that O'Conner's willingness to have a more deferential standard to the government than the constitution might otherwise allow won't have any practical effect. But in all reality, this case dealt with some pretty narrow issues, the bigger battles are yet to be fought.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

We Apologize for this Election-related Interruption, we now Return you to your Regularly Scheduled Genocide

The Washington Post ran an editorial on the Sudan situation entitled "Darfur Slides." This strikes me as a slight understatement (I'm reminded of the scene in Dogma where Rufus, the 13th apostle, remarks "You might call it being 'marytred. I call it 'being bludgeoned to death by big f---ing rocks'!"), but the point is well taken. Not only is the Darfur situation moving even further into crisis, but what momentum had been gathered in favor of intervening to stop the genocide has appeared to stall out. The Post writes:
AT DAWN ON Tuesday, a few hours before Americans began voting, Sudanese police and soldiers arrived at a camp for displaced people in South Darfur. They set fire to huts, beat people with truncheons and shot an unknown number; then, as The Post's Emily Wax reported, they loaded 250 families into trucks and drove them away. They did all this, moreover, at a camp just eight miles from a contingent of Nigerian cease-fire monitors, whose job is supposedly to deter such war crimes. Meanwhile the United States is leading an international response to Darfur's crisis. Its principal goal is to deploy more African Union monitors of the sort that failed Tuesday.

For a while over the summer, the world's response to Darfur seemed to be gathering momentum. A series of high-level visits to the region, including stops by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, put pressure on Sudan's government to stop murdering civilians; the U.N. Security Council passed two resolutions condemning the abuses; Congress and then the Bush administration determined that the systematic killing of ethnic Africans met the definition of genocide. Sudan's government responded by allowing relief workers to bring food and medicine to displaced people and by agreeing to the presence of African Union troops. All this progress was unforgivably slow, and tens of thousands of people died waiting for it. But it was still progress.

Now the momentum has fizzled. Preparations for an African Union force continue, but the violence in Darfur has flared to the point that it's not clear what 3,500 outsiders can accomplish in an area the size of France. Tuesday's attack on civilians was just one of many, and anti-government rebel groups are growing more violent and numerous.

Darfur is yet another example of the US' and international community's 10 second attention span enabling atrocities to occur around the world. I pointed this out when talking about humaniterean intervention in Iraq earlier, but I want to expand and reiterate this issue here because I think it's important.

Realistically speaking, expressions of moral indignation toward human rights abuses can only last so long before they become "old news." Making our human rights policy solely dependent on diplomatic pressure lets dictators try and "wait out the storm" and hope that by stalling for time, they can avoid any substantial US or international intervention to stop the abuse. At best, a policy based on diplomacy will only encourage oppressive regimes to violate human rights more quietly, and as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and China among others demonstrate, it is rather easy to violate human rights systematically, persistantly, and egregiously without arousing a sustainable international outcry.

The fear is that Darfur will become the new Congo, which is already shaping up to be a repetition of Cambodia. Those who think that the international community will always be shocked into action by ongoing human rights abuses need to come to terms with the fact that over 3,000,000 people have died in an ongoing genocide in the Congo, an event that has passed virtually without notice in the international community. It is true that massive human rights atrocities usually do attract the notice of the western world, eventually. Unfortunately, the attention usually only remains focused after the atrocities have ended, when we wonder how we could let such indiscriminate slaughter and solemnly vow "never again." After a suitable period of soul searching, we revert back to our regular apathy, and barely ten years after we sat and watched the Rwandan genocide unfold, we again appear to be willing to sit back and watch the Darfur and Congo genocides occur with minimal international intervention.