Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Your Bush-Germany, or Bush-Hitler, comparison for the week -- or more likely the year -- does not come from me. No, no: it comes courtesy of a new report on the war on terror from the Army War College, the Army's"premier academic institution." And as noted in the Washington Post story about the report:
[Jeffrey Record's] essay, published by the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, carries the standard disclaimer that its views are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Army, the Pentagon or the U.S. government.Echoing a number of the themes that I discussed in this essay (and especially in the final part), Record says:
But retired Army Col. Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., director of the Strategic Studies Institute, whose Web site carries Record's 56-page monograph, hardly distanced himself from it."I think that the substance that Jeff brings out in the article really, really needs to be considered," he said.
The global war on terrorism as presently defined and conducted is strategically unfocused, promises much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military and other resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security. The United States may be able to defeat, even destroy, al-Qaeda, but it cannot rid the world of terrorism, much less evil.I've only skimmed the report so far, but here are a few excerpts that caught my attention (the complete report is...
I want to thank David Beito for inviting me to join Liberty...
As most people know, Kenneth Pollack's book The Threatening Storm was very influential in making and strengthening the case for war with Iraq. In that light, a few excerpts from Pollack's lengthy new article about the failures of our intelligence prior to the Iraq invasion are worth noting. First, this one about the area where Pollack does explicitly blame the administration for its behavior:
The one action for which I cannot hold Administration officials blameless is their distortion of intelligence estimates when making the public case for going to war.
As best I can tell, these officials were guilty not of lying but of creative omission. They discussed only those elements of intelligence estimates that served their cause. This was particularly apparent in regard to the time frame for Iraq's acquisition of a nuclear weapon—the issue that most alarmed the American public and the rest of the world. Remember that the NIE said that Iraq was likely to have a nuclear weapon in five to seven years if it had to produce the fissile material indigenously, and that it might have one in less than a year if it could obtain the material from a foreign source. The intelligence community considered it highly unlikely that Iraq would be able to obtain weapons-grade material from a foreign source; it had been trying to do so for twenty-five years with no luck. However, time after time senior Administration officials discussed only the worst-case, and least likely, scenario, and failed to mention the intelligence community's most likely scenario. ...
None of these statements in itself was untrue. However, each told only a part of the story—the most sensational part. These...
In my view, Horwitz goes to the crux of the matter when he suggests that laws denying full legal and constitutional rights to ex-felons are more likely to arise in a punishment-based legal system. Under a restitution approach, by contrast, “someone who has paid their debt either literally or in time served, has made full restitution, and should start from a clean slate.” Horwitz raises a possible “hard case” objection, however. He asks whether crimes that are likely to be repeated, such as child molestation, deserve a clean slate?
Kevin Drum also puts forward a hard case argument. Although he agrees that there is “something to” my general argument that the second and fifteenth amendment rights of ex-felons should be restored, he adds: “Of course, denying guns to people who have use a gun to commit crimes in the past probably strikes most people as pretty reasonable. However, denying guns to some schmoe who was a drug addict ten years ago might not.”
It seems to me, as Horwitz indicates, that the best solution is a general one: a shift to a restitution-based legal system. Should such a system make exceptions for hard cases? I do not think so. In my view, the principle of the full restoration of rights should trump the possible exceptions mentioned by Drum and Horwitz.
Having said that, these and many other hard cases are really not really so problematic after all. A...
Well, I had at first hoped that this entry would not have anything at all to do with politics. No such luck. Regulators appear to have entered the clinical insanity stage, seeking to control everything on earth -- including classical music.
Williams goes on to give some examples of true stories concerning unjust lawsuits that seem to my mind to be almost as fantastic as the made up ones. He then writes, ”What is common to all of them is the absolution or the attempt at absolution from personal responsibility. Are people to be held responsible for their actions? In the case of tobacco use, it's not the smoker who is responsible for his illness, it's tobacco companies. In the case of obesity, it's not the individual, but fast-food companies and food manufacturers who are responsible. It's the same with criminal violence — the gun manufacturer is partly to blame. What does all this say for the future of our nation?”
However, the notion that individuals are not responsible for their own actions goes back quite a bit further in our history then 40 or 50 years. The idea that black people are either childlike or brutish and therefore cannot control themselves was along with the need to convert them to Christianity one of the two pillars of the ante-bellum pro-slavery argument. Also, much of the Progressive Era reforms had as their central tenet an absolution of personal responsibility. People were not responsible for...
A conversation on a Usenet group brought up an observation I've noted about the classical liberal/libertarian movement that has persisted over the course of the now more than 20 years I've been involved. There are, and have been, a goodly number of prominent gay men in both the academic and policy sides of the movement for many, many years, and the Libertarian Party has had a gay rights plank and gay men involved for many years as well. And in the more recent past, there's been a flourishing of openly gay conservative men. All this is to the good I think. But it raises an interesting question: why don't we see many (any?) prominent libertarian lesbians?
Now perhaps they are there and I just don't know about them, and if so, mea culpa, and please don't name names! Still, given the increasing numbers of libertarian women in the academic, policy, and political worlds, it's surprising that open lesbians remain so few in number or at least so far below the radar.
Obviously, I'm not trying to out people, but it is curious and the real question to me is whether or not there's something about the way libertarianism is couched, or about the underlying ideas (perhaps maybe the focus on rights?) that makes it far more attractive to homosexual men than women. I'm also not interested in launching a recruiting drive; nonetheless, it remains a fascinating question about the culture of the libertarian movement and the broader culture as well. (I also think a parallel argument can be made about the conservative movement.) It's the question of"why" that I find fascinating. Of course I may start hearing that I need to check my premise here! If my initial assumption is wrong, I'm happy to hear about it.
According to Drum, depriving ex-felons of the franchise is also “intentionally or not...seriously racist. Because of the disparity in sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine, a much larger percentage of blacks get convicted on drug charges [and thus lose the franchise] than whites.” Again, I agree.
This raises a question, however. Why limit the restoration of ex-felon rights to the fifteenth amendment? Why not restore their second amendment rights as well? Unfortunately, many states routinely prohibit ex-felons from owning guns. If Drum is right about the racist implications of laws denying ex-felons the vote (and I think he is), the logic of his argument also applies to laws prohibiting them the right to own guns. Because blacks are more likely to live in high-crime areas, these laws disproportionately deprives them of a means of self-defense.
I see that Keith Halderman has noted Walter Williams' correction of an error Williams made in a recent column, about the Merv Grazinski"urban legend."
I have commented on Williams' remarks myself -- but as I go on to note, Williams made a much more serious, and much more offensive, mistake in the same earlier column. Williams relied on bogus statistics with regard to gay life expectancy, to argue that life insurance companies ought to be able to ask applicants if they are homosexual, supposedly because gays are likely to die at much younger ages than heterosexuals. These statistics have long since been debunked, and it saddens me greatly that while Williams will acknowledge one of his errors, he still has failed to deal with the much graver one. It saddens me, but unfortunately does not surprise me.
I discussed all of this in more detail, with supporting information, shortly after Williams' initial column on this subject appeared, here.
In reading Drudge's latest Paul O'Neill"breaking scandal" report, I was most struck by the final line:
"I can't imagine that I am going to be attacked for telling the truth."I find it hard to believe that a grown man -- and especially one who has spent as much time in politics as O'Neill has -- could actually believe this. I suspect he doesn't, in fact -- and that he only hopes he won't"be attacked for telling the truth."
Well, good luck to him. He'll need it. The major focus of the Drudge Report item is this:
The Bush Administration began laying plans for an invasion of Iraq including the use of American troops within days of President Bush's inauguration in January of 2001, not eight months later after the 9/11 attacks as has been previously reported. That is what former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill says in his first interview about his time as a White House insider. O'Neill talks to Lesley Stahl in the interview, to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, Jan. 11 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," he tells Stahl."For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do is a really huge leap," says O'Neill.
O'Neill, fired by the White House for his disagreement on tax cuts, is the main source for an upcoming book,"The Price of Loyalty," authored by Ron Suskind. Suskind says O'Neill and other White House insiders he interviewed gave him documents that show that in the first three months of 2001, the administration was looking at military options for removing Saddam Hussein from...
And here I bet some people thought I was full of it when I posted excerpts from Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly and her examination of the Vietnam disaster, and pointed to the similarities to the Iraq adventure in terms of the operative underlying principles. (And more Tuchman excerpts can be found here.)
Despite the cliché, September 11th didn’t “change everything”; it did, however, change George W. Bush’s approach to foreign policy. On campaign trail 2000, Bush disparaged nation-building and called for a foreign policy based on the American national interest. But in the aftershock of 9/11, his administration embraced an ambitious set of foreign policy goals that goes far beyond eradicating the Al Qaeda threat. The National Security Strategy adopted by the Bush administration last year proclaims that “the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe.” The war with Iraq, sold to the American people as a vital matter of national security, quickly morphed into “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” As evidence that Iraq had the means or the inclination to attack us has failed to surface, the administration has accordingly leaned ever more heavily on the benefits the war brought to the Iraqi people. And we now have 2,300 Marines poised off the coast of Liberia, where nothing resembling a national security interest presents itself.
Advocates and opponents of the new policy are calling it “imperialism,” but the irreplaceable Michael Kelly, killed in Iraq last April while working as an embedded reporter, coined a more accurate term. Kelly called the new...
In the American context, you can identify that contract as the Constitution of 1789. Because of it, we Americans are pledged to assist each other in the defense of our liberties from enemies foreign and domestic. Reflecting the Lockean logic, the Constitution empowers the federal government to provide for “the common defense” of the United States, not the defense or liberation of oppressed people throughout the world.
Thus, when the North Koreans land in San Francisco, those of us on the East Coast can’t say to California—“tough break, but you’re on your own.” We’re part of a mutual protection pact requiring us to be there for the Californians so they’ll be there for us when legions of crack Eurotroopers descend on Washington, bent on forcing us to take a month’s vacation every year and drive around in poky little fuel-efficient cars. We Americans pay into a common system for our mutual protection. We’re all in it together, in that sense.
But we Americans are in a different position with regard to oppressed citizens of other countries. We are not pledged to defend their lives, liberty and property—they’re not part of the pact. Consider Iraq: assume for the sake of argument what appears to be the case, that the Baathist...
Even in a justified war of self-defense, innocents will die and rights will be trampled. In such a war—a necessary war—those deaths are unavoidable. If Saddam Hussein actually had the ability and the inclination to level an American city, then we'd have to regret the loss of innocent life, but recognize that we had no choice but to defend ourselves. We'd be in the position of the fellow in that"lifeboat ethics" scenario getting shot at by a madman with a machine gun in a crowd. We don't want to hit innocents when firing back, but in such cases, we’re following the first law of nature, self-preservation, and we didn't ask to be put in this situation. In the case of nondefensive wars of liberation, however, we're making a very different moral choice. We're saying, let's kill this group of people, so that this other, larger group of people may be free. Now, if group A is made up solely of Baath party higher-ups, then that sounds like a fair trade: killing the guilty to free the innocent. But our munitions aren’t nearly that accurate. The Associated Press reported...
Even if one believes that it’s moral to spill American blood and (forcibly extracted) American treasure to destroy evil regimes that do not threaten us, killing many of their innocent subjects in the process, one cannot embrace war-for-liberation without abandoning the libertarian’s skepticism about power. Libertarian interventionism—unlike libertarianism proper—depends upon a blithe trust in government’s competence and benevolence.
Libertarian interventionists trust the government to perform social engineering magic, transforming tribal despotisms into commercial republics. It’s surpassingly strange that many of the same people who think the federal government’s too ham-handed to run a retirement program, fight teen pregnancy or intelligently manage a war on poverty think the same government is capable of remaking whole societies and establishing limited, constitutional government and the rule of law where the necessary preconditions don't exist. (It would help, I suppose, if more than a handful of the nation-builders currently on staff spoke the nation’s language or even knew the alphabet.)
Libertarian interventionists trust the government to successfully manage the rights-maximization project abroad in the face of more uncertainty even than that which confronts a domestic central planner. The one certain thing about any war is that the unintended consequences vastly outweigh the intended ones. We can’t be sure that the bad unintended consequences will always outweigh the good, but the unplanned aftereffects of past crusades have been horrific enough...
It's always useful to have someone working for you who's well-connected:
One of President Bush's advisers is leaving to become Ford Motor Co.'s chief lobbyist in Washington, the auto company said Friday.Or as Ayn Rand has some of her characters (usually the villains) remark in Atlas Shrugged, it's important to have a"friend in Washington," given the nature of our mixed economy. (I have discussed various aspects of this corporate statism at length, with regard to both its domestic component and its foreign policy implications.)
Ziad Ojakli, 36, has been working for the White House since January 2001. Most recently, he was a principal deputy for legislative affairs, serving as a liaison between Bush and the U.S. Senate. He will start working for Ford on Feb. 1.
"Ziad brings strong Washington experience to Ford, and I welcome him to the company," Ford Chairman and CEO Bill Ford said in a statement.
Ojakli arrives at a time when Ford and other U.S. automakers are seeking relief for their surging health care costs. A bill pending before Congress would put off for two years billions of dollars in contributions that companies owe to their pension plans. It also would extend some tax breaks.
Automakers also lobby on a variety of other issues, including safety regulations, fuel economy and foreign trade.
In one discussion in Atlas, between industrialist Hank Rearden and his brother, there is this passage about the need for a"man in Washington":
Rearden disliked the subject. He knew that it was...
Case in point: David Beito and I have criticized the University of Alabama for failing to address, and then attempting to cover up, rampant grade inflation. Administrators do not like us. So what did they do?
Two things, and neither included argument or reason. First, they claimed that only"recognized" faculty groups could use campus mail to distribute their views. Recognized? What does that mean, we said. There was no answer, except to suggest that if they like you, you're"recognized." This is how the Chinese government operates. We pressed the administrators on this, and demonstrated, we think, that the power they claimed was not properly exercised by them but by the faculty itself.
Then came the second thing. OK, they said, even if you are recognized, postal regulations prohibt you from sending you newspaper, The Alabama Observer, through faculty mail."Postal regulations?" we asked. You've got to be kidding! They weren't. Within 28 hours, the admnistration of the University of Alabama had banned our paper and the paper of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The Federalist Society, by the way, had already been banned when David Bernstein came to speak and the administration refused to publicize his Federalist-sponsored lecture.
Faculty, unbelievably, were nonplussed. Hey, so what if the principle of free speech had been violated?...