Saturday, August 26, 2006

Laurence Douglas on global law in the TLS online

While I'm at it mentioning reviews in the TLS, this review available online in the TLS, here, is well worth reading. Laurence R. Douglas, "Interpreting Global Law," TLS, May 10, 2006, reviewing Philippe Sands, Lawless World, and John Yoo, The Powers of War and Peace.

I have met Philippe at a couple of conferences and think he is a terrific guy. But I must demur from the tears that, in effect, he sheds for the Saddam regime - as Douglas puts it, ironically I assume in his case, but not ironically in Sands' case, referring to the United States, "no one likes to see the bully break the rules with impunity." Surely this carries the mania for global law a bit far? What, one wonders, of Saddam - no bully there, eh? It is of a piece with the current nostalgia of the new liberal-realists for Saddam, suddenly forgetting the vicious history of that regime in order to tout the new liberal-realist virtues of containment of and accommodation to murderous dictators. And forgetting about his if anything even crazier (happily now dead) sons.

As for John Yoo - I like John as well, and I think that his arguments get far shorter shrift than they deserve. All you have to do to write off his book is say the word "torture," and that's that. I don't pretend to be a con law scholar, but Yoo's actual arguments seem far more intellectually powerful, even if one does not finally accept them, than his too-quickly dismissive critics give credit.

My own view is split - in the purely intellectual space of my attic study, I think Yoo makes a powerful academic case for his view of executive power. Does he persuade me? I have on days and off days. Mostly, though, I don't reach that question. In the real world, as the political world stands today, the fact is that one has to choose between an abstract view of executive discretion and pursuing the war on terror is just how it is. The Bush administration should mark well that "what lives by executive discretion also dies by executive discretion."

The Bush administration, that is, having gone to a great deal of trouble to persuade me that the war on terror is real and will be long, should not leave it as a discretionary activity of some future administration. It should go to Congress and institutionalize it as policy of the US as a whole, not merely of a, or any, presidential administration. If I have to choose - as I think we today have to do - between an abstract theory of presidential power and actually, practically pressing forward the war on terror, I'll pick the latter, each and every time.

Rosemary Richter on the United Nations in the TLS online

Many of the reviews in the Times Literary Supplement are not available online, not even to subscribers, although they eventually show up in the subscriber archive. I recommend subscribing to the TLS. It's expensive but worth it.

This essay by Rosemary Richter on the United Nations, reviewing Paul Kennedy's new history and assessment of the UN, Parliament of Man, is available publicly online at the TLS. Hooray. It is well worth reading. (Rosemary Richter, "What Use the UN?", here.) Richter is an editor at the London Times; I've made several critical comments in passing on this blog about Kennedy's book and maybe I'll review it somewhere, but Richter's review is really the conclusive take.

Conclusion from the review (my emphasis added, and it is a zinger):

The trouble with books that start from the premiss that the UN is unquestionably a force for the good is that they tend to wrap their theme in a bubble of conventional cant. Paul Kennedy makes many shrewd observations in The Parliament of Man, but the bubble remains, as he intends, intact.

Meckled-Garcia reviews Dershowitz's theory of rights in the TLS

Saladin Meckled-Garcia (University College London) has a graceful review of Alan Dershowitz's venture into deep philosophical foundations of rights, Rights From Wrongs: A secular theory of the origins of rights, in the Times Literary Supplement of August 18 & 25, 2006, at p 35 (not online, even to subscribers, although I guess it will eventually be in the subscriber archive).

Because of Dershowitz's notoriety over his defense under certain circumstances of the use of torture, among other things, it would be very easy for a reviewer to avoid reviewing the book at hand and discuss everything else. Apart from a little teaser opening, Meckled-Garcia avoids that temptation and instead focuses on the book and where it fits within the broad intellectual currents about rights. The review is not very long, elegant, clear, and substantively quite right in pointing out that Dershowitz unwisely claims that he has offered a new theory of rights whereas what he offers falls within a long history of justifying rights according to some suitably abstract version of utility.

Hitchens fights the good fight, and gives the unserious the finger

Here, Hitchens deals summarily with an unserious media audience in Los Angeles at a taping of the ever-unserious Bill Maher show, giving them the finger and telling them to fuck off. (Thanks Instapundit and Newsbusters.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Rift Valley Institute London Office seeking interns for Fall 2006

The Rift Valley Institute, with offices in London and Nairobi, is a small yet highly influential NGO working on issues related to East Africa and, in particular, Sudan. Its web archive on Sudan is a critical resource to researchers, academics, activists, and others around the world. Its programs offering training to foreign workers going into Sudan are likewise a terrific resource for NGOs, governments, and intergovernmental organizations seeking to do work in an unfamiliar environment. RVI, under the directorship of John Ryle, a longtime Africa and humanitarian NGO expert and journalist, is seeking interns for its London office for the September, October, and November 2006. Announcement below:

The London office of the <> Rift Valley Institute(RVI) seeks graduate interns for periods of one month or more during September, October and November 2006. The successful candidates will assist with administration and development of the Institute's information projects.These include an upgrade of the RVI website, expansion of the recently-launched <> Sudan Open Archive and improvement of the Institute's contact database.

Useful qualities include the following: IT and editorial skills, administrative aptitude, experience in Eastern Africa and knowledge of one or more of the languages of the region.

Applicants should contact Mohamed Osman by e-mail at<>, with a CV, contact details and a one-paragraph account of skills and experience in the fields above. Interns receive £10 expenses per day.

The Rift Valley Institute is a non-profit research and training organization working in Eastern Africa, particularly Sudan. RVI programmes connect local knowledge to global information systems. They include field-based social research projects, support for local educational institutions, in-country training courses and an online digital library (the Sudan Open Archive). Fellows of the Institute include regional academic specialists, and practitioners in the fields of development, conservation, media and human rights.

Rift Valley Institute
1 St Luke's Mews
London W11 1DF



Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On the impoliteness of calling it Islamofacism ...

... and yes, sure, I've read David Ignatius in the WaPo tit and tut about Islamofacism this and that. And lots of other people who talk about how the whole Islamism as "totalitarianism" thing is just a Western mental construct by people unable to understand the Other. And other people who give little academic disquisitions on the origin of the term facism and what it means and what it meant (memo to self, do they all consult Wikipedia?) and why it can't have application to something as Otherly as "political Islam" (a euphemism, in its evasion of the violence of the wilder, more fanatic parts of the Religion of Peace, nearly unto itself).

So do let's try and stay approximately on the same page as to what the threat is about, as noted by Tim Blair, here, wherein Abu Bakar Bashir, spiritual counselor to the Bali bombers, explains why democracy, liberalism, secularism, "moderate" Islam, "democratic" Islam, separation of mosque and state, etc. are no-goes for what we might call ... Islamofacism. As Mr. Bashir eloquently explains:

The principles of Islam cannot be altered and and there is no democracy in Islam or nonsense like ‘democratic Islam’. Democracy is shirik (unbelief) and haram. Here we do not compromise. Those who claim to be Muslims and do not support Shariah one hundred per cent are all munafik and kafirs, they are out of Islam. No need to discuss with these people, they are not part of the ummat anymore.

There is no need to listen to public opinion: kafirs, apostates, liberals, atheists - they are all non-believers …

Let me be perfectly clear that Mr. Bashir obviously does not speak for vast millions of Muslims worldwide for whom finding a way to be devout while being in the world constitutes a serious religious path. The problem is that Mr. Bashir just as obviously is not speaking merely for himself. He speaks for a group of people who, while small relative to whole populations, are not small as to effect. And the effect of a small group of people willing to intimidate their own as well as outsiders, to make religious moderation in Islam not an active, chosen way of religious life, one that can be defended as legitimate and orthodox - but instead simply a passive and sullen way of keeping silent and one's head down as between the non-Muslim world and Muslim thugs willing to use violence to intimidate their brothers and sisters and demand conformity to their version of orthodoxy - well, it is the logic of terrorism, in which the violence of a small group is enough to intimidate a large group.

Questions re Human Rights Watch's credibility in Lebanon reporting

(Update, November 24, 2006. Someone has pointed out to me that I have been quoted from this post by NGO monitor in an exchange over Aryeh Neier's piece in the New York Review of Books (November 2, 2006) defending Human Rights Watch from attacks by NGO monitor. The letter is here. I certainly have criticisms of HRW - I make some of them below - but I do find that the quotation in the letter is taken more than bit out of context. It does come, after all, in the middle of a paragraph defending HRW as nonetheless the most scrupulous of the human rights monitors. I can't address the specific factual issues in the Lebanon war that got this dispute underway; I criticize below HRW's tendency to present to the public and press what are essentially lawyers' briefs that shape the facts and law toward conclusions that HRW favors without really presenting the full range of factual and legal objections to its position - I think this is tendentious because these brief-reports are not addressed to a court that would receive briefs from both sides, but instead to a credulous press that has no real basis for understanding the debate on both sides. I think - and have repeatedly told people at HRW - that it has an obligation to present fairly the entire debate; I can say categorically that it has never paid the slightest attention and that its reporting continues to be as tendentious as ever. But that's something quite limited and does not take a position on the current argument between HRW and NGO monitor, which, truth be told, I had not been following until someone mentioned that this blog post had been quoted.)

I don't suppose this argument over Human Rights Watch's credibility in its Lebanon reporting is going to be resolved anytime soon. Here is Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein on the subject; Dershowitz is over at the Huffington Post, here. And Maimon Schwarzschild, here, thanks Instapundit. And Avi Bell, guestblogging at Opinio Juris, here. There are probably some others I don't know about, but will add the links here as I find out. For that matter, here is HRW's website. I'm afraid I don't have anything to say on the actual facts of what they dispute - but wanted to archive the dispute here for future reference.

(Welcome, Instapunditeers, and thanks Glenn for the Instalanche. I should add autobiographically that I was the first director of the HRW Arms Division and worked for HRW for several years back in the early 1990s; I had also done a great deal of pro bono work for the organization back in the 1980s, reporting on countries such as Guatemala, Yugoslavia, Panama, Georgia, Iraq, and other places. I am reticent about criticizing an organization I once worked for, and anyway, although I have grave concerns about where the human rights movement is headed - on a general perception that NGO movements, such as the human rights movement, often get trapped in a kind of spiral toward more and more extreme views, trapped in a certain rhetoric that eventually leads over a cliff - I still regard HRW, for the difficulties it clearly has, as the most credible of the human rights monitors. Amnesty International has clearly gone over the cliff; I very much hope that HRW does not - but it will take considerable outside pressure, I think, to shift it away from the kind of internal dynamic that so often seizes hold of NGO movements and carries them into weirdness. The risk, we should all bear in mind, that as they get weirder, they carry with them into disrepute moral language and concepts - the concept and language of human rights - that the rest of us cannot afford to lose. It's not merely an organization or a movement that is at risk - it is the credibility of human rights itself. HRW clearly thinks that it is sufficiently pure to be the Gate-Keeper of the True Path, or the human rights Vatican, or something like that - Kant, maybe - but everyone else who values these things as well might want to exercise their own judgment on that.)

I have criticized Human Rights Watch in the past on some of its legal judgments. In particular, I and others challenged HRW's reporting on Jenin, criticizing legal standards used in its reporting that made little or no reference to the obligations of defenders - ie, the commingling of military targets among civilians in advance of anticipated fighting. HRW wound up changing its characterization of the report on the website, at least for a time, to acknowledge the obligations of defenders, although not in the report itself. It is a general problem for human rights organizations, seemingly, that they focus to near exclusion on what the attackers do, especially in asymmetrical conflicts where the attackers are Western armies presumably more susceptible to media pressure of the kind that human rights monitors are able to generate. In addition, I suppose, these groups have so thoroughly internalized the asymmetrical rules of Protocol I that it is hard for them even to see that their legal standards have a problem. (See the discussion of this problem in relation to NGOs, press, and human rights monitors reporting on the commingling of civilians and military targets in the Iraq war, in this public letter, here.)

More broadly than that, however, my primary problem with Human Rights Watch's reporting is its lawyerly tendency toward tendentiousness. I mean that Human Rights Watch's reports are not neutral, scrupulously acknowledging the evidence or law or legal views that run against its reporting and legal conclusions. On the contrary, it rather proudly offers what can only be called briefs - shaping the law and evidence towards whatever conclusions it has decided to offer. In occasional conversations I've had with its senior staff and lawyers over the years, they defend this practice on the grounds that it is a legal organization, writing conclusions based on law applied to facts.

In my view, it is, however, a tendentiousness and frankly noxious practice because this 'brief-writing' is aimed not a court, which will at least have the benefit of an opposing counsel's briefs, with a different point of view, but instead a credulous, not well educated, and alas not-so-bright media. The media tend already to share HRW's point of view, and hence tend to ask few questions - if they could even think of any - and mostly wind up quoting the press release. (I don't think anyone - except in the most extraordinary instances, such as the Lebanon war - ever reads the actual reports, least of all the press, and it became something of a joke in the organization, with senior executives pleading with staff not to write so many pages that simpl;y won't get read. I'm sure that during the years I worked with and for HRW, and wrote many reports from the field, no one ever read the actual texts.)

In my view, an organization genuinely scrupulous about its neutrality and objectivity would make a concerted point, in its reports and analyses, of noting the objections that might be raised to its views, on both factual issues as well as legal points of view. It should adopt, that is, a scholarly or historical point of view, rather than that of a lawyer presenting one side to a court. This is not to say that it should not adopt whatever conclusion it thinks is right - but that it should make a genuine point, always, of presenting what a knowledgeable opponent might reasonably say on the other side, rather than relying on the ignorance and credulity and pre-existing sympathy of its media audience to not ask it any hard questions.

But this is a point I've made repeatedly over the years to HRW, and I'm not holding my breath. In any case, compared with the leading competition, the downward spiraling Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch is a beacon of disciplined thought.

(PS. The question of neutrality by NGOs is an important one, something I took up in an academic article a couple of years ago, available as a pdf from SSRN, here.)

(PPS. I had forgotten that I wrote a little about these issues while critiquing Amnesty International's infamous report talking about Guantanamo as a gulag. Here in the Weekly Standard from June 13, 2005.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mes deux femmes

Wife and daughter are at the beach with my wife's parents. While I treasure the week I annually get alone in the house, I do miss them. So let me post a picture of them, taken in the upper gallery of the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. This is for Jean-Marie and Renee.

Paul Kennedy on the UN as the world's scapegoat

Paul Kennedy, whose new book on the UN, Parliament of Man, I passingly trashed in a post below, has an op ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2006, titled "United Nations - The World's Scapegoat." Here. I am afaid that I do not find this op-ed very consistent with the overall theme and tone of Kennedy's book. Or very persuasive in the tears of sympathy it sheds for the poor UN senior executives and their impossible task - like the book in this regard, the op ed tends to sound like talking points handed out by the oliagenous Mark Malloch Brown and transmitted uncritically by Kennedy.

And anyway, Kennedy does what Annan does in pretty much every situation where someone takes the UN to task - retreats to the position that it is merely a member state organization, and he merely a ministerial executor of the will of the member states.

The problem, as Kennedy surely knows, is that Annan and the UN aristocracy in actual fact want it both ways - the ability to seek greater power, authority, and legitimacy for the organization and its senior executives, while always being able to escape criticism by retreating to the "humble servants of the member states" mumbo jumble that Kennedy endorses. Sorry, Professor Kennedy, you don't get it both ways.

Judge Posner in WSJ on surveillance decision and counterterrorism policy

Judge Posner writes today in the Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, August 22, 2006, on the weirdness of how we approach counterterrorism policy, here:

As a judge I cannot comment on the correctness of her decision. But I can remark on the strangeness of confiding so momentous an issue of national security to a randomly selected member of the federal judiciary's corps of almost 700 district judges, subject to review by appellate and Supreme Court judges also not chosen for their knowledge of national security.

A further strangeness is that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (which hears appeals from FISC) have been bypassed, with regard to adjudicating the legality of the NSA program, in favor of the federal district court in Detroit. The reason is that the jurisdiction of those courts is limited to foreign intelligence surveillance warrants, and the NSA program under attack involves warrantless surveillance.....

Five years after the 9/11 attacks, the institutional structure of U.S. counterterrorism is in disarray. The Department of Homeland Security remains a work in progress -- slow and painful progress -- and likewise for the restructuring of the intelligence community decreed by Congress in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. And now, in the wake of Hamdan and the Detroit case, we learn that we do not have a coherent judicial dimension to our efforts to combat terrorism. (One reason may be that there is no official with overall responsibility for counterterrorism policy.) Other than the judges assigned to the two foreign intelligence courts, federal judges do not have security clearances and, more to the point, have no expertise in national security matters. Moreover, the criminal justice system is designed for dealing with ordinary crimes, not today's global terrorism, as is shown by the rules, for example, that entitle a person who is arrested to a prompt probable-cause hearing before a judge and require that criminal trials be open to the public....

Marty Lederman responds at Balkinization, here. Likewise Brian Tamanaha, here.

Gunter Grass

I fully agree with Hitchens' assessment of Gunter Grass, in Slate, here:

For all this, one was never able to suppress the slight feeling that the author of The Tin Drum was something of a bigmouth and a fraud, and also something of a hypocrite. He was one of those whom Gore Vidal might have had in mind when he referred to the high horse, always tethered conveniently nearby, which the writer/rider could mount at any moment. Seldom did Grass miss a chance to be lofty and morally stern. But between the pony and the horse, between the stirrup and the ground, there stood (and stands) a calculating opportunist.

Still, and while saying that his writing has been the screed of a hectoring bore for decades and decades and decades, Grass is nonetheless the author of The Tin Drum. Grass had one masterpiece in him, and that is it.

(The film, in its own way, is also a masterpiece. A couple of years after it was released in 1979 or thereabouts, I had the opportunity at UCLA to take a class with an aged, aged theatre professor there, whose name escapes me, but who had premiered a couple of Brecht's plays in Vienna before they both fled the Nazis for southern California. This professor stayed on after Brecht saw, in his consumately cunning and self-serving way, the opportunity for a state theatre in East Germany, a West German passport, and a Swiss bank account. Anyway, said professor remarked that the film version of The Tin Drum was the last great gasp of German expressionism, a voice from the Weimar past suddenly breaking out in the 1970s. He would have known whereof he spoke. What was his name?)


I have been reading James Bowman's lovely new book, Honor: A History. I highly recommend it. And beyond that book, I think there's a lot of merit in the genre of which it is a distinguished part - the inquiring essay into a moral virtue such as honor - an inquiry that cuts across disciplines of philosophy, literature, art, psychology, history, and so on.

In somewhat similar fashion, I have been wondering about the concept of decadence. Is it possible to give a conceptual account of decadence that does none of the following:

  • Treats decadence merely as a synonym for indulgence, i.e., does not give any more interesting intellectual history or conceptual weight.
  • Treats decadence merely as nothing more interesting or compelling than what an older generation, grown curmudgeonly, inevitably complains about in the shifting mores of the younger generation.
  • Collapses, in giving an account of decadence while rejecting it, into rightwing authoritarianism - disciplined, yes, but not infrequently facist.

What would an account of decadence look like if it avoided all three temptations - indulgences, one might say - listed above? Can there be a general account of decadence in that sense?

(My thanks to Nathan Wagner for his thoughtful comments.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Claudia Rosett on Kofi Annan and Hezbollah, and brief note on Paul Kennedy's UN hagiography, Parliament of Man

Claudia Rosett reviews the history behind the latest mission by the UN to bless and protect Hezbollah, here. But of course this would not matter so much if Israel had not so thoroughly botched its war, as Lenny Ben-David notes here in a dismaying review of corruption and unpreparedness in Israeli society, from the Jerusalem Post.

It is frankly just bizarre, by the way, to read Clauda Rosett's stream of articles, and have sat through the many interviews and discussions I did while working on the US Institute of Peace's UN reform task force, and then simultaneously be reading Paul Kennedy's hagiographic account of the rise of the UN, Parliament of Man. I guess the kindest thing one can say of Kennedy's account is that he has a thorougly Whiggish view of history. His lack of knowledge of the actual organization, as distinguished from the one sketched at the level of Platonic forms that he offers - weirdly, through a historical approach - means that he cannot even begin to give an account of why it (a) doesn't work and (b) is so astoundingly corrup at both the official and personal level. It may be that the historical approach allows him to ignore the sordid realities of the organization - again, the Whiggish view of history allows him to see it in a progressive and progressing light in which the unpleasantness of the present means very little in historical trajectory.

And of course Kennedy is careful to dismiss any such criticism in advance - all of it is simply cast as ideological.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Richard Rodriguez and Victor Davis Hanson debate immigration

Richard Rodriguez and Victor Davis Hanson are two of the essayists I most admire. They debate the question of Mexican illegal immigration at Cato Unbound. In a peculiar way, and not, I hope, merely because I admire both writers, I think they are both right. At least, I think they share much more than they do not. Neither is a multiculturalist, for example. But more on that later.

Rodriguez, here. Hanson, here.

Vanity Fair's Michael Wolff on the New York Times' corporate strategy

(Update, Saturday, August 26, 2006. Here is the Economist's cover story on the future of newspapers - very interesting discussion of global strategies, winning and losing, for newspapers. The editorial is also quite interesting.)

Michael Wolff has a very, very interesting piece in Vanity Fair discussing the financial, corporate, and strategic business difficulties of the New York Times. Here. (See also Thomas Lifson's piece in The American Thinker, here - thanks RCP.)

The article tries to marry a straight account of the very serious strategic business problems of the Times with a kind of fuzzy-logic conspiracy theory of the Bush administration seeking to take down the Times - which results in a lot of unsupported sentences in the piece along the lines of:

"The calculation in the White House may well be that the Times is one of the few organizations that the weakened Bush people are strong enough to go after."

The joining of a conservative Republican administration with corporate, financial, and Wall Street interests to bring the presumably truth-telling Times to heel is the kind of thing calculated to appeal to the readership of Vanity Fair, but on the sparse actual facts assembled, the two never come together. The truth is surely more prosaic on both the business and political sides, even though this would make a less eye-popping story for Vanity Fair readers wanting to gasp a little at the made-for-TV conspiracy of political and corporate interests that Wolff spins for them.

It's not really that complicated, is it? The Times' investors would like to get a return on their investment. They are stymied by two things. First, there are the long term problems of the traditional print media business model in the internet era. The Times, like every other print media company, has made certain strategic bets. The Washington Post, as Wolff accurately says, has made a bet very different from the Times - to go after the local audience and local market. The Times has made the bet to go national, necessarily sacrificing something local in all that. Neither of those bets was - or is - a priori crazy, even though it certainly does not seem like the Times' is paying off.

The second thing is the cupidity and greed of the controlling B-shares Sulzberger family. On that, Wolff has fascinating and tantalizing interviews off the record with people at and formerly at the Times. But as far as the money goes, it's not political, it's not personal, it's just ROI. Wall Street financiers have no love of Bush or the Republican Party. But these days they have no love for Arthur Sulzberger, either - something to do with his $3 million plus salary and the new corporate headquarters building. Let's not build it into something more than it is.

As far as the Bush administration goes, well, its stance has always been the same, from the get-go. It is not, as Wolff breathlessly asserts, that the Bush administration sees the opportunity to take down the Times. Conservative bloggers would love to do that - indeed, they do it with increasing regularity. The sin, as it were, of the Bush administration is quite different. It doesn't really care what the New York Times thinks. It never has and never will. Its base, apart from the bloggin' crowd, doesn't much care either. The Bush administration doesn't try to use the Times as a scapegoat, because its base doesn't much care about it one way or the other. The New York Times is contemptuous of ordinary Americans and what they think? Believes they should be gently but firmly led in the ways of Higher Truths known best within Manhattan? This is news? The ever increasing shrillness of the Times, whether on the opinion pages or the front page opinion page, has the sound far more of someone hurt by being ignored, rather than attacked.

Yes, it is true that the Times' revelations of the secret intelligence programs raised the profile - but that was because of the objective and concrete damage caused, a genuine issue of national security and law, for which the Times will likely not have to answer - that is the one area on which the conservative base actually cares, not what the Times thinks, but what it does. The two are fundamentally different. Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, the whole front page crowd of opinion-meisters - they disturb the sleep of the adminstration's top people, starting with Bush, not one bit. The revelations - not opinion but actions with consequences in the real world of terror and counter-terror - those matter to it and to the conservative base. Yet even on this, the Bush administration is likely to disappoint its base - it is not likely, indeed highly, highly unlikely, that the Justice Department would seek criminal action against the Times, despite the fact that this would please the base enormously and that its legal basis, at least on the signals intelligence issue, is real.

The real issue of the Times is the neither the administration nor the conservative base care anymore what it thinks or opines - and that means more and more as it gets bored with reporting facts and devotes itself to opinion. The Times might contemplate the idea that if it actually just stuck to indisputable, plain facts and skipped the opinionating, it would actually force the administration - and everyone else - to pay more attention. Anyone, starting with this blog, can express opinions, and many bloggers are better at it - better writers - than the professionals at the Times. Facts, however, are much harder to come by, especially those that can't be got easily on the internet, and in the end the most important competitive advantage a newspaper has - the ability to gather news that others cannot easily get. If the Times devoted more attention to that, it might have a product that would force politicians to pay attention - but mere opinion? Since no one doubts that everything is spun, so what?

Mind, I don't think that offering the plain, unvarnished, unopinionated facts is a winning business strategy - a public that loves its own content, the content of itself, produced by itself, the self-consuming consumer - YouTube, for example - is not necessarily going to bother to spend money on facts. But it would make it politically more relevant.

As a sort of independent conservative myself, of course I read the Times every day. But whereas once upon a time I cared what the Times thought if only to think through the argument and why I might happen to agree or disagree with it, either way, nowadays I find it offering arguments less and less, but simply writing memoranda to a certain imagined base of Democratic liberals readers spread out across a kind of abstracted, hypothetical America, simply talking to the converted. Long gone, too, are the days when one could take the facts from a New York Times story at face value - now you have to think about who wrote the story, what interests the Times itself has in the politics of the story, and above all think about what is being left out, not said between the lines. For that matter, in the contemporary New York Times, you can't even automatically trust the photos. It is still a fantastically valuable resource - but one that has to be read with all sorts of fact-checking, tendentiousness-checking, unstated motivations-checking programs running in one's head. And it gets shriller, and shriller, and shriller.

So, no, I don't think Wolff has represented the political dynamics between the Bush administration and the Times accurately at all. He suggests that the administration pays attention to the Times for more than simply what aspect of national security the newspaper, in its sole wisdom and discretion as to the public interest, has decided to compromise that week. That does not mean caring what the Times thinks, only what (bad) things it does and some attention to whether it has finally crossed the line at which prosecution is unavoidable. And the idea that Bush administration politics are intertwined with the marketplace in some loose conspiracy - well, that's just loopy leftiness intertwined with selling copies of Vanity Fair.

That leaves the deep problem of how to sell newspapers in the internet age. And no one seems to have the answer to that. My primary pro bono activity, unrelated to this blog, is as chair of the board of a nonprofit media assistance organization - a kind of nonprofit private equity firm that makes investments in media businesses in the developing world to help them achieve financial independence and, therefore, editorial independence. It's an amazingly successful organization, with a portfolio of some $50 million in media investments everywhere from Indonesia to Russia. So I spend quite a lot of time reading, thinking, and talking about media business strategies, particularly for newspapers that are committed to serious news - I don't pretend to be an expert the way that our organization's staff are experts. But one thing we regularly discuss is the condition of newspapers in the US and elsewhere in the industrialized, post industrialized world where the internet is default mode. And frequently those discussions conclude by saying - gosh, it's pretty darn hard to come up with a winning business strategy for a newspaper in a poor country with high unemployment, illiteracy, low incomes, few advertisers, etc. - but it's also pretty darn hard to come up with a winning business strategy for newspaper in a post industrialized, internet-heavy country, too.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sanford Levinson on collateral damage

Sandy Levinson is one of the most subtle and profound thinkers I know, and the book he edited on torture is required reading in all of today's discussions of counter-terrorism. He has a short comment on the nature of collateral damage on the blog where he is a contributor, Balkinization, here. It is well worth reading.

I wanted to add one small comment to it. In my now many years teaching ethics and war, the laws of war, just war theory, and related topics, I have been struck by how un-intuitive the concept of the double effect is. Those of us who have done moral philosophy for a long time tend to assume that it is a natural way of thinking about the world, but the experience of teaching students - especially those from outside of Western, Judeo-Christian culture - convinces me that it is not. I mean this in the sense that, far from being an intuitive moral doctrine, it is rather a doctrine that one arrives at because the alternatives look so unattractive. In the case of war, the problem is that pacifism, for most of us, is unacceptable as an alternative. And yet so is naked realism, the realism that admits of no limits to behavior in war. Indeed, in an important sense, the principal secular varieties of pacifism are realism, realism carried to a limit in which war, because it can have no limits, becomes morally unthinkable.

When I say that the double effect is a doctrine 'arrived at', I mean that in the precise sense that it arrives just in time to provide a way out of pacifism, but also out of realism. It provides a way in which to fight. But it is not what most people intuitively first think. It is a solution to a deep moral problem about war (and other things), not the first order intuition. And it is one that slides out of the legal and moral discussion of war with remarkable speed. Even Walzer abandons it in his doctrine of "supreme emergency," permitting Britain to launch attacks directly against German civilians on the ground that Churchill had no other means of attacking the enemy - could not the same be all too easily be said of Hezbollah? On the one hand, double effect is the anchor of the dual regime that both endorses noncombatant immunity yet permits fighting; on the other hand, I do not find it deeply rooted, given the growth in forms of asymmetric warfare that themselves depend upon exploiting the other side's respect for noncombatant immunity.

Systems of law and morality that lack reciprocity do not tend to survive in war, set as they are against the reciprocal struggle that constitutes war and military necessity. The current view among international elites is that the lack of reciprocity can be overcome by international tribunals and post-hoc criminal proceedings, as though the world were a domestic legal order with an overarching court system to monitor breaches of a domestic law. Alternatively, the elimination of reciprocity will be compensated for by granting effective immunity to the weaker guerrilla side in a conflict, with the result that the laws of war mean one thing for one side and another thing for the other (the approach taken by Protocol I whe, for example, it provides a special dispensation for guerrillas not to carry their arms openly or wear insignia designating fighters until the moment of ambush). These measure will not work over the long haul - they are not working now, but are instead transforming the cultural practices of war as parties adapt themselves to unequal incentives and disincentives. The current disdain for reciprocity more likely will have the long term effect of undermining the universality of the law of war, not broadening it.

Ross Douthat asks what year is it

(Update, August 31, 2007. Actually, the one date that Douthat is missing here is 1968. In some sense, the rising tide of very young Muslims across different societies, different places in the world has the feel of the rise of the baby boom generation in 1968 in the West, in the United States and Britain, in France, in Prague - the self-confidence of youth, the belief in extraordinarily simple, indeed simplistic solutions, the inspiration of slogans, the belief that the world could and would be made anew, the Age of Aquarius. 1968?)

The Atlantic Monthly's Ross Douthat has emerged as one of the wittiest voices around - and this piece is both witty and smart at the same time, in the WSJ, Tuesday, August 15, 2006. The only thing I might add to the argument is how Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri, and the Islamofacists see it - 1683, perhaps, early in the year, sometime before the Ottoman defeat at the gates of Vienna? Excerpts:

What Year Is It? 1938? 1972?Or 1914?

August 15, 2006;
WSJ Page A12

Foreign-policy debates are usually easy to follow: Liberals battle conservatives, realists feud with idealists, doves vie with hawks. But well into the second Bush term, traditional categories are in a state of collapse. On issue after issue, the Republicans and Democrats are divided against themselves, and every pundit seems determined to play George Kennan and found an intellectual party of one. We suffer from a surfeit of baffling labels -- "progressive realism," "realistic Wilsonianism," "progressive internationalism," "democratic globalism" -- that require a scorecard to keep straight. But perhaps there's a simpler way. For the moment at least, where you line up on any foreign-policy question has less to do with whether you're Republican or Democrat, isolationist or internationalist -- and more to do with what year you think it is.

There are five major schools of thought on this question, beginning with the "1942ists," who believe that we stand in Iraq today where the U.S. stood shortly after Pearl Harbor: bogged down against a fascist enemy and duty-bound to carry on the fight to victory. To the 1942ist, Iraq is Europe and the Pacific rolled into one, Saddam and Zarqawi are the Hitlers and Tojos of our era, suicide-bombers are the equivalent of kamikazes -- and George Bush is Churchill, or maybe Truman. The most prominent exponent of 1942ism is Mr. Bush himself. His speech on last year's V-J Day anniversary, for instance, was a long meditation on the similarities between the Iraq war and the challenges faced by FDR. But Mr. Bush hasn't been alone in his invocation of World War II. For much of the post-9/11 period, '42ism has been the position of most mainstream conservatives (and many liberals as well), embraced by realists as well as idealists, and inspiring everything from the term "Islamofascism" to calls for Manzanar-style internment camps for disloyal Muslim-Americans.

Over the last year, though, many conservatives have been peeling away from '42ism, joining the "1938ists" instead, for whom Iran's march toward nuclear power is the equivalent of Hitler's 1930s brinkmanship. While most '38ists still support the decision to invade Iraq, they increasingly see that struggle as the prelude to a broader regional conflict, and worry that we're engaged in Munich-esque appeasement. This camp's leading spokesmen include Michael Ledeen, Bill Kristol and Newt Gingrich. If you hear someone compare Ahmadinejad to Hitler, demand a pre-emptive strike on Iran, or suggest that the Hezbollah-Israel battle is a necessary overture to a larger confrontation, you're listening to a 1938ist.

Liberals, too, have been abandoning '42ism of late. The once-sizable bloc of left-of-center Iraq project supporters has shrunk to include Joe Lieberman, Christopher Hitchens and almost nobody else. Most of the liberal ex-'42ists have joined up with the "1948ists," who share the '42ist and '38ist view of the war on terror as a major generational challenge, but insist that we should think about it in terms of Cold War-style containment and multilateralism, not Iraq-style pre-emption. 1948ism is a broad church: It includes politicians who still technically support the Iraq war (but not really), pundits who opposed it from the beginning, chastened liberal hawks like Peter Beinart and chastened neocons like Francis Fukuyama. What unites them all is a skepticism about military interventions, a fear of hubris, and an abiding faith in the ability of diplomacy, international institutions and "soft power" to win out in a long struggle with militant Islamism.

What unites the '48ists, too, is a desire to avoid being tarred as antiwar leftists. This is precisely the position that the "1972ists" embrace. '72ism has few mainstream politicians behind it, but a great many Americans, and it holds that George Bush is Nixon, Iraq is Vietnam, and that any attack on Iran or Syria would be equivalent to bombing Cambodia. Where 1948ists compare themselves to Dean Acheson and Reinhold Niebuhr, '72ists suggest that the greater danger is repression at home and blowback from imperialist ventures abroad. '72ism is the worldview of Michael Moore, the makers of "Syriana," and the editors of the Nation -- and its power is growing.

As 1972ists are to mainstream liberalism, the "1919ists" are to the political right: The old-guard faction that damns its own party's leaders as sellouts to the other side. For '19ists, Mr. Bush is Woodrow Wilson, a feckless idealist bent on sacrificing U.S. interests and global stability on the altar of messianic liberalism. 1919ism was marginal three years ago, confined to figures like Pat Buchanan who (like the '72ists) saw Zionist fingerprints all over U.S. foreign policy. But of late, many traditional conservatives have migrated in this direction, including William F. Buckley and George Will. As the administration flirts with '38ism, rattling its sabers at Syria and Iran, the '19ers have become convinced that the only thing more dangerous than an incautious '42ism is a still more reckless belief that the year is 1938.

The '19ist-versus-'38ist struggle in the conservative ranks is just one example of how this new alignment creates odd bedfellows and unexpected fissures. Right-wing intellectuals like Andrew Bacevich pen 1919ist essays in the Nation as well as the American Conservative, while a '42ist liberal like Mr. Lieberman bonds with a conservative president and suffers for it at the hands of '48ist and '72ist primary voters. The Democrats' chances of winning in 2008 depend on whether a '42ist or '48ist candidate can get through the primary season without being forced to pander to the party's '72ist base (as John Kerry did, fatally, in 2004). The GOP primaries, meanwhile, may turn on whether a '42ist candidate like John McCain or Rudy Giuliani takes up Iran-hawk themes to fend off '38ist criticism -- and whether this provokes a revolt among disgruntled '19ists, who for now remain a movement in search of a leader.

And yet. A few voices have spoken up of late for the most disquieting possibility of all. This possibility lacks heroes and villains (Bush/Wilson, Ahmadinejad/Hitler) and obvious lessons (impeach Bush, stay the course in Iraq). But as our crisis deepens, it's worth considering 1914ism, and with it the possibility that all of us, whatever year we think it is, are poised on the edge of an abyss that nobody saw coming.

Mr. Douthat is an associate editor at the Atlantic Monthly.

George Soros in the WSJ on war on terror as metaphor

George Soros writes in today's WSJ, Tuesday, August 15, 2006, that the war on terror indulges a mistaken metaphor. He has said this quite often. What I found most interesting in the op-ed was the following paragraph (which he has also said quite often):

Fourth, the war on terror drives a wedge between "us" and "them." We are innocent victims. They are perpetrators. But we fail to notice that we also become perpetrators in the process; the rest of the world, however, does notice. That is how such a wide gap has arisen between America and much of the world.

(The full op-ed is behind a subscriber wall at the Wall Street Journal, but can be read here at

Norman Podhoretz defends the Bush doctrine and neoconservatism in Commentary

Norman Podhoretz defends the Bush doctrine and neoconservative foreign policy in the September 2006 issue of Commentary. Here. I am interested in it, partly because I have been completing a piece on some of Podhoretz's targets in my own work, and partly because he gives a close reading to Bush's September 20, 2001 address to Congress. And partly because he asks, and answers in the negative, "Is the Bush doctrine dead?"

I am not entirely sure whether I count as a neoconservative or not. The label does not bother me, but I'm not sure I really know what the true cognescenti mean by it, even after all my reading about it. Certainly I am an idealist in foreign affairs - not utlimately a realist - of course I accept realist cautions as prudential considerations upon idealism, but that is not the same as embracing realism.

And within idealisms in foreign affairs, I am not a liberal internationalist. Which may leave one wondering, well, what's left? Well, I can think of a few more things I am not. One is a Wilsonian idealist - the use of American power, American exceptionalism really, toward liberal internationalist ends.

Nor am I a Teddy Roosevelt National Greatness idealist - prior to September 11, I thought very few things more ridiculous than Bill Kristol's calls for a new project of national greatness to counteract the self-absorption of the Clinton years. The nature of American democracy is that we do go our own ways, do our own things, sometimes to trivial ends and sometimes not, when not confronted with some crisis that demands unity. Kristol seemed to be trying to invent a Teddy Roosevelt project mostly because he believed that idle American hands would be doing the devil's work and we collectively needed to be put to work on some giant ideological project to take the place of the Cold War. Patronizing, paternalistic, and utterly alien to the American political dream.

Post September 11, well, we have a national project, like it or not, a new totalitarian threat, like it or not, because, as has been said before on this blog, you may not be interested in terrorism, but terrorism is interested in you.

The question of neoconservatism, at this point, perhaps comes down to where one stands on the issue of democracy building, particularly in the Middle East. Is it possible for the US to do so, and even if it is, does the democracy that results contribute to peace and stability, or simply widen the legitimacy of our enemies? Illiberal democracies? The question has enormously practical application at this moment. There is some evidence that the Bush admnistration pressed Israel for a cease fire in no small part to avoid bringing down the Lebanese government, the Cedar Revolution. It was a democratic opening, yes.

But one might ask what, in fact, it brings in the way of peace or stability to the region - empowering Hezbollah, giving it a legitimacy within a democratic framework behind from which it can launch its attacks? Are we not, when it comes to Hezbollah, necessarily in the deep grip of pure, hard-man realism - who wins, who loses, who is seen to win, who is seen to lose, and the neoconservative emphasis on democracy serves merely as a catspaw for the terrorists in Lebanon?

I take the possibility of democratic transformation entirely seriously - in Iraq and elsewhere. The policy of propping up our sonsofbitches merely gives us more Saudi Arabias. If it is neoconservatism to oppose that policy, and support democratic transformation, then that's me. On the other hand, to pronounce something democratic is not to pronounce it liberal. And what interests me is liberal democracy.

Institutionalizing the war on terror through legislation (redux)

If it is time for the White House and Congress to get together and create a solid, institutional structure for US counter-terrorism policy, what are the most important questions for that policy? They are not the ones you might initially think of - questions of institutional design, how should Homeland Security be organized, etc. Those are important, yes, but the most important questions for the legislature to answer are, instead, questions of values. What values should our policy of counter-terrorism enact? What should the tradeoffs between liberty and security be? if you look at the heated, divisive debates in the US and abroad over the war on terror, the most incendiary, and most bitter, are not about institutions or institutional design - not the technocratic questions - but the questions about values.

What are some of those values questions? Generally, they fall into the following categories:

  • Surveillance - whose phone calls can you listen to without a warrant, eg?
  • Detention - who can you detain, for how long, and do you need legal charges, must it be done under court authority, or can it be done pursuant to commander in chief power?
  • Interrogation, rendition, and the line of torture - what counts and what doesn't count as torture? Note the agonizing that Tom Bevan of RCP mentions in the UK Guardian over revelations that the UK airliner plot was likely revealed through torture of suspects in Pakistan, here.
  • Classified information - what information should be classified, how much should be classified, and what should the penalties be for revealing it?
  • Domestic intelligence - should the US have a domestic intelligence agency, such as the British MI5? Ostensibly an institutional design issue, in fact it raises far reaching questions of balancing values.
  • A special counter-terrorism court system - for both trying US citizens accused of terror as well as for reviewing the status of non-US people held as illegal combatants - is it time to move in the direction of Western European countries with a special system of tribunals?
  • Covert action - do we need new rules on covert action, such as assassination, destruction of terrorist bases, kidnapping of suspected terrorists - uses of force that do not necessarily involve "armed conflict" within the meaning of international humanitarian law?

These are all questions of values. The right place to decide these things is in laws passed by the Congress. The British airline plot points out that, no, terrorism is not simply something that goes away because Americans are bored with it and have decided to move on. You may not be interested in terrorism, but terrorism is interested in you.

David Rivkin & Lee Casey on British versus American domestic counterterrorism

My good friends, the indefatigable David Rivkin and Lee Casey, have written a very useful comparative guide to British and American counter-terrorism practices, in the Wall Street Journal, Monday, April 14, 2006, public link, here.

I would add a broader point. It is time for the White House to go to Congress and get legislation institutionalizing US counter-terrorism policy. Institutionalize it in legislative mandates, create institutions, make choices about the tradeoffs between civil liberties and national security in votes taken by Congress, make it permanent. The problem with pursuing the war on terror by presidential discretionary authority is that what lives by discretion, dies by discretion. If everyone is so all-fired up serious about the need for a long term counter terrorism strategy, then we ought to be willing to enact it as a series of laws. The Bush administration is slowly saying goodnight - if it believes its policies are the right ones for the long term, after it is gone, then it should work it out with Congress and make it long term law and policy, not of an administration, but of the United States. If Congress believes policy should be something different, then it should enact something different. But it is time to get beyond discretion and make it law. And it is time to get everyone on the record - time for everyone to put their cards on the table and say, this is where I, Senator So-and-So, make the trade-off between liberty and security. Because there is no question that such tradeoffs have to be made and will be made, whether one admits to them or not. But in a fully functioning democracy, people are transparent about the tradeoffs.

“The British Way”

August 14, 2006; Page A8
The Wall Street Journal

Britain's successful preemption of an Islamicist plot to destroy up to 10 civilian airliners over the Atlantic Ocean proves that surveillance, and other forms of information-gathering, remain an essential weapon in prosecuting the war on terror. There was never any real doubt of this, of course. Al Qaeda's preferred targets are civilians, and civilians have a right to be protected from such deliberate and calculated attacks. Denying the terrorists funding, striking at their bases and training camps, holding accountable governments that promote terror and harbor terrorists, and building democracy around the world are all necessary measures in winning the war. None of these, however, can substitute for anticipating and thwarting terror operations as the British have done. This requires the development and exploitation of intelligence.

Despite this self-evident truth, critics of President Bush and the war on terror have relentlessly opposed virtually every effort to expand and improve the government's ability to gather the type of information needed to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, whether in the form of the Patriot Act's "national security" letters and delayed notification warrants (derisively described by pseudo-civil libertarians as "sneak and peak" warrants), the NSA's once secret program to intercept al Qaeda communications into and out of the U.S., and the Treasury Department's efforts to monitor financial transactions through the "SWIFT" system. These, and similar measures, are among the tools that we will need to finish the job.

In celebrating the British victory -- which was achieved with assistance from American and Pakistani intelligence services -- it is worth considering some of the aspects in which the U.S. and U.K. anti-terrorism systems differ, and what lessons can be learned. Of course, we begin with the proposition that the U.S. and Britain share a common law heritage, with its emphasis on individual rights and limitations on state power, and many of the same basic political values. That said, British law, political culture and sensibilities appear to be far more attuned to the practical needs of preventing terrorist attacks than do their American counterparts. Some examples include the following:

Criminal Investigations: British law-enforcement officials clearly have a more robust ability to investigate suspected terrorist activity than do U.S. police agencies. This is true in a range of areas. For example, traditionally there has been much more direct cooperation between British intelligence and police services; there was never the sort of "wall" between foreign intelligence and law enforcement functions that the U.S. maintained before Sept. 11. Similarly, British officials need not meet the very strict requirement of "probable cause" to obtain warrants that U.S. investigative bodies must satisfy under the Bill of Rights. In Britain, a warrant can generally be issued on a showing of "reasonable suspicion."

In addition, the British police have certain extraordinary tools designed specifically to fight terrorism. These include "control orders" issued by the Home Secretary that not only allow the police to monitor terror suspects, but which -- although the more stringent ones are the subject of continuing legal challenges -- permit the police at the minimum to monitor and restrict terror suspect movements. These orders also enable law-enforcement authorities to identify more easily the overall pool of potential terror operatives, since the close supervision of some suspects requires their undiscovered colleagues to assume more active roles.

Profiling: Ironically, although today's Britain leans far more to the left than does the U.S., British attitudes toward ethnic and religious profiling appear to be far more pragmatic. In the U.S., the subject of profiling -- even as a means of allocating and concentrating investigative resources -- is highly controversial, if not taboo. In Britain, law enforcement and intelligence officials clearly target their resources on the communities most likely to produce terror recruits, and further on the most radicalized segments of those communities. They are also able directly to infiltrate extremist mosques, community centers and Islamicist gatherings, instead of relying almost entirely on informants.

Privacy: Although the British virtually invented the notion of personal privacy -- the saying "an Englishman's home is his castle" can be traced at least to the 16th century -- the concept is not as broadly defined in law or politics as in contemporary America. For example, virtually all public spaces in Britain are surveilled round the clock by cameras, and the government engages in extensive data-mining operations. By contrast, in the U.S., not only have the courts created broad rights to privacy, above and beyond the Fourth Amendment's requirements, but our society has progressed to a point where individuals are considered by some to have a "privacy" interest in what can only be described as public actions -- such as giving personal information to third parties who are not bound by any formal privacy agreement, or participating in widely used fora like the Internet. Indeed, judging by some of the more extreme criticism leveled against war-on-terror policies, there are those who consider as the purest tyranny any compromise of individual autonomy to meet the community's needs.

Secrecy: Similarly, there is a substantial body of opinion in the U.S. which seems to consider any governmental effort to act secretly, or to punish the disclosure of sensitive information, to be illegitimate. Thus, for example, Bush critics persistently attacked the president's decision to intercept al Qaeda's international electronic communications without a warrant in part because of its secrecy, even though the relevant members of Congress had been informed of the NSA's program from the start. By contrast, there appears to be much less hostility in Britain toward government secrecy in general, and little or no tradition of "leaking" highly sensitive information as a regular part of bureaucratic infighting -- perhaps because the perpetrators could far more easily be punished with criminal sanctions under the Official Secrets Act in the U.K. than under current U.S. law.

International Intelligence Cooperation: The British national security bureaucracy is smaller and more tightly knit, and appears to be much less affected by the intense institutional feuds that are commonplace in Washington. Having an intelligence service operate for years in a state of virtual rebellion against its political masters -- as has been the case with the CIA during the Bush administration -- would be unthinkable in Britain.

Britain also takes a much more pragmatic attitude toward the need to cooperate with regimes, or their intelligence services, that have poor human rights records. This has periodically been an issue in both countries. The U.S. has cooperated, and does cooperate, with numerous less-than-savory intelligence services. Working with foreign intelligence services (like Pakistan's) with similar interests but questionable practices will continue to be a necessary part of the war on terror.

Experience: There is, of course, no substitute for experience and there is no doubt that Britain benefits (if that is the right word) from its experience in fighting IRA terror. Although the IRA was arguably a less dangerous threat than al Qaeda and its allies -- if only because the IRA eventually concluded that minimizing civilian casualties was in its political interests -- it was nevertheless well-organized, ideologically committed and vicious. For 30 years, Britain's military and law-enforcement forces investigated, infiltrated, surveilled and openly fought the IRA and won, deriving two important advantages in the process. First, Britain's armed forces and police have been thoroughly schooled in the most advanced techniques of surveillance and counter-terrorism. Second, its political establishment and population (obviously, with some exceptions) have become accustomed to the measures, sometimes intrusive and burdensome, necessary to prevent terrorist attacks.

American antiterror and intelligence capabilities have, of course, developed enormously since Sept. 11 -- and can boast a number of important successes in thwarting potential terror attacks. These include the 2002 arrests of six young men, later convicted for attending al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan; the 2003 arrests of members of the "Virginia Jihad Network" for undergoing paramilitary training; and the recent arrests of seven Miami men accused, among other things, of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower. Moreover, the existence of the NSA and SWIFT surveillance and monitoring programs indicates that the Bush administration, at least, is fully aware of the intelligence imperatives presented by the Islamicist threat.

The U.S. cannot, of course, adopt all aspects of the British system; our constitutional systems are really quite different. Nevertheless, there are clear lessons that can be drawn from the British experience -- especially in affording the police greater investigative latitude and in accepting some compromise of privacy in exchange for greater security. Bush administration critics often misquote Benjamin Franklin as having said that "those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither." What Franklin actually proposed was a balancing test: "They that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." In fighting terrorism, the British appear to have been striking that balance successfully.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are partners in the Washington, D.C., office of Baker & Hostetler, LLP, and served in the Department of Justice under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Monday, August 14, 2006

PS about the TLS

I hadn't been on the TLS website in the past while, and so wasn't aware that the editor, Peter Stothard, maintains a blog! Here. I enjoy reading Peter's blog quite a lot - a lovely mix of literature and politics, old and new.

The TLS remains the finest literary review. I read my copy generally very late at night, in bed, trying not to make too much noise as I turn the pages. I read every issue cover to cover - I mean every issue, every review, because I use it as education in fields I know nothing about - and I've done so for years and years and years. I used to save them, but then it got too much, so out they went.

(This summer I have forced my poor, oppressed 13 year old daughter to read one review a week, hoping that something about essay style will rub off on her, like magic. Also she might learn something. Is that cruel or what? I also made her read 1984 and Friedrich Durrenmatt's The Visit. Years ago, before the concentrated busywork of American private school took over all her time and turned off her brain, she had an idea that she would put together a website called the Kids Literary Supplement or KLS. It might have made her the most formidable force in children's publishing in the USA.)

Okay, that is all by way of saying that you too should subscribe to the Times Literary Supplement.

(And by way of not saying that I owe the TLS a review of a very peculiar book about immigration in America and the formation of the American character. And I delivered to Peter and to my dear friend at the TLS, John Ryle, an 8,000 word Major Statement on Francis Fukuyama's After the Neocons - when I was given a generous 4,000 to work with. John has had it now for two weeks, holding it polite silence, no doubt, while revving up his blowtorch. I have utter confidence in his editing, however, and his ability to get even my prose down to manageable length.)

What the difference between a "subset" and a "proper subset"?

Sorry folks, I've been reviewing basic statistics 101, which I haven't really looked at in years - but it is growing too musty to use in reading various articles, so I thought I should review it. My question is a more general one about defining terminology about sets. What is the difference between a subset and a "proper subset"? Grateful if someone can explain this for me!

(Update, Tuesday, August 15, 2006. Thanks to anonymous in the comments! So what I understand is this. If you have a set (1, 2, 3), then another set (1, 2, 3) is a subset of it, but is not a proper subset, because it completely duplicates the elements of the first set. For it to be a proper subset, it would have to leave out at least one element of the initial set, eg, (1, 2) or (2, 3). Okay, this makes sense to me now. The review book I was using wasn't clear about this. Thank you, anonymous.)

Walter Laqueur reviews Michael Gove's Celsius 7/7

The great scholar on terrorism, Walter Laqueur, reviews Michael Gove's Celsius 7/7: How the West's policy of appeasement has provoked yet more fundamentalist terror, in the August 11, 2006 Times Literary Supplement. Here's the TLS homepage; the review isn't in the public section (or anywhere else). However, Laqueur likes the book quite a lot, and it looks worth reading, even if it is very focused on British policy. After all, as the events of the last few days have shown, Britain is at the very center of Islamofacist organizing.

Also, in the same August 11 issue, Richard Horton gives a very thoughtful review of Amartya Sen's justly celebrated Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mark Steyn on flag-burning (from 2005)

I am firmly against the flag-burning amendment, and I did not want to lose track of Mark Steyn's argument against it as well:

A flag has to be worth burning

Chicago Sun-Times
June 26th 2005

Mark Steyn

The House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment on flag burning last week, in the course of which Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham (Republican of California) made the following argument:

Ask the men and women who stood on top of the Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment.

Unlike Congressman Cunningham, I wouldn’t presume to speak for hose who died atop the World Trade Center. For one thing, citizens of more than 50 foreign countries, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, were killed on 9/11. Of the remainder, maybe some would be in favor of a flag-burning amendment; and maybe some would think that criminalizing disrespect for national symbols is unworthy of a free society. And maybe others would roll their eyes and say that, granted it’s been clear since about October 2001 that the Federal legislature has nothing useful to contribute to the war on terror and its hacks and poseurs prefer to busy themselves with a lot of irrelevant grandstanding with a side order of fries, they could at least quit dragging us into it.

And maybe a few would feel as many of my correspondents did last week about the ridiculous complaints of “desecration” of the Koran by US guards at Guantanamo – that, in the words of one reader, “it’s not possible to ‘torture’ an inanimate object”.

That alone is a perfectly good reason to object to a law forbidding the “desecration” of the flag. For my own part, I believe that, if someone wishes to burn a flag, he should be free to do so. In the same way, if Democrat Senators want to make speeches comparing the US military to Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, they should be free to do so. It’s always useful to know what people really believe.

For example, two years ago, a young American lady, Rachel Corrie, was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza. Her death immediately made her a martyr for the Palestinian cause, and her family and friends worked assiduously to promote the image of her as a youthful idealist passionately moved by despair and injustice. My Name Is Rachel Corrie, a play about her, was a huge hit in London. Well, okay, it wasn’t so much a play as a piece of sentimental agitprop so in thrall to its subject’s golden innocence that the picture of Rachel on the cover of the Playbill shows her playing in the back yard, aged seven or so, wind in her hair, in a cute pink T-shirt.

There’s another photograph of Rachel Corrie – at a Palestinian protest, headscarved, her face contorted with hate and rage, torching a homemade Stars & Stripes. Which is the real Rachel Corrie? The “schoolgirl idealist” caught up in the cycle of violence? Or the grown woman burning the flag of her own country? Well, that’s your call. But, because that second photograph exists, we at least have a choice.

Have you seen that Rachel Corrie flag-burning photo? If you follow Charles Johnson’s invaluable Little Green Footballs website and a few other Internet outposts, you will have. But you’ll look for it in vain in the innumerable cooing profiles of the “passionate activist” that have appeared in the world’s newspapers.

One of the big lessons of these last four years is that many, many beneficiaries of western civilization loathe that civilization - and the media are generally inclined to blur the extent of that loathing. At last year’s Democratic Convention, when the Oscar-winning crockumentarian Michael Moore was given the seat of honor in the Presidential box next to Jimmy Carter, I wonder how many TV viewers knew that the terrorist “insurgents” – the guys who kidnap and murder aid workers, hack the heads off foreigners, load Down’s syndrome youths up with explosives and send them off to detonate in shopping markets – are regarded by Moore as Iraq’s Minutemen. I wonder how many viewers knew that on September 11th itself Moore’s only gripe was that the terrorists had targeted New York and Washington instead of Texas or Mississippi: “They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, D.C. and the plane’s destination of California -- these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!”

In the Second World War, governments warned that “careless talk costs lives.” But in this one, averting our gaze from the careless talk is likely to prove even more costly. In other words, if the objection to flag desecration is that it’s offensive, tough. Like those apocryphal Victorian matrons who discreetly covered the curved legs of their pianos, the culture already goes to astonishing lengths to veil the excesses of those who are admirably straightforward in their hostility.

If people feel that way, why protect them with a law that will make it harder for the rest of us to see them as they are? One thing I’ve learned in the last four years is that it’s very difficult to talk honestly about the issues that confront us. A brave and outspoken journalist, Oriana Fallaci, is currently being prosecuted for “vilification of religion”, which is a crime in Italy; a Christian pastor has been ordered by an Australian court to apologize for his comments on Islam. In the European Union, “xenophobia” is against the law. A flag-burning amendment is the American equivalent of the rest of the west’s ever more coercive constraints on free expression. The problem is not that some people burn flags; the problem is that the worldview of which flag-burning is a mere ritual is so entrenched at the highest levels of western culture.

Banning flag desecration flatters the desecrators and suggests that the flag of this great republic is a wee delicate bloom that has to be protected. It’s not. It gets burned because it’s powerful. I’m a Canadian and one day, during the Kosovo war, I switched on the TV and there were some fellows jumping up and down in Belgrade burning the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack. Big deal, seen it a million times. But then to my astonishment some of those excitable Serbs produced a Maple Leaf from somewhere and started torching that. Don’t ask me why – we had a small contribution to the Kosovo bombing campaign but evidently it was enough to arouse the ire of Slobo’s boys. I haven’t been so proud to be Canadian in years. I turned the sound up to see if they were yelling “Death to the Little Satan!”, but you can’t have everything.

That’s the point: a flag has to be worth torching. When a flag gets burned, that’s not a sign of its weakness but of its strength. If you can’t stand the heat of your burning flag, get out of the superpower business. It’s the left that believes the state can regulate everyone into thought-compliance. The right should understand that the battle of ideas is won out in the open.

The books I bought with the forgotten xmas gift certificate ...

So, we have been having a weekend of nearly-California like weather here in DC, sandwiched between the horribleness that is Washington DC in the summertime (and most of the rest of the year, too). I decided to go for a walk yesterday, rather than go to the gym, a walk up to the local independent bookstore, Politics and Prose. My wife pointed out that I had received from Mrs. Claus a $100 gift certificate to Politics and Prose, unused and untouched. Yum, yum. This is what I bought, taking advantage of remainders and sales:

Paul Kennedy, The Parliament of Man (Random House 2006). This is Kennedy's history of the United Nations, and it a book necessary for the little manuscript I am finishing on global governance and the UN. I count, within Kennedy's schema, as one of the sovereigntists - a democratic sovereigntist, to be exact, holding the American neocon suspicion of global governance. I've read the opening and closing chapters, and the book looks interesting, although it reveals a dubiously Whiggish view of history.

Daniel J. Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music (Dutton 2006). Levitin is a musician, music producer and sound engineer turned neuroscientist, and I am completely and utterly fascinated by his explanation of the neurology of music. I am through the first chapter, which I was reading until 3:00 am last night, defining what is music, its elements, and how those elements divide up into those which are "in the world" and those that are defined by the brain. Frequency, for example, is in the world; pitch, on the other hand, is a psychological construct from frequency. The book is utterly fascinating.

Joy Hakim, The Story of Science. This is a middle school textbook, and a pretty good one. Hakim wrote a history series widely used by homeschoolers - I read it all, and found it quite good. She is a clear, fluid writer, and manages to avoid much of the gobbledygook and mushiness of the typical high school or middle school text written by a curriculum committee and ghostwritten by persons of little expertise and less writing ability. She has approached science as history - which is a good way to approach it in middle school. It attaches scientific concepts to people, and to a developing story and, really, set of arguments that eventually get resolved by evidence. I picked it up for my daughter, who is in middle school but, unfortunately, on the whole badly taught (and especially badly taught for the $30,000 a year in tuition, but that's another story). Said daughter is moaning and groaning at having to read anything other than summer chick lit, but I am perservering. I'm also reading it myself - I hadn't heard of a lot of these people. I think the historical approach has virtues in other areas as well - economics for example - economics is most easily understood the first time around approached as a history of ideas, and then developed as a formal system.

Michael Howard, Clausewitz: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2002). I like this Very Short Introduction series a lot, and this little book, first published in 1983, gives me something to fill in the gap with students in courses like just war and military ethics who need to know something about the tradition of strategy. And it was on sale.

Stephen B. Oates, Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths (1984). Remaindered copy of a book I had wanted - needed for my long term project on the Second Inaugural Address.

Madeline Levine, The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids (Harper Collins 2006). My daughter, age 13, attends a hoity-toity DC private girls school. I read a review of this book in the Washington Post or somewhere and thought, this is my kid. Privileged only child, she's been to Europe repeatedly, Latin America, lots of places, had every educational advantage we could dream up, and while far from rich as so many of her classmates are (being a mere academic's child and all), she doesn't exactly lack for things. She is also anxious, fearful, utterly incompetent in the real world (eg, has no idea even how to get home from her school (if you are always driven, why bother with geography? it's like she lives the monads)) and, during the summer, has zero interest in doing anything other than sleeping and watching TV and reading the lightest of chick lit. She says she is clobbered with work during the school year - 5-6 hours of homework pretty much every night, one full day of homework every weekend, often more. She just wants to turn off in the summer, and who can blame her? The result is an anxious, utterly passive child - she is like a computer that, if turned on as programmed, performs amazingly well, but once the program is over, turns off completely. As Levine says, she is both "bored and boring" - has no thoughts outside of those she thinks the teacher wants to hear, not interested in developing a view of her own because, as she has long since figured out, teachers want to hear what they want to hear (it's more insidious than that - she knows perfectly well that we teachers want to hear ourselves parroted back, but told with utter sincerity, highly practiced utter sincerity, that the student spontaneously came to the same conclusion the teacher did!!). I told her I didn't really care how she spent the summer, as long as she did something, anything, just joined the ranks of producers rather than consumers - learn to cook, sew, needlepoint, dance, make a movie for YouTube, I didn't care. But she, like her friends, does not dare have any passions, because to indulge a passion means that you won't get the work done for the next day. Her primary skill is triage. She displays no initiative, merely a desire that she get a good grade with the least amount of work. There's something wrong with all of this, of course, and Levine sets out to explain what it is. The problem is, to judge by my quick read, much of it is driven by the college thing itself in a system that is essentially winner takes all - and in a peculiar way. The students who get into the toppest colleges actually are under the least grades pressure. Go to Harvard or Brown for undergrad, and you can do what you like and still get into a top grad school or law school - then go to Yale Law School, and, as my younger brother once put it, at YLS as long as you know how to kiss ass, you will have no real grades and yet do just fine. Once in the real world, the winnings go to the top. Why wouldn't I be pushing my kid to make that hurdle? Add that to a system in which any screwup will cut you out of that tier - for example, if you don't make the upper math class in 7th or 8th grade, you won't be on track to do upper math or science in high school, and at that point, the top colleges are all but closed to you even if your plan is humanities and laws school. I hate all this, and proposed to my kid that we home school her this year - take a small part of that $30,000 a year and hire math and science tutors, for example - and she could return to school in 9th grade. But no takers there - the anxious child, fearful of change, will never, ever opt out of the ratrace. Would I ever have imagined that I would have a child who is both bright and, in many things, exceedingly well trained and yet whose deepest desire is to follow the path of least resistance?

David Berlinksi, The Advent of the Algorithm ((Harcourt 2000). This is a lovely book by the author of A Tour of the Calculus which I have owned for some time but just finished reading. I thought the discussion of Leibniz at the beginning was very good - Berlinksi is extremely good at presenting abstract mathematical ideas in plain language. Lovely book.

I am also awaiting a late father's day present - a CD called Le petit mort by a violin-cello duo. A bunch of different baroque things, arranged for two instruments. I am very curious to hear it. I have been working hard on learning a transcription of the Bach flute suite BWV 1013 for cello. I like the opening allemande a lot; it is difficult for me because it involves a lot of arpeggios that require playing precisely in tune while crossing a lot of strings in the mid-positions. Hard to explain - you think the note should be on the next string over exactly where your finger is on your current string but, no, it is just slightly off of that. That's before even getting to the bowing, the thing that makes it sound like Bach, the emphasis that makes it sound like something. That's a ways off - I'm still trying to learn the notes.

Mark Steyn on pan-Islamic identity and the nation state

I have some thoughts about this that I will put in a separate post. But here is Mark Steyn on pan Islamic identity and the nation state, here. Of course, Reuter's biases are well known and acknowledged everywhere outside of the msm outlets than run its stories, but still ...

Pan-Islamism challenges idea of nation state

August 13, 2006

Chicago Sun Times

Here's how an early report by Reuters covered the massive terrorism bust in the United Kingdom. They started out conventionally enough just chugging along with airport closures, arrest details and quotes from bystanders, but then got to the big picture:

" 'I'm an ex-flight attendant, I'm used to delays, but this is a different kind of delay,' said Gita Saintangelo, 54, an American returning to Miami. 'We heard about it on the TV this morning. We left a little early and said a prayer,' she said at Heathrow. "Britain has been criticised by Islamist militants for its military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prime Minister Tony Blair has also come under fire at home and abroad for following the U.S. lead and refusing to call for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict between Israel and Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas."

Is there a software program at Western news agencies that automatically inserts random segues in terrorism stories? The plot to commit mass murder by seizing up to 10 U.K.-U.S. airliners was well advanced long before the first Israeli strike against Hezbollah. Yet it's apparently axiomatic at Reuters, the BBC and many other British media outlets that Tony Blair is the root cause of jihad. He doesn't even have to invade anywhere anymore. He just has to "refuse to call for an immediate cease-fire" when some other fellows invade some other fellows over on the other side of the world.

Grant for the sake of argument that these reports are true -- that when the bloodthirsty Zionist warmongers attack all those marvelous Hezbollah social outreach programs it drives British subjects born and bred to plot mass murder against their fellow Britons. What does that mean?

Here's a clue, from a recent Pew poll that asked: What do you consider yourself first? A citizen of your country or a Muslim?

In the United Kingdom, 7 percent of Muslims consider themselves British first, 81 percent consider themselves Muslim first.

And that's where the really valid Lebanese comparison lies. Lebanon is a sovereign state. It has an executive and a military. But its military has less sophisticated weaponry than Hezbollah and its executive wields less authority over its jurisdiction than Hezbollah. In the old days, the Lebanese government would have fallen and Hezbollah would have formally supplanted the state. But non-state actors like the Hezbo crowd and al-Qaida have no interest in graduating to statehood. They've got bigger fish to fry. If you're interested in establishing a global caliphate, getting a U.N. seat and an Olympic team only gets in the way. The "sovereign" state is of use to such groups merely as a base of operations, as Afghanistan was and Lebanon is. They act locally but they think globally.

And that indifference to the state can be contagious. Lebanon's Christians may think of themselves as "Lebanese," but most of Hezbollah's Shiite constituency don't. Western analysts talk hopefully of fierce differences between Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Persian, but it's interesting to note the numbers of young Sunni men in Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere in recent weeks who've decided that Iran's (Shiite) President Ahmadinejad and his (Shiite) Hezbo proxies are the new cool kids in town. During the '90s, we grew used to the idea that "non-state actors" meant a terrorist group, with maybe a few hundred activists, a few thousand supporters. What if entire populations are being transformed into "non-state actors"? Not terrorists, by any means, but at the very minimum entirely indifferent to the state of which they're nominally citizens.

Hence that statistic: Seven percent of British Muslims consider their primary identity to be British, 81 percent consider it to be Muslim. By comparison, in the most populous Muslim nation on the planet, 39 percent of Muslim Indonesians consider themselves Indonesian first, 36 percent consider themselves Muslim first. For more than four years now, I've been writing about a phenomenon I first encountered in the Muslim ghettoes of the Netherlands, Belgium and other European countries in the spring of 2002: Second- and third-generation European Muslims feel far more fiercely Islamic than their parents and grandparents.

That's the issue: Pan-Islamism is the profound challenge to conventional ideas of citizenship and nationhood. Of course, if you say that at the average Ivy League college, you'll get a big shrug: Modern multicultural man disdains to be bound by the nation state, too; he prides himself on being un citoyen du monde. The difference is that, for Western do-gooders, it's mostly a pose: They may occasionally swing by some Third World basket-case and condescend to the natives, but for the most part the multiculti set have no wish to live anywhere but an advanced Western democracy. It's a quintessential piece of leftie humbug. They may think globally, but they don't act on it.

The pan-Islamists do act. When they hold hands and sing "We Are The World," they mean it. And we're being very complacent if we think they only take over the husks of "failed states" like Afghanistan, Somalia and Lebanon. The Islamists are very good at using the principal features of the modern multicultural democracy -- legalisms, victimology -- to their own advantage. The United Kingdom is, relatively speaking, a non-failed state, but at a certain level Her Majesty's government shares the same problem as their opposite numbers in Beirut: They don't quite dare to move against the pan-Islamists and they have no idea what possible strategy would enable them to do so.

So instead they tackle the symptoms. Excellent investigative work by MI-5 and Scotland Yard foiled this plot, and may foil the next one, and the one after that, and the 10 after that, and the 100 after those. And in the meantime, a thousand incremental inconveniences fall upon the citizen. If you had told an Englishman on Sept. 10, 2001, that within five years all hand luggage would be banned on flights from Britain, he'd have thought you were a kook. If you'd told an Englishwoman that all liquids would be banned except milk for newborn babies that could only be taken on board if the adult accompanying the child drinks from the bottle in front of a security guard, she'd have scoffed and said no one would ever put up with such a ludicrous imposition. But now it's here. What other changes will the Islamists have wrought in another five years?

Absent a determination to throttle the ideology, we're about to witness the unraveling of the world.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Muslims in the West and Western multiculturalism

Understanding the syncretic nature, the multiple syncretisms, of the enemy’s Islamism is essential to a successful strategy against it. Its psychology and that of the larger Muslim world, as its adherents array themselves in relation to modernity, one person at a time as well as by social group, are keys to long-term counterterrorism policy, as well as the closely linked path of social integration. It is a powerful prescription, in fact, for deep-seated ideological changes in Western societies and their states – although not exactly, perhaps, the ones Fukuyama had in mind.

The diagnosis of syncretism is a powerful prescription, in fact, for the explicit, public abandonment of the doctrines of multiculturalism in Western societies that have so damaged them, because they reward resentment, legitimize separation, and fuel a spiraling demand for special social privileges that amount to exemption from society’s rules for the resentful and a constriction of the liberty of the resented. A powerful argument, indeed, for a vigorous reassertion in its stead of traditional liberalism, and above all its guarantees of free expression even – of course, rather – for blasphemy, and the reassertion of a traditional liberal refusal to tolerate the demands of the intolerant that their intolerance be tolerated.

Allah Akbar? No, on the contrary, as things stand now, the God of Muslims in the West is not great; his greatness, once brought into Western societies, has deteriorated into merely a move in a game, has become merely the grounds for the assertion of religious privilege wrapped in complaints of discrimination and intolerance by larger secular society, a means of feeding psychological and spiritual ressentiment.[1] The real god of Muslims in the West today, alas, the one which confers blessings and answers prayers, turns out to be the state and its multiculturalism.[2]

At some point, Europe and America will have to defend their broadly liberal inheritance (an inheritance which is, in America, liberal religious pluralism, to be precise, rather than the liberal secularism, descended from anti-clericalism, of Europe). The core of that defense is that ‘moderate’ Islam, Islam that can take its place alongside other religions in a pluralistic Western society, can only exist, paradoxically, within a cage of iron and steel that insists without apology or reservation that Islam tolerate the liberal secular order of public life, without special privileges derived from arguments of multiculturalism and asserted through carefully cultivated Western ressentiment – while simultaneously protecting, with force if need be, its ability to be moderate as against the Islamists, the extremists and the terrorists. Only a Muslim community which knows that larger society will not compromise its demands that it be pluralistic and that it respect and embrace the universal values of a liberal society, but also that it will be protected against the demands of extremists that it acquiesce in their Islamism, has even the possibility of being moderate – moderation, that is, as an active religious doctrine, a positive value it teaches to its children, rather resting merely silently and sullenly passive, even as the extremists fantasize and dream, steeped in the unlimited resentments and unlimited field of action that fantasy allows, of war, jihad, and terror.


[1] With apologies to Christopher Hitchens.

[2] Compare, by contrast, the wisdom of Martin Luther King, who urged his oppressed followers not to give into resentment, finding in it a certain un-Christian arrogance as well as the psychological condition of permanent spiritual servitude. See the discussion of Martin Luther King’s “spiritual discipline against resentment” in Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (WW Norton 1991), at 369 et seq.

(From my draft review essay, Goodbye to All That? A Requiem for Neoconservatism, reviewing Francis Fukuyama's After the Neocons and Peter Beinart's The Good Fight. The complete draft is available as a pdf download at SSRN, here.)