Saturday, March 28, 2009

CTLab symposium on PW Singer Wired for War

Complex Terrain Laboratory is hosting an online discussion next week on PW Singer’s new book on robotics and war, Wired for War (starting Monday, March 30).  Singer is participating and, having read his opening post, it looks to be fascinating.  It is a terrific lineup of participants, including yours truly. Check it out!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Why targeted killing? And why is robotics so crucial an issue in targeted killing?

(Given the recent Obama administration review of the Predator campaign in Pakistan, I thought it would be a useful thing to put this discussion on the table.  Welcome Instapunditeers, and thanks Glenn for the Instalanche!  You might also want to check out the ComplexTerrainLab's discussion among academics of PW Singer's Wired for War, here.)

Why targeted killing? And why the insistence that it will increase in utility as it is partnered with high-technology, stand-off platforms such as Predator drone aircraft? Why the emphasis on targeted killings and robotics? There is a fundamental strategic rationale lying behind the policy trend.

The United States has found the limits of how extensively it can wage full-scale wars with its military; even if wanted to take on more wars, it has logistical and political limits. In addition, the United States has discovered that full-on war is useful principally against regimes. Full scale, large scale war of the kind waged in Afghanistan and Iraq is useful primarily for bringing down a regime that, for example, might harbor or support terrorists, or which might be believed to be willing to supply terrorists with materials for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Full-scale war has a crucial strategic place in national counterterrorism policy, but by its nature that role is about states and regimes fundamentally.

Large-scale military operations are less useful directly against transnational terrorists, however, who are few in number, dispersed across populations and often borders, disinclined to fight direct battles, and more efficiently targeted through narrower means. The fundamental role of war in counterterrorism is to eliminate the regimes that provide safe haven to terrorist groups; terrorist groups can be strategically understood as an extreme version of a guerrilla organization engaged in a strategy of logistical raiding – in which civilian morale and resulting manipulation of political will is the logistical target. Logistical raiders typically need a safe base to which to retreat, and full-scale war is most useful in eliminating such safe bases and convincing other regimes not to provide them. But it is not usually an efficient way of going directly after transnational terrorist groups themselves.

Law enforcement utilized outside the United States, on the other hand, has also discovered its outer limits. Many debates are still to be had over the rights of alleged terrorists once in U.S. custody. Even so, whatever they are, few would argue that going out to ‘arrest’ terrorists in, for example, Pakistan’s tribal zones is a winning policy or a serious option. The same is true in Somalia and other places, and it will be true in other places in the world in the future.

Moreover, the political costs for any U.S. administration taking and holding detainees are now enormous. Once you hold them, over time they will likely be accorded quasi-Constitutional protections by the courts, at least some version of habeas corpus. Politically, the most powerful institutional incentive today is to kill rather than capture them. The intelligence losses of killing rather than capturing in order to interrogate them are great. But since the U.S. political and legal situation has made interrogation a questionable activity anyway, there is little reason to seek to capture rather than kill. And if one intends to kill, the incentive is to do so from a standoff position, because it removes messy questions of surrender.

All this speaks to the advantages to the U.S. government of targeted killing of terrorists or persons seriously believed to be terrorists, and it also speaks to the advantages to the US government from using stand-off robotics technology to perform these attacks. But the humanitarian advantages of ‘targeted’ killing are enormously important as well, and ought to be on the table. This is particularly so given that targeted killing has come in for a barrage of criticism, legal and ethical, much of which seems motivated by the fact that it can be more discriminate than full scale military assault; the fear seems to be that it makes violence too easy to undertake. The same criticism is offered of the evolution of robotic technology that increasingly allows targeted uses of force without having to risk one’s own personnel. Not using one’s own personnel allows a party to attack without the fear of counterassault that might increase the need to use greater amounts of force and cause greater collateral damage – but it also, so it is sometimes argued, thereby reduces the inhibitions on the decision to use force.

Why this should be a downside for US strategic counterterrorism policy is not entirely evident, but clearly some critics are disturbed by it. Much of the criticism amounts to a very contemporary restatement, aimed against the targeted killing that evolving robotic and surveillance technology might permit, of a very old argument against the idea itself of the introduction of humanitarian standards in conflict (one that stretches back at least to the founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)), that humanitarian standards by their promulgation would reduce the disincentives to war.

Whatever the critics say, however, is unlikely to sway US strategic policy, under the Obama administration or anyone else subsequently. The humanitarian benefits of precision targeting are far more obvious than the more remote and abstract suppositions of their humanitarian costs. Their direct policy consequence is to introduce greater discrimination in targeting than full-scale military assault and large-scale war permit, through targeted killing using high technology. There is a clear humanitarian advantage favoring the use of targeted killing over full-scale war. Advancing technology allows for more discrete surveillance and therefore more precise targeting that is finally better able to minimize collateral civilian damage.

The result is a strategic incentive for targeted killing, for Predator strikes, and for increasing the quality of technology to make targeted killings both more precision targeted and more standoff. Precision targeting and standoff delivery are each independently desirable and, in combination, considerably increase the incentive. The Obama policy team did not quite run on a policy of targeted killing – but it did run on a policy of taking the fight to Al-Qaeda in Pakistan in a targeted way.
The Obama administration is right about this – right about the logic that presses toward targeting standoff killing as a necessary and available and technologically advancing part of counterterrorism. It is also right about it as a moral and humanitarian proposition in the law and policy of the use of force. It is a conclusion that is correct as well as for foreseeable future administrations, even if administrations naturally prefer to couch it in softer terms.

None of this alters the equally impeccable strategic logic underlying the use of law enforcement mechanisms in some circumstances. Nor does it alter the logic behind other forms of intelligence activities such as surveillance or financial interdiction, or even the use of open, full-on war. The strategic logic for toppling a regime in pursuit of counterterrorism during the next ten or twelve years can by no means be ruled out. But these are not disjunctive policies. They all can and should work together. But targeted killing is likely to increase as a policy preference as full-scale wars decreases in number and intensity.

The paradox, however, is that although the strategic logic for targeted killing increases in persuasiveness, the legal space for it and the legal rationales on which it has been traditionally justified are shrinking. It has been shrinking in ways that might surprise members of Congress and the Obama administration. And it is at risk of shrinking still further through seemingly innocuous, unrelated legal policy actions that the Obama administration or Congress might be inclined to take in support of various political constituencies, usually related to broadly admirable goals of human rights and international law.

U.S. law, in domestic law since the original Cold War legislation establishing the CIA in 1947 at least, and in the US view of international law, accepts a legal, political, and policy space for the use of violence by political decision not in the course of large scale, open armed conflict governed by international humanitarian law, and not in the course of judicially supervised law enforcement operations, either. ‘Violence by political decision’, in peacetime outside of open armed conflict under international humanitarian law, was a space of activity accepted and considered vital to national security throughout the long decades of the Cold War. Only in certain narrow times and places was the decades-long conflict with the Soviet Union and its allies a ‘hot’ war, open and large-scale armed conflict, clashes of armies. Political violence in the Cold War was often covert, often denied, but it was authorized and endorsed by US domestic law, although it was frequently a violation of the law of states where such activity took place and unsurprisingly was sometimes, too, a source of grave diplomatic and other friction.

This category of force is an obvious means by which to confront non-state transnational terrorists outside the territorial United States. It is especially true outside the territory of states where effective mechanisms exist for arrest, detention, investigation, trial, and punishment, or alternatively extradition, of suspected terrorists. Regimes that have allied themselves to terrorist organizations – the Taliban in Afghanistan – might be toppled. Failed states might require large-scale military action in order to block the use of territory as a safe haven by terrorist groups. But as a strategic matter, actual attack on a physically small number of terrorists embedded among civilians is often best served by attacks made as physically precise and discrete as surveillance and targeting technology allow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Compensation models on Wall Street

Interesting discussion tonight in my financial crisis class on compensation systems on Wall Street, and the misalignment of incentives short term and long term.

The fundamental misalignment of interests in compensation in the financial firms is that a two fold misalignment:

First, the players think of themselves as free agents, and their annual bonuses as performance-based awards for how well they did that year. But although they think of their bonuses as performance based, the fact that it is based around performance in a single year means that it does not reflect the true economic performance of their work. We won’t actually know that for some time to come, as the bets made that year pay off or not down the road.

Second, therefore, the compensation paid to the players is not really performance based, as though to free agent independent contractors being paid for their performance. It is compensation for labor, even if highly skilled labor, but not different in principle from that of other employees. How do we conclude this? Because although the actual performance of the trades, bets, and other actions will not be known for years to come, the players have been compensated now, this year - and there is no clawback arrangement in case it turns out that it all goes bad. That’s how an employee paid for his or her labor is treated - yes, there is a performance component, but if performance of an employee is poor, he or she is terminated now, no one demands that he or she return the past five years of salary. That is one misalignment - players think of themselves as compensated as free agents but in fact the timing indicates they are compensated as employees.

The second misalignment is that players are compensated in timing as employees - they are paid now and there is no clawback for bad bets. But while the timing of compensation is as for employees, the amount is as though they were equity participants, taking risks themselves and not merely as agents for the firm. The players get the best of both worlds - timing as mere employees selling their labor but amount as though they had their own money at risk, when in fact they don’t. (The fact that poor performance means getting fired or no bonus this year isn’t different in principle from other employees - to make it different, you’d have to claw back past pay because it didn’t pay off.) But the best of both worlds is bad on a welfare basis and bad for the firms, if the firms ever have to worry about the bets paying off beyond the relevant compensation year.

Monday, March 23, 2009

True love and congratulations to Althouse

Althouse finds true love. Actually, I want to say congratulations to Althouse’s beloved, for having pursued and wooed and won Professor Althouse via quite possibly the most unlikely vehicle for true love on the planet ... the comment thread. Wow!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ne serait-ce point un <hegemon> lasse de son metier?

The world longs for an agreeable America. America longs to be agreeable. Why not, after all? After the hardness and harshness of the Bush years, you are either with us or against us, our war against terrorism is the measure of all things, the closed fist of military power and the open, greedy, grasping palm of the global reserve currency, ready to take, the rest of the world wants an America that goes on a Listening Tour. And America today is eager to listen, is she not? Smart diplomacy, reboot, reset, and above all re-engage, with friends, allies, enemies, anyone who wants to talk. We are the new multilateralists and the UN is a good place to show it.

This essay has addressed throughout the strategic ambiguity of multilateralism, its ability to be, on the one hand, the device of coordination, even highly robust coordination, among sovereigns. But also how different the meaning of multilateralism, on the other, if it is imagined as a forward-looking, expectation-based vanguard-party for genuine global governance through liberal institutions of law that presumably will transcend mere international power politics. But multilateralism can also exhibit another form of strategic ambiguity – this one particularly focused upon the hegemon, the superpower, the hyperpower, the dominant power that has … grown tired of its calling, lasse de son métier.

What happens when the hegemon decides that it wants to turn inward? What becomes a hyperpower most, when it decides that the parlous state of its domestic economy – despite being intimately intertwined with nearly all of the global economy – requires that it put the issues of the previous eight years, foreign policy and war, terrorism and counterterrorism, issues of the global order, on hold, and focus itself upon its domestic policy and politics? How best to put that decision to the rest of the world?

America has enemies who would rejoice if the US were to forsake its role as provider of hegemonic order. It also has friends and allies who would be glad to embrace a ‘multilateral’ America – not realizing that America has something else in mind, or perhaps realizing it, but still on multilateral-autopilot. But where is Aron? Where is Raymond Aron? Or for that matter, De Gaulle? What would they say? You can trust an America that is mostly about its interests, a little about its ideals, even if you have to denounce it sometimes as a unilateralist in order to keep it and you in the game; you can trust an America that undiplomatically, rudely even, declares its interests and its ideals, puts them first, and invites others to go along with it; multilateralism is great if it means you can have some influence on the plans of America, but only if you can still trust that America plans to carry out its plans because they’re still its rather than yours. An America that suddenly wants to work the hardest, most intractable, hard-realism problems through the UN? What is this? An America that believes that the multilateral processes of the Security Council are the right way to pursue foreign policy because those processes treat the US as just another of the big boys in the world? The biggest, sure, indispensable, even, if you want to play the flatterer, but that’s neither here nor there – hey, we’re just another player in the game, everybody, even if we’re big or even the biggest, hey, we’re just another player. What would Aron say to that?

It is, after all, what the UN theorists always saw as the proper role for America – all that marvelous power, hard and soft, at the disposal of global institutions, the power of a mighty sovereign infused into and transformed by the legitimacy of an international institution, a global constitutional order with teeth at long last. It is a beautiful dream, power and legitimacy that equal authority. But, just as with Nato, it does not work that way. No. Friends, allies, even countries that do not much like the US but rely on it for a certain amount of order, both economic and security: be wary, O world, of an America that promises a smiling multilateralism.

Perhaps it is sincere. But perhaps it is not. Is the uncertainty killing you yet? But we’re all multilateralists now, we mean our global promises, just like you – don’t you? Perhaps America has grown tired of its global responsibilities and just wants a good night kiss from its friends and allies and then a good rest, though what this might mean in a competitive, multipolar, rising-new-power, increasingly mercantilist-with-nukes world, who can know, but maybe we’re willing to give it a try. Perhaps it has decided to really join the legitimate global system of the UN and embrace governance through multilateral institutions after all, and perhaps it has decided, too, that it is less effort to do what others do, multilateralism as others do it, to engage in insincere promises and toss hard things to the UN, to the Security Council, to institutions that will allow America to focus on its fiscal problems and unemployment and education and health care and social security: the President is available for speeches in the larger foreign capitals, particularly those holding large amounts of US Treasury debt, and anyway, he already did Berlin, watch it on Youtube, but as for Iranian nukes and North Korean missiles, Russian expansionism and natural gas blackmail, Chinese protection for Sudan in the Security Council and the always-present question of war in the Taiwan straits, the collapse of Eastern European economies, Mexico-the-narco-failed-state and the rise of Britain-exporter-of-global-jihad, and the ever-imminent war between India and Pakistan that constantly risks, against all our multilateral hopes and dreams, reversion to its six-decade mean, well, remember, we’re multilateralists now, and the US is a good global player, a team player in the big leagues of multilateralism, and if the US acted like a bully, wouldn’t everyone just hate us, and haven’t we had enough of the hate?

America just wants to be loved and henceforth we will measure the success of our foreign policy according to the Gallup global polls that so fascinate our media, foreign policy experts, and Department of State. It’s empirical! And also – if it’s not too much to ask – America wants not to have too much to do with anyone else, except on a strictly commercial and, okay, okay, sometimes charitable, do-gooding basis. Got that part? We’ve got our own problems and our own issues, if you haven’t noticed. We’ve realized multilateralism is good for that, though not necessarily the way you thought: we plan, by the way, to be multilateralists just like you. We’ll even pay over our .7% GDP for development, and to the corruptniks, rent-seeking kleptocrats at the UN, no less, because frankly it’s easier to send the check to one address than try and keep all those Africans alive on retrovirals that need constant attention, constant organization, constant management, constant unilateral care – but then will you just fuck off and leave us alone to figure out our new social-democratic tax system? You asked all those years why the United States couldn’t be more like Sweden. Or maybe it was Holland or Finland or Denmark or Luxembourg or Andorra. Well, we can, we can, we can be a well-run little social democratic welfare state of modest multilateral mien, and a real joiner at the UN, too, inchallah, a member of the Human Rights Council, proud multilateral sponsor of Durban III, IV, and V, and maybe even see an American as President of the General Assembly someday, a good multilateral day, if we pay enough attention to us and stop paying so much attention to you.

(This is a bit of a manuscript on UN-UN relations I’ve been working on that won’t survive the editing cut, because even I will find it too cute, so I thought I’d stick it up here so that it won’t get lost forever. The book, in which I assure you these passages will not appear, is titled Returning to Earth: Abiding Principles of Relations Between the United States and the United Nations, for the Obama Administration and Beyond, from Rowman and Littlefield, forthcoming 2009 inchallah.)

Madrid, 11 March, five years on

Jose Guardia, of Barcepundit, posts in memoriam for the victims of the Madrid Atocha train station bombing, five years on. My family and I were living in Spain when it occurred; my views on it were aired in a Weekly Standard article. Here to the memory of those who died and my continuing sympathy to their families.

Eva Belén Abad Quijada, española, 30 años
Óscar Abril Alegre, español, 19 años
Liliana Guillermina Acero Ushiña, ecuatoriana, 26 años
Florencio Aguado Rojano, español, 60 años
Juan Alberto Alonso Rodríguez, español, 38 años
María Joséfa Alvarez González, española, 48 años
Juan Carlos Del Amo Aguado, español, 28 años
Andriyan Asenov Andrianov, búlgaro, 22 años
María Nuria Aparicio Somolinos, española, 40 años
Alberto Arenas Barroso, español, 24 años
Neil Hebe Astocondor Masgo, peruano, 34 años
Ana Isabel Avila Jiménez, española, 43 años
Miguel Ángel Badajoz Cano, español, 34 años
Susana Ballesteros Ibarra, española, 42 años
Francisco Javier Barahona Imedio, español, 34 años
Gonzalo Barajas Díaz, español, 32 años
Gloria Inés Bedoya, colombiana, 40 años
Sanaa Ben Salah Imadaquan, española hija de marroquíes, 13 años
Esteban Martín De Benito Caboblanco, español, 39 años
Rodolfo Benito Samaniego, español, 27 años
Anka Valeria Bodea, rumana, 26 años
Livia Bogdan, rumana, 27 años
Florencio Brasero Murga, español, 50 años
Trinidad Bravo Segovia, española, 40 años
Alina Maria Bryk, polaca, 39 años
Stefan Budai, rumano, 37 años
Tibor Budi, rumano, 37 años
María Pilar Cabrejas Burillo, española, 37 años
Rodrigo Cabrero Pérez, español, 20 años
Milagros Calvo García, española, 39 años
Sonia Cano Campos, española, 24 años
Alicia Cano Martínez, española, 63 años
José María Carrilero Baeza, español, 39 años
Álvaro Carrion Franco, español, 17 años
Francisco Javier Casas Torresano, español, 28 años
Cipriano Castillo Muñoz, español, 55 años
María Inmaculada Castillo Sevillano, española, 39 años
Sara Centenera Montalvo, española, 19 años
Oswaldo Manuel Cisneros Villacís, ecuatoriano, 34 años
Eugenia María Ciudad-Real Díaz, española, 26 años
Jacqueline Contreras Ortiz, peruana, 22 años
María Soledad Contreras Sánchez, española, 51 años
María Paz Criado Pleiter, española, 52 años
Nicoleta Diac, rumana, 27 años
Beatriz Díaz Hernandez, española, 30 años
Georgeta Gabriela Dima, rumana, 35 años
Tinka Dimitrova Paunova, búlgara, 31 años
Kalina Dimitrova Vasileva, búlgara, 31 años
Sam Djoco, senegalés, 42 años
María Dolores Durán Santiago, española, 34 años
Osama El Amrati, marroquí, 23 años
Sara Encinas Soriano, española, 26 años
Carlos Marino Fernández Dávila, peruano, 39 años
María Fernández del Amo, española, 25 años
Rex Ferrer Reynado, filipino, 20 años
Héctor Manuel Figueroa Bravo, chileno, 33 años
Julia Frutos Rosique, española, 44 años
María Dolores Fuentes Fernández, española, 29 años
José Gallardo Olmo, español, 33 años
José Raúl Gallego Triguero, español, 39 años
María Pilar Gamiz Torres, española, 40 años
Abel García Alfageme, español, 27 años
Juan Luis García Arnaiz, español, 17 años
Beatriz García Fernández, española, 27 años
María de las Nieves García García-Moñino, española, 46 años
Enrique García González, dominicano, 28 años
Cristina Aurelia García Martínez, española, 34 años
Carlos Alberto García Presa, español, 24 años
José García Sánchez, español, 45 años
José María García Sánchez, español, 47 años
Javier Garrote Plaza, español, 26 años
Petrica Geneva, rumana, 34 años
Ana Isabel Gil Pérez, española, 29 años
Óscar Gómez Gudiña, español, 24 años
Felix González Gago, español, 52 años
Ángelica González García, española, 19 años
Teresa González Grande, española, 38 años
Elías González Roque, español, 30 años
Juan Miguel Gracia García, español, 53 años
Javier Guerrero Cabrera, español, 25 años
Berta María Gutiérrez García, española, 39 años
Sergio de las Heras Correa, español, 29 años
Pedro Hermida Martín, español, 51 años
Alejandra Iglesias López, española, 28 años
Mohamed Itaiben, marroquí, 27 años
Pablo Izquierdo Asanza, español, 42 años
María Teresa Jaro Narrillos, española, 32 años
Oleksandr Kladkovoy, ucraniano, 56 años
Laura Isabel Laforga Bajón, española, 28 años
María Victoria León Moyano, española, 30 años
María Carmen Lominchar Alonso, española, 34 años
Myriam López Díaz, española, 31 años
María Carmen López Pardo, española, 50 años
María Cristina López Ramos, española, 38 años
José María López-Menchero Moraga, español, 44 años
Miguel de Luna Ocaña, español, 36 años
María Jesús Macías Rodríguez, española, 30 años
Francisco Javier Mancebo Záforas, español, 38 años
Ángel Manzano Pérez, ecuatoriano, 42 años
Vicente Marín Chiva, español, 37 años
Antonio Marín Mora, español, 43 años
Begoña Martín Baeza, española, 25 años
Ana Martín Fernández, española, 43 años
Luis Andrés Martín Pacheco, español, 54 años
María Pilar Martín Rejas, española, 50 años
Alois Martinas, rumano, 27 años
Carmen Mónica Martínez Rodríguez, española, 31 años
Míriam Melguizo Martínez, española, 28 años
Javier Mengíbar Jiménez, español, 43 años
Álvaro de Miguel Jiménez, español, 26 años
Michael Mitchell Rodríguez, cubano, 28 años
Stefan Modol, rumano, 45 años
Segundo Víctor Mopocita Mopocita, ecuatoriano, 37 años
Encarnación Mora Donoso, española, 64 años
María Teresa Mora Valero, española, 37 años
Julita Moral García, española, 53 años
Francisco Moreno Aragonés, español, 56 años
José Ramón Moreno Isarch, español, 37 años
Eugenio Moreno Santiago, español, 56 años
Juan Pablo Moris Crespo, español, 32 años
Juan Muñoz Lara, español, 33 años
Francisco José Narváez de la Rosa, español, 28 años
Mariana Negru, rumana, 40 años
Ismael Nogales Guerrero, español, 31 años
Inés Novellón Martínez, española, 30 años
Miguel Ángel Orgaz Orgaz, español, 34 años
Ángel Pardillos Checa, español, 62 años
Sonia Parrondo Antón, española, 28 años
Juan Francisco Pastor Férez, español, 51 años
Daniel Paz Manjón, español, 20 años
Josefa Pedraza Pino, española, 41 años
Miryam Pedraza Rivero, española, 25 años
Roberto Pellicari Lopezosa, español, 31 años
María del Pilar Pérez Mateo, española, 28 años
Felipe Pinel Alonso, español, 51 años
Martha Scarlett Plasencia Hernandez, dominicana, 27 años
Elena Ples, rumana, 33 años
María Luisa Polo Remartinez, española, 50 años
Ionut Popa, rumano, 23 años
Emilian Popescu, rumano, 44 años
Miguel Ángel Prieto Humanes, español, 37 años
Francisco Antonio Quesada Bueno, español, 44 años
John Jairo Ramírez Bedoya, colombiano, 37 años
Laura Ramos Lozano, hondureña, 37 años
Miguel Reyes Mateos, español, 37 años
Marta del Río Menéndez, española, 40 años
Nuria del Río Menéndez, española, 38 años
Jorge Rodríguez Casanova, español, 22 años
Luis Rodríguez Castell, español, 40 años
María de la Soledad Rodríguez de la Torre, española, 42 años
Ángel Luis Rodríguez Rodríguez, español, 34 años
Francisco Javier Rodríguez Sánchez, español, 52 años
Ambrosio Rogado Escribano, español, 56 años
Cristina Romero Sánchez, española, 34 años
Patricia Rzaca, polaca, 7 meses
Wieslaw Rzaca, polaco, 34 años
Antonio Sabalete Sánchez, español, 36 años
Sergio Sánchez López, español, 17 años
María Isabel Sánchez Mamajón, española, 37 años
Juan Antonio Sánchez Quispe, peruano, 45 años
Balbina Sánchez-Dehesa Francés, española, 47 años
David Santamaría García, español, 23 años
Sergio dos Santos Silva, brasileño, 28 años
Juan Carlos Sanz Morales, español, 33 años
Eduardo Sanz Pérez, español, 31 años
Guillermo Senent Pallarola, español, 23 años
Miguel Antonio Serrano Lastra, español, 28 años
Rafael Serrano López, español, 66 años
Paula Mihaela Sfeatcu, rumana, 27 años
Federico Miguel Sierra Serón, español, 37 años
Domnino Simón González, español, 45 años
María Susana Soler Iniesta, española, 46 años
Carlos Soto Arranz, español, 34 años
Mariya Ivanova Staykova, búlgara, 38 años
Marion Cintia Subervielle, francesa, 30 años
Alexandru Horatiu Suciu, rumano, 18 años
Danuta Teresa Szpila, polaca, 28 años
José Luis Tenesaca Betancourt, ecuatoriano, 17 años
Iris Toribio Pascual, española, 20 años
Neil Torres Mendoza, ecuatoriano, 38 años
Carlos Tortosa García, español, 31 años
María Teresa Tudanca Hernández, española, 49 años
Jesús Utrilla Escribano, español, 44 años
José Miguel Valderrama López, español, 25 años
Saúl Valdez Ruiz, hondureño, 44 años
Mercedes Vega Mingo, española, 45 años
David Vilela Fernández, español, 23 años
Juan Ramón Zamora Gutiérrez, español, 29 años
Yaroslav Zojniuk, ucraniano, 48 años
Csaba Olimpiu Zsigovski, rumana, 26 años

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

US Truth Commission? Debate at NYT Room for Debate Blog

The NYT Room for Debate blog is kind enough occasionally to invite me to contribute on law topics. We recently had a mini-debate on the question of whether Congress should empanel some kind of “truth commission” to deal with issues of torture and other things from the Bush administration. I was the voice in opposition. Other contributors were David Cole, Michael Ratner, Margaret Satterthwaite, and Jenny Martinez. A good time had by all, etc. - it’s a good short summary of the arguments.

It generated a lot of comments - several thousand rather than the usual several hundred - from Times readers around the country. If there was anything that surprised me in the comments, it was the number that simply said, the economy is too urgent, it’s time to move on and deal with what’s in front of us. I was also struck by how relatively few people commenting seemed to understand that any discussion of the Bush administration’s policies would inevitably require discussion of senior congressional Democrats who were all briefed on detention, interrogation, and rendition policies. Commentators seemed largely unaware of the Congressional oversight role.

The Room for Debate blog is a good forum for discussion, by the way - thoughtful, very well-edited, many fun topics across a wide range of issues.