Thursday, July 21, 2005

Privacy's 9th Amendment

Craig Crawford:

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
-- Ninth Amendment, U.S. Constitution

For the sake of liberty, please read and contemplate the Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Founders were speaking to us. They were saying they hadn't thought of everything, that they were, indeed, fallible. They were asking us to expand our rights when we see fit. Paying attention to what they said here is true strict construction. It is our salvation against imperious government. And yet, it has never been cited as the basis for a majority ruling in a Supreme Court decision. It is time to ground the right to privacy in the Ninth Amendment, as Justice Arthur Goldberg wrote in Griswold v. Connecticut.

I've been thinking about this, too, whenever conservatives who say they are for less government start foaming at the mouth with rage when anyone dares raise the spectre of the Right to Privacy.

If the founders initially hesitated putting a Bill of Rights in the Constitution in the fear that it would imply that any rights not specifically enumerated could be restricted, and if the burden to demonstrate what government intrusion into our private lives lies with the government and not with the individual, then why would the Right to Privacy need to be specifically enumerated?

Well, it doesn't. As Crawford alerts us, the 9th Amendment specifically says, in all its strict constructivist glory, that just because a right hasn't been identified by name doesn't mean the government can trample all over it.

The Right to Privacy has been pushed to the back of the room for far too long. Time it was brought out for everyone to see and debate.

Yes, conservatives will argue that (a) the Constitution doesn't specifically declare a Right to Privacy; and if failing that, bellyache that (b) like any other right, the Right to Privacy isn't absolute; or (b) that the Right to Privacy is hard to define.

But this is a case where simplicity is on the side of liberals. And it's an ABSOLUTE kind of thing that conservatives keep telling us they like so much and wish the rest of society did, too. Get conservatives and their candidates on record as supporting or opposing the Right to Privacy. I'd like to see them sweat as they suddenly try to discover and claim the notions of nuance, ambivalence, and, oh my, relativism.

When the Media Isn't Fox News

I don't know about you, but I'm about all broken up by the fact that Bernie Goldberg, he of the books, Bias, Arrogance, and now, The Top 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, went on some CNBC show the other day and got creamed for writing such piece of unintellible hackery for the Newsmax crowd. Even Jeff Jarvis from the Buzzmachine, who usually can be counted on to provide conservative talking points, blasted Bernie. Goldberg made matters worse by complaining about how his fellow panel members were receiving his book and then went on to tell the only female participant to shut up.

What a class act.

At least one of the panelists referenced Goldberg's stunning EIGHT appearances on Faux News to pimp his book. Eight appearances. That must be some kind of record. Anyway, after the shallacking he got from a non-Faux Nooz fair and balanced crew, I suspect he'll go running back to Faux for more book-promoting appearances to whine and be comforted.

For Faux regulars, the world out there can really be rough.

The Crock of Appeasement

Juan Cole:

Taken seriously, the doctrine of "no appeasement" on the right would mean we are stuck in perpetual war, always doomed to be on the offensive, always dedicated to gobbling up more of other people's territory and wealth even at the expense of living in constant dread of being blown up and being forced to give up the civil liberties which had made American civilization great.

It would never be possible to negotiate a truce with any enemy. That would be appeasement. It would never be possible to compromise. That would be appeasement. It would never be prudent to withdraw troops from a failed war. That would be appeasement. In other words, the right-wing doctrine of "no appeasement, ever" actually turns you into Hitler rather than into Churchill.

Just so.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Book Review: "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism"

In Dying To Win, Robert Pape challenges the conventional view about why suicide terrorists do what they do and to whom.

Using data on suicide terrorist attacks from 1980 to 2003, Pape argues that suicide terrorism is motivated primarily by the desire to coerce democratic states into withdrawing their military troops from the countries of the suicide attackers. The impact of Islam on the terrorists' motives derives not from Islam itself, but from the difference in religion between the occupying and the occupied country.

The book is organized into three sections: the first deals with the strategic logic of suicide terrorism. The strategic logic is to for weak actors (the terrorists) to coerce democratic states to abandon their foreigh occupation. Democratic states are targeted because they are viewed as being more susceptible to the coercision applied through suicide terrorism. But the primary driver is nationalism and rebellion against occupation, not religion or Islamic fundamentalism.

The second section discusses the social logic of suicide terrorism. The social logic of suicide terrorism is the broad support within the community the acts, and the willingness of the community to excuse the act of suicide and murder of innocents by virtue of the attacker's taking on the martyr's role. Significantly, suicide terrorists are not estranged from their community or isolated from society. Rather, they and the broader terrorist/oppositional organization is well emersed in the community and depends upon it for its support.

The third section examines the individual logic--why suicide terrorists are willing to sacrifice their lives to kill others. While the larger motive is nationalistic, the individuals that engage in suicide terrorism do so altruistically, a strange sounding concept considering the death their acts inflict on innocent civilians, but Pape argues that the issue here is how the suicide terrorists themselves view their acts.

channeling Emile Durkheim who wrote about suicides a century ago, Pape identifies three types of suicides: egotistical; altruistic; and fatalistic. Egoistic suicides are those most commonly associated with the causes of individual suicides today--depression, alcoholism, unwillingness to face to life's pains. Suicide terrorism, Pape argues, is not of this type.

Altruistic suicide is that suicide done for the benefit of the group.

Finally, fatalistic suicide is that done out of fear, usually involving "brainwashing" and prior strict separation into a smaller group from the larger society.

Pape contends that suicide terrorism is most like altruistic suicide because it is not done out of depression, isolation, or fear. The key distinction between altruistic and fatalistic suicide is that the former is carried out in the interests of the larger society, while the latter is carried out in the isolation of a smaller group but disconnected from the larger community.

In fighting the war on terrorism, Pape identifies two goals of the west, two goals that are in some ways, and in particular the way in which the west is carrying out the war, in contradiction. The first goal is to eliminate the current suicide terrorists. The second is to prevent a new wave of suicide terrorists from emerging. The current western military strategy, aiming at reforming Islamic socieities may succeed at the former at the expense of the latter.

As Pape argues, since suicide terrorism is motivated by nationalism and driven by foreign occupation, the current western strategy will only serve to create more suicide terrorists and to increase support for suicide terrorism within the occupied states.

Since the problem of suicide terrorism is not inherently a problem of Islamic fundamentalism, western efforts to remake Islamic societies will not solve the problem. Instead, the west should in so much as is possible, remove its troops from Islamic countries, fortify its borders, increase its homeland security efforts and seek energy independence. Since as Pape notes, the placing of U.S. troops in the Arabian Peninsula--Osama bin Laden's chief complaint--was because of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the removal of Hussein from power renders the military's presence in Saudi Arabia of none effect.

What are the problems with Pape's analysis? Pape argues that Al Qaeda's aim is to rid the Arab world of U.S. and western military forces. At the same time, it is evident at least in the short run that the 9-11 attacks have resulted in greater U.S. and western military occupation in the case of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. How does this square with the evidence? Pape contends that Al Qaeda's attacks were designed to draw the U.S. into protracted guerilla warfare and thus to deplete the U.S.'s military and economic position through that effort. While these two contentions may not be intrinsically inconsistent, they do call for a more comprehensive theory as to Al Qaeda's motivations.

Another interesting point Pape makes is that suicide terrorism is limited in its ability to achieve certain goals. That is, its coercive power extends only to those western aims that are not essential to the west's survival. If western interests are peripheral to the suicide terrorist organization's goals, than suicide terrorism has been and may continue to be a successful tool for achieving the weaker actor's goals. However, if the goals of the west--such as the maintenance of access to oil supplies--are considered vitally important to the state's national interests, the limited coercive effect of suicide terrorism may not be successful in driving the west out of the suicide terrorists' homelands.

Pape's work is a much needed contribution to the "market place of ideas" regarding the war on terrorism that until now has been sorely lacking both an intellectual as well as a political alternative to the current administration's set of policies.

As is evident in Andrew Bacevich's The New American Militarism, Pape's analysis suggests that military power will be of limited use in combatting suicide terrorism. America's leaders should begin to address this reality rather than continue to make stale threats about bringing the fight to the terrorists and relying on ever overextended military resources. As Iraq is demonstrating, our presence is generating as many problems as it is designed to cure.

Evan Bayh

This weekend, I watched C-Span's Road to the White House coverage of an appearance (I wouldn't call it a speech, exactly) by Indiana Senator Evan Bayh to New Hampshire over the 4th of July.

He wasn't visionary. Asked about Iraq he merely said (paraphrase): mistakes have been made, there're no easy solutions, but we need to stay the course.

He wasn't at all partisan or bombastic (which maybe is understandable at this stage and considering the small group he was visiting).

And he didn't present any 21-point plans.

He gently but firmly stated his opposition to the view by one of the attendies that the past two elections (at least the last one) had been "stolen". He said Democrats needed to do a better job at responding to people's needs and presenting a positive alternative.

In response to another inquiry, he calmly advocated that PBS remain non-partisan in its governing and professional in its coverage, skillfully weaving in a critique of the Republican policy of conservative political correctness.

A quick check of his voting record reveals that he has supported a flag-burning amendment to the Constitution but also voted against the gay-marriage amendment.

His vote on the bankruptcy bill was, if I remember correctly, bizarrely, no to the vote on closure (meaning the Dems couldn't maintain a filibuster), but ultimately no on the legislation (he voted for it before he voted against it).

He once and recently headed the DLC, comes from one of the most reddest of states, and as a consequence isn't near the progressive I'd prefer to see nominated.

Nonetheless, I liked him. He comes across well. He sounds and seems reasonable, measured and most important of all, genuinely genuine. Comfortable in his own skin. All that crap.

In my view, he stacks up rather well against the rest of the Democratic field. Of the other major contenders, his candidacy seems the less problematic. He doesn't have the baggage of HRC or Kerry. He doesn't have Richardson's DOE tenure to defend and wouldn't have to overcome any latent ethnic prejudices. He doesn't have Feingold's two divorces to justify. He doesn't have Joe Biden's plagiarism reputation. He's more experienced than Edwards. Although not charismatic in the usual sense, he's well spoken and authentic. He represents an important red state that were he to get the nomination he could conceivable win or at least make competitive.

And oddly enough, despite my previous post and usual ruminations about temperement and ideology, I like his demeanor and approach. I don't think Kerry campaigned as poorly as some on both the left and the right have made it seem, but the last election left a bad taste in my mouth. Bayh would in some ways represent the most marked departure from past campaigns and candidates. He's a fresh face that would help the party chart a new course.

Finally, he presents a measured and reassuring intelligent but non-partisan style that could be useful in a general election campaign and most importantly, in the presidency itself.

But he will need to come up with a more compelling vision and rationale for his candidacy if he is to get the nomination. And along with his calmness, he will need to demonstrate a strength of determination and ability to fight back to show he's up to the job. A difficult needle to thread for sure. But I'm willing to hear and see more.

What We Get for Having Issue-less Campaigns

I won't go over all the details about John Roberts, which other bloggers are doing, except to say that all the concerns that are now being raised about him, and which would have been raised about any other nominee from my fellow liberal travelers, would have been better raised during the campaign. Republicans will argue, probably with some high degree of success, that since they have won the last several election cycles, the Democrats and their arguments don't warrant much of a hearing now.

Membership in the Federalist Society, abortion rights, the right to privacy, and the rights of individuals, consumers, french-fry eating metro riders, and military members versus the rights of corporations, law enforcement authorities, and the executive branch are all important issues and conflicts that it is the duty of opposing parties and especially their leading candidates during election time to raise.

The failure of the party system--particulary the Democratic Party since it is obstensibly committed to representing the less privileged--to raise issues of importance during campaigns is partly, if not considerably, the result of mass media influence, which decides which matters best serve their ratings, the accessibility needs and professional biases of their members, and, with Faux, their partisan interests.

Partly, however, the Democratic Party and its candidates must bear some responsiblity for this situation. How helpful is talk about "moving to the center", and the need to connect with "values voters" now? Running away from the word "liberal", trying to speak in bland, non-partisan, third-way verbage, and continually being in a position of always having to respond to one supposed outrage or another doesn't help a party be successful when it is trying to defend important rights.

While televised committee room hearings have their place for informing the public and shaping opinions and outcomes, television and radio advertising, televised and high profile speeches at conventions, and surrogate "talking points" during a campaign can and should be used to let the public know what the party's stands and concerns are. To the extent that campaigns focus primarily on the candidate and his or her character (or war record), the less able will the party of the "have-nots" be able to promote and defend an ideology and agenda committed to protecting rights and creating opportunity.

Hopefully this nomination and any future ones will help awaken the party leadership to its obligation.