Thursday, May 21, 2009

Obama's national security speech

A quick comment: civil libertarians have spent the last seven years trying to restore the rule of law in this country without having to counter any intellectually serious arguments from the people in power. The Cheney regime's stance was always just "Screw you! 9/11, 9/11, 9/11 ..."

Our shiny new leader argues on utilitarian/pragmatist grounds that some measures which might still be considered violations of national and international law are justified because we are at war. And if you grant that premise, he at least makes a case that goes beyond raw assertion of power.

I don't grant the premise and I don't think any of us who are serious about the rule of law, dismantling empire, or a sustainable planet can afford to grant the premise. The U.S. and the rest of the world are confronted with lawless actors of various sorts who do vicious things to impose themselves on and inflame the passions of vast, instinctively peaceful, majorities.

This conduct is vicious -- and it is criminal. Survival depends on a combination of coercing and persuading lawless actors to give it up. This isn't about war; it is about law enforcement nationally and internationally.

As for Obama's promises: we must watch what he does, not what he says.

I was heartened that he seemed to feel the need to respond, not only to rightwing fearmongers, but also to people who see view him as simply continuing Bushite lawlessness. We need to keep pushing him -- he is not immune to pressure.

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