American judges, like American politics, often seem only dimly aware of the rest of the world—what Justice Scalia once dismissed as “foreign moods, fads, or fashions.”
Our Supreme Court’s priorities are entirely domestic—a bitter quarrel with Congress in particular and with the federal government in general. And to judge by the tone of an oral argument held Tuesday, the conservative justices think of foreigners chiefly as potential enemies in that domestic struggle. Justice Scalia, for example, worried that a treaty would surreptitiously impose gay marriage on the states. Justice Samuel A. Alito asked whether some treaty somewhere would reduce gun rights. Chief Justice John Roberts asked whether the United Nations could require the United States to give more power to Congress. Justice Anthony Kennedy worried that some treaty might give the president the power “to set aside any State law that in his view contravenes a national interest.”
These four conservatives were propounding these broccoli-style horribles (call them “florets”) in their eagerness to take the Treaty Power, and that pesky president, and the scheming Senate, down a peg. Remarkably enough, they seemed disposed to do this in a case where no such major doctrinal shift should be needed. Bond v. United States involves a criminal prosecution so lopsided that even the internationally minded Breyer found it ludicrous. The Court could—as Breyer himself suggested—make the problem vanish by reading a federal statute slightly more narrowly than the court below. But easy cases make bad law: that solution—which strikes me as clearly right, and would leave the Treaty Power untouched—seemed to command no other vote than Breyer’s own.
Read more. [Image: David Goldman/Associated Press]
President Barack Obama will have to deliver one of the finest speeches of his presidency tomorrow if he hopes to win Congressional support for a strike against Syria. Out of nowhere, the Syria vote has emerged as one of the defining moments of Obama’s second term.
With three years remaining in office, the vote will either revive his presidency or leave Obama severely weakened at home and abroad.
There are legitimate criticisms of Obama’s initial response to the Syrian government’s barbaric August 21st gas attack outside Damascus. The president should have demanded that Congress be called back from recess immediately. He should also have immediately made a far more personal and passionate case for strikes.
But what may doom the president’s effort, in the end, is not his short-term tactics. It is years of contradictory policies and unfulfilled promises by Obama himself.
Read more. [Image: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
A conversation with Stanley Hauerwas, pacifist theologian, on Syria and why “humanitarianism” is a red herring.
Read more. [Image: Luciano Mellace/Reuters]
— President Obama in a White House Statement accepting Susan Rice’s Withdrawal for Consideration for Secretary of State.
The Republican Party needs a new message on foreign policy that is true to the conservative principles of the base and yet has a broad appeal to the American public. It so happens that one already exists, has a proven track record of electoral success, and is only slightly used: the ”humble foreign policy” that candidate George W. Bush espoused during the 2000 campaign but abandoned with the Global War on Terror and the Iraq invasion.
Bush’s wisdom during the October 12, 2000 debates is striking in hindsight. “If we’re an arrogant nation,” he warned, “they’ll resent us; if we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we’ve got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.”
Now, to a large degree, that’s platitude rather than policy prescription. But it’s the right mindset from which to approach policy analysis.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
In the month of September 2012, the United States completed its withdrawal of the 33,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan in the “surge” of 2009. However, the U.S. still has 86,000 troops engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom, even as some coalition members are now finishing up their deployments. Also this month, coalition troops have curtailed joint operations with Afghan Army and police forces, due to increased attacks on foreign soldiers by members of the Afghan forces — and heightened tensions resulting from widespread anger over an anti-Islam movie produced in the U.S. Gathered here are images of those involved in this conflict over the past month, as part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan.
See more. [Images: Reuters/AFP/Getty Images, AP]
[Image: NATO via Wired]
Is there a better alternative to drone strikes for counterterrorism in northwest Pakistan?
[…]Looking at how residents in the FATA have behaved in other violent campaigns is instructive. In early 2009, the Pakistani Army announced its campaign to “clear” the Swat Valley, north of Islamabad, of terrorist groups that had been systematically murdering elders and tribal policemen and destroying hundreds of schools and other government buildings. As the campaign proceeded, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said more than 300,000 people fled the fighting. By the end of the campaign, more than 1 million people got displaced by the army-Taliban fighting in Swat, which left the region completely devastated.
There have been no reported mass movements of people fleeing the drones in the last four years. The mere threat of a Pakistani army offensive into Waziristan, however, prompts thousands to flee in terror. There are several possible explanations: for example, people in heavily affected drone areas might be terrified to leave their houses.
But there is a simpler explanation: Perhaps drones are not as scary as opponents claim.
Read more. [Image: Ho New/Reuters]
If the foreign-policy controversy currently engulfing the campaign is just a matter of timing and propriety, it’s not a particularly revealing contrast between the candidates. The real question is what substantive critique lies behind Romney’s criticism, and what it tells us about how he would conduct foreign policy differently. And here, beneath the campaigns’ petty back-and-forth, there is a real and revealing debate to be discerned[…]
To Obama and his team, the best leadership is cautious, thoughtful, and situationally based. To Romney, true leadership means being at the front of every parade. It means reacting with clarity, certainty and a ringing reiteration of American strength to every crisis, a certainty born of underlying ideals so secure that it is not altered by intervening events or changing facts on the ground.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Picture a woman in the Middle East, and probably the first thing that comes into your mind will be the hijab. You might not even envision a face, just the black shroud of the burqa or theniqab. Women’s rights in the mostly Arab countries of the region are among the worst in the world, but it’s more than that. As Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy writes in a provocative cover story for Foreign Policy, misogyny has become so endemic to Arab societies that it’s not just a war on women, it’s a destructive force tearing apart Arab economies and societies. But why? How did misogyny become so deeply ingrained in the Arab world?
As Maya Mikdashi once wrote, “Gender is not the study of what is evident, it is an analysis of how what is evident came to be.” That’s a much tougher task than cataloging the awful and often socially accepted abuses of women in the Arab world. But they both matter, and Eltahawy’s lengthy article on the former might reveal more of the latter than she meant.
There are two general ways to think about the problem of misogyny in the Arab world. The first is to think of it as an Arab problem, an issue of what Arab societies and people are doing wrong. “We have no freedoms because they hate us,” Eltahawy writes, the first of many times she uses “they” in a sweeping indictment of the cultures spanning from Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula. “Yes: They hate us. It must be said.”
But is it really that simple? If that misogyny is so innately Arab, why is there such wide variance between Arab societies? Why did Egypt’s hateful “they” elect only 2 percent women to its post-revolutionary legislature, while Tunisia’s hateful “they” elected 27 percent, far short of half but still significantly more than America’s 17 percent? Why are so many misogynist Arab practices as or more common in the non-Arab societies of sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia? After all, nearly every society in history has struggled with sexism, and maybe still is. Just in the U.S., for example, women could not vote until 1920; even today, their access to basic reproductive health care is backsliding. We don’t think about this as an issue of American men, white men, or Christian men innately and irreducibly hating women. Why, then, should we be so ready to believe it about Arab Muslims?
Read more. [Image: Reuters]