Complexities of Intervention

The New York Review of Books has a worthwhile review of three books dealing with the militarization of US foreign policy with a bit of complexity:

  • Not all intervention is bad. It should have happened in Rwanda, and did happen in Kosovo–though both sides consisted of genocidal thugs; and, now that all other excuses have failed, humanitarian motives are being cited in Iraq, where only some Ba’athists can truly be sorry to see Saddam Hussein deposed. How can we distinguish between justifiable interventions and those for which motivations are dishonestly stated, and how can we more effectively respond in genuine emergencies?
  • What are the consequences of American imperialism for democracy? Is it a democratic regime that practices torture? “For an empire to be born, a republic has first to die.”

    For there is a precedent in modern Western history for a country whose leader exploits national humiliation and fear to restrict public freedoms; for a government that makes permanent war as a tool of state policy and arranges for the torture of its political enemies; for a ruling class that pursues divisive social goals under the guise of national “values”; for a culture that asserts its unique destiny and superiority and that worships military prowess; for a political system in which the dominant party manipulates procedural rules and threatens to change the law in order to get its own way; where journalists are intimidated into confessing their errors and made to do public penance. Europeans in particular have experienced such a regime in the recent past and they have a word for it. That word is not “democracy.”

Eminent domain on unwisdom

I’ve been contemplating the unwise Supreme Court decision permitting a municipality to seize property for use by a private developer under eminent domain. I find myself in the rare position of agreeing with Chief Justice Rehnquist, and Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, who joined in an opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that, “The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more.” Justice Thomas wrote in his own dissent that those displaced by urban renewal tended to be lower income residents.

The decision has been widely criticized. Municipalities are reduced to comparing the likelihood of having one’s home seized to that of a lightning strike. But Supreme Court Justices, of all people, should know, it isn’t the probability that matters, but the principle. “The court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution,” wrote Justice Thomas.

In the paper I wrote for my graduate program application, I contemplated the issue of class in association with information and tried to show that the discredit of traditional information providers worked to favor the elite. I saw that conservatives sought to deprive non-elites of access to information, in the form of news, and preparation for civic engagement, in the form of a college education. Conservatives are working against the American dream, I said.

But here is a decision on another aspect of the American dream, issued by a largely Republican-appointed Supreme Court to be sure, but opposed by its most conservative members. I cannot imagine owning a home in America without fear of the ramifications of this decision. I cannot imagine that there will not be a tremendous backlash arising from this.

Riot Squads in Palo Alto

Riot police have broken up a small demonstration in Palo Alto. Police Departments from as far away as Morgan Hill responded to a mutual aid request from the Palo Alto Police to deal with an anti-war demonstration by a group of Palo Alto Anarchists. I didn’t see the demonstration, which probably centered at Lytton Plaza, on the corner of University and Emerson. I was a block away, at Hamilton and Emerson.

I saw a policewoman with a four-foot long baton hanging around that intersection with other Palo Alto police. I saw other police units nearby. I saw a riot squad–in full gear– marching in, I think, four abreast. I saw ambulances leaving the area, one with its sirens wailing and lights going.

It was all kind of surreal. I think the demonstration was not large. Yet these anarchists have provoked a heavy-handed reaction which should disturb any lover of freedom. The sight of that riot squad seemed more like troops of a totalitarian state–the exact opposite of what anarchists would advocate. I am now at Hamilton and Bryant, as I write this. The police have cordoned off an eight square block area, from Alma to Bryant, along University. Bryant is open, and Alma is open. But University is not. High, Emerson, and Ramona are not. A helicopter is circling overhead.

This is the heart of Palo Alto’s downtown on a Saturday night. I see the kids who would normally be in the bars walking east on Hamilton. There’s not much revelry tonight.

Italy issues arrest warrants for kidnappers and victim in ‘extraordinary rendition’

The BBC reports that an Italian judge has issued warrants for the arrest of 13 people in the 2003 abduction of an Islamic cleric in Milan.

Osama Mustafa Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, was already being investigated in Italy as part of a terrorism inquiry.
Italian prosecutors believe the operation was part of a controversial US anti-terror policy known as “extraordinary rendition”.

So another Milan-based judge has issued an arrest warrant for the imam.

What I’ve been working on…

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been working on the paper for submission with my graduate program application as an academic writing sample.

In this paper, I examine the shift in information authority in our society, observing that all the traditional sources of information, i.e. news, academia, and government agencies, are under attack, and that the Internet is likely to do little better, essentially rehashing information from the other sources. I illustrate that the attack on academia as elitist is a distraction from a much more real class war being waged against everyone who is not in power.

It is a much more massive paper than I intended for the purpose of a graduate program application; and now I can only worry and wait.

Famous last words: Iraqi insurgency in death throes

General John Abizaid, top U.S. military commander in the Persian Gulf, directly contradicted Vice President Cheney’s comments that the Iraqi insurgency was in its death throes, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Democrat and even some Republican senators expressed considerable skepticism on progress of the war, “with U.S. deaths now surpassing 1,700 since the war began in March 2003.”

Abizaid told the panel: “I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago.” As to the overall strength of the insurgency, Abizaid said it was “about the same” as six months ago.

Global spending on arms exceeds $1 trillion

If you thought you were safer with Bush in the White House, you might want to consider that global spending on arms has exceeded $1 trillion “for the first time since the height of the Cold War”:

Once again, America was by far the greatest spender on arms. In 2004, it spent $455bn, an increase from 2003 of 12 per cent, fuelled largely by the investment in President George Bush’s “war on terror”. America’s foreign aid spending is around 4.1 per cent of its arms bill. Britain, the second largest arms spender, spent $47bn – a tenth of the US total.