Change We Can Believe In: Abandoning Moral Authority
Jimmy Carter says it all, in today’s NYT op-ed piece:
THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.
Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. …
Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress …
In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.
Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. …
These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.
… [I]nstead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.
Of course, Bush and Cheney deserve a lot of the credit for this state of affairs, with assists from Congress and countless government officials. But it’s Obama who has taken rogue policies of partisan leaders and made them the bipartisan consensus. It’s Obama who has crafted drone warfare into his own distinctive program. It’s Obama who has insisted on unquestioned authority to do what he deems necessary. Some change.
My list of coming attractions in the post I just finished included Romney. I explained in that post that my blogging time has been limited. But I do have time to quote the following trenchant analysis of Romney’s candidacy for president, courtesy of Daniel Larison last Friday at The American Conservative:
The purpose of Romney’s candidacy is simply to win the election, which is as dull and ordinary as one can imagine, and there is not really any pretense that Romney’s candidacy serves a “larger purpose.” People cannot put faith in Romney, because he is thoroughly untrustworthy and prone to saying whatever it is he thinks people want to hear. To the extent that a lot of non-Republicans are willing to give him a hearing, they assume that the policies he is proposing during the campaign cannot possibly be the policies he would pursue once in office. When he says, “I will move for this and this,” the common reaction is to assume that Romney will not so move.
Romney is the embodiment of everything Americans claim to dislike about national politics. He is both a fierce partisan and lacking in firm convictions. If Romney does end up winning, that will be a good indication that a majority of voters isn’t interested in the meaning or purpose of his candidacy. It will mean that enough voters are dissatisfied enough with the incumbent that they are willing to tolerate just about anyone as a replacement.
Not much posting lately. And not for lack of topics. Indeed, I have a growing list. I’ve just been busy with other things. Joel came home Friday. Saturday Gail and I had our anniversary. Yesterday was another day spent with family, until late afternoon, when I headed to campus for a few hours for the start of a summer program I run. Plus, there were European Championship quarterfinal soccer games to watch both days. And a novel to finish. There went my prime weekend blogging time. Today I worked. Tonight Joel’s around. Tomorrow’s his birthday. Etc. Etc. Blogging has had to wait.
Possible coming attractions:
1. Anniversary dinner Saturday at the Georgian Room, our traditional anniversary site, it being the restaurant at the hotel where we were married.
2. Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I read at last.
4. The situation this month at the University of Virginia, where the president resigned under pressure from an insane faction of board members who presume to understand the needs of higher education better than she does. It may be just as well that I haven’t written about this yet, since the situation keeps changing. Tomorrow is the big day, when the entire board votes on whether or not to re-instate her. Key phrase: strategic dynamism. Favorite (or most depressing line) from early coverage: “Besides broad philosophical differences, they [insane, power-crazed faction of board members] had at least one specific quibble: They felt Sullivan lacked the mettle to trim or shut down programs that couldn’t sustain themselves financially, such as obscure academic departments in classics and German.” Obscure?
5. Romney. Sigh.
6. Alito. Sigh again.
7. Return visit to East Prussia, in light R.J.W.Evans’ review in the current issue of The New York Review of Books of Max Egremont’s Forgotten Land: Journeys among the Ghosts of East Prussia, which I finished in early January and wrote about several times (here, for instance).
More in the coming days.