The sheer number of patents in the U.S. is fueling frivolous litigation and drastic action is needed to make patents more difficult to obtain and easier to invalidate, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit said Tuesday. > more ... (0 comments)
Funny how eye-popping pieces of OMG WTF can often be buried in otherwise banal reports of Washington goings-on:
[T]he CIA engages in a controversial practice known as “signature strikes,” targeting groups of military-age males whose identities are not known but who bear certain characteristics—or signatures—associated with terrorism. Under new protocols, the strikes, sometimes referred to as “crowd killing,” may still be permitted but would likely be more heavily regulated.
Does that description strike anyone else as a smidge insane?
Think about that. Some CIA folks point at a random group of scary mooslems, ponder a collective gut feeling that said brown people bear terrorist “signatures” and then rain drone-borne hellfire down upon them on a hunch. I.e.: mass execution without any actual information on any of the individuals involved. Seriously!?
For more brain-melting WTF, here’s a legal analysis of this CIA “kill groups of swarthy fuckers” strategy:
The vast majority of drone attacks conducted by the U.S. have been signature strikes – those that target “groups of men who bear certain signatures, or defining characteristics associated with terrorist activity, but whose identities aren’t known.” In 2010, for example, Reuters reported that of the 500 “militants” killed by drones between 2008 and 2010, only 8% were the kind “top-tier militant targets” or “mid-to-high-level organizers” whose identities could have been known prior to being killed. Similarly, in 2011, a U.S. official revealed that the U.S. had killed “twice as many ‘wanted terrorists’ in signature strikes than in personality strikes.”
Despite the U.S.’s intense reliance on signature strikes, scholars have paid almost no attention to their legality under international law. This article attempts to fill that lacuna. Section I explains why a signature strike must be justified under either international humanitarian law (IHL) or international human rights law (IHRL) even if the strike was a legitimate act of self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Section II explores the legality of signature strikes under IHL. It concludes that although some signature strikes clearly comply with the principle of distinction, others either violate that principle as a matter of law or require evidence concerning the target that the U.S. is unlikely to have prior to the attack. Section III then provides a similar analysis for IHRL, concluding that most of the signature strikes permitted by IHL – though certainly not all – would violate IHRL’s insistence that individuals cannot be arbitrarily deprived of their right to life.
Aside from torturing people and continuously escalating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, can someone tell me again how different the current administration is versus the former when it comes to extreme tactics to prosecute the never-ending “War on Terror™”?
I think the prevalence of drones is easily explicable: they’re easy. Easy to use, don’t put personnel at risk. But the cost of it is that it’s easier to make mistakes, easier to aggregate power, easier for war to become routinized. TNC puts it well, “And there is no real sense of an ‘end.’ Has there ever been a point since America’s inception when someone, somewhere, wasn’t plotting our downfall?”
He gets close to something I write about every so often. I think it’s pretty plain that Obama has prioritized healing the divisions in the country pretty highly. But internal divisions tend to be high when there’s a war on. There hasn’t been a single war in our country’s history of any length that didn’t lead to ugly divisiveness (and yes, WWII is included: just look at how nasty a campaign Tom Dewey ran against FDR in 1944 if you doubt that, implying he knew that Pearl Harbor was going to be bombed and such). OTOH, the number of times in US history in which you saw unrest and divisiveness like this in peacetime are much rarer–the Populist era, perhaps, or the lead-up to the Civil War which is the exception that proves the rule. Until we are truly at peace, there is no possibility of our political divides being altered in any way. I’m not saying that ending the wars will automatically lead to healing, but it could happen. After both World Wars, the political situation quickly morphed into new peacetime consensuses.
And yes, I realize that he’s ended our involvement in Iraq and seems to be serious about getting us out of Afghanistan. But Coates is right: there’s no indication he’s interested in refocusing the war on terror. To the extent he wants unity to be his legacy, he’s sabotaging himself deeply with his increasingly cavalier use of drones. I might be willing to buy the idea that the political consensus of the moment makes a retreat from the war on terror concept difficult, but escalating it in this way makes it much more difficult to move on. Or easier–perhaps the whole thing will reach absurd proportions. Arguably it already has.
The reporters say the “rapid expansion” of these military efforts “is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia.” No doubt it is that. But it’s also a reflection of a very grandiose conception of the appropriate role of the American military in the world. After all, a radical who’s in Yemen or Somalia is, by definition, not in the United States. It would be cheaper and easier to focus on making sure people can’t get from Yemen to Yuma or from Somalia to Sacramento than for us to go halfway around to try to kill them. But America’s strategic concept is basically that if there’s a problem anywhere in the world that could potentially be ameliorated by dropping American bombs, then we ought to drop the bombs. That strategy requires an extremely high level of defense expenditures. Bombs, planes, bases, “secret” airstrips, etc. are all expensive. To reduce military spending, we would need to adopt a more restrained view of the role of the American military. That hasn’t happened.
For anyone who is still up, President Obama is about to go on TV to announce that Osama bin Laden has been killed by the US military.
Anyone want to take bets on which wingnut will be the first to come up with some creative way to attack Obama over this?
Daniel Larison on Herman Cain, who is going to fill the venerable “Republican businessman candidate with no political experience who spends millions before dropping out” role that Steve Forbes used to take on every four years:
This has to be discouraging to anyone who might have hoped that a Tea Party-aligned possible presidential contender would bring anything new or remarkable to the substance of the primary debates for the next cycle. Cain wasn’t kidding when he told The Atlantic‘s Josh Green that when it came to “our conservative beliefs and values, Sarah Palin and I are probably identical.” The trouble is that Cain is very sharp and much, much more policy-oriented than Palin, or many of the other 2012 contenders for that matter. While many of his foreign policy arguments may be awful, he will be able to articulate and defend them more ably than most of the other candidates.
Okay, maybe not, since Forbes would usually cut a pro-choice, libertarian image when he ran.
This doesn’t apply to Larison, but I have noticed that some pundits are saying that Republicans will run mostly on domestic issues and, to a greater extent than usual, will ignore national security and foreign policy issues, on account of AfPakIraqistan being Bush’s fault and Obama getting his best marks on his performance as C-in-C. The theory goes that they’ll try to attack Obama where he’s weakest, which will likely be the economy. Do not believe this. It is completely incredible, in the sense of being hard to believe. The Republican Party at this point relies almost exclusively on fear to promote its interests, and few fears cut deeper than fear of one’s own personal security. It’s why they’ve hammered away at the silliest of stories intended to malign Obama. There is a strategy, and it’s to freak people the hell out and convince them that they’re not safe, that Obama cannot (or will not) protect them. From Bill Ayers to Jeremiah Wright to Rashid Khalidi (remember him?) to whatever rattles in Dinesh D’Souza’s mind, that is the goal.
This is all false, of course. In the reality-based community, we know quite well that the Obama Administration has been fantastic on disrupting terror plots, as well as on jailing and convicting terrorists. But Fox News exists outside that community. Their business is to scare people into watching their programs, Alfred Hitchcock-like, and that kind of fear sells. Hell, even if the eventual Republican candidate wanted to run solely on domestic issues, Fox News will just do whatever they want anyway. They set the tone, and they answer to no one. Last I heard they were saying that START would lead to a sneak Russian attack because there was no monitoring for tactical nukes, which is an argument that crosses the line separating merely stupid and dishonest. And, needless to say, any coherent small-government philosophy has to include a noninterventionist component. Skepticism of government to deliver services would seem to go hand-in-hand with a skepticism over foreign escapades, as Ron Paul could tell you. Then again, Ron Paul actually believes in small government. Nutty as he can be, he has some integrity.
So, for Republicans to ignore national security and foreign policy (hint: their traditional strong points) in favor of focusing on domestic policy (hint: their traditional Achilles heel) makes no sense, especially since the presidential race will make it a lot harder for a Hell, No! style of rejectionism to work in the way it did in 2010. Republicans will run a fear-based campaign in 2012, as they did in 2008 and 2004. If they do that, and they’re not particularly concerned about reality (remember death panels?), why not use the biggest gun in their arsenal? They will do it, and they will keep doing this until Americans stop buying it. I don’t think it will necessarily keep Obama from winning in 2012–as I said, the public sees him as strong on security, and it didn’t help McCain in 2008–but the Republicans will all be frothing about “apology tours” and “shaking Chavez’s hand” before this is over. The silver lining is the hope that the presence of Bolton, Palin and Cain on the campaign trail will force “mainstream” Republicans to sound more like them, or at least burden them with sound bites that could hurt them in the general.
I’m nearly done with the book on neoconservatism that I previously described here and here. It’s going quickly now because I’m in the foreign policy section, and as a person who became politically engaged around 2003, much less of it is new to me. But there was a good little bit on why the neocons settled on Iraq rather than Iran as a test case for their theories: roughly, it was because everyone hated Saddam and the neocons figured people would get less bent out of shape if he were the target. All the other “national security” explanations, like the terror links and WMD, all applied as much or more to Iran. It was a purely pragmatic choice to push for conflict with Iraq instead, though one suspects it was merely a choice of ordering to these guys.
It occurred to me at this point that maybe part of why Iran wasn’t chosen to go first was because there are ideological complications. The neocons are obsessed with form over substance: they favor democracy in the sense of elections, not in the sense of liberal institutions like free speech, separation of powers, and so on. They favor religiosity but they don’t care what the religion is, just so long as it is peaceful (i.e. not anti-American) and complements the all-important civic religion. They favor finding “the center” of all public policy debates and sticking to it, which in effect means their politics are contentless. (Think about all the violent shifts in David Brooks’s politics since, say, 2005 as an example of this tendency.) It’s the neocon trademark, the closest thing they have to a universal principle, that there are no principles, just “principles” that are for the benefit of the filthy proles who need their religion to feel important, their democracy to feel in control, and their capitalism to feel like they can succeed. When you look at it that way, it’s clear what their gripes are with Saddam, a secular, quasisocialist autocrat. But Iran looks like a dark reflection of the society they want to build, one that satisfies their biggest premises while being fundamentally unacceptable in its final form. It sits there, quietly mocking their theories, day after day. It’s no wonder it drives them completely insane. Another way of saying all this is that it’s a refutation of their theories about political philosophy and human nature. Really, their only gripe with Iran can be its orientation toward America and Israel. They have no other basis for complaining about anything else. If we were living in a parallel universe where Iran was exactly the same in every way except that it accepted Israel’s right to exist and was nicer to America, not only would the neocons not consider Iran threat numero uno, but it would undoubtedly be held up as a model for the region, despite the oppression, thuggery and theocracy. After all, that stuff flies in Iraq and the neocons universally consider that a success story.
(P.S. The image is allegedly a political cartoon about Iran–supposedly what the Uncle Sam character is thinking in the speech bubble–caught my eye as strange and funny, but one which merely proves that political cartoons are inane in any language. We all know that George W. Bush would beat a drum and yell the name of a country he wanted to attack. The pertinent NSC meeting minutes will bear this out I’m sure, once they’re declassified around 2102 or so.)
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