Monday, March 21, 2011

Change, honesty, etc.

Obama, 2007:

2. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites -- a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

OBAMA: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J. Res. 23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.” The recent NIE tells us that Iran in 2003 halted its effort to design a nuclear weapon. While this does not mean that Iran is no longer a threat to the United States or its allies, it does give us time to conduct aggressive and principled personal diplomacy aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Friday, March 18, 2011

On oil, wars, and puppets

"The president's speech was disturbingly empty ... [It appears] that the US cannot stand idly by while atrocities take place. Yet we have done nothing in Burma or the Congo and are actively supporting governments in Yemen and Bahrain that are doing almost exactly - if less noisily - what Qaddafi is doing. Obama made no attempt to reconcile these inconsistencies because, one suspects, there is no rational reconciliation to be made." -- Andrew Sullivan

I can think of one reason - to intervene in Bahrain would piss off the Saudis and potentially cause disruptions in oil supply, especially if Saudi peasants were embolden by success in Bahrain

Qaddafi, should he succeed, is likely to kick out western oil companies and further disrupt oil supplies

This is obviously a move made entirely in the name of protecting access to oil ... it has nothing to do with the poor libyan citizens and freedom fighters who undoubtedly will be left with some western puppet government after Qaddafi is deposed that will oppress them just as badly (see, e.g., iraq, afghanistan)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

An important challenge to theories of democracy

I think this is an important challenge to theories of democratic authority.  I think it reflects an implicit concern of anarchists, namely, that there is nothing in current political institutions that justify the “we” many use to legitimize State rule.

If the democratic process is a means by which some collection of persons may rightfully govern itself, what constitutes an appropriate collection of persons for employing the democratic process? Is any collection of persons entitled to the democratic process? In short, if democracy means government by the people, what constitutes "a people"? There may be no problem in the whole domain of democratic theory and practice more intractable than the one posed by this innocent-seeming question. To grasp it, imagine an aggregate of persons. Adapting Jonathan Swift to our purposes, let us call them the Eggfolk. While many Eggfolk contend that the Eggfolk constitute a single "people," some insist that they are really divided into two distinct peoples, the Big Eggfolk and the Little Eggfolk, with such different ways and beliefs that they should govern themselves separately, each entitled to its own fully democratic system. How are we to decide'? As we shall discover in chapter 13, democratic theory supplies little by way of an answer.  In fact, while historical answers exist, there may be no satisfactory theoretical solution to this problem.  Robert Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics 116-17.

Note that I am still in the elementary stages of my own journey through democratic theory.  Forgive me if there are simple answers to this problem, or if I change my tune throughout the coming months.  But in the spirit of philosophy, I comment on that which I am currently dealing.  I think there is value in actively engaging the arguments you are currently dealing with, even though you have not digested the entire (or even a sufficient amount of) domain.  As long as one realizes his own ignorance vis-à-vis other philosophers and lines of argument, taking part in the conversation is highly beneficial. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Challenge to Anarchists

I think this is a decent summary of the most important challenge to anarchist theory:

"virtually the entire globe is now already occupied by states. Throughout recorded history, small autonomous groups of people have been extraordinarily vulnerable to conquest and absorption by larger states, a phenomenon that continues to the present day. Thus either the return to a life of small autonomous stateless groups would have to occur almost simultaneously throughout the world or some states would continue to exist with their exceptional capacity and propensity for conquest and absorption. If anarchism requires the first, then anarchism must be set aside as at best an appealing fantasy. If it does not, then it must show why states would permit any small, independent group to exist anywhere on earth, with the possible exception of a few of the most remote and forbidding places on the globe where almost no one, and probably few advocates of anarchism, would care to live."  Robert A. Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics at 47.