To assess local perceptions of drone strikes, I conducted 147 semi-structured interviews with adult (18 years or older) residents of North Waziristan in the summer and winter of 2015. Access to the respondents was made possible by the Pakistani military’s…
As is typical for Administration critics among left-liberals and libertarians, Digby blames the the executive branch, here represented by its last two chiefs and its current top lawyer, for offering lawyerly locutions on a decisively legal matter, as though the answers to the underlying questions would and must be both non-legalistically simple as well as simply favorable to the ideological liberal legal position. As an ideologue, she is unwilling to imagine that the truth might be relatively simple, but unfavorable to her ideology or at least to the notion of its universality and completeness. The spokesperson for the executive branch is at such times embodying the foundational paradoxes of the liberal democratic order, at the classic exceptional moment in which liberalism encounters the coincidence of its own real-political and conceptual limits.
Final responsibility for the defense of the constitutional order necessarily implies the ability to dissolve the constitutional order – if not by ordering up a nuclear war or declaring a state of emergency, and so on, then by simple failure to act against a threat to it or to fulfill the responsibility of his office. The scope of presidential power is in this sense at least commensurate to the scope of the legal order.
The overall dysfunctionality of a political discussion can be the product of countless such lesser dysfunctionalities, though the overall dysfunctionality of that discourse may in turn be what makes it manageable, or manageable enough. We dislike things the way they dysfunctionally are, and that is how we like things.
The pathos of the libertarian lament reminds us of real death and suffering, and of real failures of policy and moral imagination, but such stubborn self-insistence makes it difficult for others to speak to the would-be prophets other than as to children. Here as so often, the ideological libertarian position reveals itself to be implicitly pacifist and essentially anti-political, in a word utopian, in calling for an impossible polity, one that would be inherently incapable of defending itself or its integrity against violent opposition, whether from actual states or from so-called non-state (actually crypto- or proto-state) actors.
The Drones as symbol refer us to a tyrannical, imperial, not merely mechanical but super-biological or super-organic, invulnerable, temporally and geographically unbounded, and most of all cruelly lethal power that has already annihilated the human being ideally before it sends its “Hellfire” missile at him to finish the job, while also morally annihilating the distant human pilots and their masters, the latter group eventually including all of us who benefit or who possess a moral share in the program as citizens of a democratic republic.
To step back from the Armageddon-level options that still follow the U.S. president around in a briefcase, there remains only a post hoc and in the highest sense political check on a president’s interpretation of Article 2 powers. In non-global-apocalyptic but merely national apocalyptically extreme cases, a president may even interpret his designated and implied powers to allow for flagrantly unconstitutional measures: We return as frequently to Lincoln during the Civil War, nullifying the requirement for writ of habeas corpus, generally prosecuting a war against insurrectionists on the basis of his own judgment until eventually recognized by a wartime Supreme Court. At such points, it is “up to history” to determine whether the executive has done the right thing – will get a monument or a tearful farewell under threat of impeachment.
From one vantage point to another, as soon as one becomes too tiring, The Bourne Legacy’s happy ending can be taken as a wish or as a warning, as a facile and empty diversionary lie, or as a welcome reminder regarding the survival of some human-spiritual element or possibility amidst the death of empathy. We cannot help but be reluctant to follow the Bourne narrative all the way to its ending, not just to recognize but actually to realize that there is no such thing as escapist culture. There is only the culture from which one might wish to escape.
Regardless of where we come down in the end on the wisdom and justifiability of the administration’s war policies, criticism that does not take the full debate and its real subject into consideration, that merely repeats what we already know – that war is awful and morally, culturally, and politically deforming; that it exceeds the terms of normal, lawful policy; that it makes us act like “barbarians” all on the way to Hell – does not deserve to be and likely will not be taken seriously.
Pessimism about one's own nation is an all-encompassing and all-defining condition, because everything any of us positively can be or seek as individuals is affected where not wholly determined by our membership in a national community - the state broadly defined. When we refer to an "unhappy childhood," it will usually matter a great deal whether we're referring to our own childhood, and the same is true when we refer to the unhappy conditions of our national upbringing or to a "broken" national home. Yet national pessimism is still not the same as absolute pessimism. We can imagine the failure of any nation, including our own nation, as we have seen great national disasters, that would not equate with the failure of history itself. We could even come to equate the failure of a national idea as essential to some higher good: It would not be the first time for us, just the first time that we were referring to ourselves.
A national pessimist suffers a kind of exile from his own future, but he can still visit happier outcomes, on a kind of spiritual visa. Over time, he may even be accepted by the natives, and find a new home. Americans are particularly well-prepared to make this transition, because our national identity, paradoxically, is already built on the cancellation of nationality, on immigration and nothing else. Our new citizenship may not be full and authentic, of the blood and soil, but neither is the one with which we are born. The American idea at inception had before it a vast national phase to undergo, but what defined the American nation was that it was not and never could be a nation like the others: The idea of a new world had to take on a purpose-fabricated national costume for us to assume and sustain a place within the world of nations, but the realization of our idea could never have been contained in a merely national destiny. For the same reason, the victory of our "Greatest Generation," at our national apogee, was the victory over ultra-nationalism, in favor of a new international system implying the supersession of nations, justifiable as an American national project strictly on that basis. All of our history since that time has been governed by the same paradox of nationalized internationalism, but from the other, declining side, as accompanied by the conversion of American energy into mere mass - the accumulation of material wealth alongside the decay of national institutions.
We can therefore look forward to the completion of our creative self-destruction with greater hope, or at least with greater equanimity, than others in our approximate position have been able to muster. What we stand to lose is everything we never really thought was worth having. What we stand to gain is what we always sought.
The mass annihilation of civilians in war, the conversion of citizens or subjects into eradicable vermin, ought to refer us to events at the inception of the American-centric international order as we know it, its immediate predicate in a shared experience of total war and a victory both in and against it, and its older predicate in the longer movements of history.
TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.
For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.
The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.
Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.
[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.