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…
Posted in Noted & Quoted
Tagged with: Drones
A piece of political concept art may not be God’s frustration of Mephistopheles – the evil one condemned to achieve good despite himself – but neither is it exactly entirely not-that.
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.
Posted in Philosophy
, The Exception
Tagged with: Armageddon
, The Exception
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.
Posted in Movies
Tagged with: Bourne
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.
Posted in Featured
, The Exception
Tagged with: Barbara Lee
, Popular Sovereignty
, The Exception
, War on Terror