Law in Contemporary Society
I am pretty psyched about Eben's "Statement on Interim Grades" because (1) I haven't finished any of my rewrites and (2) I am the only extern in my office and I will finally have someone to talk to now that people will be rocking the TWiki for at least the next month.

Anyway, that brings me to President Obama, who is confusing me, because I thought he was pretty brilliant. I think Senator Obama was a way more capable dude.

1. McChrystal.

I could say a lot about the article's content (with respect to both command and strategy), but either way, this kerfuffle should have been a way for the Obama administration to figure out a way to up and leave, because this whole thing is certainly crazy. John Kerry's voice is loud in my head. Really, how can we ask a man to be the last man to die for the sake of creating civil society in Afghanistan? Unlike Eben, I am more inclined to tend towards supporting a mostly virtual drone war and beefing up our borders and spying (on civilians too, I say).

Now, all we have is Obama putting Petraeus back in charge? Does he do this while still commanding CentCom? ? Maybe Obama has no choice (by which I mean the choice to remain politically viable), since it is almost November, 2010 and there is this nagging problem. I guess the first hope for any sort of draw down is next summer.

2. I am shocked, dismayed, horrified, and let-down by the administration's response to said nagging problem. I did not vote for Obama out of deeply-felt liberal ideology, but because I believe he is a smart and capable person. I was always disappointed that President Bush did not use 9/11 as a way to motivate reduced consumption of oil and to increase resources towards developing renewable energy. At that time, everyone was willing to make efforts that would hurt and handicap the tragedy's perpetrators. The obvious way to do so was to reduce our oil consumption and eventually, the very importance of oil itself. Unfortunately, Bush didn't see it that way, and neither did his chief deputy, the former CEO of the company with contractors on the Deepwater Horizon.

So, I thought the epic disaster of the Deepwater Horizon might provide practical, prudential, non-oil related Obama with a similarly transitional moment to lead America towards a greater focus on renewable energy. A Renewable Horizon, I might say. Besides for causing incalculable damage to resources whose histories exponentially dwarf our existence, oil helps to prop up the regimes, terrorist networks, and geopolitical powers who are our most direct enemies. How is it that foreign policy and environmentalism have not coalesced in a broader movement? How is it that now that the President has the leverage to propose comprehensive funding and action towards renewable energy predicated on those two rationales that he hasn't done anything meaningful? And Eben, perhaps your brother's insight can help to elucidate why environmental groups aren't holding his feet to the fire?

Surely, the 20 billion dollars for economic loss related claims is something, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE OCEAN? I am not very inclined to look at my property materials at the moment but what happened to the public trust doctrine?

-- NonaFarahnik - 23 Jun 2010

You are not the only one who wants to bring back the the Public Trust Doctrine.

As for Afghanistan, I don't have a satisfactory solution (nor does anyone else), but I do think that the continued use of drone bombings will only cause more problems. As Eben mentioned in class, one emotion is common among terrorists, humiliation. I cannot think of anything that causes more humiliation than mechanically dropping bombs and killing innocent civilians. If our goal in Afghanistan is to prevent terrorism, then drones are not a good tactic to use.

-- JohnAlbanese - 29 Jun 2010

The considerations for the long-term v. short-term fight against terrorism are difficult to balance. If we are pursuing a military strategy in any capacity, it will be humiliating.

-- NonaFarahnik - 30 Jun 2010

I realize that I am being too cavalier in representing my attitude towards drones. I think they can be an effective way to mark certain targets directly and with precision. I think they will be a necessary and useful force in battling certain pressure points (time-sensitive or high value targets), especially on the Af/Pak border, and this will be even more so the case when we reduce our physical military presence in the region. I understand that I am advocating something that will almost necessarily result in the "bombs raining on Afghan children" dilemma. The disassociation feels easy, and that is what is frightening about the idea that we can conduct aspects of a conventional war in what probably looks like a room where a bunch of young guys are playing Call of Duty. (Add to this the convergence of games which could probably socialize soldiers to war and popular gaming.)

Hopefully, as we enter this increasingly virtual era, the primal aggression that feeds war and destruction will be contented by killing enemy avatars and bombing Second Life real-estate.

-- NonaFarahnik - 30 Jun 2010

Nona- unfortunately, I think that your "increasingly virtual era" will lead to more comfort with the idea of using destructive technologies. Putting aside the possibly nonexistent correlation/connection between video games and violence, we do know that weapons technology has already incorporated and exploited our generation's familiarity with joysticks and fancy buttons that do such things. This scares me.

-- JessicaCohen - 30 Jun 2010

Most weaponry is by nature inaccurate. There is a concept called Circular Error Probability (CEP); in a word, a piece of artillery is good if it has a fifty percent chance that its shots will land in a circle (the size varies, but it won’t be too small) around the aim. For terrorists, they won’t hesitate to put their own cannons near a kindergarten or a hospital. If you want to destroy their weapons, the price that you have to pay is that the hospitals and schools might be hit. If that is humiliation, then humiliation is almost unavoidable.

So the next question is: is it necessary? At first something must be clarified: the civilian deaths do not necessarily mean illegality under the laws of war or responsibility under international criminal law. The intent of the commander is the key: if the strike is against a legitimate military objective, the collateral deaths may not incur liability even though the commander knows that there might be some risk of civilian casualties. And I believe very few commanders would try to intentionally hit civilian targets. Therefore, I don’t think there is much sense in talking about how to conduct a war because civilian casualties are just inevitable (of course, better technology may reduce the number, but it won’t disappear). The real question still lies in whether there should be a war.

Jus ad bellum (laws of war) and jus in bello (laws in war) are different. Even though the means and methods are totally legal, the war’s legality in the first place must still be examined. In this sense, the war in Iraq may be an easier question, since it is quite apparent (at least for me) that it was illegal when it was initiated in 2003. The war in Afghanistan is a different case: the war itself seems to be legal; thus it is hard to make a legal argument against it if the forces on the ground conduct the fighting following the Geneva Conventions. Therefore, it’s not so much about whether the war in Afghanistan is legal or not, but more about whether it’s worth it.

Let’s assume the purpose of the war is to eradicate as much terrorism as possible. Military solution has its advantage. However, the hatred arising from it may lead to the creation of more terrorists in the future. So it is really a dilemma. As I mentioned, there is no way to avoid civilian casualty totally, but is there a way to prevent the sense of humiliation arising from these inevitable civilian deaths? There may be a solution theoretically: telling the people that the US is on their side against the terrorists. However, it’s easier said than done.

-- WenweiLai - 30 Jun 2010



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r9 - 30 Jun 2010 - 23:21:22 - WenweiLai
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