The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Economic Interdependence: Key to the Forging of a Union

The forging of a new nation is a process that has continually presented itself over the course of history. Certain historical and philosophical themes arise out of their various simulacre, however each permuation offers some unique perspectives on what is later often taken for granted. This essay seeks to delinate some historical particularities of economic interdependence and the part they often play in the formation of a new government.
In looking at the history of the United States during its inception and formation, one must recognize that the process was long and arduous and success wholly uncertain. A great deal of disagreement was expressed as to how the individual states would relate to one another and under what level and degree of governance they would exist. The Anti-Federalists, Jefferson and Henry and the like, argued that creating a centralized federal government would threaten individual rights and that the President would become a King, de facto if not de jure. The congress under the Articles of Confederation was weak however. It had few powers, no ability to levy taxes and thus no ability to fund an army, repay debts, or extend protectionist barriers. This was further underscored by Shay's Rebellion, which the congressional government was unable to quell due to its inability to raise an Army. In light of this, the Federalists argued for the construction of a Constitution of the United States that favored a stronger centralized government, with the very important powers to levy taxes, regulate commerce, and raise a military.
Eventually the Federalists won out, and the constitution was ratified by the states. The reason for this success, however, was not some utopian vision or the expression of purist democratic ideals, but economic viability and commercial advantage. The United States was able to form a nation because of the economic ties that bound the states together, and in a broader sense the North and the South. The northern states depended upon the South for raw materials and agricultural products. The southern states depended upon the North for manufactures and finished products. It was the success of the North-South trade relationship that generated the incentives for independence from Britain in the first place. It allowed the United States to be self sufficient and showed great potential for becoming an expansive and powerful economic system in its own right. And so, the United States had incentive to exist as a united government. One of the main reasons that much of South America was fractured once Spain left, and why many South American governments today continue to fail so drastically is that this economic incentive did not exist. Spain's trade system in the new world was monodirectional and not very diverse. The focus for the longest time was on gold and nothing else. When agricultural and other means of trade were introduce and developed, however limited, the system of trade remained monodirectional between the individual colonies and Europe with little intercolonial interatction. The US by contrast had a trade triangle with Europe that allowed for a great deal of product flow through the thirteen colonies.
What all of this implies is that the one of the greatest forces in the formation of a new government is that of economics and trade. What, then, does this mean for Iraq as it attempts to strengthen and extend fragile bonds between its three main populations in the creation of a new democratic Iraqi republic. Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has historically provided over 90% of foreign exchange earnings. The dominating oil region is that of the Kurds in the north, which Iraq overtook in 1990. Other primary sectors, those with the most potential for domestic trade, include agriculture, forestry, and mining. Unfortunately these industries have been poorly developed. Only about half of Iraq's arable land is under cultivation, and so despite its abundant land and water resources Iraq imports a large percentage of its food. Further, because of ethnic politics and infighting, valuable Kurdish farmland in the north has contributed little to the national economy. President Hussein also did much to discourage domestic market production in all of Iraq's major economic sectors. As such, Iraq has very little established incentive, in the form of internal economic ties, to maintain a united government. This leaves the country with only its historical legacy, which with decades of brutal dictatorship leaves much to be desired, and the shared security argument. Will this be enough to maintain a newly-forged democratic society? Only time will tell.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Deal With Hamdan

U.S.: Pentagon Applies Geneva Rules to Detainees (Reuters)
The Bush administration's belated decision to recognize the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to terrorism suspects in military custody is a step forward, Human Rights Watch said today. But because the Pentagon memorandum that codifies the change does not extend to detainees held by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), it represents only partial compliance with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. "The Pentagon's decision to apply the Geneva rules to anyone captured on the battlefield is welcome news for soldiers around the world," said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. "The Geneva rules protect everyone taken into custody in wartime, including American servicemen and women."

I was finally able, over the course of the week, to read the SCOTUS decision on Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld. I wish to be clear that I do agree with the sentiment behind the decision. I strongly believe that even terrorists should be treated humanely, as defined for POWs under Geneva. But I am conflicted when it comes to applying actual POW status to them. As the court delineated, GC Article 3 affords minimal protection to combatants "in the territory of" a signatory. But it does not afford them POW status outright. To ascribe to them this status is to elevate the operating organization (eg. Al Qaida) to the level of a state, that is, a government representing a relatively static population inhabiting some delineated region.

In addition to this, there is the question of who has ultimate jurisdiction to hear, for example, writs of habeas corpus of aliens detained outside of the United States. The U.S. prison camps were placed in Guantanamo Bay specifically to evade the jurisdiction of any court. Petitioners such as Hamdan held outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States lack the right to the writ of habeas corpus. Scalia in his dissent acknowledges a footnote to Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, under which he claims Hamdan "is already subject to indefinite detention" "after an adverse determination by his CSRT" Combatant Status Review Tribunals. So technically, in a narrow view, the administration was legally correct to assert that it could indefinately detain prisoners. Additionally, as he notes, expanding the jurisdictions able to hear writs of habeas corpus from Guantanamo Bay might create excessive load on the court system. But that does not necessarily mean that it was conscienciously right to simply deny the Guantanamo prisoners full legal recourse under the courts.

However, Hamdan was an illegal combatant. Not a POW. Geneva affords minimal protection to combatants in Iraq, which was a signatory. This should have provided them sufficient protection and reason to grant them full judicial review, as the supreme court decision indicates. There was no need for the Pentagon to grant them status as POWs.

In truth, what these proceedings demonstrate is that the Geneva Conventions are antiquated and must be revised. The spirit of the agreement should remain intact, and we as a nation should embrace the high standards represented in the original accords. But they must be updated so that they may better reflect the current world order, the current state of warfare and, the prevalence of terrorist tactics and asymmetrical conflict. There is a better solution than the one presented to us by the courts. They are limited by adherence to precedent and to current laws. As such, the current laws must be changed.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Another example of taking the First Amendment too far

Below is another example of taking the First Amendment - in the form of Separation of Church and State - too far.
You know, I am completely understanding of the idea that people want their religions to have equal status under the law, not only in practicality but in appearance as well. In the creation of new memorials, it would be perfectly acceptable to me to incorporate Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. as well as Christian symbols into the statues or monuments. I think this would be a fair proposal to make. But to completely tear a memorial down simply because it incorporates a cross - this is wrong.
The government should not sponsor or endorse any single religion. But this does not mean it cannot or should not interact with and have exchanges with a multitude of them. I have alredy heard the threats mounting about Arlington National Cemetary. One chapter of the ACLU recently released a proposal to challenge the engraving of religious symbols onto the gravestones in national cemetaries - given that they are federal institutions. They can be sure of one thing, if they ever try to deface my father's grave like that, I will be standing there ready to stop any means necessary.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court intervened Monday to save a large cross on city property in southern California.

A lower court judge had ordered the city of San Diego to remove the cross or be fined $5,000 a day.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, acting for the high court, issued a stay while supporters of the cross continue their legal fight.

Lawyers for San Diegans for the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial said in an appeal that they wanted to avoid the "destruction of this national treasure." And attorneys for the city said the cross was part of a broader memorial that was important to the community.

The 29-foot cross, on San Diego property, sits atop Mount Soledad. A judge declared it was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The cross, which has been in place for decades, was contested by Philip Paulson, a Vietnam veteran and atheist.

Three years ago the Supreme Court refused to consider to consider the long-running dispute between Paulson and the city.