Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Nourishment for your cerebellum

Two don't misses today: Prof. Douglas Kmiec on "authorization" for Abu Ghraib and Mark Steyn on the European elections.

First, Prof. Kmiec's key points:

There is much talk about whether the attorney general or Secretary Rumsfeld or maybe even the president gave the signal to torture detainees of the present war. Much of this talk is centered on a March 6, 2003, Pentagon working-group memorandum and an August 2002 Justice memo that have now to one degree or another been made public. The talk is overheated. It suggests that these scholarly but highly speculative background considerations somehow signaled to enlisted personnel on duty that night at Abu Ghraib that it was okay to engage in abusive behavior.

* * *

There is nothing in the memoranda to suggest that torture — as international and domestic law defines it — was recommended, or that the president or any other high-ranking or even mid-rank officer approved of cruel and abusive behavior. Quite the contrary: While examining the extent of presidential authority in the worst-case scenarios of wartime, the authors affirm that "malicious and sadistic use of force always violates contemporary standards of decency and would constitute cruel and unusual punishment."

Andrew Sullivan has been in a lather about this issue and has completely missed the point -- these memos are what any responsible official government must produce: research, policy and insight as to what it can legally and morally do in furthering the protections of its citizens.

Next, Steyn's column on the British results of the EU elections. Here's the key concept: European elites reject any view of the EU that isn't staunchly favorable, thus they have become an insular clique that disdains actual competition in the marketplace of ideas (the parallel to University professors in the US is obvious). And the problem has had certain manifestations:

In much of western Europe, on all the issues that matter, competitive politics decayed to a rotation of arrogant co-regents of an insular elite, with predictable consequences: if the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain issues, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable ones . . .

[A]lready Britain's lunatic mainstream is lapsing back into its customary condescension on this issue. If your views on Europe don't fall between the broad parameters from, oh, Neil Kinnock to Chris Patten, you must be barking mad and we need pay you no further heed. The political class has refined Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death my right not to have to listen to you say it. Are you still here?

This is unworthy of a democracy, and more to the point deeply unhealthy. One reason why the Eutopian dream has fizzled across the Continent is because the entire political class took it for granted no right-thinking person could possibly disagree with them, so they never felt they had to bother arguing the case and, now they have to, they can't remember what the arguments were . . .

Almost every Europhile argument is weaker now than it was a quarter-century ago, when the EU - or whatever it was called back then - had a stronger economy, healthier demographics, and the devastating implications of the Continent's social costs were not yet plain. Yet pro-Europeans remain wedded to their ancient arguments: for a good decade and a half Edward Heath in his tetchier moments has airily waved the interviewer's question aside and said all these things were decided in the 1970s and we need to get on with it. Otherwise, Britain will be "isolated in the world" and unable to survive unless it allows its relatively buoyant economy to be yoked in perpetuity to the FrancoGerman statist gerontocracy.

Read the whole piece.

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