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Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Is Iraq Voting A Cause for Celebration?

Last Thursday, the state of Iraq held a vote for a four-year government to replace the current interim parliament. This interim government was plagued by many problems, the least of which was it took the coalition leaders three months to agree on whom would get which jobs. Pundits and politicians hailed the vote as the beginning of democracy, and, a sign that the insurgency had finally begun to trade political power for violence.

I'm not that optimistic for four reasons.

(1) Our celebration may be some premature; voting is a signal that the Shiite and the Sunni believe that have something to gain from electoral contestation. Electoral contestation, as the Irish Republicans demonstrated many times over, can complement as well as substitute the armed struggle.

(2) There are tactical as well as strategic reasons for voting. The German Wiemar Republic is a good example of "tactical democrats"-- political parties who participate in the parliamentary process long enough to gain legitimacy while undermining the foundations of democratic political rule. It is a positive thing, I think, that the international political climate has valorized voting and representational governments as more legitimate expressions of the political will. However, political leaders who aspire to lead their states are not fools; if voting is in, they are most certainly willing to allow, encourage, and participate in voting to make the Western European and North American intelligentsia happy. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are excellent examples of this.

(3) The parties that America supported received small shares of the vote. The newest parties haven't been, and aren't, terribly supportive of American troops in their country; they call it an "occupation", a term that has regional cache given the Arab-Israeli dispute. Israpundit went so far as to suggest that "Iran won the Iraqi vote."

(4) SecState Rice remarked that the process of national elections was a process in which the governors request the consent of the governed. "Two days from now, the Iraqi people will go to the polls for the third time since January. And they will elect a parliament to govern their nation for the next four years. All across Iraq today, representatives from some 300 political parties are staging rallies, they're holding televised debates, they're hanging campaign posters, and they're taking their case to the Iraqi people. They are asking for the consent of the governed."

Is that true? Can we really say that political parties, particularly in very divided states, seek the consent of the governed? Or would it be more appropriate to suggest that the posturing and the platforms of the parties are designed to suggest that an election victory is a "mandate" for the party's agenda? Israel makes an excellent case in point. When one votes for the Likud, why exactly is one doing that? Or in America, what did it mean to vote for John Kerry in the last election? One might have simply not supported Bush, one might have been in favor of a balanced budget, or one might have agreed with the Democrat 2004 platform.

All of this is simply to say that voting does not uniquely bring the specifics of the general political will into government, but does create a representative indicator of whether the country prefers more "liberal/secular" parties, more "Islamist" parties, etc. It doesn't tell us what the country wants in specific; and that is the largest problem of all.

The insurgency is presumably fighting for something. Voting, without other aspects of democratic life such as the free press, a strong judiciary, a robust economy, an education populace, etc is not particularly helpful toward the goal of divining what it is the insurgency is fighting for. In fact, voting may encourage intransigence on the part of some of the political parties who mistake their "base"/constituency for permanent political support in the post-Hussein posturing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Alito Consistently Biased

The Yale Law Students have released their report on Judge Alito and his jurisprudence. They are neutral in their representation of him and summarized their findings are trade-offs (e.g "In the area of civil rights law, Judge Alito consistently has used procedural and evidentiary standards to rule against female, minority, age, and disability claimants. He has taken a markedly different approach to religious discrimination, ruling in favor of religious minorities in various contexts.") but the larger picture is that this guy is really bad news.

More in depth analysis later. PDF file is at YLSAlitoProjectFinalReport.pdf.

Write your Senator to keep this guy off the courts.

Just to let all you faithful readers know, the writers of the Observer are on intersession vacation between terms. This means updates won't be daily, but we do have a few more things to bring you before the end of the year. It is my hope to have a post about the "stipulation facts about racial discrimination" and to the rest of "Achieving Our Liberation." More as inspiration hits.

Thursday, December 15, 2005
The Lamentations of a Dartmouth Alum

Over at Balkanization, Mark Graber, who is apparently a Dartmouth alum, wrote a lament that can be summed up in this accurately cynical statement: "I rather doubt that Dartmouth frat boys will cry if ROE is overruled or change their behavior much. Nor, do I suspect, will the Wall Street Journal find that decision an occasion for mourning or celebration. If you can afford Dartmouth or read the Wall Street Journal regularly, ROE does not matter." I quote the post in full below but you should go look around their site as they, as well as I, have been thinking about "philosophical conservatism." I'm looking at Russell Kirk, but they've been reading John Kekes, whose book On Conservatism I absolutely loved.

Conservative Elite and Abortion
I overlapped with many of the nation's leading conservative elites when I attended Dartmouth College during the middle to late 1970s. Granted that people change over time, but the notion that this crowd would be leading the charge for "traditional family and sexual values" seems rather absurd. Most belonged to fraternities that seemed rather dedicated to sex outside of marriage. Then again, looking at the conservative record in Congress, maybe "boys will be boys" is what is meant by traditional family and sexual values.

I was reminded of my Dartmouth experiences the other day when interviewed by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal on the probable consequences of a Supreme Court decision overruling Roe. Part of the reason was Paul Gigot was my editor when I was on the school paper (he was terrific, exceptionally open-minded). The other was that the reporter seemed rather pro-choice. I did my usual schick, explaining why I think both pro-life and pro-choice forces have incentives to exaggerate the likely political and social impact of a decision overruling ROE (see too many blogs below). She, on the other hand, with a concern for the less fortunate not normally associated with the WSJ, kept pushing me to highlight more serious impacts on poor and minority women. Do I think they will be worse off if ROE is overruled. I do. But many who do not live near an abortion provider are already badly off.

My more general conclusion is that the family values revolution is being led, partly by sincere religious believers, but also by former fraternity drunks who are mostly interested in gaining votes for lower taxes and imperial adventures in the Middle East. I rather doubt that Dartmouth frat boys will cry if ROE is overruled or change their behavior much. Nor, do I suspect, will the Wall Street Journal find that decision an occasion for mourning or celebration. If you can afford Dartmouth or read the Wall Street Journal regularly, ROE does not matter.

The Wisdom of Solomon

The New Republic (registration required) had a very interesting piece about the liberal case for the Solomon Amendment.

The amendment itself is apparently named after a late congressman named Gerald Solomon.
For most of us, the late Gerald Solomon, a 20-year member of Congress, failed to leave a deep impression. A Google search on the man suggests a figure of modest historical impact, yielding articles such as "SOLOMON, ARDENT CONSERVATIVE, DIES." But dig a little deeper and other achievements emerge. The congressman regularly took up the fight against flag burning, once accusing an opponent on the issue, House Speaker Tom Foley, of "kowtowing" to the Communist Youth Brigade. He often expressed interest in the United Nations, opining that Kofi Annan "ought to be horsewhipped." And, when it came to bearing arms, Solomon's enthusiasm was unequivocal. "My wife lives alone five days a week in a rural area in upstate New York," he lectured fellow Representative Patrick Kennedy during a debate. "She has a right to defend herself when I'm not there, son. And don't you ever forget it."

Now Solomon is posthumously back in the news--and not as a standard bearer for the traditional family lifestyle in which the husband goes out to work while the wife stays home and shoots. Instead, his name is attached to a piece of legislation he backed in 1995, the Solomon Amendment, which allows the government to withhold financial assistance from any university that bars the military from recruiting on campus. A coalition of law schools has challenged the rule on First Amendment grounds, and, last week, the Supreme Court heard their case.

Some of the most elite law schools--the University of Chicago thankfully not included--have decided that the law abridges their freedom of speech, namely their opposition to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I obviously think don't ask, don't tell is a pile of horse pluckey equivalent to the ban the military once had against blacks and whites serving together. Nothing but empirical evidence--that's troops actually perform worse when they have a member whose gay in their squad--will convince me otherwise.

The dispute at the heart of the lawsuit began in the 1990s, when the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) voted to include sexual orientation as a category meriting protection against discrimination. Employers who wished to recruit from law schools were obliged to comply with the same standard. Because the military has a near-ban on gays and lesbians, numerous schools chose to bar the Pentagon from recruiting on campus. In response, Congress, led by Solomon, voted to deprive schools of federal funding if they didn't allow military recruiters equal access. Things went back and forth for a while, but the eventual result was legislation allowing the government to withhold money from a university even if just one of its schools--a law school, say--restricts the access of military recruiters.

However, the law schools are just being dumb. (Really, we expect better.) Their opposition stems from the fact that they want federal money and want to maintain their opposition to the anti-gay policies of the military by banning recruiters. Just give up the money and you can ban recruiters all you want. Morals can be costly.
It's a strangely irksome little case, really--one of those disputes that take on a clumsy symbolism and touch unpleasantly on a variety of nerves, like a dentist's drill carelessly exploring a tooth. On one side you have an unfriendly law pushed by an old-fashioned jackass, God rest his soul, and on the other you have a group of educators marinating in self-righteousness. It's hardly an ideal set of heroes.

Also, while the dispute is widely viewed through the prism of gay rights, this is a bit of a misunderstanding--as least as far as the legal case goes. A concern for equal rights is what prompted the fight, but the legal question concerns free speech. As a constitutional matter, the argument would be the same even if a different principle were at stake. The AALS could just as well have demanded that all prospective employers wear green elf shoes. At issue would be the question of whether schools that banned non-elf-shoe-wearing recruiters were practicing a form of speech that was being unduly restricted by the government.

However, the The New Republic makes a convincing case that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is doomed due to cultural pressure alone.
Moreover, at the rate society is changing, the case may well be an anachronism within a matter of years. In the decade or so that the fight between Congress and the universities has been going on, there's been a dramatic cultural shift regarding gay rights. Let's remember: In 1997, when Ellen DeGeneres revealed herself as a lesbian on her sitcom, it was international news. Today, we have "Queer Eye" and "Six Feet Under," and no one blinks. A decade ago, not a state in the country offered same-sex civil unions; today, Vermont does, and Massachusetts has legalized same-sex marriage. More states look set to follow. TNR's Andrew Sullivan, in an article called "The End of Gay Culture," recently pointed out that 21 Fortune 500 companies offered benefits to same-sex couples in 1995; ten years later, more than 200 hundred do. And, while Red State America started from farther behind, it's rapidly progressing. Even Senator Rick Santorum, red as they come, has an openly gay director of communications. As Sullivan writes, "The speed of the change is still shocking."

However, there's more at stake here than gay rights and equal recognition. (I apologize to those activists who assume that their rights are perhaps the most pressing issue.) This is about military recruiting at the best institutions. Even though the military is a backwards institution culturally, our national defense forces deserve a chance to convince the best American minds to join their team. I don't believe for a minute that educated, cultured people will torture less or be in any way more sympathetic (if anything, their ability to self-justify is greater). I do believe, however, the structure of opportunity disincentivizes military service for the cultural and intellectual elite, disproportinately shifting the burden to the lower classes. If anything, the lower classes have less, not more, reasons to fight for the American government (especially one headed by Bush).
Far less heartening, by contrast, are the trends in military recruitment at top schools. No one among the classmates I knew in college would have been willing to take a few years to serve in the military while their friends were launching their lives and careers. This isn't simply selfishness; the entire structure of society discourages it. Charles Moskos, a Northwestern University sociologist who specializes in military issues, likes to point out that, in his Princeton class of 1956, over 400 students of about 750 served in the military. By 2004, that number was down to 8 students out of about 1,100. These numbers are for undergraduates, of course, not law school students. But the fact is that the entire culture of elite education--undergraduate, graduate, and professional--has grown hostile towards the idea of military service over the past 50 years. Permitting the Pentagon to puncture the self-imposed bubble of privileged schools is essential to changing this mindset.

The Solomon Amendment controversy, in sum, awakens two competing liberal imperatives: promoting equality for gays and lesbians; and encouraging all members of society--and not just a segregated warrior class--to sacrifice for our national security. One of these efforts is going quite well; the other is going quite poorly. This suggests that liberals who passionately support the universities in the lawsuit have the wrong fight on their minds. Military culture with respect to gays and lesbians is not going to change in response to a boycott by a few schools. (If anything, such a boycott would only make military culture more insular and therefore less tolerant.) And "don't ask, don't tell" is likely to disappear on its own. On the other hand, while most Americans have grown more tolerant of gay rights in recent decades, elites have become increasingly unwilling to serve in the military. The real shame at the heart of the Solomon Amendment scuffle, then, isn't the possibility of students being confronted by representatives from an organization that discriminates against gays and lesbians. It's the possibility of elites becoming even more isolated from the armed services that keep all of us safe.

No doubt, most of the law school deans and gay rights activists who support the ban on military recruiters consider themselves to be enlightened and progressive. But sometimes being progressive involves emerging from righteous isolation and deigning to mingle with an imperfect world. In this case, the true mantle of liberalism has been upheld not by progressive law school deans but by a man who probably would have recommended launching a commando raid against them. One speaks, of course, of Gerry Solomon. Maybe he was more liberal than he realized.

Supporting the Solomon Amendment means supporting the notion that our military should be representative of our society. The elites are more likely to go into policy making positions that will involve choices about using America's armed forces. Since most of them will not have studied security, hoping that some of them may have served might be the next best thing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Achieving Our Liberation, part III

Note: This is the third in a series of posts, the whole of which might be a conference paper. Comments are encouraged on parts or on the whole.

The Bound Nations from Europe’s Perspective

Historically, the act of the imperialist and colonialist nations imposing the status of “colony” onto a people through military domination and economic exploitation constituted the source of national captivity. The predatory logic of capitalism drives its sponsor to create new markets and found exploitable labor power. This predation required both the domination of the colony and the submission of the local environments to the logic of capitalistic economics: competitive value-added production for a consumer base. Sartre, Lenin, and Cabral disagree, however, on exactly how imperialist capitalist logics dominate the colonies, and, as a result, disagree over what a project of national liberation would mean for the colonized.

Lenin’s International Socialism: Nationalism as Weapon in the European Class Struggle

Lenin, like Sartre, viewed imperialist domination as a function of capitalism. Unlike Sartre conceived of the hierarchical relationship from an international mode of life where capitalism had not, and indeed never fully would, become the dominant economic system of the world. Thus, imperialism was not only the domination of the colonized, but also the inevitable conflicts arising out of capitalist nations’ squabble over the divisions of a largely non-capitalist world. His most famous treatise on the matter described imperialism as the “highest stage of capitalism. (Lenin 1974, 78)” Imperialism was not the highest state simply because the best international capitalism could hope for was intra-capitalist competition over raw materials and cheap labor—Lenin indeed thought it was—but also because the furthest capitalism could hope to proceed was a core of capitalist nations dividing and transforming non-capitalist territories between them (Wood 2005, 126). Capitalism, and the imperialism it produced, Lenin fervently believed, would obsolesce into global socialism long before a majority of the world could become capitalist economies.

Lenin’s internationalist perspective of imperialism also colored his view of nationalism and national liberation movements. Capitalist imperialism functioned to increase both commodity exchange, as in the days of classic colonialism, and capital production. The dependence of colonies on European finance capital would permanently bind the colonies and postcolonies to the European center in relations of economic dependency. According to Lenin, imperialism hastened the process of capitalist development in the colonies precisely to strengthen these dependencies (Lenin 1974, 128). Colonial nationalism, for Lenin, arises as a by-product of the imperialist-promoted capitalist development (Lenin 1974, 28).

It is within this historical economic framework that national liberation movements arise to assist the imperialist nations with their transformation of a non-capitalist periphery into a productive part of the capitalist world-system.
Throughout the world, the period of the final victory of capitalism over feudalism has been linked up with national movements. For the complete victory of commodity production, the bourgeoisie must capture the home market, and there must be political united territories whose populations speak a single language…The tendency of every national movement is towards the formation of national states under which these requirements of modern capitalism are best satisfied (Lenin 1974, 40-1).

National states are the sign of the first period of capitalism—the triumph over the feudal order—and represent its awakening. “The typical features of the first period are: the awakening of national movements and the drawing of the peasants, the most numerous and the must sluggish section of the population, into these movements, in connect with the struggle for political liberty in general, and for the rights of the nation in particular (Lenin 1974, 45).” Nationalism is an excellent source of mobilization, and, in turn creates the desire for each nation to create its own state. Nationalism is dangerous because of its connect to reactionary elements: “The general “national culture” is the culture of the landlords, the clergy, and the bourgeoisie (Lenin 1974, 12).” The nationalism itself is a product of bourgeois culture, and it ultimately used in the service of spreading capitalism through imperialism.

The countries of Asia, the greater part of whom Lenin identifies either as colonies or as depressed, dependent nations, best exemplified the historical link and logic of nationalism and capitalist development. Japan, the only independent national state in the region, had witnessed a speedy growth of capitalism, after which the bourgeois state began to “oppress other nations and enslave colonies. (Lenin 1974, 43)” The link between the bourgeoisie culture, capitalist development, and imperialism caused Lenin to distrust valorizations of these national liberation movements because they distracted the proletarians from their class struggle and threatened to divide the proletariat along national lines. “All liberal-bourgeois nationalism sows the greatest corruption among the workers and does harm to the cause of freedom and the proletarian class struggle…It is under the guise of national culture…that the Black Hundreds and the clericals, and also the bourgeoisie of all nations, are doing their dirty and reactionary work (Lenin 1974, 11).” The challenge, Lenin postulated, was to create a concept of national liberation that did not sell the working class revolution short. To do that, he turns to the fact of imperialist oppression to forge the tactical, though not ideological, alliance between the social democrats and the nationalists.

“In every nation there are toiling and exploited masses” and the oppression of those masses give rise to the democratic claim of national self-determination as a claim against imperialism (Lenin 1974, 12). Narrowing the goal of liberation to the expression of a desire against exploitation served Lenin’s internationalism in three ways. First, it allowed him to situate national liberation in the progression of history from communalism to communism: “If we want to grasp the meaning of self-determination of nations…by examining the historico-economic conditions of national movements…the self-determination of nations means the political separation of these nations from alien national bodies, and the formation of an independent national state (Lenin 1974, 28).” Second, mere political separation constitutes a social democratic claim similar to the right of women to divorce their husbands and opposed only by critics on the right. “Just as in bourgeois society the defenders of privilege and corruption, on which bourgeois marriage rests, oppose the freedom of divorce, so, in the capitalist state, repudiation of the right to self-determination…means nothing more than the defense of privileges of the dominant nation and police methods of administration, to the detriment of democratic methods (Lenin 1974, 66).” Three, casting nationalist aspirations as particular manifestations of democratic dreams co-opts a potent source of mobilization from Lenin’s political adversaries. “Combat all national oppression? Yes, of course! Fight for any kind of national development, for “national culture” in general?—Of course not (Lenin 1974, 22-3).” Lenin feared that nationalists wanted to divide the worker’s movement to continue capitalist exploitation along national lines, a situation he saw as currently present in the United States. “In the Northern States Negro children attend the same schools as white children do. In the South there are separate “national”, or racial, whichever you please, schools for Negro children. I think that this” resulted from “the division of education affairs according to nationality (Lenin 1974, 25, 24).”

Internationalism encouraged Lenin’s frigidity toward struggles for national liberation. Even though he mentions that it is the duty of socialists to aid revolutionary parties in their struggle against imperialism, even if these struggles took on a nationalist character, the struggles for nationhood were distractions from the struggle for social democracy and mere transitions along the path to world socialism (Lenin 1974, 113-14). The growing number of nationalist movements testified to the success of imperial capital awakening the need for national states; socialist assistance of this need aimed toward the imminent world revolution. The nationalisms of the peripheral, colonial, and depressed nations were important only as sites of armed resistance against capitalism. Oftentimes that imperial burden obfuscated the glorious mission of proletariat, observed Lenin in his reflections on Engels and Marx’s comments about the relationship between the British and Irish working classes (Lenin 1974, 81-4). Since “only the victories of the working class can bring about the complete liberation of all nationalities”, it is not surprising that Lenin observed “the English working class will never be free until Ireland is free(Lenin 1974, 82). ” Justice for the Irish, a subjugated nation at the time, is subordinate to the democratic aspirations of the working classes within the imperial nations.

Lenin, however, as he was not entirely in the center himself—being a Russian during the Tsarist period—provided us with a means of overcoming Lenin’s unwillingness to equate the claims of justice for nations with the claims of justice within nations. Lenin admitted that the dynamics of the capitalist world system limited the potential democratic outcomes of successful struggles for national liberation. “The right of nations to self-determination [and] all the fundamental demands of political democracy are only partially “practicable” under imperialism [as a world-system], and [only] then in a distorted form and by way of exception. (Lenin 1974, 100). ” Lenin’s solution to the problem was inelegant: only until the social democratic state gave way to the Communist world order could true democratic aspirations blossom. However, Lenin’s observation that a world-system of imperialism, exploitation, and warfare limits the democratic character of national revolutions is important. This insight suggests that the concept of national liberation must aim to take the nation out of the world-system in which it emerges.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Interpreting the Right to Bear Arms

Many opponents of gun control argue that the Constitution protects ensurs that no one "infringes" on their right to bear arms as individual citizens. Gun control, in fact, could be a way to protect the right from the "infringement" of criminal behavior within American society. I don't find a strong argument in the constitutional text for gun control.

The problem with the second amendment is that it is not written in a grammatically straight-forward way per our modern usage of English. Let's trot out the text and analyze the sentence:

" A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

First, we can conclude that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State given the position of the adjectival apposite in relation to the subject of the sentence: "A well regulated Militia." I'm certain that the Supreme Court or the Congress has, at some point, clarified the criteria concerning what it means to be a militia, and, what it means to be "well regulated."

Second, the sentence is, presumably, about the subject "A well regulated Militia" and all subsequent clauses before the verb "shall" refer back to the subject.

Third, this militia is necessary to the "security of a free State." It would, at this point, be appropriate to figure out how militia functioned as a social and security institution in colonial America because it is unclear whether the state whose freedom is preserved by the presence of the militia is a "state" like the United States, or a "state" like Wisconsin or New York. It would also tell us what "security" might have meant, given that the "security" of the country comes from the armed forces and the security of the people comes from the police. If "security" meant protection from the British, then the right to keep and bears arms is protected by the very fact that any citizen can join the armed forces in some capacity. If "security" meant stealing land from Indians and continuing a genocide, then we no longer face that condition and it could simply refer to the right of police persons to bear arms. (This reading would favor preventing the arming of slaves to foreclose the option of a slave rebellion.)

The "right of the people to keep and bear Arms" occurs at a odd place grammatically due to the appositive immediately prior setting the general reason (to secure the freedom of the state). Given the supremacy of the militia as the subject of the sentence, there is textual evidence to believe that the right of the people was not a direct one, but a right that existing because of citizen access to certain institutions--the militia for the writers of this text and the armed forces/police for us. That would be consistent with two implementations of arms control laws, one historical, the other present.

The fact that even after the Reconstruction Amendments blacks were forbidden to own and carry guns--even though most freedman purchased guns as a sign of their freedom--suggested that their collective right as a people to bear arms for their security existed through the occupying force of the standing army in the south. This would also be consistent with the demand of the Black Panthers to form all-black militias to protect African-Americans in the 1960s and 1970s from police brutality and racial terrorism.

If it were a direct inalienable right of every person, rather a collective right of the people exercised through representative institutions like the armed forces, the police, or, for the Panthers, all-black militias, then we would not be able to restrict felons from owning guns. However, if their collective security is provided for by the police or the national army, then their right to bears arms is protected from the point of view of the text.

If the right did not belong to the people, hired legions of mercenaries would be constitutionally permissible as a means of providing national or personal security. This means bodyguards might be illegal.

Finally, we come to the small matter of what entails an "infringement" of the right to a well-order militia/ right to bear arms. This is underspecified in the text. However, the underspecification does not seem to preclude Congressional oversight (gun control) on the matter because we have to distinguish it from the phrase "congress shall make no law" which occurred earlier in the text (First Amendment). It seems to me that as long as the armed forces and police have the funding to provide for the security of the citizens the right of the people to bears arms for their security.

Guns in the hands of citizens outside a well-regulated militia setting, then, are a threat precisely because giving the choice to an individual to use guns outside that structure decreases the security of the free state, and thereby strips the people of their rights to security under the Constitution. The second amendment, thus, may militate for gun control laws.

Monday, December 12, 2005
Achieving our Liberation, part II

Note: This is the second in a series of posts, the whole of which might be a conference paper. Comments are encouraged on parts or on the whole.

The Bound Nations from Europe’s Perspective

Historically, the act of the imperialist and colonialist nations imposing the status of “colony” onto a people through military domination and economic exploitation constituted the source of national captivity. The predatory logic of capitalism drives its sponsor to create new markets and found exploitable labor power. This predation required both the domination of the colony and the submission of the local environments to the logic of capitalistic economics: competitive value-added production for a consumer base. Sartre, Lenin, and Cabral disagree, however, on exactly how imperialist capitalist logics dominate the colonies, and, as a result, disagree over what a project of national liberation would mean for the colonized.

Imperialism as a Cancer for Europe: Helping “Them” to Help “Ourselves”

Sartre develops a theory concerning the colonial logic of the metropolitan producers and the settler-colonists. Europe and its interests are central to his story, and he never fully manages to think outside his mode of life. In one essay, “Colonialism is a System”, Sartre records the French method of colonial market-creation: the transplantation of excess European populations and the concentration of the means of production—land, labor, and capital—under the colonists’ control. His historical theoretical narrative about colonialism focuses on the dynamics and imperatives of surpluses in market economies, particularly surpluses of labor and goods. His narrative mentions the colonized in relation to processes begun in Europe.

Sartre begins with the “first” definition of colonialism as expounded by Jules Ferry, “the great figure of the Third Republic”:
It is in the interest of France, which has always been awash with capital and has exported it to foreign countries in considerable quantities, to consider the colonial question from this angle. For countries like ours which, by the very nature of their industry, are destined to be great exporters, this question is precisely one of outlets…Where there is political predominance, there is also predominance in products, economic predominance (Sartre 2001, 33).

Ferry identifies the four key elements necessary as a prerequisite for a colonialist ideology: a country that defines itself as the center, surplus capital, strong export interests, and desire for economic predominance. Sartre criticizes the latter three, but misses the first. I shall come back to that later. However, he makes evident the ideological flaws at the core of Ferry’s glowing praise for France’s productive capacity: all of them center on the need for a passive, dominated colony.

“The capital with which France is ‘awash’ will not be invested in under-developed countries”, Sartre insinuates (Sartre 2001, 33). France was searching for economic and political predominance. By investing in others France ran the risk of creating competitors and thereby threatened the very precondition of colonialism, “France…awash with capital.” Nevertheless, that surplus must go somewhere and the natives in the colonies cannot afford to purchase the surplus goods. That problem—of the lack of a buyer market—quickly resolves itself, Sartre wryly noted, when the settler becomes involved. “The concomitant of this colonial imperialism is that spending power has to be created in the colonies. And, of course, it is the colonist who will benefit from all the advantages and who will be turned into potential buyers. The colonialist is above all an artificial consumer, created overseas from nothing by a capitalism which is seeking new markets. (Sartre 2001, 34)” In this way, settler colonization becomes the physical method by which the territory of another nation is incorporated in the sphere of French political and economic dominance.

The settler, however, arrives in a land owned by another people. Lacking any true normative or historical claim to the land, settlers have only two choices if they are to ground the new outposts of the French market: bribery and theft. In the sparsely populated regions of the country, settler colonization is less noticeable and takes the form of “military occupation and forced labor. (Sartre 2001, 34)” The most concentrated populations occupied and cultivated the most profitable land for France. The market, in the physical persons of the settlers, needed to acquire the land for the colonial system, and, as Sartre judiciously phrased it, “any method was acceptable. (Sartre 2001, 35)” French colonialists chose management techniques created and perfect by Spain when it invented America. Every crushed revolt, every land speculator, every law designed to break the traditional property relations of Algeria were also the elegant fingers of colonial-market-settlers tightening their grip on the land and choking the life of the indigenous people. “The results of the operation: In 1850, the colonists’ territory was 115, 000 hectares. In 1900, it was 1, 600, 000; in 1950, it was 2, 703, 000. Today [1956]…7 million hectares have been left to the Algerians…It has taken just a century to dispose them of two-thirds of their land. (Sartre 2001, 36)” For Sartre, colonialism’s dominative and dispossesive dynamics defined the relationship of the colonized and the colonizer. It also sustained support in the metropolis for colonialism among capitalists. In terms of sheer agricultural output, the French settlers out-produced the Algerians: “Agricultural production is estimated as follows: the Muslims produce 48 billions francs worth; the Europeans produce 92 billions francs worth. (Sartre 2001, 38)” The loss of Algerian colony would represent a loss of the investment of the profit.

The system of capitalism, however, is not only the economic ties, dependencies and land-ownerships supported by the system, it is also the identities “colonialist” and “native” reified by the system in its own self-reproduction. The colonial system is not just the “million colonists, children, and grandchildren of colonists, who have been shaped by colonialism and who think, speak, and act according to [its] very principles”, it is also the fabricated native, composed of “his function and interests (Sartre 2001, 44).” However, Sartre shied away from describing precisely how the Algerian [man] is fabricated by the colonial system, and focused instead on the false consciousness of the colonialist whose homeland was France but whose country was Algeria. This is because Sartre ignores how the identity of France, and not just its economic interests, were bound into and by the France-colony identity. France’s quest for economic and political predominance meant that France first had to create a political economic system of which it was the center and author.

The natives, fabricated though they were, were also always exterior to that system. French capital follows French settlers protected by French soldiers who gather the land using French law to sell French goods to French consumers. At no point was the colonial system anything but French. In fact, so distrustful and so presumptive was French colonialism that it incorporated Algeria into the political structure of France itself, and did its best to replace non-French identities with those of the French. The natives appear in Sartre’s story only to the extent which their presence confirms the self-defeating nature of French colonialism: “The Algerians…have decided to attack our political predominance…Colonialism is in the process of destroying itself…It is our shame; it mocks our laws or caricatures them. It infects us with racism (Sartre 2001, 44, emphasis added).” The goal of national liberation, from the center’s point of view, is to construct a better, less acerbic relationship between “a free France and a liberated Algeria” and to deliver France—oh, and Algeria too—from French colonial tyranny: “The only thing that we can and ought to attempt…is to fight along side [the Algerians] to deliver both the Algerians and the French from colonial tyranny (Sartre 2001, 47, emphasis in the original).” From the center’s perspective, imperialism is the unjust acquisition of land and appropriation of the value of the land by the surplus products of the metropolis. Concordantly, liberation entails the transfer of land, rents, and legal authority to the colonized people in order that the direct dominative relationship can end. It is an unhelpful view, as it does not envision a role for the postcolony outside of the world system. Sartre’s unexamined presumption of Europe as the center of world history—a position he evidences most clearly in his criticisms of Negritude in Black Orpheus—ultimately does not allow for the development of a true philosophy of national liberation.

Friday, December 09, 2005
Achieving Our Liberation, I

I've finally finished all my exams. We'll be returning to a full week of updates on Monday. I'll also be posting one of the essay I've recently written over the next few days for comments on any of the parts or the whole. As usual, all ideas are copyrighted by both by the DartObserver and by the individual authors.

Freedom is a prerequisite for justice.* To say that American slaves experienced injustice is an understatement. The condition of slavery made it impossible to speak of justice in a true sense. Similarly, to say that no justice exists for an entire class of nations would be equally facile. Most scholars agree that today a world system exists, rooted in international capitalism. The more radical of those scholars would acknowledge that the international economic order privileges the political economic position of the strong over the positions of the postcolonial states. As evidenced by the growing tensions within the current Doha round of the World Trade Organization, and the concept of the North-South gap, the inability of postcolonial states to determine for themselves a future independent of the world system suggests that these nations lack freedom in any real sense.

In trying to discern moral principles for “after the terror”—after the collapse of the twin towers in autumn of 2001—philosopher Ted Honderich 2002 writes of the conditions of the “half-lives” of many who live exterior to the world system as compared to their counterparts in its center. “Some people, because of their societies, have average lifetimes of about seventy-eight years. Some other people, because of their different societies, live on average about forty years.[…] For every 1,000 children born alive” in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Sierra Leone “about 200 die under the age of five. A dark fact. An evil…” More than injustice, postcolonies have lived experiences than can be classified as evil in comparison to the opulence of those in the center of the world system. Equality, however, is not the central issue; even historically, the design and function of the international economic order has been to deny those societies choices outside the world system (Wood 2005). The central issue is freedom to determine one’s own path outside the imperial logics of the era of modernization, to over-come “the world-system itself, such as it has developed until today for the last five-hundred years. (Dussel 2003)” This conception of freedom forms what the philosopher-theologian Enrique Dussel calls an “ethic of liberation.” This ethic of liberation forms the core of politician and political theorist Amilcar Cabral’s reflection on the subject: “…[T]he chief goal of the liberation movement goes beyond the achievement of political independence to the superior level of complete liberation of the productive forces and the construction of economic, social, and cultural progress of the [nation]….(Williams and Chrisman 1994)” When applied to the nation, and this is my central argument, an ethic of liberation becomes a struggle for national liberation, which is the freedom of a postcolony to find political existence outside the world system according to its own history.

This freedom is a prerequisite for justice. That is the lesson that the historical struggles for national liberation have for political theorists. The further we get from the proclamations of political independence, the more it seems that formal independence is distinct from national liberation, especially when we consider the imperial effects of a global system of capital (Wood 2005). Having defined national liberation as the ability of nations to leave the world system and find their own path, I aim to detail what national liberation, as a project, entails.

I begin by describing how the nation is unfree in the thoughts of four theorists writing in a Marxist framework: Vladimir Lenin, Jean-Paul Sartre, Enrique Dussel and Amilcar Cabral. Understanding the nation’s captivity is crucial to understanding how the nation can emerge from the system. The theorists from the center, Lenin and Sartre, disagree vigorously with the theorists from the periphery over the meaning of liberation (Wallerstein 2003). This disagreement largely results from how each imagined liberation in relation to the capitalist system. Not all visions of liberation aim to imagine the postcolony outside of a world-system, and the tensions between the postcolony and the world-system drive the disagreements between the theories. Once I have identified the source of restriction on the nation, I shall offer reasons why a truly liberated postcolony must be exterior to the system.

*I'd like to thank S. Luke Blair and Steven Wu for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this draft.

If We Are All Equal, Why Do We Need Different Names?

Do governments think that we liberals are dumb enough to believe that the second-class citizenship they are enforcing on gays (in the name of equality) is going to pass the bulls**t meter?

Congratulations to all those gay couples poised to tie the knot, as the UK's new law permitting 'civil partnerships' comes into force. For those who want to pledge their undying love, it's nice that there is now a formal way of doing so; just as it is humane and practical to permit gay couples the legal rights that civil partnership will bestow.

But from a cultural point of view, there is something distinctly odd about the Civil Partnerships Act, and the way it has been promoted by the government and greeted by society. 'This is an important piece of legislation that gives legal recognition to relationships which until now were invisible in the eyes of the law', Meg Munn, the little-known 'minister for equality', told the BBC News website. According to the Financial Times, the government has described the Civil Partnership Act as its 'most significant piece of social legislation' - a rather shocking testimony to its own low horizons. But what is a civil partnership? What does it do?

'It accords people in same-sex relationships the same sort of rights and responsibilities that are available to married couples', says Munn. 'We know there are people who have been together maybe 40 years and have been waiting for the chance to do this kind of thing, because of the important differences it makes to their lives. They have the same concerns as married couples - tenancy, ownership, pensions and inheritance.' In other words, a civil partnership between two homosexual individuals is just like marriage. But it emphatically isn't marriage, and it does not treat gay people as if they are straight. It is a different kind of institution, explicitly designed for different kind of people. Voilà equality, New Labour-style.

If its marriage, call it marriage. Surely the road to perdition is paved with good intentions; it would be nice to see action once in while though.

What bothers me most, though, is why the sex lives of gay people are so important. The author suggests the government wants to regulate the bedrooms of gays--that may be true--but it seems to me that this whole fuss about marriage, pair-bonding, and true love, etc. are just more social fabrications people buy into to ameliorate the atomizing effects of society.
In boiling the essence of marriage down to property and pension rights, the civil partnerships for gays strip marriage of its mystique. In refusing to call a civil partnership a marriage, this new law is denuded of any of the progressive properties it might otherwise have. And in hyping up the whole thing beyond any impact it has upon the homosexual population, the civil partnerships scheme is fast becoming a caricature of gay naff.

On 5 December, the day the law came into force, the press made much of the way that retailers are gearing up to target the 'pink pound', with one high street supermarket selling cards celebrating 'Mr and Mr' and 'Mrs and Mrs', and one chainstore chemist flogging tea-towels sporting the legend 'Darling, Dearest, Queerest'. Well, if equality has been reduced to the mainstreaming of wedding kitsch and getting your hands on half a flat in Brighton, maybe we're there after all.
When did we liberals come to accept heteronormativity and the capitalist nuclear family? Gay sex was once radical; now it's just passe, and, at times, a bore, or, even worst, an annoyance. I definitely support people making "commitments" and "life-long promises to each other" but if the struggle for gay marriage becomes another tool for some people to tell others how to live, then I must say liberated sex soon seeks a straitjacket to replace its fetters.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Ummm...What's exactly does "disciplined" mean again?

Is the extraneous adjective preceding democracy bothering anyone else in this news report?
Myanmar's ruling generals on Monday opened a round of talks on drafting a new Constitution and steering the isolated country toward what the junta calls "disciplined democracy".

More than 1 000 delegates handpicked by the regime are meeting for about two months at this secluded military compound outside Yangon for talks boycotted by the main opposition group and widely dismissed by foreign observers.

"We are in the process of transition to a disciplined democratic nation," Lieutenant General Thein Sein, the head of the National Convention, said in an opening address.

"This is the first step in the transition to democracy, and it is the most crucial step. Genuine and disciplined democracy -- there is no other way, this is the way."

First discipline, then freedom. It's democracy-lite junta-style.

Is International Law Important?

Exercepts from Robert Jackson's closing statement at Nuremberg:
It is common to think of our own time as standing at the apex of civilization, from which the deficiencies of preceding ages may patronizingly be viewed in the light of what is assumed to be "progress." The reality is that in the long perspective of history the present century will not hold an admirable position, unless its second half is to redeem its first. These two-score years in the twentieth century will be recorded in the book of years as one of the most bloody in all annals. Two World Wars have left a legacy of dead which number more than all the armies engaged in any way that made ancient or medieval history. No half-century ever witnessed slaughter on such a scale, such cruelties and inhumanities, such wholesale deportations of peoples into slavery, such annihilations of minorities. The terror of Torquemada pales before the Nazi Inquisition. These deeds are the overshadowing historical facts by which generations to come will remember this decade. If we cannot eliminate the causes and prevent the repetition of these barbaric events, it is not an irresponsible prophecy to say that this twentieth century may yet succeed in bringing the doom of civilization.

We charge unlawful aggression but we are not trying the motives, hopes, or frustrations which may have led Germany to resort to aggressive war as an instrument of policy. The law, unlike politics, does not concern itself with the good or evil in the status quo, nor with the merits of the grievances against it. It merely requires that the status quo be not attacked by violent means and that policies be not advanced by war. We may admit that overlapping ethnological and cultural groups, economic barriers, and conflicting national ambitions created in the 1930's, as they will continue to create, grave problems for Germany as well as for the other peoples of Europe. We may admit too that the world had failed to provide political or legal remedies which would be honorable and acceptable alternatives to war. We do not underwrite either the ethics or the wisdom of any country, including my own, in the face of these problems. But we do say that it is now, as it was for sometime prior to 1939, illegal and criminal for Germany or any other nation to redress grievances or seek expansion by resort to aggressive war.

Monday, December 05, 2005
So You Want Oversight on the War on Terror...

Slate makes an excellent case that the merit of Bush's judicial nominees have less to do with whether they will overturn Roe or not--Slate believes they won't--but whether they are capable and willing to oversee the administration's war on terror.
Pretend, for a minute, that I am not completely paranoid and that there is truth behind my sense that we are all missing the real story of the new Supreme Court nominations. My fear is that we are all snoozing through an elaborate plan to pack the court for the Bush administration's war on terror. What if all the obsessive talk about whether candidates are for or against overturning Roe v. Wade is a strategic head feint? What if I am right, and Samuel Alito is confirmed to the Supreme Court without ever substantively answering a question about torture, enemy detentions, the rights of foreigners, or civil liberties during wartime?

I think we will, all of us, be very sorry. Not just the edgy civil libertarians or the ACLU types, and not just Jose Padilla, or his attorneys, but everyone who believes there is a place for the rule of law even in the midst of a war, especially when that war threatens to go on forever.

This president—for reasons that hardly warrant repeating here—doesn't really want to be remembered as the guy responsible for the court that overturned Roe. (Although he certainly wants us to think he wants to be remembered as that guy.) No, Roe is not what keeps George W. Bush awake nights. What he wants to be remembered for is winning the war on terror. He wants to be seen as the president who carried the great torch of democracy into the world's darkest corners. And he believes—of this I am certain—that the courts are standing in his way.

Read the entire article and write your senator. Let's make sure we're not going to drop the ball on this one.

Slow Week

This is going to be a slow week with no sweeping philosophical tracts until I have my papers done. I've finished project one of three, mostly done with number two, and have gestured toward a coherent thought for three. I'll limit myself to quick updates about random thoughts and links as I read the news.

I'll be back on the circuit when I have the luxury to have more good ideas than deadlines (as Andrew Samwick so eloquently phrased it).

Thursday, December 01, 2005
This Day, The Day of My Birth

I am proud to have been born on this day, which is also World AIDS Day. AIDS is, perhaps, the greatest threat to peace in our time. gives us the details:
Today is World AIDS day. More than 20 million have died worldwide and some 40 million are living with HIV/AIDS. The scale of the devastation is so immense that it’s difficult to comprehend. This disease continues to affect people of color disproportionally. In the US, there may be 1.2 million affected. 43% are black, 35% white, and 20% Hispanic. Globally, 26 million of the 40 million are from Africa. In some countries like South Africa, it is estimated that 20% of the adult population is affected.

In this holiday season, consider contributing to causes on the front line of this battle. Consider directly assisting families affected, whether they be in the US or abroad. In Zimbabwe a few years ago, I met a teacher who was supporting her 3 nieces who were orphaned when both parents died of AIDS. My few hundred dollars sent periodically via Western Union (arrival 15 minutes) literally paid for all their school fees, books and uniforms. One less video game system for my kids meant literacy and hope for this family.

The Dartmouth Observer: Blogging Styles

There's a great entry over at Mister Snitch on blogging styles.
We've been blogging just long enough (not quite a year now) to have spotted at least seven distinct types of traffic-generating blogging styles.

Just as there are different styles of investing, there are different approaches to traffic generation. Aside from the occasional, reclusive J.D.Salingers, most writers want to be read as widely as possible. Some bloggers literally will do anything to gain audience, others have defined boundaries. Site traffic is a subject close to bloggers' hearts, and is front-of-mind right now, thanks in part to the misadventures of Pajamas Media.

Not every blogger practicing these distinct styles gets as much traffic as they might like. However, each style has the potential to drive traffic. Other styles of blogging, such as the let's-discuss-what-I-ate-for-lunch style, aren't suited for driving traffic, unless of course you're talking about what Madonna had for lunch. As a rule, navel-gazing gains an audience of one.

Many blogs employ a combination of styles.

After watching the blog market for a while, Snitch decided to create a typology of how people blog and how this might relate to their site traffic. In so far as the Dartmouth Observer has been bringing you (awesome) content since the Summer of 2002, but has only recently been providing you daily content since mid-October 2005, I want to offer what I think ChienWen and my blogging styles are. In July we might re-evaluate and extend to some of our own writers from ages past. Feel free to comment.

ChienWen falls into the following categories: 3 and 7
3) Nichebloggers, aka localbloggers. We've posted on local blogging before. Local bloggers focus on their locality, but we also consider someone focused on any particular subject a "local" blogger (that subject being the 'locality'). The subject is usually something the writer is passionate about, or has special expertise in. Econbrowser is a great niche blogger, specializing in macroeconomics. Some 'niche' bloggers switch their 'locality' from time to time. Dan Riehl is an important 'local' blogger whose 'locality' for some time has been Natalee Holloway. When another story of size comes along, he may switch to a new 'locale'.

Like a caterer, the niche blogger writes according to what his audience is coming to read. Unlike the caterer, the niche blogger pursues his/her chosen subject regardless of traffic stats. Generally, niche bloggers sacrifice quick stats in order to pursue their subject.

(We do a fair amount of local blogging in terms of writing about Hoboken and Jersey. We also nicheblog on favorite subjects, such as blogmarketing.)

This style of blogging reminds us of investors who specialize in finding opportunity within a particular industry.

7) The long-tail blogger is the rarest of successful breeds. This style requires consistent blogging over a long period of time (hence the rarity in a fairly new medium). As we have noted in previous posts, blogging is heavily favored by search engines in the current Internet cultural environment. A classic long-tail blogger such as Dustbury gets a very respectable audience (currently approaching 1,000 unique visits a day) because the site has been commenting on popular culture, steadily and succinctly, for over nine and a half years. A look at Charles' site stats tells the story: Out of every 1,000 hits, about 70% come to the site's front page or a current post. The remainder are links that trickle in - one, two, three at a time - for archived posts. Charles rarely enters trackback festivals or Carnivals. (Although he was the very first person to send an entry to the very first Carnival of the Vanities, he now submits an entry about once every other week to Outside the Beltway or Wizbang.) His site gets found because the search engines reward authoritative blog posts - and longevity.

We haven't been doing this anywhere near as long as Charles. But it's encouraging to see that simply by writing decently and adding value to links, a blog can, over time, find its audience. Of all the blogging styles (and many blogs, like this one, are a melange of several styles), this seems to be the most natural and satisfying for blogger and reader alike. Fausta is another long-tail blogger whose traffic will grow as she continues to post. Charles, James Lileks (who has some 'outside celebrity' backing - see 5, above - but whose 9-year online background suggests he belongs in this category), and Fausta Weiss are the Warren Buffets of blogging.

This category is very much related to nicheblogging (3). Long-tail posts tend to drill deep into 'local' or 'niche' areas of expertise.

I, John Stevenson, am probably a mixture of 1 and 7, with an occasional 3. Since you already know what 3 and 7 are, I give you 1.
1) Meme-du-jour bloggers comment on the high-profile ideas of the moment. This requires more or less constant research, and results in posts that are often less than polished or complete (because they have to be composed quickly, and also because these stories are after all, developing). This type of blogger is usually focused on political issues.

High-traffic bloggers working in this style develop an entourage of lesser-trafficked bloggers. This forms an ecosystem: One big blog drives big traffic to many small blogs, and many small blogs return a modest traffic streams back to the source. Michelle Malkin is the epitome of this blogging style in its purest incarnation. This type of blogging reminds us of a hedge fund investor: At its best, it offers outsized, quick returns. However, it's not always in the best interests of the companies being bought and sold, nor is it necessarily good for the general public. Likewise, this style of blogging does not always serve the issues well. Posts in this style are too often long on POV, short on insight. This style also skews toward links to other high-trafficked bloggers at the expense of lesser bloggers offering more insight (although this is a problem with most bloggers in general).

(We do a certain amount of this style of blogging, as there are fleeting memes that interest us, and also because it is a way to introduce ourselves to new audiences. Most blogs are at least somewhat 'meme', keeping up with current events and fashions.)

The analysis of blogging is excellent and I offer that you should read it.