Monday, February 12, 2007

Rutgers-Camden holds war powers symposium

The Rutgers Law School (Camden), in conjunction with its Journal of Law and Public Policy, held an interesting symposium on Presidential powers in wartime today, the guests including our own Professors Roger Clark and Dennis Patterson and our local Congressman, Rob Andrews, whose wife happens to be our Dean of Admissions. The pizza having run out--and my being a diabetic, in any case--I had to leave somewhat early, but I think I got the general drift of the proceedings. Herewith, some random observations:

1. Andrews was rather combative towards you-know-who, suggesting that various behavior, including the abuse of presidential signing statements and threats of war against Iran without congressional approval, were troublesome and (at some point) might be impeachable offenses. The problem was that his answers left one wondering if, on some level, the Bush Administration's contempt for Congress might be somewhat justified. For example, when asked about Iran, he replied that we should work for internal political change in that country--a pretty unconvincing answer when all the factions in that country support the nuclear program. He also didn't seem to see a connection between the increasingly inherited nature of the presidency (two Bushes, two Clintons, maybe another Bush) and the imperial nature of the office, although admittedly this was a somewhat off-the-wall question, even if I did ask it.

2. Clark noted that Congress shared the blame for the problem because it had the power to change Iraq policy but wouldn't use it for its own reasons. I think those reasons are more or less clear--they'd prefer to watch Bush be hurt by the war than take the responsibility for stopping it--but he was too polite to say so.

3. Patterson tried to raise the level of the discussion by framing it as a question of balance (collective security vs. individual rights) rather than abstract legal principles, although I left before I could tell if he succeeded.

One of the things that continues to amaze me about Iraq (Iran) is the insubstantial, disconnected nature of the debate at a time when the stakes, in lives and American interests, are higher than ever. In particular I am amazed by people's ability to claim, simultaneously, that they will put pressure on Iran while withdrawing our forces from Iraq--a plainly contradictory position, especially since it is becoming increasingly clear that the Iranians are the key supporters of the anti-American Shiite militias. The good news: with the "surge" taking at least a temporary toll on the militias, and economic pressures beginning to bite on the Teheran regime, the prospect for negotiations may actually be better than it has been for some time now. Bush may thus have a window to negotiate on several issues (Iraq, the Iranian nuclear program, etc.) from a relative position of strength. Will he take it?


At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you be kind enough to post on your blog the sources you turn to for information?

Of course one assumes you read the local newspaper, watch network news, and listen to a news channel on the radio. For better or for worse, those media sources are all heavy on slant and flimsy on intelligence.

I used to read articles on Daniel Pipes was on the editorial staff, which I felt added significantly to its credibility. I found their pieces to be challenging yet informative and educational as to the complexity of the Middle East, in contrast to the all-too-frequent disingenuous sound-bites on the radio, on TV, and in newsprint (insert appropriate synonym). Although is no longer "in print," Gary C. Gambill has launched a new site,, and I've read a few of the pieces.

What sources do you read and what sources do you suggest for people who want to really begin to understand the shifting geo-politics of the Middle East? Thank you.

At 12:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

". . . when asked about Iran, he replied that we should work for internal political change in that country . . ."

I would like to ask you: Is that dangerously similar to Neville Chamberlain? Many intelligent and concerned people see this historical connection. Thank you.


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