Iraq's Summer Soldiers
Tim Cavanaugh ("Iraq's Summer Soldiers," January) notes the liberal hawks' supposed hypocrisy in blaming President George W. Bush for mismanaging the postwar situation. This charge is spurious: To acknowledge the neglect or betrayal of an ideal is not to be hypocritical but to be honest.
That the occupation has not fared well should mean that intellectuals and writers such as Christopher Hitchens and Paul Berman take a critical stance. The prospects of a free Iraq, and a free Middle East, depend on the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Administrative incompetence therefore cannot be tolerated.
Valley Stream, NY
Tim Cavanaugh replies: Stephen Cheng supposes that Operation Iraqi Freedom has not fared well. In fact, it has fared much better than any reasonable person with a suitable respect for the chaos, madness, and unpredictability of war had any right to expect. What we are seeing right now in Iraq is the best possible outcome of the liberal hawks' grand vision. If they don't like the results, they need to reassess their expectations.
Civil Liberties & Enemy Combatants
There are two stories in Harvey Silverglate's "Civil Liberties and Enemy Combatants" (January). The first is about the abridgment of civil liberties, about the belief that people under the jurisdiction of our government should be afforded the protection of our laws. Extending the right to petition for a writ of habeas corpus to Guantanamo prisoners is a good thing, and insofar as the ruling in Rasul v. Ashcroft has accomplished this, it is a good decision.
The second story, however, is a surprising and depressing one. It concerns our failure to notice that our civil liberties have been abridged–our capacity for self-deception, our willingness to engage in wishful thinking, our ability to imagine that things are not as bad as they seem despite considerable evidence to the contrary.
This is the truly disturbing and important story, replete with ironies and sophistical logic. What is liberty if it is by halves? The jurisdiction of the courts has been extended, but what does that mean in practice? If evidentiary standards have been relaxed or abandoned, if there is a double standard for due process, what has really been accomplished? Is a writ without due process tantamount to no habeas protection at all?
Commentators have argued that Rasul will provide a warning to the government and provide legal protections for prisoners. I concur with Silverglate that this is unlikely. It is truly frightening that Rasul and related decisions have been trumpeted as a victory for human rights. They may make things look better, but the underlying problems remain.
I enjoyed reading Paul Sperry's article on diploma mills ("Cut-Rate Diplomas," January) but feel compelled to correct the impression he left of Thomas Edison State College when he compared it to Hamilton University. Thomas Edison is a nonresident institution, but that is where the similarity ends. It is a New Jersey state college and is fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. It is one of very few regionally accredited nonresident programs.
I earned an undergraduate degree from Thomas Edison before going on to do graduate work at Trenton State College. While at Thomas Edison I studied on my own and was able to test out of 75 college credits by taking 15 fully accredited college-level equivalency exams. My admissions counselor at Trenton State told me that he particularly liked getting graduates from Thomas Edison because they all knew how to learn independently.
I was not amused at Paul Sperry's cheap attack on government employees who get cheap college degrees. Sperry offered no evidence that these employees are unqualified to do their jobs–merely that they didn't suffer through an endless institutional program to get their license to work. Since when do "free minds and free markets" require anybody to get a license to work?
I'm a computer specialist with 30 years of experience, starting in my teens. I was too busy programming, starting successful computer companies, and relaxing to waste four or six or eight years going to college. Is reason suggesting that, as a result, I wouldn't be qualified to be chief information officer of a government department? It might well be that such a job has a bullshit requirement that applicants have a "degree." As an otherwise-qualified candidate, what would be wrong with my getting the cheapest and easiest degree possible?
San Francisco, CA
My pleasure in reading Michael Young's "Imperial Waltz" (January) was considerably diminished when I got to the middle of his piece, where I felt that he deviated from his posture of objectivity when he arrived at the Israel-Palestinian issue. There are four paragraphs, starting with the one where he accuses Richard Perle and David Frum of allowing "their pro-Israel prejudices to get the better of their judgment." I don't know if that is true or not; I haven't read their book. But one wonders from the next few paragraphs if it isn't Young whose prejudices have gotten the better of his judgement.
I don't why the Palestinians are "the elephant in the living room of those who argue that U.S. influence in Iraq can help spread Middle Eastern liberalism." First, let's remember that the Palestinians sided with Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait (resulting in the wholesale expulsion of Palestinians from Kuwait after the war) and during the recent war, in addition to dancing in the streets after September 11th. Mightn't reducing the influence of terrorist-supporting despots have a salutary effect on the area, specifically on the Palestinians?
Young then tells us that these frothing at the mouth neocons are siding with "the worst on Israel's far right" when they "write that in the Arab and Muslim world 'the Palestinian issue has never been about compassion, mercy, or even justice. First and always, the issue has been about vengeance.'" To which Young responds: "This belief is not only untrue; it suggests that force alone can resolve the Palestinian problem."
How does this assertion suggest that force alone can resolve the problem? Just because Frum and Perle argue that the Palestinian people have been hijacked and used to advance a cause that has very little to do with their needs? The Arabs have kept the Palestinians in refugee camps; Arabs held the territory they now say belongs to a Palestinian state for twenty years.
Next, Young charges Israel with annexing Palestinian territory. Of course, this territory doesn't exist yet, but it might–and would have already if the average Israeli wasn't so afraid of being blown up. Then he takes umbrage at the suggestion that some Palestinian refugees might settle in the countries where they have been living for the last 50 years.
Then he goes over the line: "Swallowing disappointment is hardly a compelling cure for Palestinian-Israeli hostility, especially when Palestinians are a generation away from being a demographic majority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Moreover, the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries is a sore point in a region where the perception is that Israel rests on a foundation of ethnic cleansing." Ethnic cleansing? Of course, Young doesn't believe that, but there is a "perception." The demographic argument is a favorite of clever rejectionists, who feel that the eventual Arab majority further illustrates Israel's illegitimacy.
But a quarter of Israeli citizens are Arabs, and almost all the Jews were thrown out of the Arab countries where they had lived for generations and had their property taken. Arafat was quite clear while trying to flood Israel with millions of "refugees," most of whom have never been in Israel, that Palestine would be Judenrein–not one Jew could remain in "Palestine." The implicit allegation of ethnic cleansing is offensive and it should not have been in the review. If it represents the opinion of the author, he should have had the courage to come out and say it.??
Bingham Farms, MI
Michael Young replies: Why are the Palestinians "the elephant in the living room of those who argue that U.S. influence in Iraq can help spread Middle Eastern liberalism"? Because, as I wrote, "what is good for the Iraqis must be good for the Palestinians." Just as Iraqis were entitled to see their dictatorial regime removed so they could enjoy autonomous self-determination, so too Palestinians merit an end to an Israeli occupation that, regardless of their own myriad mistakes, has denied them self-determination for decades. The Palestinian issue, for better or worse, remains very much an obstacle preventing the region from taking U.S. democratization efforts in Iraq seriously. I've regretted this bitterly in the past, but the pervasiveness of the view is undeniable.
How does Perle's and Frum's assumption that the Palestinian issue has always "been about vengeance" imply that only force (or the effectively forcible resettlement of Palestinians elsewhere) can resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Simply, because if your adversary is interested only in vengeance, then peace based on compromise is not an option.
Finally, Richard Blumenstein misunderstood my argument about the demographics of Israeli-Palestinian relations when I wrote that Perle's and Frum's advice to Palestinians to "swallow disappointment" was "hardly a compelling cure for Palestinian-Israeli hostility, especially when Palestinians are a generation away from being a demographic majority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River." He ascribes to me the qualities of a "clever rejectionist" who seeks to illustrate Israel's illegitimacy. My point was that as the Arab and Jewish populations in Israel and the Occupied Territories become close to equal, a diplomatic solution becomes more urgent. Yet Perle and Frum offer no opening at all.
John Locke Lite
I haven't read Michael Otsuka's book and don't know his work. Tom Palmer's assessment of it in the January issue could be on target. But his review ironically suffers the disease its title, "John Lock Lite," describes. Palmer correctly quotes Locke's praise of private property, but his citation begins in the middle of section 37 of Locke's discussion "Of Property" in his Second Treatise of Government, thus omitting these words: "men had a right to appropriate, by their labour, each one of himself, as much of the things of nature, as he could use: yet this could not be much, nor to the prejudice of others, where the same plenty was still left to those who would use the same industry. To which let me add, that he who appropriates land to himself by his labour, does not lessen, but increase the common stock of mankind."
Palmer begins with "he who appropriates land to himself," but the words he quotes could mislead readers concerning Locke's larger purpose. I don't expect Palmer to quote Locke's every word; however, the last words from "Of Property" are also noteworthy in this regard. There, Locke calls appropriation of more land than one man employs by his own labor "dishonest," at least in a primitive context. This underlies some 18th- and 19th-century ideas, sometimes called "socialism," holding that laborers, rather than titular lords, should own their means of production, primarily the land. Other brands of "socialism" held that a state should control means of production in the name of "labor," and these statist brands eventually predominated.
Many contemporary libertarians essentially identify "property" with entitlements, titles to property, words on legal documents rather than literal means. This understanding of "property" is not surprising, since even common men possess many entitlements these days, but this understanding is relatively modern and could confuse a modern mind contemplating less modern texts discussing proper rights. Locke certainly does not refer in "Of Property" to the dizzying myriad of entitlements we possess and trade, for better or worse, in modern capital markets. Regardless of the merits of modern property, equating it with Lockean property is historical revisionism.
Among the Nonbelievers
Chris Lehmann's review of Sam Harris' The End of Faith ("Among the Nonbelievers," January) made me chuckle in disbelief. If Harris can be accused of flying off the handle in places in his book (and yes, I have read it), Leh-mann's review was one full flight from the handle.
Lehmann contends that "village atheists" (his second of at least four uses of the term) "are as numerous, and as shrill, as they've ever been." What planet does Lehmann live on? Here in Florida we've got Christians on television and radio and in newspapers denouncing the decline of moral values: Abortion is murder; gays are abominations in the eyes of their god; schools are corrupting children by teaching evolution. Vocal believers vastly outnumber vocal nonbelievers.
In the spring of '04 an atheist was prevented from giving the opening convocation to the City Council of Tampa Bay by a protest walk-out of council members. Two council members publicly stated that they believed any person who does not believe in "a supreme being" is unfit to participate in American governmental affairs.
If anything, this country needs more outspoken atheists, shrill or not. It seems Lehmann would prefer that we sit down and shut up. Lehmann certainly makes some valid points, but a fair review would have acknowledged that, at the least, Harris has raised a very important, timely issue.
Orange City, FL
Corrections: "Hayek for the 21st Century" (January) misstated the year of F.A. Hayek's birth. It was 1899.
"Doctor Sex, Ph.D." (February) mistakenly referred to Indiana University, where Alfred Kinsey conducted his research, as the University of Indiana.
"Among the Nonbelievers" (January) mentioned "Tutsi supremacy" as a source of "mass violence." It should have read "Hutu supremacy," whose victims were the Tutsis.