Home > World Events > Some random thoughts on the US election

Some random thoughts on the US election

November 7th, 2012

As regards the outcomes, it’s all positive except for the failure to make significant gains in the House of Reps. Obama wins easily, the Dems gain ground in the Senate despite defending 23 states against the Reps 10, and some big referendum wins on marriage equality and drug law reform. The good thing about the House is that it’s up for re-election in two years time, without the distraction of a Presidential race.

The popular vote is a more complicated story. At this stage it looks as though Obama will win narrowly. But he would win easily among registered voters, more easily among US citizens, more easily again among US adults and overwhelmingly in the world as a whole. The Dems need to make voting rights a core issue from now on.

The Repubs only lost narrowly, but time and demography are against them. Unless they shift ground on some major issues, they look like being a permanent minority. But the attack machine they’ve built up will savage anyone who suggests such changes. Logic says they’ll find a way, but maybe it will take another, bigger, defeat. Let’s hope so.

Particularly in the Senate, the quality of the Democratic caucus is greatly improved – Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman and others are gone, while the additions include Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin. A House win in 2014 could see a genuine Democratic majority rather than one relying on Blue Dogs and Dixiecrats as in the past. That would provide a path to passage of genuine reforms.

It would be great if, now that he doesn’t need to go for re-election, Obama returned to the defence of civil liberties he advocated in his 2008 campaign and his inaugural address. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath on this one.

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  1. Uncle Milton
    November 7th, 2012 at 16:38 | #1

    It would be miraculous indeed if the Dems won back the House at the next mid terms. But I wouldn’t bet on it, unless the US economy dramatically improves in the next two years. But I wouldn’t bet on that either.

    The US is now effectively two countries, the north east and mid west (save for Indiana), which is Democrat; and the the South and non-coastal West, save for New Mexico and Colorado, which is Republican. In all but a handful of states the winner got over 60 per cent of the vote. It’s a country of two tribes with their own geography, their own media and their own web sites.

  2. Katz
    November 7th, 2012 at 17:00 | #2

    There’s only one way forward for the GOP. Angry white men will have to get much, much angrier.

  3. TerjeP
    November 7th, 2012 at 17:01 | #3

    It would be great if, now that he doesn’t need to go for re-election, Obama returned to the defence of civil liberties he advocated in his 2008 campaign and his inaugural address. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath on this one.

    You could just “hope” for “change”. But seriously I don’t know why civil liberties are so on the nose with politicians. It’s not like citizens in general hate civil liberties. With Colorado and Washington state legalising marijuana now would be a good time for the Feds to back off. But alas I see so few trends in favour of freedom and personal responsibility.

  4. rog
    November 7th, 2012 at 17:29 | #4

    I think the main battle, that of repudiating the republicans, has been a resounding victory. Its curtains for right wing extremists.

    Hopefully the next term should see some positive movement on policy.

  5. Jim Rose
    November 7th, 2012 at 18:21 | #5

    Obama won by a nose nationally and in the key swing states. as for the GOP will be a permanent minority, same things was said in the heady days of 2008. 2010 proved that wrong

  6. Katz
    November 7th, 2012 at 18:40 | #6

    But the religious fanatics, the war mongers, the misogynists, the voodoo economists, the deniers of science and the racists who ran the Republican Party in 2008 still ran the Republican Party in 2012.

    Of course the GOP will change. Political parties worldwide have demonstrated enormous powers of adaptation.

    The wonderful thing is that the GOP will have to put their darlings to the sword.

    Bring on the bloodletting.

  7. MG42
    November 7th, 2012 at 18:43 | #7

    TerjeP :

    It would be great if, now that he doesn’t need to go for re-election, Obama returned to the defence of civil liberties he advocated in his 2008 campaign and his inaugural address. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath on this one.

    You could just “hope” for “change”. But seriously I don’t know why civil liberties are so on the nose with politicians. It’s not like citizens in general hate civil liberties. With Colorado and Washington state legalising marijuana now would be a good time for the Feds to back off. But alas I see so few trends in favour of freedom and personal responsibility.

    The Democrats are the party of not eating babies and not murdering people. Why the heck did 49.5% of the American people vote for the murdering baby-eater Republican party?

  8. PeakVT
    November 7th, 2012 at 19:15 | #8

    I would love to see Democrats take the House in 2014. But Republicans did a good job of turning out their voters in 2010, and as a result took control of a lot of state legislatures, which allowed them to do good job of gerrymandering House seats. The US will probably have divided government at least until the beginning of 2017 (barring unforeseen developments, of course).

    But yesterday’s win by the Democrats is still a very good thing.

    Chris Murphy (CT) is another good addition to the Senate. Donnelly (IN) won’t be very liberal, each additional Democrat will give the leadership room to maneuver – IF they ditch the filibuster. We should know the outlook for that happening in a few weeks.

  9. November 7th, 2012 at 19:38 | #9

    Obama is a vapid poppinjay, with shifting principles & little to no executive ability.
    Romney must have been very bad to lose to one whose place in history will be as the worst president ever.
    … and it would seem that the polls were correct!

  10. November 7th, 2012 at 19:58 | #10

    I’m depressively confident that the “Lesser-Of-Two-Evils” crowd will sit down and shut up and ignore the ongoing extra-judicial executions, whistleblower prosecutions, torture, Gitmo, pumped up unconstitutional drone wars, XL pipeline, Wall Street welfare and so on… now that they have their small “e” evil President.

    As one wit recently put it: “The only promise Obama kept was that he did buy his kids a dog!”

    In Australia the Greens get reliably negative media coverage but are sitting at roughly 13% of the overall vote. Looking at the US figures, the Greens got about 1% (in the states they ran) and the Libertarians got about 3%. They both got absolutely zero corporate media coverage during the US election. The media is as big, if not bigger, threat to our democracy than either of the Two Evils.

  11. Jim Rose
    November 7th, 2012 at 20:17 | #11

    megan, what extra-judicial executions? When the renegade Left opposes drones strikes, I am reminded of ‘Can There Be a Decent Left?’ by Michael Walzer (2002) in Dissent:

    • For many on the Left, war, if it was fought at all, has to be fought without endangering civilians: “The last point was intended to make fighting impossible”.

    • The truth is that most leftists were committed to opposing the war, and they were prepared to oppose it without regard to its causes or character, and without any visible concern about preventing future terrorist attacks.

    • The Left denies one of the most basic and best understood moral distinctions: between premeditated murder and unintended killing. The denial is not accidental, as if people just forgot or didn’t know the everyday moral world.

    • One cause of these views is powerlessness and alienation: leftists have no power in the USA and most don’t expect to exercise power, ever. They talk and write as if they could not imagine themselves responsible for the lives of their fellow-citizens.

    • The alienation of the Left is radical. How else is there the unwillingness of people who, after all, live here and whose children and grandchildren live here, to join in a serious debate about how to protect the country against future terrorist attacks?

    p.s. Obama promised to close Gitmo safe in the knowledge that not a single member of congress would vote to fund the closure. I even think that to close all avenues, current and former Gitmo detainees were declared prohibited immigrants by Congress

  12. Nathan
    November 7th, 2012 at 21:06 | #12

    @Jim Rose
    These extra-judicial executions: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    Each one of your dot points is entirely specious. All of the those pertaining to war are of course irrelevant since the reason these executions are unconstitutional is that they take place in countries with which the US is not at war (Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen…). Your third point is especially egregious as this issue specifically pertains to the targets (the intended victims) of these executions. Either you are ignorant about this issue (in which case I recommend reading more widely) or you are deliberately misrepresenting other’s views in order to accuse them of a moral failing you know they do not commit.

  13. November 7th, 2012 at 21:37 | #13

    Pr Q said:

    As regards the outcomes, it’s all positive…some big referendum wins on marriage equality and drug law reform.

    I am guessing that Obama’s explicit support made the crucial difference to the Maryland and Maine gay marriage referendums. In general he US populus is mildly in favour of the idea of gay marriage but tends to oppose actual legislative action on this front unless prodded by the C-in-C. Until today gay marriage has lost 32 state-wide referendums in the US. The WaPo recounts:

    Yet 32 times since 1998, voters have gone to the polls and voted against gay marriage. Thirty-eight states prohibit gay marriage in some fashion. Even in “blue” states like California, Oregon and Delaware, gay marriage bans stand.

    FWIW I have some luke warm support for gay marriage on public health grounds. The bonds of marriage will tend to deter risky and dangerous sexual practices (promiscuous unprotected sodomy) amongst the gay community which will reduce the spread of STDs, especially AIDS.

    Obama seems to be less favourably disposed towards drug liberalisation or “drug reform” as it is tendentiously termed by knee-jerk liberals. Yet this measure still seems to have some political momentum. This implies that drug “reformers” have some grass roots support [sorry] and does not need to be baby sat by tall poppies [sorry].

    Drug liberalisation is inherently immoral as addictive drugs have a demoralising effect on their users, impairing consciousness, impeding free will and narrowing the sphere of empathy. Its sad, although predictable, to see Left-liberals once again tramping a well-worn path towards the degradation of morality.

  14. November 7th, 2012 at 21:50 | #14

    Sadly, the trolls will have to go to bed without any supper.

  15. Jim Rose
    November 7th, 2012 at 21:56 | #15

    @Jack Strocchi The main argument for drug legalisation is the alternatives are worse. Drug legalisation is the best of highly imperfect alternatives.

    Drug legalisation is one of the few occasions where the Progressive Left embraces the fatal conceit: that there is a limit to the extent we can reshape the world in accordance with our desires.

    the Left joins the arguments that drug legalisation is best even through such a world is very imperfect but attempts to reform and remake people into better people will inevitably fail as they have in the past and the body politic, police and rest of the system will be corrupted.

    Opposition to drug legalisation is expressive voting at its best. People boo addiction and dissolute lifestyles. They are not interested in whether outlawing drugs does any net good.

  16. rog
    November 7th, 2012 at 22:30 | #16

    @Jim Rose The main argument for drug legalisation is economic, the direct and indirect costs of prohibition are staggering.

  17. November 7th, 2012 at 22:37 | #17

    Pr Q said:

    It would be great if, now that he doesn’t need to go for re-election, Obama returned to the defence of civil liberties he advocated in his 2008 campaign and his inaugural address. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath on this one.

    It would not “be great” if you are a Malawa who wants to stand up for womens rights without being shot in the back of the head by terrorist assassins. Drone strikes kill the people who tried to kill her and her ilk.

    And, just as importantly, drones protect our troops in the field, an important factor totally ignored by self-styled freedom lovers.

    So I say good for you Obama, keep up the drone strikes and ignore the bleeding heart liberals who care more about moral posturing than protecting actual and existing rights.

    Drone strikes throughout Southern Eurasia tend to help rather than harm civil liberties of the local population. The NYT (04 MAY 2009) reports that the Taliban/Al Quaeda, whose main aim is to keep half the population in a state of utter subservience, hate the drones more than any other weapon in the anti-terrorist arsenal:

    One Pakistani logistics tactician for the Taliban, a 28-year-old from the country’s tribal areas, in interviews with The New York Times, described a Taliban strategy that relied on free movement over the border and in and around Pakistan, ready recruitment of Pakistani men and sustained cooperation of sympathetic Afghan villagers.

    The one thing that impressed him were the missile strikes by drones — virtually the only American military presence felt inside Pakistan. “The drones are very effective,” he said, acknowledging that they had thinned the top leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the area. He said 29 of his friends had been killed in the strikes.

    The collateral damage from drones is well below the levels of civilian casualties in previous conflicts. A 2012 New America Foundation report states that drone strikes have an overall civilian casualty ratio well below ~15%, which has plunged to trivial levels in 2012:

    According to data compiled by the New America Foundation from reliable news reports, 337 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have killed an estimated 1,908 to 3,225 people since 2004, of which 1,618 – 2,769 were reported to bemilitants.

    This means the average non-militant casualty rate over the life of the program is 15-16 percent. In 2012 it has been 1-2 percent, down sharply from its peak in 2006 of over 60 percent.

    Compare the Coalitions generally scrupulous use of force to the Taliban’s flagrant disregard for civilian casualties and the laws of war Wikipedia attempts a terrorist body count:

    According to the United Nations, the Taliban were responsible for 76% of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009, 75% in 2010 and 80% in 2011.[34][167] According to Human Rights Watch, the Taliban’s bombings and other attacks which have led to civilian casualties “sharply escalated in 2006″ when “at least 669 Afghan civilians were killed in at least 350 armed attacks, most of which appear to have been intentionally launched at non-combatants.”[168][169] By 2008, the Taliban had increased its use of suicide bombers and targeted unarmed civilian aid workers, such as Gayle Williams.[170]
    The United Nations reported that the number of civilians killed by both the Taliban and pro-government forces in the war rose nearly 50% between 2007 and 2009.[171] The high number of civilians killed by the Taliban is blamed in part on their increasing use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), “for instance, 16 IEDs have been planted in girls’ schools” by the Taliban.[171]

    Thats right: the Taliban planted 16 IEDs planted in girls schools.

    Drones certainly violate the civil rights of collateral casualties and there is a good case for more accountability and oversight in target selection. But most civil libertarians have not bothered to make this case, preferring blanket opposition to drones. The suspicion lurks that civil libertarians oppose drones because of, rather than despite, their effectiveness in the war on terror.

  18. TerjeP
    November 7th, 2012 at 23:01 | #18

    The Democrats are the party of not eating babies and not murdering people.

    Since when? Okay they clearly don’t eat babies but their guy seems pretty big on the whole killing concept.

  19. November 7th, 2012 at 23:13 | #19

    I see the trolls have prepared their own supper.

  20. Tapen Sinha
    November 8th, 2012 at 05:01 | #20

    Random thoughts, John?

    You are really abusing the word: random.

    Tapen

  21. Ikonoclast
    November 8th, 2012 at 07:07 | #21

    The above debate illustrates that both the “left” and the right have lost their moral compasses. The “left” ignores Obama’s drones, the Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act and the right applaud and justify them… and want a Repub president to go even further.

    Of course this “left” is not any sort of true left. They are just the petite bourgeoisie.

  22. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    November 8th, 2012 at 07:51 | #22

    Jim Rose @11: ” leftists have no power in the USA and most don’t expect to exercise power, ever.”

    Jim, you really need to visit Catallaxy, Quadrant online, and the blogs of Bolt and Akerman, and apprise those that sail in those vessels of this fact, of which this morning they are very evidently unaware.

  23. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 07:52 | #23

    Obama’s use of drones is worse than immoral. It is a mistake.

    Drones serve to cement the relationship between Pakistani nationalism and islamism. This is an incredibly dangerous compound. It is almost impossible to overstate the gravity of the threats arising from this confederacy.

    And by the by, drone technology is growing more capable and cheaper. Just as the AK47 multiplied the power of guerrilla forces in the 20th century, drones will do the same in the 21st century.

    Drones will be the AK47 of the 21st century.

  24. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 08:26 | #24

    @Nathan are deaths of combatants in a war an extra-judical execution?

  25. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 08:30 | #25

    @Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy Michael Walzer is a life-long socialist and the author of Just and Unjust Wars. His definition of the Left is about the same as that in Australia and the UK. He was not talking of the centre-left.

  26. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    November 8th, 2012 at 08:42 | #26

    Jim, I wasn’t disagreeing and don’t disagree with your statement that I quoted.

  27. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 08:56 | #27

    @Jim Rose

    Unusually, I’m going to agree with the substance of your claims here. Drug policy needs towards managing illicit drug usage much as alcohol and tobacco are managed. A strategy that takes measurable harm into account and seeks to minimise them.

  28. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 09:01 | #28

    @Fran Barlow one of the big costs of drug prohibition is the narco-wars in mexico and elsewhere and the narco-states run by drug lords.

    the bridge too far for drug legalisation is what to do about the currently illegal drugs and under 18 buyers. legalising for adults leaves a plentiful illegal drug market among teenagers.

    maybe an imperfect world with an illegal market for under 18s is the best of all possible worlds.

  29. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 09:11 | #29

    @Jim Rose

    are deaths of combatants in a war an extra-judical execution?

    In a word, yes. These killings lack adequate warrant and are systematic.

    That there seems to be a consensus within the US that they are ethically acceptable attests to the reactionary chracter of mainstream US politics.

    I would add to that the continuing legalised abuse of Private Bradley Manning also condemns this administration. Regrettably, again there seems to be a consensus within the US that this is unobjectionable.

    Finally, the continuing diplomatic, military and financial support of Israel by this administration is a roadblock to a resolution of the problems in Palestine. Again, there’s a consensus on this and Romney even tried doubling down on this.

    It’s a modestly not so bad thing that a murderous rightwing Israel-backing, off shore and shale oil supporting shill who was sympathetic to gay rights and a degree of fiscal expansion and trimming of income transfers to the egregiously wealthy defeated a putatively murderous rightwing Israel-backing, off shore and shale oil supporting shill who was unsympathetic to gay rights or degree of fiscal expansion and the trimming of income transfers to the egregiously wealthy and was into the bargain a brazen and compulsive liar and someone who thought climate change was an occasion for a cheap populist shot.

    It’s not the triumph of reason and progress though.

  30. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 09:23 | #30

    @Jim Rose

    I see no reason for drawing a bright red-line between 18 and over buyers and those under the age. That hasn’t worked all that well for alcohol or cigarettes.

    As a matter of general principle we ought to use every non-coercive means to discourage self-medication with alcohol, tobacco or other mood-altering susbtances for all persons, regardless of age.

    As a matter of practice we are forced to accept that people, including some who count as children will do this. We can try being pro-active — giving them diversionary programs, that militate against them being affected by non-prescribed drugs of one kind or another. We can intensify health education programs. We can price to constrain usage and produce the product in a form that would be hard to counterfeit. We can do early intervention with families that seem to be at-risk and give them suopport so inadequate parenting does not map to substance abuse.

    But swingeing attempts to constrain through coercion are doomed to fail.

  31. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 09:39 | #31

    @Fran Barlow do you have the righ to use reasonable force in self-defence against an attack?

  32. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 09:41 | #32

    There has been some commentary on how the election did not change the “gridlock” between the two parties in congress.

    It should be noted that in the senate, to block the filibuster, you need a super majority — i.e 60. The Democrats had 51 and now have 55 (plus apparently one Indie who may caucus with them). Only 1/3 of the senate was up for re-election and 23 of these were Democrats, meaning that to breakthe logjam in the Senate they needed to win 100% of the contests.

    I add also this note on the House of Representatives (from Wiki):

    As the redistricting commissions of states are often partisan, districts are often drawn which benefit incumbents. An increasing trend has been for incumbents to have an overwhelming advantage in House elections, and since the 1994 election, an unusually low number of seats has changed hands in each election. Due to gerrymandering {it’s unclear if they mean malapportionment as well as gerrymandering; FB}, fewer than 10% of all House seats are contested in each election cycle. Over 90% of House members are reelected every two years, due to lack of electoral competition. Gerrymandering of the House, combined with the divisions inherent in the design of the Senate and of the Electoral College, result in a discrepancy between the percentage of popular support for various political parties and the actual level of the parties’ representation.

    Not only is Congress a lagging indicator of sentiment, but one that has become sclerotic through abuse of process. By contrast with Australia, where the AEC does it, the business of drawing electoral boundaries is a perk of incumbency. Toss in voter suppression and non-compulsory registration to vote and the mix predisposes just what one sees in the US.

  33. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 09:49 | #33

    @Jim Rose

    Of course one may use reasonable force in self-defence. What is reasonable is of course proportionate. One must have well-founded fears for one’s safety, or the safety of those to whom one owes protection. One must use only so much force as will abate the well founded fear. One must have regard to the safety of third parties in framing the response, because, fairly obviously, if a third party sees your attempts to defend yourself as potentially harming them, they have the same self-defence rights as you exercise.

    The mere fear that a particular class of person may in the right circumstances, do you harm is not an adequate reason to kill or maim them. You have to be certain that they mean to do so imminently and have the means and that no good alternative but some form of violence will serve. In addition, if your self-defence is likely to harm seriously those who are not a threat to you, then your defence of necessity comes under a more serious test. One has to ask — was this really all that one could do?

  34. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 10:08 | #34

    @Fran Barlow al-Qaeda attacked the USA on 9/11 so a mere fear that a particular class of persons may in the right circumstances, do you harm became moot. The issue is defending against further armed attacks by a hostile group and destroying the capacity of that group to recruit and resupply.

    Your criticisms rest on profound misconceptions of the nature of the war on terrorism and the rules of warfare. Because the USA and others are at war with al-Qaeda, they can use force to conduct hostilities against the enemy and those who harbour them.

    When a nation goes to war, it seeks to defeat the enemy to prevent attacks. The U.S. and allied military and intelligence services are legally and morally free to target al-Qaeda for attack whether they are on the front lines or behind them and with or without warning or any attempt to capture. al-Qaeda members can turn themselves in at any time.

    A corollary of the right to kill enemy personnel is that the deaths of civilians that occur as a result of legitimate attacks against military targets are not illegal. It is pious to deny this.

    The central principle of the laws of war is that innocent civilians should not be targeted, but the rules of war accept the death of civilians in or near legitimate military targets.

    It is the terrorists who violate the rules of war by hiding themselves and their bases within civilian populations, thereby drawing unwilling and unsuspecting innocents into the fighting.

    Al-Qaeda will never follow the rules of war because it gains its only tactical advantages by systematically flouting them and hiding among civilians knowing that the US and its allies seek to avoid civilian deaths.

    Terrorists are pirates – hostis humani generic – the enemy of all mankind. Nations’ military have conducted wars on pirates for thousands of years. It is pious to deny this.

  35. November 8th, 2012 at 10:48 | #35

    The joint study by Stanford and NY Universities (available at livingunderdrones.org ) puts the figure of innocents killed by drones in 345 strikes at about 90% and as high as 98%.

    They were critical of the tactic we use called “double tap” where we kill a bunch of people and then kill the rescuers shortly later.

    It is worth remembering that Obama also declared every male over the age of 14 as a “combatant” and therefore legitimate targets for premeditated killing in cold blood in circumstances where nobody other than the victim is in any imminent danger (I don’t believe the drone pilots ask to see ID before the killing starts).

    I don’t care what any trolls think but everyone who wants to have an opinion on the topic should have the basic facts clear.

  36. MG42
    November 8th, 2012 at 10:53 | #36

    “A corollary of the right to kill enemy personnel is that the deaths of civilians that occur as a result of legitimate attacks against military targets are not illegal. It is pious to deny this.

    The central principle of the laws of war is that innocent civilians should not be targeted, but the rules of war accept the death of civilians in or near legitimate military targets.”

    Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out. If the civilians didn’t want to die, then maybe they shouldn’t have lived around suspected terrorists. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Who the hell appointed you as the final arbiter of life and death? Just apply your kind of thinking to your enemy and it may dawn on you that it is a perfectly good justification for THEM to commit atrocities too.

  37. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 10:56 | #37

    @Jim Rose

    al-Qaeda attacked the USA on 9/11

    It being unclear that such a thing as “Al Qaeda” exists at all, or if it does in some sense, who comprise its command structure and functional components, this claim is unimpressive. Certainly, no specific evidence showing that any of the people who have been targeted had the means and the intent to harm US interests has as yet been adduced.

    As Katz also points out, it seems likely that the “defence” serves as a recruiting tool for groups hostile to the US presence in Pakistan and perhaps more generally,so even on purely instrumental grounds, the warrant is unclear. Then there is the certainty of so-called “collateral damage” — currently about 80-90% of deaths.

    The central principle of the laws of war is that innocent civilians should not be targeted, but the rules of war accept the death of civilians in or near legitimate military targets.

    This is mistaken because the Laws of War apply only after war has been declared. One cannot “declare war” on “terror” or on non-specific persons. While civilian deaths are not war crimes where a legitimate target was attacked, the civilians are at least put in a position where they might notionally put distance between themselves and targets. The nature of the attacks by drones would entail all civilians in Pakistan, Afghnaistan, yemen and Somalia leaving for places where they could be sure either no drone strikes would be effected or else no possible targets would exist. That’s not practicable and so these attacks on civilian areas, in states recognised by the US and against which a state of war has not been declared are thus not covered.

    Al-Qaeda will never follow the rules of war because it gains its only tactical advantages by systematically flouting them and hiding among civilians knowing that the US and its allies seek to avoid civilian deaths.

    This is specious argument. Al Qaeda (if such an entity even exists outside of the US imagination) could offer an analogous defence of their activity to that proposed by the US — they seek to evict the US from occupation of Islamic lands. yes there is collateral damage etc … The US operators of drones “hide” in the US behind their civilian population dealing death from thousands of miles away.

    Moreover, the US,quite clearly, does not seek to avoid civilian deaths. There has been no change in their rules of engagement since the drone campaign started and indeed,the frequency of attacks has increased.

    For all practical purposes, there’s absolutely no ethical difference between a drone attack in a market place and a bomb placed outside a police station by a group doing asymmetrical warfare. It’s just that the west has high tech weapns and a recognised state to support its acts, giving systematic mass murder of civilians a veneer of respectability.

    As things stand they could report suspects to the relevant states and their police agencies. If they don’t trust them they ought not to have diplomatic realtions with them and be giving them aid. If they were concerned with civilian deaths they’d send in assassins on the ground to infiltrate these groups, gather intelligence and implement more surgical killing.

  38. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 10:57 | #38

    test: Al Qaeda

  39. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 11:03 | #39

    test: terrorist

  40. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 11:04 | #40

    test: 9/11

  41. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 11:05 | #41

    Feel free to delete this and the last three posts PrQ. I wanted to know that string had sent my post to the spam bucket.

  42. Tim Macknay
    November 8th, 2012 at 11:06 | #42

    Back onto the main post topic, Tod Akin and Richard Mourdock: cautionary tales for the Tonester?

  43. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 11:25 | #43

    @Tim Macknay

    Appraretly five Repugs who made offensive observations about r@pe were defeated. Linda MacMahon blew $100 million dollars in two senate campaigns.

  44. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 11:45 | #44

    JR:

    The alienation of the Left is radical. How else is there the unwillingness of people who, after all, live here and whose children and grandchildren live here, to join in a serious debate about how to protect the country against future terrorist attacks?

    Untrue.

    The antiwar Left include folks who dispute on practical grounds the militarised response to terrorism. Militarist responses through history have served to exacerbate, not defeat, terrorism. Progressives have been pointing this out for more than a decade in relation to Bush’s disastrous wars against an abstract noun. The US and its enablers, including, to our embarrassment and cost, Australia, is fast running out of fingers to plug up the holes it has encouraged to be drilled in the wall of the dyke.

    Islamism is an idea that thrives on the promise of a future reward. The only currency of militarism is fear. Fear is no deterrent to an idea that has taken root, as the history of the American Revolution attests.

    The US and its enablers will bug out of Central Asia within two years, leaving a far more able Islamist force in the field, with admirers in every Muslim country on earth.

    It didn’t have to be this way.

  45. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 12:47 | #45

    @Katz if militarist responses through history have served to defeat terrorism, rather than exacerbate it, would you be in favour of such responses?

  46. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 12:50 | #46

    Yes.

  47. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 13:00 | #47

    This requires a nuanced reply.

    Piracy is a vulnerable military target. Pirates usually don’t excite widespread support.

    Primitive rebels such as Ned Kelly had a small level of inchoate support. Such support can be cowed by military or quasi military suppression. This must be done carefully, or else primitive rebellion blossoms into full-fledged liberation movements. The history of Ireland in the 19th century is an exemplar.

    Broad-based cultural movements like political Islamism are beyond military resolution.

  48. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 13:02 | #48

    @Fran Barlow Obama acquired legal authority for drone warfare from the Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted just after the Sept. 11 attacks and which was effectively a declaration of war against al-Qaida.

    For many on the Left, war, if it was fought at all, has to be fought without endangering civilians: “The last point was intended to make fighting impossible”.

    If the Allies followed your rules of war, would world war Ii have finished sooner?

  49. November 8th, 2012 at 13:32 | #49

    Jim, with the benefit of hindsight it is quite plain that World War II could have been finished sooner and with less cost in allied lives if they had spent less effort on murdering civillians. A prime example is the night time bombing raids on German civillians which had quite a limited effect on reducing German capacity to wage war in comparison to strikes on industrial and millitary targets. After the Battle of Britain it can be argued that random allied terror attacks on civillian populations could have caused the Germans to spread their resources more thinly in attempting to defend the lives of women, children, and the elderly, but the number of attacks on civillians required for this is far less than the number of attacks on civillians that were carried out.

  50. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 13:36 | #50

    @Katz The USA’s first and third war was against the barbary pirates led by the pasha of Tripoli. The US army was deployed against mexican bandits up to 1914. many navies are currently deployed against pirates in Africa.

    Every member of the enemy forces and leadership are a legitimate target in war regardless of whether they can be caught or pose an imminent threat. The U.S military should hunt and destroy pirates and their support networks “wherever” a commander “shall find them,” in Thomas Jefferson’s words.

  51. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 13:41 | #51

    @Jim Rose

    You seem to wish to turn questions of practicality into questions of morality or right.

    That’s boring.

    We all have the right to do stuff which is impractical or counterproductive. Sane people choose not to do that stuff.

    Is this proposition too difficult to understand?

  52. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 13:54 | #52

    @Ronald Brak As I recall from “The Contribution of Economists to Military Intelligence during World War II” by MARK GUGLIELMO, the largest contribution of allied bombing of Germany was forcing the withdrawal much of its air force and 88 artillery from the eastern front and d-day beaches to defend the homeland. This yielded air superiority on both fronts and reduced the defensive capacity of the German army.

    The bombings killed many war industry workers, fragmented the german war economy and rail transport and diverted millions of people and much war production into air defence.

  53. rog
    November 8th, 2012 at 13:59 | #53

    Piracy is confined to crimes committed at sea. What’s piracy got to do with the WOT?

  54. rog
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:10 | #54

    A declaration of war is made by one sovereign nation against another sovereign nation. For a sovereign nation to declare a war against an abstract noun ie “terror” is to invite ridicule.

    Speaking of which Repubs are now looking at contenders for 2016 and Jeb Bush has been mentioned favourably.

  55. JB Cairns
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:11 | #55

    Rog,

    The problem Jeb has is his surname. Can you imagine the ads?

  56. rog
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:30 | #56

    Jeb Bush, with his father, acted to release and pardon convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch. Not that sovereigns using terrorists is unusual, piracy has been sanctioned by one foreign power when used against another foreign power (eg British vs Spanish). Of course the use of mujahideen by the US against the Soviets is well documented. Repubs should do well with Jeb.

  57. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:31 | #57

    if time and demography are against the GOP, why is it they have done so much better in winning congress since 1994 and for most of the period back to 1932. LBJ was the last democratic president to win a landslide.

  58. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:32 | #58

    @Jim Rose

    Obama acquired legal authority for drone warfare from the Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted just after the Sept. 11 attacks and which was effectively a declaration of war against {AQ}

    .

    That has no standing in international law. Any state (and indeed, any individual) can purport super-sovereignty. The fact of the matter is that no Declaration of War capable of being recognised by the ICC or any other body of standing was made. The AQ matter was not an attack by a state or quasi-state on thwe US, but a serious criminal act, requiring a police response, aimed at identifying perpetrators and accessories before and after the fact, bringing them before competent courts for examination and sanction.

    Within the US there are criminal gangs that engage in, inter alia serious offences, including murder. While government officials occasionally engage in “war on crime” bombast, I’m yet to hear of a drone strike on some working class neighbourhood. Police attempt to apprehend suspects.

    For many on the Left, war, if it was fought at all, has to be fought without endangering civilians

    Ridiculous. Wars always prejudice the safety of non-combatants. Sometimes, regrettably, shooting wars are the least of all harms. Civilised states however make it their business to keep casualties amongst non-combatants to a minimum, and are strategic in their attacks rather than randomly violent.

    But this is all beside the point, since the conflict between the US and its allies on the one hand and the disparate, ostensibly Islamist criminal cells operating in South West & East Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa is not a war in the usual sense. It is as fart as can be told, an exercise in assuaging hurt pride, principally amongst Americans with domestic political ends in mind.

    As both “sides” (more precisely — both political tribes) endorse this retributive justice neither can be seen to be the first to abandon it wothout being wedged as dishonouring the victims of 9/11 and the troops occupying Afghanistan and so in effect the hand of the dead and the sunk cost fallacy have conspired to ensure that the US must murder without end on a grand scale, merely to be true to itself.

    I wonder if I shall live to see the day when the pernicious cant that is the rationale for the “war on terror” is called out in public space and consigned to a category called “ugly curiosities of modernity”. I doubt it, but the thought is appealing.

  59. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:35 | #59

    Obama is only one of two Presidents since the war to win consecutive terms with more than 50% of the popular vote. I think FDR might have done it — not sure.

  60. Ikonoclast
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:47 | #60

    Don’t waste your time debating with fundamentalists. They are never open to reason, nor logic, nor facts nor any kind of sympathy or empathy for those outside their tribal-ideological group. The “others”, the “outsiders”, the “not us” are always demonised and slated for murder which is then rationalised and legitimised as just and righteous killing. The fundamentalists of both sides much more strongly resemble each other than they resemble the reasonable, humane and ordinary masses who are their unfortunate host populations.

  61. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 15:02 | #61

    FB,

    I presume the “war” you refer to is WWII.

    If so, then both Eisenhower and Reagan achieved the feat you mention.

  62. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 15:03 | #62

    @Fran Barlow The Congress granted the President the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

    The NATO council declared the 9/11 attacks were an attack on all NATO nations which satisfied Article 5 of the NATO charter. John Howard invoked Article IV of the ANZUS treaty.

    United Nations Security Council resolution 1368 of 12 September 2001 expressing its determination to combat threats to international peace and security caused by acts of terrorism and recognising the right of individual and collective self-defense.

    That resolution called on all countries to co-operate in bringing the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of the attacks to justice and that those responsible for supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors would be held accountable.

  63. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 15:30 | #63

    @Fran Barlow Obama is only the second president (Andrew Jackson was the first) to win a second term with a reduced percentage of the popular vote, and the third (after Madison and Woodrow Wilson) to win a second term with a smaller percentage of the electoral vote.

    HT: George Will

  64. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 15:32 | #64

    @Katz

    Quite right. I’ve looked it up now, so for the record … in reverse order …

    Obama, Reagan, Eisenhower, FDR (four times all well over 50 with high turnouts) William McKinley (1896, 1900) Ulysses S Grant and Andrew Jackson.

    Of course blacks didn’t vote in elections until 1869 and even after that there was massive voter suppression …

    Women didn’t have the vote everywhere in the US until 1941, so maybe we ought not to count records before that.

  65. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 15:50 | #65

    @rog Pirates, like al Qaeda, are non-state actors too powerful, remote or dispersed to be countered by traditional law enforcement.

    Historically, wars against pirates was the task of navies sometimes augmented by marines when dealing with pirate colonies or crews fleeing ashore to escape capture.

    Afghanistan harboured a pirate colony as do one or two East African nations.

    The Pancho Villa Expedition by the US Army against the bandit forces of Pancho Villa was from 1916 to 1917. This punitive expedition was in retaliation for Villa’s attack on a town in New Mexico and had one objective: to capture Villa dead or alive and put a stop to any future forays into American soil.

    The U.S. Secretary of State sent a note to the de facto Mexican government informing it of the U.S. government’s intent to pursue Villa into Mexico. Notes were exchanged, and an agreement was reached permitting both sides to pursue bandits into the other’s territory.

    The Taliban declined a request to deliver Osama bin Laden and destroy bases of al Qaeda. This did this in the knowledge that those that haboured al Qaeda would share its fate.

  66. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:00 | #66

    @Jim Rose

    Aren’t you forgetting Grover Cleveland — (1884; 1892) …

    Nixon ran one of the dirtiest campaigns in US history (his re-electiion campaign was entitled “CREEP” — so strangely apt) against McGovern so perhaps his effort in 1972 should be discounted.

    Obama faced the combined power of the most powerful media empire in the world, a disastrous legacy left him by the Repugs (admittedly he gave them a free pass on that which was stupid) and a massively obstructionist response to his (ill-advised) efforts at “reaching across the aisle”. Reagan had a massively compliant media to help him out and a poor Democrat candidate in 1984. Clinton did increase his vote but both his votes were the wrong side of 50%. Bush Jnr just squeaked over the line in 2000 and could not have been re-elected had he not improved in 2004, and of course he too ran as a war President and ran one of the dirtier campaigns {the “Swiftboat” meme} against Kerry — and even then Obama probably will top his 2004 percentage this time around.

  67. BilB
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:08 | #67

    “Obama is only the second president (Andrew Jackson was the first) to win a second term with a reduced percentage of the popular vote”

    So what, Jim Rose.

    Obama is the first Black Senator to win the Presidency from the most unpopular President in America’s History. You can go on a very long time finding specific firsts about these situations.

    Obama won the electoral vote, the popular vote and the number of highest number of states states. He also won the support of a very gracious in defeat opponent

    That’s called winning.

  68. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:19 | #68

    @Jim Rose

    The NATO council declared the 9/11 attacks were an attack on all NATO nations which satisfied Article 5 of the NATO charter.

    Not germane. Article 5 of the Charter — strictly the “Washington Treaty” — provides that:

    if a NATO Ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked.

    So collective defence is affirmed. NATO agreed that if it was determined that this attack was directed from abroad, it would be regarded as covered by Article 5.

    but it continues:

    no determination has yet been made whether the attack against the United States was directed from abroad. If such a determination is made, each Ally will then consider what assistance it should provide. In practice, there will be consultations among the Allies. Any collective action by NATO will be decided by the North Atlantic Council. The United States can also carry out independent actions, consistent with its rights and obligations under the UN Charter. {my emphasis}

    This says nothing at all about drone attacks on civilians. The Washington Treaty provides that:

    Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security. {my emphasis}

    Similarly, 1368 speaks of bringing “perpetrators to justice” but it is clear that this referred to those in the Sept 11 attacks rather than people with only notional connection to this event. They clearly had in mind arrest, and indeed, the Taliban regime offered up OBL to the ICC for examination, but the US — whcih does not recognise the ICC — passed this up. Bush wanted his pound of flesh and the ICC also wanted Oliver North over his terror|st activities in Managua.

    ANZUS only speaks of consultation rather than acts.

    In short, you’re reaching.

  69. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:23 | #69

    JR:

    The Taliban declined a request to deliver Osama bin Laden and destroy bases of al Qaeda.

    Point of information. The Taliban offered to deliver OBL to the ICC. Most of the nations in the so-called COW, including Australia, are signatories to the ICC.

  70. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:23 | #70

    @BilB

    He also won the support of a very gracious in defeat opponent

    Given the fellow has no discernible ethics and is a brazen and compulsive liar who speaks to the occasion rather than truth, grace is not germane.

    That his lips were moving profanes intellect and honour.

  71. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:31 | #71

    It appears that the Mormons believe that Native Americans are direct descendants of a couple of the Tribes of Israel, who by various means, found their way to America.

    Does Romney believe this?

    Should Native Americans be sad or relieved that Romney never got to give orders to the Bureau of Indian Affairs?

    For example could he have insisted that Native Americans be given citizenship of Israel under the Law of Return?

  72. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:35 | #72

    @Fran Barlow Obama’s reelection should at least put an end to his blaming Bush for the state of the economy

  73. November 8th, 2012 at 16:53 | #73

    Jim, do you believe that if British bombing hadn’t bombed German housing and had instead concentrated on industrial and military targets that Germany wouldn’t have put resources into air defence? That they just would have let the allies bomb their oil refineries, coal to liquid fuel plants, Haber process plants, factories, railways, submarine pens, etc. unopposed? Since that’s such a weird thing to believe I think you must have gotten confused. I suggest you read what I wrote again and then reread your reply to it. I think you’ll see then how weird your response seems.

  74. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 17:21 | #74

    @Ronald Brak The night bombing campaign helped force Germany to devote huge resources to the defence of the homeland, and the German air force suffered significant losses at the hands of Allied fighters.

  75. Julie Thomas
    November 8th, 2012 at 17:56 | #75

    Check out Mitt explain so calmly and rationally, his faith, to an interviewer who is agreeing with him

  76. November 8th, 2012 at 18:07 | #76

    So Jim, are you saying that Germany would not have devoted resources to air defence if allied bombing had concentrated on industrial and military targets?

  77. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 18:12 | #77

    @Ronald Brak I said helped force. the day bombing of cities and industrial and transport targets were important too.

  78. November 8th, 2012 at 18:21 | #78

    Jim, so you are saying it would have made no difference if allied bombing had concentrated on industrial and millitary targets?

  79. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 18:31 | #79

    So Jesus will return to Missouri?

    Better than Adelaide, I guess.

  80. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 18:54 | #80

    @Jim Rose

    Don’t some economic problems last more than four years? Didn’t the Repugs obstruct recovery so they could win the election?

  81. Fran Barlow
    November 10th, 2012 at 08:39 | #81

    In the wake of the latest drone attack, the first returns of the successful Obama-Biden2012 campaign are in:

    War on Terror

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