Issue 70 (2013)

Communitarian Observations

I often write about rather different matters, but in my mind they all deal with one core question: the guidance our shared values, especially the common good, provide to our public policies.

From My Diary

“No more hurting people. Peace.” – Martin Richard, 8-year-old victim of the Boston Marathon bombing.

NPR tells us not to worry much about being killed by terrorists because it’s just as likely that a meteorite will do us in. Roughly 80,000 people were killed as a result of terrorism between 2007 and 2011. In that same period, the number of people killed by meteorites was 0. Such false assurances backfire, and disregard the fact that the average citizen can help curb terrorism much more than deflect meteorites.

Jeffery Rosen, a GWU law professor, who flew to London to study the city’s extensive use of surveillance cameras, found that while originally “justified as a way of combating terrorism, they soon came to serve a very different function.” Instead of catching terrorists and serious criminals, CCTV was more often used to target traffic offenders, car thieves, pickpockets, punks at the mall, and, when young male officers got bored, to zoom in on attractive women and “boyfriends and girlfriends making out in cars.” Well, CCTV has been doing better lately.

The Academy of Management awarded the Chris Argyris Lifetime Achievement Award, “given to individuals that have made a significant and lasting contribution to scholarly contributions to practice,” to Amitai Etzioni.

The Reasonable Interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

There is something very commendable and seriously troubling in the calls by the so called “responsible media,” the ACLU, and select liberals to preserve the rights of the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect. On the one hand, we cannot but be proud about how strongly Americans are committed to the rule of law, the Constitution, and granting a fair trial to those who engage in the most despicable acts—even when the wound is so deep and still fresh. Hospitals are still full with people whose limbs have been amputated and the victims of the attack (including an 8-year-old child) have not yet been laid to rest. But the extent to which many observers of our public life ignore the balance carefully crafted by the Constitution—between individual rights and the public interest—is stunning.

One wishes that the ardent advocates for the rights of suspected terrorist would read the Fourth Amendment, which captures very well the balance the Constitution calls for. Unlike the one-sided, absolute language of the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law…”), the Fourth protects “against unreasonable searches and seizures,” thus recognizing on the face of it that there are reasonable searches—that is, those justified by a compelling public interest.

Read the rest in The National Interest.

Time for New Paradigms

It is easy to understand why so many mavens are trying desperately to conceptualize cyber warfare, drones and transnational terrorists in yesterday’s terms. However, the dissonance has grown to a point where we are forced to look for new concepts and principles rather than try in vain to fit a new reality into obsolete paradigms. We often act like someone who can’t squeeze a size-fourteen foot into a size-nine boot—and would rather cut off the toes than find a larger pair.

True, if we discard and adopt new principles as frequently as we replace footwear, principles will cease to carry much normative heft. However, currently we suffer from a severe case of the opposite problem: We forget that laws were not etched in stone and that all constitutions are living documents. After all, segregation was once legal in the United States, women could not vote until 1920 and the federal right to privacy did not exist until the mid-1960s.

Nowhere is the lag in legal and ethical frameworks more obvious than in the notion that lethal force can only be used against a declared enemy if an attack is imminent—that is, if there is evidence that it is about to occur in short order.

Read the rest on The National Interest.

Israel – 65 Years Ago

Sixty-five years ago it was far from obvious that Israel would survive; it was even far from obvious that a Jewish state would be created in the first place.

In 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted for a resolution calling for the division of British-controlled Palestine into two states — one of which would be a Jewish state and one of which would be predominantly Palestinian. Specifically, Palestine would be divided into seven sections, three Jewish and four Arab, with Jerusalem placed under international administration. Jewish representatives accepted the deal; however, both the Arab League as well as the Palestinian organizations rejected the plan.

In the same year, I attended a most remarkable meeting. I was quite aware that I was only invited because I was a member of Mapai (labor party). And, those who convened the meeting wanted to have “someone young” because “after all, it was their future we will be discussing.”

Read the rest in The Huffington Post.

North Korea and U.S. Priorities

If someone could get jumping-bean secretary of state Kerry off of his jet long enough to preside over a review of U.S. foreign priorities, he might discover why we are in such a pickle in our dealings with North Korea—and what might be done. It is a nation that openly threatens the United States and its allies—not less than with nuclear attacks—and all we can say is, “well, the kid seems to be bluffing.”

Talking heads on TV keep reassuring each other that North Korea is not suicidal. Washington is scaling back military exercises in the area and urging South Korea to be cautious—and to be sure that if attacked their response will be proportional and not escalatory. True, the United States did send some untested missile-defense units to the region and to Alaska, and moved some other military assets around. But altogether, this is not much of a response.

The reason we must be so circumspect is that Kim Jong-un has us over a barrel.

Read the rest on The National Interest.

Video Content

White House Chronicle: Political Dysfunction

Norm Ornstein and Amitai Etzioni discuss the so-called “gridlock” of Washington, among other topics.

You can see more ICPS videos on our YouTube Channel.

Recent Publications

The Great Drone Debate,” Military Review. March-April 2013.

Unmanned aviation systems, popularly known as drones, are playing an increased role in armed conflicts. They are used both for collecting intelligence and for deploying lethal force. In 2007 there were 74 U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan. That year, there were five strikes in Pakistan. By 2012, the American military was executing an average of 33 drone strikes per month in Afghanistan, and the total number in Pakistan has now surpassed 330. Recently the United States has proposed further expanding its deployment of drones, developing plans to set up additional Predator drone bases in Africa that would allow these drones to cover much of the

Saharan region.

Drones have been employed in multiple theaters of the counterterrorism campaign, including Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Libya. They are now included in the arsenal of many nations including Israel, China, and Iran. They have even been operated by a non-state actor, Hezbollah, which has flown at least two drones over Israel. Several nations are currently developing drones that will be able to carry out highly-specialized missions, for instance tiny drones able to enter constricted areas through narrow passages. If the American military continues to move away from deploying conventional forces on the ground (in Iraq and Afghanistan) to a “light footprint” strategy of “offshore balancing” (as employed in Libya), drones are likely to play an even more important role in future armed conflicts. Like other new armaments (e.g., long-range cruise missiles and high-altitude carpet bombing) the growing use of drones has triggered a considerable debate over the moral and legal grounds on which they are used. This debate is next reviewed.

Keep reading The Great Drone Debate.

Accommodating China,” Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, April–May 2013, Vol. 55, Issue 2, pp. 45-60.

There are increasing signs that the United States and China are on a collision course. Some scholars see this course as following the historical pattern by which a declining power refuses to yield to a rising power, and war ensues. Yet the collision is by no means inevitable. The United States should be able to accommodate China’s rise without compromising its core interests or its values. Freed from his pre-election necessity to appear tough, President Barack Obama now has the opportunity to re-examine the pivot to Asia he announced in 2011 to choose between a quest for a regional accommodation and a military confrontation.

Accommodation should not be misconstrued as appeasement or unilateral concession. It should be conceived, rather, as action in the interests of both sides that contributes to global stability. It proceeds from the assumption that relations between international powers can benefit from significant complementary interests, even if other interests conflict. Washington and Beijing share interests in nuclear non-proliferation, securing global commerce, stabilising oil markets and preserving the environment, as well as preventing terrorism, piracy and the spread of pandemics.

Keep reading Accomodating China.

In this article, Robert Kaplan was cited as one who suspects China of configuring its commercial ports in places like Gwadar, Pakistan for military use. In a response to the article, he wrote that after a number of reporting trips to Chinese financed ports, his “thinking on Gwadar has evolved.” “Commercial opportunities are leading China to become a maritime factor in an ocean that connects the hydrocarbon stores of the Middle East with customers in East Asia…its presence in these waters therefore is altogether natural.” Thanks. Keeping evolving.

I Read

Nicholas Lemann discusses the surprising success of the first Earth Day in 1970—a loosely organized, grassroots teach-in that led to major environmental legislation in the following years. Yet, “as the environmental movement has become an established presence in Washington, it has become less able to win legislative victories. It has concentrated on the inside game, at the expense of efforts at broad-based organizing.” While Obama received thunderous applause for mentioning climate change in his Inaugural Address, subsequent statements make clear that his approach amounts to “entrusting the mission to regulators, and abandoning efforts to mobilize the public and its representatives.” Read the entire article in The New Yorker.

FDR and The Jews, a new book by Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman, tackles the controversial legacy of Roosevelt’s response to the Nazi genocide in Europe by putting his actions (and inaction) in the context of an American society steeped in anti-Semitism and distracted by economic problems at home and war on two fronts. “Even a modest bill in Congress to admit some Jewish children in 1939 hit a brick wall of prejudice. “I should prefer to let in 20,000 old Jews who would not multiply,” a former undersecretary of state told the bill’s sponsor. Roosevelt didn’t intervene.” Read a full review in The New York Times.

The state of Oregon, “through a hyper-local focus on Medicaid,” is hoping to “show both improved health outcomes for low-income Medicaid populations and a lower rate of spending growth than the rest of the nation.” This means providing incentives and interventions that keep people healthy and out of the ER. Read more about the “Oregon Experiment” in The New York Times.

A powerful sociology film, Bonecrusher “tells the story of Lucas Chaffin, a young coal miner trying to live up to the legend of his dad and what he believes is a family duty. But his father Luther, still known in the mines as “Bonecrusher,” is withered and sick with cancer at just 61. He’s given his life to the dust, and he wants his son to get out of the mines before it’s too late.” Find out more about the film here.

Upcoming Events

SASE 25th Annual Conference – States in Crisis

June 27-29, 2013 – University of Milan

SASE is organized into “networks,” one of which is dedicated to communitarianism and is run by José A. Ruiz San Román. Colleagues interested in presenting a paper or author, or organizing a session should promptly contact Professor Román at [email protected]


Purushottam Ojha

Former Commerce Secretary

Government of Nepal most recent endorser of the communitarian platform.

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Edited by Ashley McKinless