Tag: carl schmitt

On Corrupting the Constitutional Order

Michael Gerson, former speechwriter to Bush the Younger and perennial libertarian antagonist, has denounced Rand Paul’s foreign policy views. That should surprise no one, but the manner in which he did so bears discussing.

Gerson’s bill of particulars is as follows:

The younger Paul has proposed defense cuts, criticized foreign aid, led opposition to U.S. involvement in Syria, raised the possibility of accepting and containing a nuclear Iran and railed against “possible targeted drone strikes against Americans on American soil.”

Each of these is its own argument, but what’s more interesting is how Gerson broadens the discussion in an attempt to paint the younger Paul in a conspiratorial light:

His libertarian foreign policy holds that America is less secure because it has been “too belligerent” and that decades of international engagement have both corrupted our constitutional order and corrupted other nations with our largess or militarism.

Reasonable people can disagree about the extent to which U.S. foreign policy has gone off the deep end in recent decades. Also, with due acknowledgment of the victims of U.S. “engagement” in places from Laos to Iraq, people could also disagree about the extent to which our militarism has “corrupted other nations.” But nobody with a lofty perch like Gerson’s should dispute the idea that international engagement has corrupted our constitutional order.

You could fill a library with the volumes that demonstrate how war and preparation for war—which is what Gerson means by “engagement”—have contributed to the growth of the state and the evolution of American political, economic and legal institutions. As that last link shows, influential American legal scholars are hailing Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt as “our hero” in providing the legal case for an unchecked presidency, with James Madison playing the republican bad guy.

And it is the height of irony that Gerson holds up for ridicule the idea that our foreign policy has corrupted our constitutional order the very same week that a U.S. Senator—who is a strong partisan of the CIA—gave a 40 minute speech lambasting the Agency for spying on the legislature in the context of the latter’s investigation of the CIA’s use of torture, or if you prefer, “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Warrantless NSA spying on Americans, senior Executive Branch officials baldly lying to Congress about it with no consequences, the tortured legal reasoning that led to Guantanamo Bay, the American president claiming the power to assassinate a US citizen with no meaningful legal or legislative oversight on the grounds that he’s talked it over with his legal team, the internment of more than a hundred thousand American citizens for the crime of having had the wrong ancestors… One could go on.

The people who framed our constitution were the sort of people who opposed forming a standing army at a time when European empires were mucking around in the Western hemisphere. So whatever his disagreements with Rand Paul on foreign policy, Gerson could stand to consider—or better yet, do some reading—about how war and militarization have “corrupted our constitutional order.” It’s a bit of an open-and-shut case.

Is Newt Gingrich Drawing on Camus or Carl Schmitt?

Andrew Sullivan points us to this report that Newt Gingrich is going to tell an audience at AEI that the Obama administration is engaging in “willful blindness” and “self-deception” about the threat posed to the United States by Islam.  In the wake of his remarks urging the United States to emulate Saudi Arabian standards of religious freedom, Gingrich has promised to deploy “the lessons of Camus and Orwell” to illuminate our present predicament.

“Evading the confrontation with Evil may bring a second Holocaust. The mistakes made by the White House will exact a terrible price.”

What’s interesting is that this sort of thing is a long-standing trope in Gingrich’s rhetorical repertoire, although he has reserved it mostly for Israeli audiences.  In 2007, Gingrich went to Israel and informed a group gathered at the Herzliya Conference that Israel was facing the prospect of a “second Holocaust.”  Perhaps drawing on the lessons of Habermas, Gingrich explained that

We don’t have right language, goals, structure, or operating speed, to defeat our enemies. My hope is that being this candid and direct, I could open a dialogue that will force people to come to grips with how serious this is, how real it is, how much we are threatened. If that fails, at least we will be intellectually prepared for the correct results once we have lost one or more cities.

This year, Gingrich published a commentary in a right-wing Israeli tabloid owned by Sheldon Adelson repeating these arguments, with the paper promising readers that

The behavior of the Obama administration regarding Iran and terror is characterized by a complete disconnect from reality. Gingrich, a prominent Republican Party leader, warns that the Western Elites are evading a confrontation with Evil and that the flight from reality could bring a second Holocaust to the Jewish People. An alarm bell, before it’s too late.

Israel faces a range of important international security problems.  Israelis have much more reason to be concerned about their national security than do Americans.  And it’s entirely reasonable that people would disagree about the nature and breadth of the threats to Israel, let alone what to do about them.  But this sort of thing is absolutely irresponsible.  I find it striking that Gingrich has repeatedly lectured Israeli audiences and informed them–presumably based on his knowledge as a Washington insider–that his own government’s policy threatens a second Holocaust on the Jewish people.  Is this a view he really holds?  If so, I would think he would be much more alarmed than he is acting at present.

While Gingrich is claiming that his current proclamations are grounded in Orwell and Camus, it seems to me that his overall Friend-Enemy politics of late owe a good bit to Carl Schmitt.

He Is the Very Model of a Modern Right-Wing Foreign Policy Thinker

Jim Lobe points us to the thoughts of Andrew McCarthy, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, on Barack Obama’s reticence to urge other people to spill their blood in Iran.  A few choice bits below:

  • andymccarthy“The fact is that, as a man of the hard Left, Obama is more comfortable with a totalitarian Islamic regime than he would be with a free Iranian society.”
  • The divergences between radical Islam and radical Leftism are much overrated — ‘equal rights’ and ‘social justice’ are always more rally-cry propaganda than real goals for totalitarians, and hatred of certain groups is always a feature of their societies.”
  • It would have been political suicide to issue a statement supportive of the mullahs, so Obama’s instinct was to do the next best thing: to say nothing supportive of the freedom fighters.”
  • It’s a mistake to perceive this as ‘weakness’ in Obama. It would have been weakness for him to flit over to the freedom fighters’ side the minute it seemed politically expedient. He hasn’t done that, and he won’t. Obama has a preferred outcome here, one that is more in line with his worldview, and it is not victory for the freedom fighters. He is hanging as tough as political pragmatism allows, and by doing so he is making his preferred outcome more likely.  That’s not weakness, it’s strength — and strength of the sort that ought to frighten us.”

As Lobe notes, this prompted a rare “that’s over the line” type response from National Review editor Rich Lowry, but McCarthy is having none of it.  Instead, McCarthy says that by no means were his earlier remarks out of bounds, and argues that Obama is going to transform the United States into the sort of country that the Islamic Republic will be fond of.

That’s the sort of calm, reasoned debate we’ve come to expect from the establishment Right.  I’m trying to think, which conservative thinker does this sort of thing finds its lineage in?  Burke?  Kirk?  Carl Schmitt?  It’s tough to say.