Got War? Yoo and Stephens Rally A Coalition Of The War Willing

220px-Bret_Stephens180px-john-yooToday I had my second debate with Berkeley Law Professor and former Bush official John Yoo. The first debate sponsored by Christopher Newport University was held in Newport News four days ago and the second was sponsored by Hillsdale College at a debate held in Washington, D.C. There is a clear theme emerging to get Americans to embrace war as a continuing reality for American policy. Equally notable is how well-connected Republicans are returning over and over to another theme: Rand Paul must be stopped. In his luncheon speech, Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal repeatedly mocked Rand Paul and his opposition to the United States engaging in wars around the globe. It seems that there is a real fear that Paul could gain traction with Republicans in steering the U.S. from an interventionist course. There are many positions of Paul that people of good faith can disagree with. I certainly have such differences with him. However, it is specifically his notion of limited presidential authority and a disinclination toward new wars that is the focus of these attacks.

Today’s even also feature a terrific speech by Kevin Portteus of Hillsdale College on the historical and theoretical foundations for war powers.

As noted earlier, Yoo seemed to struggle to find ways to steer the debate into a slam against Paul as he did at Newport News. At one point, he proclaimed that electing Paul as our next president would be “the same as putting a drug dealer in charge of a police department.” Yoo praised presidents who committed the United States to wars without “weakly” seeking congressional approval. He even discussed how presidents who acted unilaterally in wars were the most popular — a type of “Got War?” bumper sticker for popularity-seeking presidents.

That theme was even more magnified in the remarks of Stephens who seems to have a fundamental problem with the notion of the separation of powers and limitations on presidential power — as well as a host of fundamental legal principles. Stephens directly challenged those who seek to avoid wars as isolationists and repeatedly derided Paul. Indeed, Stephens suggested that Paul, who has praised Eisenhower as someone who resisted the expansion of the war industry, should instead embrace the expansion of the military-industrial complex that occurred while he was president. He insisted that the United States should continue to punish “evil doers” and be “realists.” His definition of realism was to praise Henry Kissinger and offer the example of vaporizing an entire table of people in a U.S. city to get one terrorist. Stephens mocked those who would raise due process questions over such unilateral attacks. It was one of the most extreme views of presidential power that I have heard and actually made John Yoo look like a moderate on the subject.

Both men are articulate and popular speakers who incorporate historical sources into their presentations. It is remarkable however how we view identical historical sources and events in diametrically opposite ways.

However, it was the return to the attacks on Rand Paul that were most striking. At some point, the mainstream GOP voices doth protest too much in these attacks on Paul. There seems a palpable fear that a non-interventionalist movement could arise within the GOP and, perish the thought, a serious challenge to the continual military interventions of the United States around the world. Stephens tried to rally the audience to the model of what he called the United States as “liberator” as opposed to merely a symbol of liberty. What is clear is that many constitutional values have little place in Stephens’ view of “realism.” Indeed, notions of limited powers and due process were portrayed as naive and weak.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of the speech was Stephens addressing the conflict between liberty and security. Rather than even try to accommodate liberty, Stephens insisted that security is liberty in a rather twisted Orwellian flourish. He suggested that security is the ultimate liberty since it protects your very existence. It is perfectly Putinesque.

Like Yoo, there appears to be an effort to rally Republicans around war as politics by other means, a “just say yes to war” theme . . . and of course the equally prominent “just say no to Paul” theme.

63 thoughts on “Got War? Yoo and Stephens Rally A Coalition Of The War Willing”

  1. Yoo and Stephens advocating sending other peoples loved ones off to kill and die in elective wars based wholly upon delusion and lie all from the safety of being out of range as only chicken-hawk warmongers are apt to do.

    Yoo, Stephens and their warmongering/torturing/authoritarian ilk are fractions of human beings, who believe torture and bombs can replace dialogue. Their ideology is stillborn and their religion is death worship. They must be publicly repudiated at every opportunity.

  2. Sandi, Bush no more infiltrated the transactions of terrorists in attempt to stop them than Obama does. USGinc. is funding these people. World elites fund every side of every conflict. It’s how they make a lot of money. Several world banks have already been nailed for doing this. They get a slap on the wrist and continue their “good works”.

    A nice christian man is buying up ISIS oil. Check it out!

  3. Sandi Hemming,

    I agree with you. I believe, however, finance-based counter-terror practices have continued under Obama.

  4. Eric….I will respond m more later, but you have a prescient knowledge that surprises me, and I appreciate it. We might not agree on everything, but we do share the same theory.

  5. Sandi Hemming,

    That’s a big difference between AQ and ISIS.

    AQ largely subsists on donations (direct and falsely induced) and other financial transactions that we’ve tracked and attacked through the international banking system. ISIS doesn’t share that dependency. While ISIS also takes donations, ISIS sits on large funds and assets in Syria and Iraq.

    That’s a reason for the dispute between AQ and ISIS despite their fundamental commonalities. AQ, to a large extent, depends on goodwill from its target audience. ISIS does not – ISIS is independently wealthy. So ISIS feels free to kill Sunni competitors as well as everyone else on AQ’s approved enemies list.

    1. Eric, so they use what cash? Or gold? How do they get it? Someone buys black market oil. How does he get it, how does he pay? Who has it until it’s purchased? Who delivers it? My point is infiltrate the transaction process, as Bush did. Are trucks going into Syria with cash and leaving with barrels of oil? I doubt it. As in all things, follow the money.

  6. There are so many examples of wishful thinking in these comments …. amazing ! I indulge in wishful thinking as well…. my dreams are aimed at the big picture and driven by some strong axioms …. Life , Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness ( #LLPOH ) …. most comments are about giving in and indulging in wonk analysis. 99guspuppet

  7. Aridog: “You see, one thing I have absorbed while living among Arabs from the very parts of the world I am referring to here is this: They respect a strong dictator, although they may not like him.”

    That goes to AQ’s ‘strong horse, weak horse’ framing, which in turn, derives from the Marxist claim about the inevitable historical defeat of the morally decadent, therefore intrinsically weak, bourgeois West.

    Some critics claim that fighting terrorists leads to more terrorists, ie, the ‘blowback’ theory. That’s partially true.

    The more complete truth is that fighting terrorists leads to more terrorists when they believe they are the strong horse and we are the weak horse, ie, they’ll win and we’ll lose the clash of civilizations.

    One of my college professors who teaches about terrorism and US foreign policy presented the issue this way in a faculty panel on ISIS last week:

    Our fight against the terrorists in Iraq did bump up terrorist recruiting. However, the recruiting bump was driven by bin Laden’s claim that Iraq was the climactic battle wherein they would beat the US – as the champion of the morally decadent, therefore intrinsically weak, bourgeois West (aka leader of the free world) – and thereby claim their Caliphate by the ancient right of war.

    bin Laden basically put all his eggs in one basket. So when contrary to bin Laden’s assurance of jihadi victory, we decimated the terrorists with the COIN “Surge” and, more jarring to them, the Sunni Awakening, terrorist recruitment reached a low point in 2007-2008.

    Why? Because we proved in Iraq that the US was the strong horse and the terrorists were the weak horse.

    To wit, Ambassador Ryan Crocker in the Washington Post, Jan 2009:

    The key to success in Iraq, insists Crocker, was the psychological impact of Bush’s decision to add troops. “In the teeth of ferociously negative popular opinion, in the face of a lot of well-reasoned advice to the contrary, he said he was going forward, not backward.”

    Bush’s decision rocked America’s adversaries, says Crocker: “The lesson they had learned from Lebanon was, ‘Stick it to the Americans, make them feel the pain, and they won’t have the stomach to stick it out.’ That assumption was challenged by the surge.”

    The problem is after AQI was defeated soundly by the ‘far enemy’ (ie, us) in Iraq, the Syrian war gave the surviving remnants the ideal conditions to regrow as a strong horse versus a ‘near enemy’. And Iraq weakened by the premature US departure in 2011 gave newly strong-horse ISIS a great opening to win what AQI had lost.

    Concurrent with ISIS’ growth, Obama’s course changes from Bush revitalized the terrorist belief that the US – the champion of the morally decadent, therefore intrinsically weak, bourgeois West (aka leader of the free world) – is a weak horse. With that, terrorist recruiting has recovered from the 2007-2008 low point we had caused by defeating them in Iraq.

    So, fighting terrorists does help terrorist recruiting, but only when they believe they’ll win the contest. The best way to reduce terrorist recruiting is to beat the terrorists in competition and prove we are the strong horse and they are the weak horse. The formula isn’t unique to terrorists, of course. It’s the competitive history of civilization.

  8. BarkinDog,

    FDR put us out there as leader of the free world and his VP followed suit with the Korean War as a critical turning point.

    But the President that had the best shot at pulling us back from FDR’s liberal course was the President who broke the Democrats’ 20 year grip on the White House: Eisenhower.

    Our foreign policy course was still reasonably simply reversible in the early 1950s when Ike took over from Truman, especially with the unpopularity of the Korean War, which Ike campaigned against and showed the risk of a global orientation. At that point, both in public and with our foreign-policy makers, there was not yet a consensus for a standing hegemonic role. Ike could have pulled back from Europe and/or Asia at about the same point and perhaps in the same dubious passive-aggressive way that Obama withdrew from Iraq, despite the competitive realities on the ground, as the official statuses transitioned from occupations to sovereign partnerships.

    Instead, Ike stayed the liberal course instated by FDR and Truman and upheld American leadership of the free world. Then Kennedy pushed it forward.

    The next best shot at pulling back from FDR’s liberal course was Bush, who took over from Clinton advocating for more IR-realist foreign policy at a point where the post-Cold War ‘Washington consensus’ seemed to be a spent force. Indeed, Rumsfeld’s first job as SecDef was to reduce America’s global commitments, both the longstanding ones and the piecemeal ones that accrued under Clinton.

    But then 9/11 happened, which converted Bush into an FDR liberal.

    President Bush as FDR liberal, channeling JFK, June 2004:

    “For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the sake of stability. In practice, this approach brought little stability, and much oppression. So I have changed this policy. In the short-term, we will work with every government in the Middle East dedicated to destroying the terrorist networks. In the longer-term, we will expect a higher standard of reform and democracy from our friends in the region. Democracy and reform will make those nations stronger and more stable, and make the world more secure by undermining terrorism at it source. Democratic institutions in the Middle East will not grow overnight; in America, they grew over generations. Yet the nations of the Middle East will find, as we have found, the only path to true progress is the path of freedom and justice and democracy.

    The Democrats remained FDR liberals but bamboozled the American people by relabeling Bush’s essential FDR liberalism as the epithetical “neocon”, which got Obama elected but confused the American people and muddled our foreign policy.

    And here we are.

  9. Just to be sure I croak this thread, here goes….the edges of my mind, not certain, but more so every day. Epistle warning…those who care less, just move on…I’m fine with that. I’m not sure of all of what I say here, but I am thinking it….

    I’m thinking about going off on a tanget sooner than later. He is part of it…what do y’all think? It haunts me.

    I’m probably going to puzzle a lot of folks who might otherwsie agree with me. I am tempted to go bit radical myself. First, I’d ally with Assad and the existing Syrian government…an entity we should never have messed with in the first place. The actual Assad/Syrian military is the only one with a prayer in Hades of defeating ISIL. There was no national interst that I am aware of for that meddling..the same argument many others use vis a vis Iraq….however I agreed with Gulf War II, up to the point me made it more about bull crap than national building. Next, we should have left Qaddafi alone….no national interest again, as well as we should have stayed out of Egypt’s “Arab Spring” which nothing but Jihadi nonsense…Egypt was an ally before that, and may still be if the military has forgiven us for sponsoring the Morsi Muslim Brotherhood…in a place whose secular culture predates Islam by thousands of years ( really need Chip Ahoy here dang it!) . In short, we mucked around and brought today upon ourselves IMO. Trying to find a reliable, repeat….reliable ally…among the myriad rebels in Syria and now Iraq is a fools game. That and training them, if possible, will take years…meanwhile ISIL runs amok some more.

    Next, I’d find a better place for the fleet and forces now anchored in Qatar, then tell Qatar that either they cease support of various jihaddi outfits, or we’re gone…then be gone…because they will lie anyway so get the hell out of there and see how they like standing along when ISIL comes a-calling. Next I’d advise Lebanon that Hezzbollah, other than its humanitarian work (they really do some of this) is to be disarmed, period. Advise them that one more incursion in to Israel, by so much as one soldier, jihadi, or rocket, and we’ll turn the southern zone of Lebanon in to a rubble pile rivaling Dresden. Next would be Gaza…and I doubt Egypt would object, since when Israel was willing to give up Gaza Egypt was not willing to take them back…who needs a festering boil on the butt side. That Egypt is will to settle Gazan/Palestinians in the Sinai is proof enough to me that they seek peace as we do and as Israel does. The Sinai has oil so the gesture is magnanimous, just as much as when Israel gave it back to Egypt prior to the idiot Morsi.

    You see, one thing I have absorbed while living among Arabs from the very parts of the world I am referring to here is this: They respect a strong dictator, although they may not like him. They fear the fundamentalist Jihadi types because nothing they ever achieve helps the ordinary Arab and his family….usually the opposite. I am reminded of the words of a simple farmer in Vietnam back in the day, who described a “good day” as one where nobody on either side shot at him or killed his buffalo. Think about it.

    Oh, and I like Barkindog’s idea about “piracy.” In summary; I believe we, as a nation under both Bush43 in his 2nd term (with his chump Nixon holdover advisors) and Obama the Royal 1st (teh impotent one) have made things worse. A worst case was our small unit (squad or at most platoon sized) efforts in Iraq a bit, and in Afghanistan a lot (see any history of the Korengal Valley and compare the Ashau Valley)…effective, really, but insufficiently deployed…e.g., not enough troops, because we do NOT have enough troops. The plan was originally designed by LTG Victor Krulak (his CAP program) in Vietnam, with just regular Marines and soldiers, as well as specialized early deployed Special forces under men like the late Col Nick Rowe, Col Simmons, and Col Beckworth (sic?)….and before that the men of Operation Hot Foot, subsequently renamed Operation White Star in the Lao area of Indo-China under Eisenhower. (I have a friend who was part of those operations and to this day he can still speak the language of the Meo and Hmung.) We didn’t do enough of it because MAC-V didn’t approve…idiots that they were in trying to prop up bureaucrats rather than villagers and headmen. I spent time in the ROK Han Estuary, trying to emulate, with several of my Squad and company, this face to face one on one relationship with the ally we had. You learned the spoken language, even if you didn’t master the written version. And significantly, they learned you language a bit as well. We were not ordered to do this, we just did it, and success gave us cover from the bureaucrats. It worked. Simple as that.

    Finally, in my own neighborhood, that I have spoken of dejectedly recently, I am revising that to a positive thought line…I will increase my efforts to aid assimilation, be an example, and reach out to even the fundamentalists…we are not your enemy, butt wad, give us a chance and we will give you a chance, and you are safe here because of the rest of us who served to protect refugees and citizens alike. Realize it and you made you first honest step.

    Or not. Damnit, I am too old for this stuff, but better now than my kid and your kids having to deal with a population that wants to be like you and me, but if too afraid because no one stood up to the fundamentalists.

  10. “It is remarkable however how we view identical historical sources and events in diametrically opposite ways.”

    Not unlike the two SCOTUS wings or various religious sects. Same texts, but a variety of interpreted meanings are possible.

  11. Thank you Barkindog…you may just be the thread killer here, not me. Yippeeee.

    I am pleased to know that I’m not the only one who holds Mr Cheney in disregard. At least that is what I gather form your remarks.

  12. I watched the Ken Burns special on The Roosevelts on PBS for the past several nights. Yesterday, December 7th, 1941,,… oops wrong sentence. The episode last night took us up to WWII. I was getting sick of hearing all that apCray about Blue Bloods and Harvard dandy Teddy and Harvard Dandy FDR. Eleanor stood out as more worldly and with a link to the common man and not the common cigarette holder. But the theme of the show yesterday was much ado about the Great Depression. Despite all the WPA and other acts we did not really get out of the Great Depression until we got into the Second Great War in 1941. Now we have the Dick Cheney crowd and the Yoo guy. I firmly we will be in wars for the next fifty years. FDR was right about one thing and it did not take a Harvard Degree to figure it out. December 7, 1941, is a day which will live in infamy.

    By the way, that was the last time that America “declared war”.

  13. Nick… my dear ex-wife once beat a neighbor unconscious for invading our home uninvited calling our daughter a chink….go back to China, etc….the idiot paid dearly I assure you. I got there late, but in time to convince the police that NIna was innocent of malice…e.g., no arrest. Not the first time for good ole Nina, she was and is a hot head. There after I taught our kid fundamentals of TaeKwonDo and suggested she use it any time somebody got “Guk” confused with “Chink.” “Gook” is a aberration of the Korean term for “people” which is “Guk.” Call a Korean “Gook” and they likely will answer, sure you “Mi-Guk” jerk (American). She’s got a fantastic Bruce Lee type short punch…12 inches is all she needs to land one that truly hurts or worse. If on the corner of the jaw…expect to see tweety birds shortly. Followed by a good leg sweep and you’re on the ground…not the place you want to be with an angry Korean.

  14. I have noticed that powerful insider Democrats and Republicans alike hate the thought of having anyone as president who won’t go to bat for war contractors. In this, the two parties most powerful members are completely united. This clearly tells us what the powerful truly want. They want power and money.

    It is interesting that ordinary Democrats will also attack Rand Paul for being unwilling to go to war or opposing the compete surveillance of our population. These are two actions which the Democratic party had at least historically pretended to be against. Quite obviously, it isn’t.

    Republicans used to have a much more isolationist platform. That platform is also under attack from the powerful, mainstream wing of the party.

    As citizens we should really be paying attention to this united effort on behalf of the surveillance and war state.

    As to security. There is nothing more dangerous to human liberty than a govt. who no longer respects the rule of law, who will put no limits on what it will do to any person. As a realist, I have seen exactly what such a govt. will do to its own citizens as well as to people of other nations. These actions have so far included false imprisonment, beatings, torture and murder. Not one of these actions is any sane person’s definition of “safety”.

    “Pass the kool-aid”, the message of the powerful, is not the message citizens should heed!

  15. Biden would call Yoo and “Oriental.” My dear, departed mom called all Asians, male or female, “Chinamen.”

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