29th September 2010
Kevin Williamson is always worth reading.
I am not a lawyer, but it seems clear to me that the state of our law is such that anybody with sufficient legal training can make a reasonably strong-sounding argument for any policy he chooses, and that if his argument is wrong, it is likely to be wrong in ways that are non-obvious. The respectable legal world is large enough to contain both Glenn Greenwald and Andy McCarthy, Antonin Scalia and Craig Becker; in the vast space that separates their thinking, anything could crop up — it’s the legal equivalent of one of those blank spots on medieval maps labeled “Here Be Monsters.”
Well, I am a lawyer, and he’s exactly right.
Whatever role common sense played in the law has long since been expunged, with both lawyers and judges competing to see who can make the cleverest sophistries that money can buy rather than trying to find the truth and promote justice.
That’s why I’m not working as a lawyer; there’s a lot of money but no self-respect in that game.
But ordering the premeditated, extrajudicial killing of an American citizen in Yemen or Pakistan is no different from ordering the premeditated, extrajudicial killing of an American citizen in New York or Washington or Topeka — American citizens are American citizens, wherever they go.
Here’s where Williamson and I part ways.
An ‘American citizen’ who flees and hides in a foreign country while plotting against America is not an ‘American citizen’ except in a purely symbolic sense. (The fact that our government hasn’t taken steps to remove that citizenship merely testifies to the corruption and incompetence that seems to be emerging as the distinguishing characteristic of administrations extending back to the beginning of the twentieth century.)
One cannot legitimately claim the rights of American citizenship without being willing to shoulder the obligations of American citizenship — that way lies madness, and a country willing to ignore that distinction is merely committing suicide slowly. That is NOT why we hired these people.
And this is where I part ways with so-called ‘libertarians’ who show up in the news from time to time. (The writers and editors of tReason magazine come immediately to mind.)
They are great advocates of inalienable, irrefutable, irreformable, damned-near-invincible rights, and pay no attention to the equally legitimate rights of the potential (and actual) victims of these coddled super-citizens for whom they wring their hands so self-righteously.
The primary function of a government is to protect its citizens, and sometimes that requires doing nasty things to a minuscule subset of those citizens who constitutes a clear and present danger the rest. Where to draw that line is a hard and dangerous choice, and worthy of all the thought and humility that we can put into it; but it’s a choice that has to be made, and those who insist that it isn’t allowed are part of the problem, not part of the solution.