Colonialism and Democracy (updated 3/28/12 and 4/8/12)

Update: 3/8/12.  The slaughter continues in Syria. It’s completely mysterious why any sensible person puts any faith in the UN. Recently, that hapless organization has given the butcher Assad more time to murder his fellow citizens. At the heart of the problem is the assumption underlying the very existence of the UN that all members are kind of nice, more or less imperfect versions of Finland. This is revolting.

A second assumption is that the UN is ineffectual but our only option.  As the successful recent intervention in Libya, that is simply not true.

According to certain isolationists who call themselves “libertarian” ( and who will maintain that they are in no way isolationists) much or most of the political horrors one observes in the developing world can be blamed on colonialism. Thus, the ongoing massacre in Syria would be owed to the French mandate over that country exercised between 1919 and 1946. Using some fairly mysterious logic the said isolationists use the alleged past sins of colonialisms to oppose any Western intervention in Syria that would seek to undermine the Assad, Baath regime ‘s ability to slaughter the civilian population.

As if to underscore the brilliance of this analysis, Afghanistan peacefully elected a new president yesterday in a hotly contested election. The transfer of power was accomplished without any disturbance. As everyone knows, Afghanistan was never colonized, never submitted to a foreign yoke.

In the meantime, in the former French colony of Senegal in West Africa, rival groups keep slaughtering one another in an effort to achieve domination by force of arms where the custom of holding elections never did take root. The French colonized Senegal in depth from the late 18th century until 1962. The French colonization was so deep that some Senegalese were voting in French elections – in a simulacrum of democracy – starting in 1850. Deep colonization there as elsewhere and more than one hundred and fifty years of complete domination by a colonial power led to a horribly distorted society.

Wait a minute, wait a minute! Wrong again. It’s in Senegal that there was a peaceful democratic transfer of power yesterday and it’s in colonialistically virginal Afghanistan that the citizens keep assassinating one another. I will be damned! Got it backward!

PS Both countries are near 100% Muslim, both Sunni.

Update 3/28/12:  A Senegalese person I know well tells me that there were 11 people killed in the demonstrations against the outgoing president. Presumably they would have been killed by violent actions by the police. If this were true, it would be contrary to the relatively peaceful image I give of the recent power transition in Senegal.

I am skeptical for two reasons: 1  Human Rights Watch silence. I have always found this organization to be alert and its reports trustworthy.

2  The second reason for my skepticism is my Senegalese acquaintance failure to give specific references in support of her assertions. She mentioned imprecisely several press organs, including a branch of Le Monde. I Googled it and found in it a report that immediately  triggered my sense of disbelief. The item mentioned several deaths caused by police actions, including shooting “blank bullets” (“balles a blanc”). First, there is no such thing (bullet?). Then, when you shoot blanks at people nothing comes out of the gun barrel. It’s hard to see how it can hurt anyone.

Small details like this matter. Either people know what they are talking about or they don’t. That Le Monde correspondent does not and Le Monde editors don’t care enough to do something about it. They don’t deserve my attention.

I asked my Senegalese acquaintance to give me more precise references. Some readers might. I will update this piece as needed.

About Jacques Delacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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47 Responses to Colonialism and Democracy (updated 3/28/12 and 4/8/12)

  1. Tsk tsk.

    Colonialism is a process Dr. J, not a blame game. You should actually try reading my rigorous writings: Colonialism: Myths and Realities.

    If the Senegalese benefited from colonialism so much, why did they demand independence? Were they too stupid to know what was good for them?

    Afghanistan fits in nicely with my article on colonialism as a process not a blame game.

    PS democracy is not the highest end. Liberty is. Why don’t you compare the standards of living in Singapore with those of Senegal and tell me what you find?

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Brandon: As is more and more often the case, I don’t quite understand what you are saying or why. Singaporeans are much richer than Senegalese. The Senegalese wanted independence because the best educated among them thought they knew enough to take charge of their own destinies. It turns out they were right.

      I am old and experienced. That makes me resistant to high-sounding paradoxical announcements such as “colonialism is a process.” I have heard of too many like this, mostly from esoteric leftists. I am sorry but life is short. I go for what sounds clear.

      You often make statements that are undermined by an easily accessible reality. When I point the contradiction out, you respond with some hifallutin snicker the relevance of which I don’t understand. Then, you try to punish me for not understanding by giving me a reading assignment. It’s not fair.

      By the way, I still owe a wrap-up on Ron Paul and truth-telling.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Brandon: Addendum.

        When you say: “PS democracy is not the highest end. Liberty is.” you are inviting reasonable people like me not to continue. Reasonable people have agreed for a couple of centuries that democracy is the best path to liberty as well as an important component of it. When you ignore this evidence, you may be perceived as strikingly original, or deeply ignorant (another undergraduate, which I know you are not), or simply reaching. Knowing you a little, I think you are just reaching. That’s another reason for not bothering.

      • “Reasonable”. “Isolationists”. “Excuses”. Blahblahblah.

        You two peas (Drs. J and A, respectively) are from the same delusional Leftist pod, that’s for sure!

        You have it back asswards Dr. J: liberty is the best path forward to democracy. STOP! Don’t reply with some embarrassing comment until you’ve thought this through.

        Here is a hint: did the South Koreans or 19th century Europeans vote themselves into prosperity?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        19th century Europeans voted themselves into prosperity. I don’t mean that it was the only factor. I think it was a big factor.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Brandon: Thanks for the hint. Where would I be without it?

        19th century Europeans voted themselves into prosperity. I don’t mean that it was the only factor but that it was one.

      • AUGH! You did it!

        My point here is that democracy is a byproduct of liberty, right?

        So, in the 19th century, you claim that Europeans voted themselves into prosperity (I didn’t know Hitler and Mussolini implemented such prosperous policies!), but you’re missing the larger point.

        When were women, for example, granted suffrage in 19th Europe? How about African-Americans here in the States?

        Democracy is a byproduct of liberty. The universal suffrage that Western citizens enjoy today has been a long, arduous process that has come about under the umbrella of policies designed to protect and enhance the liberty of the individual, ya dig?

        If you start with democracy rather than liberty, then you’ll end up with states like India and Senegal. The people in these states are wonderful, productive, hard-working, generous, etc., but the post-colonial world made a big mistake when it decided to opt for democracy over liberty in the early days of their revolutions.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Not absurd, of course bu one does not exclude the other. Democratic formalities such as free elections, don’t cause tyranny. If they did, tyrants would not be so quick to abolish them.

  2. Terry Amburgey says:

    Colonialism seems to be an excuse. It excuses isolationists from interfering in the slaughter of one group of people by another. I don’t mind excuses; sometimes the cost of intervention can be too high. But some excuses are more honest than others. Colonialism as an excuse has little honesty to it.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      The excuse should be straightforward, not confusing because it ‘s not real. It should be, “Sorry, we can’t do much.” As soon as you write this, you find that you can actually do more than you thought you could.

    • Why should a majority (or any amount) of people caring about the slaughter of anyone, anywhere, amount to an injunctive to force other people to pay the costs of attempting to stop the slaughter, whether that cost is ‘too high’ or not?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:


      • Dang thesaurus. Mandate. Instruction. Decree. Etc. For some reason these didn’t appeal to me, so I picked a different one. Looks more like an antonym than a synonym now that you mention it!

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        This is my second response to this keimh comment:
        Everything done by states (by government) is done through injunctive action. That’s the nature of states; they force you.
        It seems to me from previous exchanges between us that we both deplore the prevalence of government actions, that is of actions undertaken often against the wills of those who have to contribute. If anyone is listening out there (many are from abroad), that is the essence of libertarianism: We want government to do less because anytime any government anywhere does anything, it’s almost certain it’s forcing someone. Some libertarians want no government by force at all. I am not one of them. I think limited constitutional government would be fine.
        So keimh, since every state action is injunctive, government, any
        government, is unable to do anything good at all. No giving supplies to earthquake victims, no giving water to thirsty children, I suppose no finishing off the thirsty children either. Damn!

      • I am not opposed to ‘government’ per se, and don’t agree that all actions by government are initiations of force. I am not saying you said those things, either. Just trying to clarify where I stand. I lean ‘anarchist’, sure, but like many, can’t get the idea out of my head that no matter how much you try to remove the state (a much better word in this instance than government, as one can govern one self, one’s family, one’s business, one’s property, etc, without violating the non-aggresion axiom), you will always end up with some form of it. However, for now, I am content, in my own, probably insignificant way, with tackling the easy targets. Foreign intervention for any reason other than to repel an invasion, and yes, even ward of an existential threat (sorry, still not convinced that Iran is one, even if they are crazy, even if they do want nukes, even if etc.) happens to be one of the easiest targets of all. I am would like to get around to responding to the other things you said, but have been running around like a headless chicken for the past few days, and likely the next few days.

        As to my take on government (or should I say the state) being charitable, I say good intentions are great! They might even help somebody in the process. By such action, on the part of the public sector, is inherently inefficient and prone to corruption.

        And, though I may want to help earthquake victims I personally know, or even if I don’t know them and feel it is my duty to help them, or even the duty of others, I still see no way to justify the actions of the state in such matters other than the presumption that no one else would do it.

        There is the crux of the issue. The victims would likely be helped without the actions of the state. People may be idiots, but most have some sense of humanity. But even if the presumption that no one else would do anything is true, then who are a bunch of altruistic (and no, I am not an anti-altruistic objectivist) bureaucrats to do it for them? Where do they get off doing it? If people are selfish and don’t care about earthquake victims, that is their business. And not to blame the victim but, nobody, least of all ‘me’, made them live where there might be an earthquake. And if they had no clue, I still have no culpability, and my duty to help them is purely a moral one, not something I owe them because I live somewhere not prone to earthquakes. Does anyone want the state dictating morality, even if they are technically correct about what happens to be moral?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Rich soup keimh! First things first: Don’t be “sorry.” You are implying, possibly, probably unwittingly that I said somewhere that Iran is an existential threat to the US. I don’t think I did. And if I did, Brandon will let us know quickly for he lies awake a night figuring out ways to hang me with the ropes I braided eons ago. And, during the say, he daydreams about the same.

        You are responding to something I wrote my self in response to your use of the word injunctive. If I am off the mark, it’s entirely your fault for using rare words. (“injunction” is not rare, I know.)

        I don’t see things very differenly from the way you describe them. You are ahead of my game, for sure because it took me about twenty years from your present age to get there. Of course, I was suckled at Lenin’s dry teat. Fortunately, Bakunin was my occasional wet-nurse.

        I have two big problems with today’s mainstream incarnation of libertarianism (small l):

        1 The problem of transition to.
        2 The violent and devious pacifism of many who speaks for it. That would include Ron Paul, of course.

        If I had the courage, I would start something on my blog about both topics. I don’t mean that I am a cowards but that I get tired just thinking about it. Besides, there are other important things to do that are easier. I have come to believe that I have non-American readers who have few sources about what American conservatives and libertarians think as basic and essential.

        Thus, I know that there is practically no classical conservative public voice in France today. That’s the land of Frederic Bastiat. I can imagine what it’s like for my occasional readers from the Sudan, or from Cambodia.

        I listen to suggestions.

      • First thing’s first: You have readers in the Sudan? And I thought I was the only one!

        Now that the important thing is out of the way, if I implied anything that was untrue, I assure you it was unwittingly. I am not claiming to be as pure as the wind-driven snow or anything, but only that even if I did want to either pull the wool over your eyes or purposefully misrepresent something you said (either to smear you or to trap you into saying something or as sarcasm I would assume you could detect), I wouldn’t, as you are as clever and wise an online adversary I have had to date (though, who am I to judge on such matters, or bestow such flatteries at my young age?), and would see right through any such antics. Now that I have ingratiated myself to you, I will move on to still less important matters.

        I really don’t know enough about you (But I suppose all it takes is a little reading) to know exactly what you think of the whole Iran thing other than that you are not one of those violent, deviant pacifists you describe. I don’t know that Ron Paul is one either, even if he does play to that crowd (Gasp! He is a politician after all). I mean, if Ron Paul were president, it is not his say anyways whether we go to war or not, provided, that is, that the Congress decides to take back its authority in such areas. In fact, some of these pacifists should reject Ron Paul altogether, as Ron Paul is not opposed to war as much as they would like to claim. He is certainly an alternative to the phony peacenik Obama, however, and so may be the pacifists last hope.

        For example, Ron Paul may personally find all wars, declared or otherwise, to be detrimental to liberty. He may find them all to be unnecessarily expensive. He may think diplomacy to always be preferable. He may abhor the loss of life, innocent and ‘guilty’ alike, on the battle field. But in the end, would he not, and has he not stated, that he would fight any war, to win it, that Congress legally declared, were he to be Commander-in-Chief?

        I still don’t see how conservatives that say, and I run into them constantly, “I like Ron Paul, and his foreign policy may well be the most constitutional, but in this day and age we just can’t afford not to have an aggressive foreign policy”, wouldn’t, if they truly think we need to follow the Constitution, support Ron Paul. I know that he is ancient. I know that the media paints him as unelectable. I know that he himself is not the best speaker. I know that he has never passed a significant piece of legislation. I know that he sure has some weird supporters, running the gambit from white-supremacists to leftist anarchists (and fortunately, many in between). I know that he wants to decriminalize victimless crimes. I know of all these things and more that are turn-offs for average voters. But still they look right past all these things so that they may assault his “dangerous” foreign policy, and it just boggles my mind.

        I have, on my blog, an article,

        Even If Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy Is Wrong, It Is In Noways Dangerous,

        that addresses this. It is an opinion piece, sure, but it gets my point across.

        I do not think you a coward for not tackling certain issues. I have the same problem. Sometimes you just have to choose your battles.

        I have heard before that Bastiat, one of the greatest proponents of liberty in any era, is virtually unheard of in France. They kicked Jesus out of Nazareth, too.

        And I am sorry (even though you tell me not to be) for using rare words. The thing about the cat on the sofa does come to mind!

        Your friend Brandon is a young and ambitious idealist, as am I. No doubt you know this already, which is why you tolerate us.


      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh: It’s fun reading you but I can’t do justice to your volcano of ideas and facts (some of which are even correct.)

        I don’t know for a fact that I have a reader in the Sudan. WordPress, shows me a few hits from that country every so often. Today, there is one from Cambodia. There is also one from Cameroon, but that one is my nephew! (NS!)

        Here is a question for you if you have time. You seem to be saying that the wars in Iraq and/or in Afghanistan are/ were unconstitutional. I would like to know why you think this if you do. Please, take the trouble to find out if there was anything resembling a decision in law in either case or in both cases. People to whom I am close in some respects says the strangest things. I am trying to figure out why. I ask you because, flattery for flattery, you are one of the most thoughtful of those.

        Bastiat and Jesus left France and Nazareth together. I heard they are sharing a condo in Vegas.

      • Jacques,

        I am not sure I completely understand your request. I get it for the most part, but am not entirely sure what you mean when you say “Please, take the trouble to find out if there was anything resembling a decision in law in either case or in both cases.” I wrote something rather lengthy below, and may or may not have covered what you wanted me to cover. Anyways, I think you are asking, more or less, if either or both wars were legal in at least some sense. I am not sure how to answer that with absolute certainty, but for now I will say: Yes. Congress did/does at least have SOME say.

        Now onto why I think these wars are unconstitutional.

        I think that these wars are unconstitutional because I am of the understanding that any action taken on the part of the US government that was not specifically enumerated as a power, was not technically legal. And by the same token, any action on the part of any branch of government not specifically enumerated to that branch (if it was enumerated to government at all), was not technically legal.

        Given that this strict construction, which rejects both positivism and absolutism, seems to be upheld by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, as well as the Federalist Papers, James Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention, the transcripts of the ratification debates, state constitutions, the guarantees given to so-called Anti-Federalists, etc., there is no doubt in my mind that it is the correct one.

        Any contravention to the Constitutional stipulations that Congress declares war by passing a law formally announcing it, and that the president enforces that law as he would any other law, to my knowledge is an action outside of the enumerated powers.

        No war was declared on either Iraq or Afghanistan. This, in itself, does not make them unconstitutional. But if the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan do not conform to any other enumerated powers, that would make them unconstitutional.

        Here are those powers which Congress does have by way of military action, according to the Constitution:

        “To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations”

        I believe that this was the power exercised when authorizing the president to go after Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. But when it became about nation-building and reining in loose-knit Afghan tribal militias lumped together as “the” Taliban, it ceased being in accordance with that enumerated power.

        “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water”

        No war was declared. Neither were Letters of Marque and Reprisal granted (although Ron Paul did author legislation to that effect).

        “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years”

        I would be surprised if all “appropriations” for the “wars” met this requirement, as the Pentagon does have discretionary spending ability.

        “To provide and maintain a Navy”

        That’s fine. But what about the Air Force? At least the USMC had the good grace to place establish itself under the Navy.

        “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces”

        Sounds good.

        “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions”

        The question is: Is the National Guard the same thing as the militia? Regardless of how this question is answered, problems arise.

        For starters, there are the 50 Army National Guard units, which replaced the traditional state militia units in 1903. But more than just a name-change and a face-lift, these units were placed under the authority of the National Guard of the United States, which means they are only at the state governors’ disposal, by the whims and fancies of the Federal Government. And when these units are sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, without Congress first providing for their calling forth, and without the expressed purpose of executing Laws of the Unions (conceivably including a declaration of war, which is a law), suppressing insurrections, or repelling invasions, we either have to a) justify it by saying that these units are not really “militia”, they are just special army units (in which case we have to admit that the Federal Government did away with, in large part, the militia, an unconstitutional act on its face) or b) claim that these units are indeed militia and that the way the “wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan were initiated and conducted were legal (which is simply not the case based on the criteria we have previously established).

        “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress”

        This seems to have been upheld, insofar as this enumerated power is not affected by the previous one.

        But why? Why not just declare war? If you can get enough votes from Congress to approve of the President’s illegal use of military force after the fact, why can’t you get enough votes to simply declare war in the first place?

        I am not so certain. Perhaps it is just a natural part of an emboldened and imperial presidency. Perhaps they need to save face over what happened in Korea, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, Panama, etc. Perhaps it provides the best of both worlds to the tyrants:

        On the one hand (the perception that there is an actual, legal war) we can terrorize people abroad, act like a superpower, throw our weight around at the UN and in NATO, enrich our friends (the Military-Industrial Complex lives), pass laws like the Patriot Act and NDAA, grope plane passengers, detain without warrant alleged combatants, issue executive orders declaring a state of emergency, tie up the state’s “militias”, and further erode the legitimacy of the Constitution while claiming to uphold it.

        On the other hand (the fact that no legal war was even declared) we can avoid certain rules imposed on us when we formally declare war. The Geneva convention only applies in times of legally declared war, after all.

        Hank (AKA Keimh)

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh: You gave me entirely too much work.

        I ask what I think are simple questions and you manage to give me complex answers. You are overestimating me. (You are not the only one on this blog.) I wanted to know why you thought those wars were unconstitutional and secondly, I wanted to know if you had bothered to find out the facts regarding the starts of both wars. I had to ask because I think that many people who share your opinion on constitutionality don’t bother to find out the relevant facts, are just parroting someone else, maybe, their cult leader

        Here is the crux of your answer for my narrow purposes: “…any contravention to the Constitutional stipulations that Congress declares war by passing a law formally announcing it.”

        Is it the case or is it not that Congress so “contravened,” in either case?

        If your answer is “yes,” why do you think whatever Congress did in connection with either war is inadequate?

        Why is it so easy to get torrents of words* from you all mainstream libertarians but so difficult to get simple answers to simple questions? Must be the way I go about it.

        * I do not imply vacuous words.

      • Oh boy! I did it again. Simple question. Complex answer. I have no other excuse than: its complicated. We are dealing with US Law, international law, interpretation of law, and motivations of going to “war”, after all.

        The answer to your reiteration of your simple question is “yes”. Yes. They were both unconstitutional. The simple reason is that they were not formally declared wars, according to the interpretation of the Constitution that I hold. That interpretation may or may not be correct, but if it is, these wars are unconstitutional. To be more specific…

        Afghanistan because though it was arguably constitutional to begin with, as a mission to go after international criminals, that was not the primary reason used to justify the “invasion”. It was justified on the “self-defense” basis, found in the UN Charter (is this even Constitutional?). But that only applies to nations. Afghanistan may have been considered one (not sure why as it was in the same shape as Somalia), but if so, it was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

        So, if it was ever about going after the terrorists, not just friends of their friends (AKA, “the” Taliban, a loose-knit coalition of tribes) masquerading as a nation-state, it didn’t take long to cease being about that at all, in my humble opinion. In other words, it was partially sold as a repeat of what Jefferson did to the Barbary pirates, and later became a “war” that they forgot to declare. I may be on unstable ground here, as the initial incursion into (as opposed to invasion of) Afghanistan was both just and Constitutional, if you use the “The Congress shall have Power To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations” clause. Too bad that was not the only selling point. And too bad we didn’t do that. And it may just be my OPINION, but it seems we are/were never really interested in going after the actual culprits anyways. Just be satisfied I am not a truther (I have been sorely tempted at times, though).

        Iraq because no formal declaration of war was ever made. And unlike Afghanistan, there appear to have been no other Constitutional provisions adhered to. There may have been a resolution authorizing use of military force, which on its face seems to be basically the same thing as a declaration of war (only “informal”?), but as a nit-picky original intent sort of guy, that is just not good enough, and another excuse, I admit, for me to attack a “war”, that I dislike for reasons other than its mere illegality.

        A formal of declaration of war was good enough in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century, so if for some reason it is not good enough for the later twentieth and the twenty-first century, there must be something really strange going on. What could it possibly be? I really don’t know. But I am disposed to think that somebody (the Executive branch comes to mind) is trying to get away with something. What that specific something is, I couldn’t say with absolute certainty. But what I do know is that the ‘war on terror’ has been used to justify quite a few power grabs, some direct, some not so direct. And as I said previously, maybe nothing devious is going on. Maybe this is just what naturally happens in the waning years of a Republic. Power corrupts, right?

        And I am not so sure that it is the Congress that has contravened/breached/violated/infringed/broken/failed to comply), as much as the Executive branch. Congress has, hmmm, abdicated its authority in these areas more than clearly having violated any one clause I can think of. But, as far as I know, it is the people and states that are legally supposed to delegate authority (to the President, to the Congress, to the Courts), by an amendment to the Constitution. Not Congress by looking the other way. But that is precisely what they did.

        Given how Obama handled Libya, I should probably just be pleased that Bush even went to Congress, and that Congress passed the resolution before, rather than after, the invasion. But what the resolution did was give the President a free hand in deciding when, where, why, and how to handle the alleged Iraq situation. As Commander-in-Chief, some (not all) of these decisions are his anyways, provided a formal declaration of war. But since there was none, the President’s actions were illegal. And Congress aided and abetted him.

        I’ll not deny that I am repeating some things I have heard, read, especially in regards to the way I interpret the Constitution. I’ll not deny that Ron Paul is one (of several) of those men I have heard and read on this subject. You have got me there.

        I am so sorry. I wasn’t going to be a wind bag this time. I really wasn’t. I guess I can’t help it.

        Anyways, Happy Easter!


      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh: I don’t want to hear your opinions however “humble” about everything under the sun. I want to know if you have ordinary good judgment in connection with the assessment of the two wars as “unconstitutional”. (Your choice of word.) I cannot do this when you venture into terrain about which it’s pretty clear you know little. (“International law” You are kidding, right?) You do this instead of answering. You are evasive.

        I am asking the question again: Did President Bush do anything at all in conjunction with Congress right before military action was undertaken either in Iraq or in Afghanistan?

        I think you simply don’t know the answer to this simple and easy-to-research question.

        Your credibilitY

      • I know the answer. It is something I have looked into before, and something I looked into again just before my last response. And I have said it twice, I believe. Once in my response before last (“Anyways, I think you are asking, more or less, if either or both wars were legal in at least some sense. I am not sure how to answer that with absolute certainty, but for now I will say: Yes. Congress did/does at least have SOME say.”), and once in my last response (“Given how Obama handled Libya, I should probably just be pleased that Bush even went to Congress, and that Congress passed the resolution before, rather than after, the invasion.”).

        Maybe I shouldn’t expect you to wade through the swamp that was the rest of what I typed as well.


        That is as clear as I can be (besides maybe something like: Duh? Is that relevant?), assuming I understand your question, which frankly, was not put as simply as you assert it was the first time you asked it.

        You are right. I know next to nothing about International Law. I am just some punk kid blogger trying and failing to save face with some anonymous, grumpy old man.

        I suppose the UN Charter, the part of the Constitution that actually says “the Law of Nations”, the Geneva convention, and the laws of war have nothing at all to do with International law? Or if they do, they have no bearing on the legality of a war? Or if it does I am just too young and inexperienced to know in what way?

        If your being too impatient to read what I have written equates to my being evasive, and if saying things in strange ways (either using the wrong term, or using an overambitious term) equates to my not being expert enough to make an informed statement, am I not doomed to lose this argument from the start?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh: You are a litte short on the particulars of the actions of Congress preceding both wars, very short in fact. So, I still don’t know if you know and I will not tell you.

        Supposing you know what Congress did, what was missing, the exact words: “…declare war….” ?

        It seems to me that this question can easily be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Are you capable to doing this?

      • Am I capable? Yes.

        Did Congress use the exact words, “…declare war…”? No.

        Does this mean Congress didn’t declare war? Yes.

        Does that alone make those conflicts unconstitutional? No.

        Is this because there are other ways Congress can constitutionally authorize military action? Yes.

        Were any of those other ways utilized? No.

        Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No.

        Am I mistaken or don’t you want to tell me?

      • The Resolution that was eventually used to go into Afghanistan was authorization to go after the perpetrators of 9/11.

        This is not a declaration of war. It is even less of one that what was used to go into Iraq. I am not so sure it is even Constitutional given the punishing crimes against the laws of nations clause, as it authorizes the President to determine who to go after, making no mention to my knowledge of whether that “who” could include recognized sovereign nations. The question is: if it included sovereign nations, was not what was needed a declaration of war? And if it did not include sovereign nations, why did it become about regime change and nation-building?

        The Resolution that specifically authorized invading Iraq was predicated on enforcing UN resolutions. Assuming that the UN has any legitimate authority in this area, would not further approval be needed from the UN? But the UN never authorized this enforcement by the US. That leaves only two options: A formal declaration of war, which didn’t happen, and the punishing of crimes against the law of nations, but who would the criminal be? The entire country of Iraq? The entire regime? Just Saddam? What was the crime? I know the Resolution alleges several, but prescribes no punishment for such and leaves that determination up to others who are not Constitutionally delegated this authority.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh3: Amazing! You are still vague about what Congress did or did not do. And, I don’t care any more than you do about the UN.

        So, you have sort of answered that both wars were (are) unconstitutional because Congress did not say exactly, ” …declare war against….”

        You are an intelligent guy. If you belonged to some other church and someone told you the same story I forced you to tell me more or less clearly, you would be amazed. (I am guessing, obviously.)

        As soon as I scratch a little and insist on your not changing the subject, significant, relevant ignorance appears. Example: You brought up regime change of your own accord without mentioning that it was US policy before Bush. It’s important to the while subject of the legality of that war and of its antecedents.

      • Jacques,

        Was I ignorant for not saying what US policy was in the past? Are you saying that regime change was US policy for all tyrants with whom we militarily engage, or just for Saddam?

        If the former or the latter, how far back does this policy go? Certainly it is no older than Desert Storm (or under Reagan, who seemed to just love Saddam) unless I misunderstand you. Either that or Bush Senior chose to ignore said policy, in which case he changed the policy of regime change to a more pragmatic policy of letting dictators such as Saddam stay in place, which would mean, US policy was not regime change, but that US policy is whatever the president says it is at that given moment (a scary and dangerous idea).

        And is their some official document that says that our policy is to change regimes, or at least Saddam’s regime? And does that policy specify by which means? Because I am sure Clinton would have been happy (unless those sanctions and bombings were all meant to distract us from Clinton’s other failings) if there was regime change in Iraq, but that does not mean his idea, or the ideas of the makers of the policy you cite, was to do so in the way in which Bush Junior did.

        Okay. Lets just go with the premise. So it was US policy before Bush! Are you insinuating that I have never heard of other presidents doing this (supporting or initiating overthrows, rebellions, and revolutions)? Well I have. And by the same token, are you insinuating that I just hate Bush so much because I am one of those whacko leftists that thinks he equals Hitler? Well I’m not.

        And why is past US policy, whether continuous or not, even relevant to the discussion whether some action supposedly based on that policy was constitutional, legal, moral, or just? Does previous flawed US policy justify later actions based on that policy? Or do those same policies today justify the actions of the past that led to those policies?

        How does whether or not it was US policy at any time in the past, and for any reason, affect the legality or morality of something happening today? Maybe that’s why (as opposed to purposeful evasion, as you allege) I find your line of questioning puzzling. I don’t even know why you are asking or why half of your statements, though interesting, are even pertinent. They all seem incidental to me. If something is unconstitutional, why does it matter how long or for what reasons or how carefully Congress or the President deliberated over it? I mean it could be the most justifiable war in the world, and if it is unconstitutional, even slightly, it deserves to be criticized as such.

        Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining and I find this whole discussion thoroughly fascinating. But what I gather now is that you seem to think (I know I am not supposed to pigeon hole you, but I am really staring to get this vibe) that simply because Bush was following in someone else’s footsteps, that my criticisms of him (which you drove me to) are improper. As though I should forgive him because he was only doing what others have done. Either that or as though I should blame his predecessors for his policies and actions. Believe me, I do. You got me on a roll about Bush’s wars, and they are more familiar to me than others (though as you point out, still vague), because they are the ones I grew up hearing about, but I could easily follow similar lines of argument attacking Clinton’s, Bush Senior’s, Reagan’s, Carter’s, Nixon’s, Johnson’s, Kennedy’s, Eisenhower’s, and Truman’s fiascoes. I could even lay on FDR, Wilson, TR, Lincoln, Madison, and Polk if you like. And I am even capable of giving credit where it is due.

        And it was not that long ago that I was a Bush apologist: Republican good. Democrat bad. Muslims usually terrorists, or at least sympathize with them. Jews are almost always victims. Christians, by their very nature must be heroes. Fortunately I became convicted of my hypocrisy (praising “conservative” statism, bemoaning “liberal” statism) and am now an equal opportunity critic.


      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh: As usual, too much for me. In reverse order:

        I don’t think here ever was any time when you thought Muslims were “usually” terrorists. You are not telling the truth. It’s not right when you are arguing with a stranger.

        I don’t “insinuate” anything about what you said. I practically never insinuate.

        The fact that you did not know that regime change was Clinton policy is not important in itself. It tells me you are ignorant of the things you discuss. It suggests to me that you read from a certain playbook. The playbook may be shared by mean leftists and by cultish libertarians. Happens all the time. Ron Paul says things that are right out of Chomsky.

        What is missing again from your complex development is the simple answer my simple question deserves:

        Does the unconstitutionality of those two wars resides in the fact that Congress never pronounced the magic words?

        Whatever else you are going to say on the subjectafterwards, there is no reason why you cannot give this question a yes or no.

        I think you still don’t know what actions of Congress are associated with the beginnings of those wars. Don’t feel bad: none of the libertarians with whom I have exchanged words on the constitutionality issue knew either. It’s the systemic and well defended ignorance of your tribe.

        I wont’ discuss this issue with you again until I believe you have remedied this lacuna.

      • Your simple answers are below in caps.

        Whoah! My first statement about regime change, if you care to look, was about Afghanistan, which was not a war, but a mission to go after criminals. Maybe you are aware of the fact that it was in reference to Afghanistan, but I had completely forgotten why I even brought up regime change, and just took for granted that it had something to do with Saddam. I brought it up not because I am ignorant but because a mission to go after those responsible for 9/11 does not imply a ten year assault on tribal coalitions and installing a puppet in Kabul. That is what I object to as unconstitutional, NOT THE RESOLUTION!

        No, I was not “telling the truth”. I was using satire. Which is why I saved it for last. Maybe I am no good at satire. Oh well.

        I think I have answered your simple question a time or two now. Here goes again. YES. THE UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF THOSE TWO WARS RESIDES IN THE FACT THAT THE LETTER OF THE LAW (CONSTITUTION, NOT WAR POWERS RESOLUTION OF 1973, NOT CLINTON’S REGIME CHANGE POLICY THAT I AM IGNORANT OF DESPITE HAVING ALLUDED TO IT) WAS NOT FOLLOWED. If this is bad when they do it to the Interstate Commerce Clause, the General Welfare Clause, the Coinage and Value Clause, and the Implied Powers Clause, then it is bad when they do it to any other clause, including the War Powers Clause. Like I said, I am a nit-picky original intent sort of guy.

        You want the actual names of the resolutions?

        For Afghanistan:

        Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists

        Clearly not a declaration of war, but a resolution authorizing the president to go after and punish those responsible for 9/11. Constitutional because this action is a specifically enumerated power of Congress. I don’t see how toppling a regime, however unstable, and assailing tribesman, however barbaric, follows from this.

        For Iraq:

        Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq

        Not a declaration of war. An authorization to enforce UN rules, with UN approval conspicuously absent. Also predicated on previous resolution (for going after terrorists), which would be fine if Saddam was responsible for 9/11 or harboring those responsible for 9/11 (if he was, then no Iraq resolution would be necessary, as the terrorist one would suffice) or committing some other crime against “the Law of Nations”. One could argue that he violated some UN treaty, to which we are signatories or ratifiers, which is true, but this still begs the question of UN approval of enforcing the UN resolutions by US forces.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        kheimh: Finally, you tried to answer.

        On Afghanistan: If you kill my brother and take refuge in my neighbor’s house and I ask the neighbor to turn you over and he says no, the neighbor is responsible for my brother’s murder too. He is an accessory. He asked for it. He could have complied with my request. And I can go on punishing him until he stops making a claim to his right to shelter terrorists. I can do it even if there are no more terrorists he can shelter. He can comply with my request at any time. He only has to sue for peace. I believe that’s correct in law and also moral.

        Authorization of use of military force against Iraq: You are wrong on renewal of UN resolution. It was renewed though it did not need to be because there was never any peace treaty between Saddam’s Iraq and the US. The Gulf War never ended. Iraqi forces shot at US planes over Iraq hundreds of time following the cease-fire. Every single time was a good enough reason to resume hostilities. (Imagine Germans shooting at US planes over Germany in August 1945.) Basing the resolution on authorization to hunt terrorists was a public relations disaster with no effect on the legality of US actions. Saddam was harboring terrorists though probably not ours, not the ones Bush was hoping for, but Palestinian terrorists. In addition, he was giving Palestinian terrorists retirement benefits for exploding themselves inside Israel. That’s terrorism, I think. If Saddam had done similar things with respect to Basques terrorists or IRA terrorists, the connection would have been the same, I would argue.

        The long and the short of it is that you think Congress must use these exact words for a war to be constitutional: It’s strange, deplorable but it serves the purpose of giving a veneer of respectability to the widespread libertarian position that throats cut in the next backyard are none of our business. I hope you keep enjoying your pizza.

        Do you have anything to say at all about why Pres, Bush did not simply ask Congress to say your magic words? I mean the words that would have spared us this whole discussion according to your view of reality.

      • Afghanistan:

        I don’t disagree with the assertion, and few would dispute, that going after 9/11’s perpetrators and their harborers is moral, and under the Constitution, legal. But the United Front (with plenty of help from us) took Afghanistan in 2002. Did we leave? Or did we sit there playing kingmaker? At what point are you still going after the bad guys and at what point are you just an occupier? Things were calm until 2003*, when parts of the Taliban based largely in PAKISTAN, supported by the military and ISI stirred things up again. But did we go after Pakistan and their military and intelligence services? No, we continued occupying the same Afghanistan that had already decided to calm down. How does that fit with going after the perpetrators and their harborers? Now, what is “the” Taliban? Do they have membership cards? Or is it basically any and every Pashtun with an AK who thinks of us as an invader (because we stayed on after things cooled down), but could give a crap about al Qaeda one way or the other? And to what extent was the Taliban’s assault on the United Front hostile action against their old civil war (“ending” in late 2001) foes, and to what extent is it synonymous with “crimes against the Law of Nations” or “harboring those that commit those crimes”? Am I splitting hairs here, or should we just kill or capture any Afghan that is any way associated with some other Afghan who probably doesn’t even care about al Qaeda any more, but is more interested in self-determination and xenophobia, wherever they lead.

        *The period from mid 2002 to mid 2003 was short, I know. I am not saying “Okay. Things calmed down, pull out before they ratchet up again.” But more “You can’t attribute all insurgency in Afghanistan to terrorism and harboring terrorists.”


        Hold on. Which UN resolutions? Are you referring to ones that the US was claiming to enforce, or the resolution authorizing that enforcement? I know the UN made the terms for the Desert Storm cease-fire, so this must be the main resolution referred to. So if the invasion of Iraq was just a continuation of the Gulf War (because no peace treaty was ever signed), wouldn’t the constitutionality of the invasion depend on the constitutionality of Desert Storm? But we have a little hitch. As soon as Saddam and his regime were toppled, the Gulf war (started 1991) ended! So Operation Iraqi Freedom was in fact one “operation” overlapping two wars. The first: January 12, 1991 to say, May 1, 2003, the date Bush said “Mission Accomplished”. He actually did win the Persian Gulf War against Iraq’s regime! The second: April 4, 2004 to December 15, 2011, against mostly militants not part of the regime (or even oppressed by the regime) and not harboring al-Qaeda, although al-Qaeda was drawn into Iraq after the toppling of the regime.

        Not only must Congress say those words for the “war” to be constitutional, they must say those words for the “war” to even be a war. And why is hating wasting, on the other side of the globe, for dubious reasons, blood and treasure, potentially more than would otherwise have been wasted had we not gotten involved, so selfish in your “reality”?

        Why didn’t the President want to do things properly? I thought that was just the way those in power were. Perhaps we was just flippant cowboy. Perhaps he was bought and paid for. Perhaps he liked to be hard to pin down. Perhaps he needed excuses to do other things. Perhaps he was just doing what previous presidents had done. Perhaps he was an imbecile. I really couldn’t say?

        Oh! And I’ll take a slice of pizza any day over stopping a fight between two people I barely know, neither of whom want me involved, neither of whom was a threat to me or mine, and both of whom would later use it against me, at my own expense. And not because I am some rational misanthrope, but because I know my limitations.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh: You MO, consciously or not seems to be to force me to do the basic research concerning your assertions. You have turned me into your unpaid research assistant. There was a new UN action right before the invasion of Iraq by Bush 2. Do the research, or bet me that there was not. Proceeds to go to a mutually agreeable cause; shouldn’t be difficult.

        Afghanistan: How long do you stay in Afghanistan? Already answered. See preceding response to your preceding comment.

      • Ah, brevity…

        Thanks for all the help. 🙂 Not a big spender, so all bets are off. I will just have to take your word for it on this one.

        So in Afghanistan, instead of actually winning the war (we build schools and roads that just deteriorate once the Afghans take over, because…?) by shooting everyone that has even the slightest connection to someone else we already shot, we wait. Sounds like a winning strategy.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh: It’s great how everyone becomes so intellectually responsible when money is involved! Why don’t you take me to the cleaners?
        If you think you are too poor even to risk a few dollars, I will take blood donations instead.

      • Too poor? Too stingy!

        What is it exactly I would be paying for? Your research? Or because I might lose a bet? Why would I make the bet? Do you think I don’t trust your research? What gave you that idea? Because I disagree with your conclusions or interpretations?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh; Jesus, I think I express myself clearly but that must be an illusion; got to go back to square one. YOu and others seem to believe anything Ron Paul says although it’s obvious is sometimes (note the moderation) say things that are false. (There is no US “blockade” around Iran.) Frequently, I find myself with a large burden of proof on my back I don’t deserve because I seldom speak untruths and, when I do, I am quick to correct myself. I think it’s unfair that those who place the burden of proof on my old back should put it on theirs. once in a while. My offer to bet is a fair way to try to do that. In the worst case scenario, if the other guy loses, I have the satisfaction of having contributed to a good cause.

        I also find that people who argue with me suddenly become punctiliously responsible when a money bet is proposed. You are a case in point. And, by the way, I don’t know why you did not pick up my offer with a $5 bet.

        I wrote a series of essays, five or six, if memory serves, pointing out the Paul violations of the truth. They were hit by hundreds.(I don’t know how many read them) Yet, the number who chose to argue with me is miniscule. You are one. YOu seems to have done it always with the assumption that Paul must be correct. I wonder why.

      • I still don’t get it. You are talking research, right? Are you saying that I haven’t done any??? Are you saying that your research-to-satisfaction-from-debating ratio is too high? I am not giving anyone a nickel for anything. I am not being punctilious, I just think you are making a mountain out of a mole hill and you are assuming that because you agree with your own statements, that I must be being intellectually dishonest and/or am afraid to take a chance.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh: I did not say or imply a damned thing about intellectual dishonesty. You believe what you believe in part because you follow a false prophet. I am tired of arguing the obvious though I must because others are reading us. I am trying to use the device of a bet to induce you to be more responsible about the assertions you make.

        Here her is an absurd example that will make my point: If you argued that the sun regularly rises in the west, I would resent spending any of my scarce time, of my waning energy to counter your assertion. I would try to put the burden on you to prove that the sun rises in the west. Faced with the prospect, there is a good chance you would reconsider the whole proposition. That’s what the bet is for.

        Again, I find that many people become suddenly more responsible when there is money at stake.

  3. An extended addendum:

    Arguing with apologists for Europe’s 19th century colonialism is something I don’t get to do often, so I want to take a few minutes and spell out my argument more clearly.

    The argument for colonialism, no matter where it comes from (whether it be Han or French), is ultimately based on two things: arrogance and altruism.

    In the 19th century colonialism in what is now the poor, despotic, post-colonial world making up much of Africa and Asia was considered a government program well worth taking up, for the sake of the peoples living under despotic regimes in non-European states.

    There is a lot of merit to this argument However, once the Europeans finally imposed their will upon the peoples they sought to free and subsequently civilize, their mode of governance was hardly any different from that of the despotic regimes they helped to overthrow.

    Remember, Europeans were hardly strong or powerful enough to impose their will on populaces by themselves. They had to make alliances with rival polities in order to assert their will over a populace. Guess what happened to the allies who helped the Europeans conquer a polity?

    One more guess: what happened to the peoples who the Europeans purportedly wanted to help? Yes, property rights were often violated in pre-colonial regimes, but they were much better protected than they were under colonial apparatuses.

    Here is a useful chart showing the GDP (PPP) per capita of every state in the world.

    When I say that your calls to bomb the Assad regime (“we should further attack the Assad regime…”) remind me of colonialism, it is because your calls to bomb the Assad regime remind me of colonialism: you wish to help some factions in a polity defeat what you perceive to be other, more despotic factions. Be careful what you wish for Dr. J.

    Mali, Chad, and Niger have all become destabilized over the last few weeks. Can you guess why? I’ll give you yet another hint: they are all neighboring states of a regime you desperately wanted to overthrow. Aren’t you glad you got your wish?

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Brandon: I am glad you have a full-blown theory of colonialism. I sure don’t. Everything I have read on the topic for fifty years has left me unsatisfied. Maybe, I will finally understand.

      One of the observations that cause dissonance in my mind is that the general population of almost every African country that gained its independence since 1962 would be better off now if the countries had continued as colonial dependencies.

      There is a dissonance there because this observation is strongly at odds with my love of freedom. It seems to me (I am not asserting this), with hindsight, that most independence movements were animated by worse racism than existed in the colonial countries themselves. (I am excluding South Africa from this observation and, Algeria is a special and complicated case.)

      • Dr. J,

        As usual you bring up pertinent, interesting arguments that don’t get nearly enough attention from the intellectual world these days. I am thankful for the 2008 presidential campaign of Ron Paul for introducing me to libertarianism and thus to your writings (hope that hurt!).

        One of the observations that cause dissonance in my mind is that the general population of almost every African country that gained its independence since 1962 would be better off now if the countries had continued as colonial dependencies.

        As with just about everything else, you are correct that the colonies of most of the European powers would have better off if they’d stayed colonies, but the freedom to fail is still freedom. I know it’s not nearly a good enough argument, but it’s the best I have.

        There is a dissonance there because this observation is strongly at odds with my love of freedom. It seems to me (I am not asserting this), with hindsight, that most independence movements were animated by worse racism than existed in the colonial countries themselves. (I am excluding South Africa from this observation and, Algeria is a special and complicated case.)

        Again, there is nothing factually wrong about your statement. You have to ask yourself why these revolutionary regimes were racist, though. The social and legal apparatuses that were created by the European colonists created the racist climate, by way of classifying its colonial subjects according to their place of origin and skin color.

        The racism is a lot like that of the Black Panthers and other civil rights activists here in the States. While their tactics (fighting racism with racism) were no doubt stupid and short-sighted, it still remains that their tactics were a reaction to current racist policies in place.

      • Consider that perhaps it is better for African countries to find their own way, regardless of how long it takes, regardless of whether they would have been better off under their oppressors. It may take next to forever, but once it is achieved, they will have no one to thank but themselves, and when they slip up, no one to blame but themselves.

        All I am saying is that liberty is better, even if the end result is more suffering than that under the colonial regime.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        keimh: Sure, that’s the conventional wisdom. It wears thin after fifty years. Of course, they might find their way after one hundred years, or two hundred, or never. In the meantime, millions of lives are wasted, two generations, as happened in India for example, for no good reason.

        I believe I have no influence on events, obviously. Yet, someone has to state the obvious aloud for reasons of both reason and compassion. You never know. In the 80s, the lack of humility of a two-bit Polish electrician stating the obvious started the collapse of a gigantic empire, I believe. Or, one might argue that it would have happened anyway. Maybe, or fifty years later, or, again, not at all.

      • I’ve just finished up reading (most of) this exchange. I don’t care what everybody else says, you’re a hell of a teacher Dr. J.

        I have just two things to add: 1) you’re still wrong. 2) You said:

        In the 80s, the lack of humility of a two-bit Polish electrician stating the obvious started the collapse of a gigantic empire, I believe. Or, one might argue that it would have happened anyway. Maybe, or fifty years later, or, again, not at all.

        Exactly! Thanks for proving mine and Hank’s point!

  4. Pingback: Some Musings on China: Why We Need Not Fear Beijing « Notes On Liberty

  5. Pingback: Some Musings on China: Why We Need Not Fear Beijing | Notes On Liberty

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