Skip to content

The rule of law and the national security state

December 15, 2007

The current US state has fundamentally changed the relationship that has existed between citizen and state for a long time in this country. They have posed the choice in impossible terms: would you rather be safe from terrorist attack with a reduction in legal and constitutional protections, or would you rather permit enemies of the United States to act with impunity? Our leaders express no respect for the rule of law and our rights of liberty, association, or expression. Their rhetoric is about fear, enemies, and patriotism, rather than the rule of law, civil communities, and the rights of individuals against the arbitrary power of the security state. They pretend to support American values — but in truth they make a mockery of those values by acting lawlessly.

If there is an opening for American authoritarianism, this is it: a government explicit in its willingness to use the power of the state as it sees fit, without a deep loyalty to the idea of the  rule of law and constitution.

And what really motivates this administration? It isn’t even the ideology that the current administration professes, their neo-conservative view of the world. It is instead the naked pursuit of continuing political power for their party. The firing of the US attorneys didn’t have to do with values and ideology. These firings all too plainly had to do with attempting to use the power of the Department of Justice for political advantage. It was pure Richard Nixon politics. It is the administration’s cynical willingness to use whatever levers of power that can be found to preserve the power and ascendency of the party.

Surely the most basic obligation of political morality is to respect the rule of law and to preserve the system of constitutional protections we have historically enjoyed. To their shame, this administration has shown its contempt for those values.

Advertisements
One Comment leave one →
  1. Shaanxi graduate student permalink
    January 19, 2008 7:05 am

    From an oriental perspective:

    (1) The basic relationship among American parties is competition, which is followed by fighting with one another, the fighting in opinions, powers, and benefits. The cooperation of parties is under the political framework of competition and inspection. The Confucianism objects this kind of political system.

    The ideal political system of Confucianism is based on cooperation, under which competition is launched. Therefore, in the past two thousand years, there were never two or more parties existing in one kingdom or dynasty of China, and today this explains why there is still one party in power, the Communist Party of China.

    It is hard to judge which system is better because in the Tang Dynasty the power of China is pretty much like that of the US today.

    Why does Confucianism disagree with a political system based on competition of parties? Confucius pointed out that people in power should build and manage a society on good social values, which would take care of every one’s benefits, but if a political system was composed of competitions among several parties, each party would only take care of its own benefits, the parties would concentrate on fighting for power, and then this society would be intended to lose good social values, or the living of residents of this society would fluctuate unfavorably.

    (2) Taoism, the second greatest influential ideology in China, takes the rule of law or the law of laws as the central concept to understand human society. It states that nothing is reliable to build a good society except the rule of law although it is invisible.

    Although the theories of Taoism are quite difficult to understand deeply for common people, Taoism holds a basic way of thinking in all of its theories: paying attention to the opposite sides of anything in a dynamic perspective. Maybe this is why the purpose of all kinds of legal mechanisms is actually to guarantee both parties to find out the facts from their own perspectives and why the written laws require revision periodically.

    (3) It seems that Taoism does not care whether a political system is based on competition or cooperation. But both Taoism and Confucianism take complementation as a principle or central issue to predict whether a social system can develop healthily.

    In the history of US, the administration, legislation, and judicature systems complement one another very well although traditionally we say that they inspect or contain the power of one another, and from Taoism perspective, it is the rule of law that makes their complementation possible. But from this essay, it seems that the administration and judicature systems are deviating from the rule of law. This might be a fatal issue which requires thinking of American politicians and thinkers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: