The Unsettling Testimony of Dr. Henry
Did anyone else catch the unsettling testimony of Dr. Henry? I was using C-SPAN for background music on my way out of the house today and I suddently found myself hosting the house party for the voice of the original national security DJ, Dr. Henry Kissinger. An unmistakable voice it is too.
If you weren't paying attention, like I wasn't, you need to know that on Tuesday Kissinger testified before the Senate on the matter of the reforms to the national intelligence apparatus. Well, I'd heard that he was doing that, but I figured that he was mostly trying to protect the interests of whatever high-level corporate clients he's had since entering the private sector.
And for all I know, he may be doing that, but he came into that Senate hearing with a statement signed by all kinds of former Defense and State Department officials, Democrat and Republican, basically saying "Stop! Bad idea!" He also had a name tag in front of him that seemed to say only "DR. HENRY." I presume it had "KISSINGER" on the next line, but they never showed that.
To hear him tell the tale, the reason that the proposed reforms are a bad idea is that they consolidate all authority in a signle office that reports to the president, thereby abolishing the traditional barriers between policy-making and intelligence analysis. These barriers were erected to protect analysts from outside pressure, to keep them honest, essentially, when providing crucial security information. The other problem with having a single director is that it discourages the development of a diversity of viewpoints and perspectives, each of which may provide useful shadings or details to policy makers. Dr. Henry helpfully provided examples of this process in the form of a few personal anecdotes from his Secretary of State days. (Or were they his National Security Adviser days? He held both posts simultaneously, as you may recall!)
So the long of the short of it is that the proposed reforms turn the intelligence apparatus into an agency that tells the President whatever he or she wants to hear and squelches the possibility of forming alternative opinions. Hey, does this sound like anything that happened recently? Like, say, starting with "I" and ending in "Q"?
The Senators, somewhat flummoxed by this refutation of the conventional wisdom (with the exception of the unflappable Robert Byrd) regrouped to pointedly pose the following poser: if that's the case, then how do we explain the intelligence failures of 9/11? And good old Dr. Henry--and here I was deeply empathizing with Dr. Henry's obvious feeling (something I thought I'd never do) that this was too important to leave to such stupid people--explained as tenderly as possible that really, that's the job of the National Security Adviser. Or at least it was when he was National Security Adviser. Or was it Secretary of State?
In other words, without explicitly saying so, he parked the blame of 9/11 pretty squarely at the feet of Dr. Condi. Well, at least now we know why she's willing to jump when Bush says jump: he's got her number.
--Melissa O, at 23:23
And then two months go by...
Via the Agonist, an article about the sexual assault of men in the military, and official reaction to it.
Even accounting for the fact that the military is disproportionately male, I have to say that I was surprised to learn that there are more reports of sexual assault by men in the military than by women. I'm sure underreporting is rampant for both sexes, but I'm pretty sure that the numbers aren't comparable in civilian life.
It's frustrating that "Men raped!" gets treated as a shock and horror when "Women raped!" is treated as the same old same-old, but that's mainstream journalistic discourse these days. But the article does seem to have something to add.
I'm sure that some will use this to support an argument that gays do not belong in the military, but as we all well know, men who rape men aren't usually gay. I wonder if we aren't seeing the result of a culture and training that brutalizes its recruits.
Then there's the unfortunate gender garbage. That's a familiar story. But what really worries me is the military's described willingness to bury things, to sweep it all under the rug. The people who are making these decisions have to be accountable to somebody, right? Who's deciding these policies? The idea that the military is running around without civilian input or guidance I find really terrifying.
--Melissa O, at 03:49
Volokh misses the point, 100%
That's going to be my new catchphrase. 100%.
Um, that's not what "crime of violence, not crime of sex," is supposed to mean. Or at least, that's never been I thought it was supposed mean. Maybe I missed the rap at the Women's Center that day.
Of course some sex crimes are sexually motivated. Indeed, sometimes people actually get off sexually on committing violent crime. And sometimes sex crimes are motivated only by the desire to humiliate, dominate, and punish. Anyone who's heard the phrase "hate fuck" knows what I mean. The phrase sears me when I hear it.
The point is that rape is not a sexual exchange or relationship gone awry. It's not an exchange or a relationship at all, except in the most trivial sense, because one person no longer has any say it what's going on. Someone who is forced into sex against their will is not, in some sense, having sex, and the violation they feel is not a result of their having sex "badly" or something like that.
The expression is also an attempt to define rape and sexual assault as outside the bounds of normal sexual contact. To say that we shouldn't accept it as par for the course in the sexual realm.
It is also an attempt to emphasize the violence involved so that people who may feel shame about the sexual issues have a chance to feel empowered to name their injury and the crime committed against them.
If you went to a restaurant expecting maybe a nice meal and the matire d' tied you down and force fed you until you wanted to die, you wouldn't have to say "it was a crime of violence, not a crime of gastronomy." But maybe you would if people said, "Well, going into a place like that, looking as hungry as you did, what can you expect from an overeager chef?"
I'm sure Volokh has heard these kinds of statements before. I still have no idea why he thinks the "sexualness" of the crime can be measured in terms of the attractiveness of the women, and by inference, the desire of the men. I could just as easily make the argument that the sexualness of the crime is more rightly measured by the degree to which these women feel their sexuality to have been violated. I don't think that correlates with age or attractiveness. The desires or the motivations of the rapists have nothing to do with the criminality, do they? If they sought to violate, to humiliate, or to dominate their victims, that by itself doesn't make it rape. What matters in rape is the victim's will and consent.
Some will argue that a well-meaning rapist, one who didn't mean to commit rape, who genuinely thought their victim was consenting, isn't guilty of anything, and therefore the victim's consent is not in fact all that matters. I don't think so. If you went to the firing range, and you shot someone without meaning to, you'd still be guilty of a crime. Your victim would still be dead or injured. It's a little different because even if they wanted you to kill them, it would still be illegal, but the point here is that the injury is still real, and has consequences. Now if someone did something crazy and did something like hide themselves inside one of those hay bales with the target on them, and you shot them not knowing they were doing that, you probably wouldn't be culpable. You did your due diligence, and you had no reason to believe that anyone would get hurt. You probably have to say the same thing about rape. Unfortunately, these days due diligence is often phrased as "she wasn't struggling," which is hardly sufficient.
--Melissa O, at 17:47
I think I'm getting the hang of this
I've changed the comments to Blogger comments. I hope this works. I feel a little silly about it, since I've had exactly one commenter so far.
--Melissa O, at 02:11
You know, the combination of the Patricia Williams article yesterday and the Sissela Bok book today has lead to begin reforming my view on the right to own property. It is obvious that you have to feel that you have some ownership of something. It also seems pretty clear to me that if something you feel you own is taken from you without your consent, you feel violated, even if restitution is offered. But the need to feel ownership of something and the violation of something's loss are not the same for all things.
My amorphous idea is that somehow the fact that the market doesn't seem to recognize these distinctions means that the simple fact of imposing the market upon certain types of property results in externalities.
That's a little confusing. I need to flesh it out more.
--Melissa O, at 02:07
Still haven't read the Bok books. Bok. Book.
But I think you need to read this Patricia Williams article from The Nation, "Unnatural Acts," all about the disturbing prospects intellectual property law has for potential corporate ownership of the environment. My worry is that this will eventually extend even unto our own bodies. It's arguable that Monsanto never should have been granted such a broad patent in the first place, but that debate was never held.
Someone needs to come up with a coherent theory of why patenting genes and digital rights management is so screwed up, but I haven't found one yet.
--Melissa O, at 19:51
On Bill Moyers's NOW I happened to catch philosopher Sissela Bok discussing the nature of happiness, apparently the subject of her next book. Her previous books' topics included the ethics of keeping secrets, lying, violence as entertainment, and "common values," all of which are subjects that interest me greatly. I may just have to go read all her books now. And if that works out, maybe camp out in her office until she takes me as a student.
It's always so refreshing to see someone on TV whose intelligence and personality cannot be contained by it. So many people, both on and off the small screen, seem to act as if they'd like nothing more than to be locked into its confines. But Bok, in both her discussion and her presence, really made me feel like there was more to life than mass media, and I wanted to find out what. That's easy enough to do through means other than mass media, but very tough to do from within it.
--Melissa O, at 05:39
The evening news keeps referring to the escalating violence of "the insurgency" in Iraq.
The insurgency? Which one? Shiites? Sunnis? Baathists? Foreigners? Iranian agents? Al-Qaeda, Zarqawi, Muqtada? How can you try to quell violence when you don't know who's responsible or what their goals are? Stopping a bunch of radical vigilantes takes a different strategy than trying to stop a militia made of ex-veterans. Steve Gilliard talks about this problem all the time.
If there are a whole bunch of factions shooting things up when Americans leave, there will be civil war or genocide or both before the decade is out. The only way to prevent this would have been to establish national security before the violence had broken out. Otherwise radical, violent groups will galvanize more moderate groups into adopting violence in self-defense. Obviously, it's a little too late for that now. Now you need to provide a big force to do peacekeeping, and you need to identify all the principals, something the occupation forces seem to be unable to do.
The big question from the American point of view is whether they will wait for American withdrawal before tearing into each other, leaving the American forces in the middle or they will all work together, wittingly or unwittingly, to drive out the Americans before going at it. Both scenarios are bad news for American troops. Both scenarios are even worse news for Iraqi civilians.
Brad DeLong provides us with David Hume:
In reality, there is not a more terrible event than a total dissolution of government, which gives liberty to the multitude, and makes the determination or choice of a new establishment depend upon a number, which nearly approaches to that of the body of the people: for it never comes entirely to the whole body of them.
--Melissa O, at 18:45