Monthly Archives: July 2006

Is Retreat an Option?

Today in the Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby pens a screed called The Wisdom of Retreat. He suggests that while retreating from our hawkish stance supporting Israel may not be a good option, it just might be the least bad:

If its diplomacy fails, the Bush administration will have to face the dilemma that it’s now avoiding: whether to support an indefinite cease-fire that goes beyond the 48-hour suspension of airstrikes announced yesterday but does not neutralize Hezbollah. To support such an outcome would be to retreat publicly. It would boost the prestige of extremists in the Middle East and encourage Iran to defy the West over its nuclear program. Yet refusing to support an imperfect cease-fire would be a greater error, for it would involve disregarding three lessons that emerge from the administration’s own record.

He gives three main reasons for this opinion:

  • We’re losing clout with allies. While we must act on our own accord when absolutely necessary, if we do it too often we will find ourselves unable to marshal our allies’ forces when we need them.
  • Just because Europe won’t stand up for Israel doesn’t mean Israel has a winnable strategy here. We may not like the “retreat” option, but unless Israel has a real objective to accomplish with this offensive, we don’t need to support them.
  • War is an option, but how can this war be won? Unless we aim at Damascus & Tehran, we’re not really “draining the swamp”, and thus this will be a temporary victory after which Hezbollah will return.

There are some good points here. Israel is responding in a heavy-handed manner, and this sort of an offensive is not something that can just be walked away from. Israel is rapidly approaching the point of no return, if they haven’t crossed it yet. If we don’t do what we can to push for a cease-fire now, we may find ourselves backing Israel in a multi-year campaign of war and occupation of Lebanon, because all other options will have expired.

But what happens if we do push Israel into accepting a cease-fire? Will Hezbollah accept a cease-fire? I think Hezbollah will do one of two things. Start attacking or start re-arming for a later attack. It is clear that Israel is backed into a corner. Committing to a cease-fire now will be worse than— as Mallaby suggests— making America look weak and retreating; it will make Hezbollah victorious. All Israel has done so far is to piss off the world and the Lebanese without materially affecting Hezbollah, making the Lebanese more likely to support Hezbollah.

Israel is in a difficult position. If they stop, they’re giving Hezbollah the green light to re-arm and reorganize for future attacks. If the proceed, they’re embarking on a long campaign of war and occupation, and they can’t stop until they’ve proved a point that terrorism is a strategy that will not succeed. I don’t think they need to be aiming for civilians, but they need the Lebanese people to understand that allowing Hezbollah to operate within their borders will only lead to pain. That may require occupation of Lebanon to set up a sovereign government capable of reining in terrorists if necessary. But Israel has hit a point where retreat only ensures future attacks. They must decide whether the cost of war and occupation is better or worse than allowing those future attacks. While retreat might have short-term benefit, it is not a question of whether future attacks from Hezbollah would come, but when they come and how strong they’ll be.

Of course, that doesn’t answer the question of what the United States should do. I think either option is bad for us. For us to advocate a cease-fire looks to the world like a retreat, and hurts our position with Israel as their ally. For us to forcefully defend Israel’s actions make us look like the puppetmaster pulling Israel’s strings, and ensures that all the negative world attention that Israel gets is heaped on us as well. But is there a third way?

Can the United States publicly say “it’s your problem”? What would happen if the US basically proclaimed that while Israel is a trusted ally of the United States, they’re also a sovereign entity and need to determine for themselves how to handle this situation. We may simply need to tell the world that it is not our responsibility to secure a Middle East peace. We believe Israel is more than capable of taking care of their own security needs, and as their ally, we will assist if they ask us to. But at the moment, we’re stepping away from the situation.

Right now, the United States has no solution to the problem. And every time we try to step in and barter a peace between parties who don’t want one, we look like we have failed, not them. Why do we keep coming to the table? Why don’t we take the position that if they want us to help solve this problem, they need to invite us to the table, not the other way around?

Norwood v. Horney: A Crushing Blow To Kelo

Duncan Currie writes in The Weekly Standard about Wednesday’s decision by the Ohio Supreme Court in Norwood v. Horney, which he calls a crushing blow to the rationale behind the infamous Kelo decision. Currie identifies three areas in which the Norwood decision undermines the rationale behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London:

First: The Ohio High Court implicitly rejected the rationale behind Kelo. “Although economic factors may be considered in determining whether private property may be appropriated,” wrote Justice Maureen O’Connor, “the fact that the appropriation would provide an economic benefit to the government and community, standing alone, does not satisfy the public-use requirement of Section 19, Article I of the Ohio Constitution.”

The Ohio Constitution’s public-use clause is essentially the same as the one in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, so the logic that the Ohio Supreme Court used in this regard applies equally to an analysis under the Federal Constitution.

Second: The court called for “heightened scrutiny when reviewing statutes that regulate the use of eminent-domain powers.”

Specifically, the Court rejected the city’s rationale, accepted by the trial court, that the use of eminent domain powers in this case was justified because the property in question was in danger of becoming “blighted.”

“We find that Norwood’s use of ‘deteriorating area’ as a standard for appropriation is void for vagueness,” wrote Justice O’Connor. “We further hold that the use of the term ‘deteriorating area’ as a standard for a taking is unconstitutional because the term inherently incorporates speculation as to the future condition of the property to be appropriated rather than the condition of the property at the time of the taking.” In plain English, that means Norwood grossly abused its authority. The mere possibility–or even probability–that an area may one day be blighted can hardly pass muster as legitimate grounds for property seizures. Indeed, by the yardsticks employed in Norwood–cracked sidewalks, light pollution, proximity to the highway, weeds, dead-end streets, and “diversity of ownership”–large bits of middle-class, suburban America are “deteriorating.”

The Court also struck down a portion of Ohio’s eminent doman law that made any appeal to the Courts pointless:

Third: The court rejected as unconstitutional the portion of Ohio’s eminent-domain statute that–get this–barred judges from enjoining the seizure and redevelopment of property prior to appellant review. The law had essentially allowed developers to tear down homes after they provided just compensation but before the completion of the appeals process. According to the Ohio Supremes, this “violates the separation-of-powers doctrine.”

In other words, Norwood v. Horney is, in some sense at least, the anti-Kelo. Obviously, the Ohio Supreme Court cannot overrule a decision of the United States Supreme Court. However, the ruling that the Justices from the Buckeye State have made will, hopefully, serve as the beginning of an argument that will see sanity returned to eminent domain law at the Federal level.

H/T: Wizbang

Previous Posts:

A Post-Kelo Test In Ohio
A Victory For Property Rights In Ohio

Republicans Being Democrats… Again

House GOP pressing vote on minimum wage

House Republican leaders, giving in to political reality, plan a vote to raise the $5.15 minimum wage before leaving Washington this weekend for a five-week recess.

“Whether people like it or not, we need to go ahead with it,” said Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., who supports the idea. “There’s a general agreement among Republicans (opposing the raise) that `maybe we don’t like it much, but we need to move forward with it just for political reasons.'”

The No. 3 House GOP leader, Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, said the plan was to have a vote before week’s end. But Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans leaders were working to pass the increase but that “no decisions have been made.”

It was a decade ago, during the hotly contested campaign year of 1996, that Congress voted to increase the minimum wage. A person working 40 hours per week at minimum wage makes $10,700, which is below the poverty line for workers with families.

Democrats have made increasing the wage a pillar of their campaign platform and are pushing to raise the wage to $7.25 per hour over two years. In June, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to raise the minimum wage, rejecting a proposal from Democrats.

The chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee said the GOP would embrace the increase to $7.25 per hour and probably attach a proposal passed last year that would make it easier for small business to band together and buy health insurance plans for employees at a lower cost. Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., said the minimum wage bill probably will not include tax cuts such as a repeal of the estate tax.

Great… So let me get this straight.

You’re going to give the Democrats what they ask for. In order to try to make it slightly more politically palatable, you’re going to barely ease regulations on small business. And when you might have an issue worth going tit-for-tat on, and actually getting a real concession from the Democrats, you roll over.

An estate tax repeal would be the ultimate poison pill for Democrats on this bill. I can just see the quandary they’d be in, knowing they can’t vote against a minimum wage, but being against the estate tax repeal. And it’s a politically great move. If you’re going to do something to help the rich, why not do it as an offset to helping* the poor. Yet the Republicans are not going to do it.

The Republicans are showing, once again, that they’re just as statist as Democrats, but with some nice religious authoritarianism and hyper-nationalism thrown in on top of it.

Thanks, guys. I really feel good about voting for you chumps in 2004.
» Read more

What’s A Libertarian To Do ?

These are not good times to be a politically active libertarian. The Libertarian Party, recent platform changes notwithstanding, is unlikely to ever become a force with any real political power in the United States and has done an abysmal job at promoting libertarian ideas among the general public. The Republican Party has pretty much abandoned even the rhetoric of limited government and seems to be fully controlled by the authoritarian social conservatives, who preach about freedom but rarely practice.

And what about the Democrats ? I’ve discussed the possibility of libertarians aligning with the Democratic Party in the past (here, here, and here), and its clear that the biggest obstacle for libertarians thinking of voting Democratic is that, while the GOP has become more authoritarian, the Democratic Party has become more socialist in its economic philosophy. While there may be some candidates who don’t buy into the economic policy of the Democratic Party completely, it is in the platform, and reconciling traditional Democratic economic policies with liberarian/classical liberal ideas is pretty close to an impossibility.

Logan Ferree, who has started a group that calls itself Fredom Democrats argues that its time for libertarians to give up on the GOP and try something new

The Republican Party of today is an unholy alliance of theocons and neocons that depends on majorities in Congress and control of the White House to win the additional votes needed to stay in power through fear-mongering and bribery. Control of the modern Republican Party rests largely in the hands of the Religious Right, which has grown to dominate the party since the late 1970s. Where once social conservatives hoped to use libertarian means to achieve their goals by liberating families, churches, and schools from left-wing utopian schemes, they now turn to the government as a weapon to wage a cultural war against their enemies: feminists, gays, non-Christians, and even fellow Christians that do not embrace their extremist beliefs. The government is used to impose a top-down policy of mandating school prayer and radical abstinence only sex education. Federalism is ignored in intervening in personal medicinal decisions, be it a woman’s right to choose or the right to die with dignity. However, the divide between libertarians and the Republican Party runs even deeper.

While I agree that the GOP, at least on the national level, is close to being a lost cause, I don’t see the Democratic Party as being a viable alternative for the reasons discussed above.

So what should libertarians do ? As James Joyner points out, there really are only three alternatives; either you vote Libertarian, you vote Democratic, or you don’t vote at all. I can see myself engaging in a combination of all three options depending on the circumstances, and waiting for the day when this authoritarian streak comes to an end.

A Victory For Property Rights In Ohio

In January, I wrote about a case being argued before the Ohio Supreme Court that was, without question the first major test of local government eminent doman powers since the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision. The case involved the city of Norwood, near Cincinnati, and its attempt to use eminent domain to take the propety of homeowners who were holding out on accepting buyouts from a private developer. Today, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that Norwood’s attempted exercise of eminent domain was improper.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that a Cincinnati suburb cannot take private property by eminent domain for a $125 million project of offices, shops and restaurants.


The court found that economic development isn’t a sufficient reason under the state constitution to justify taking homes.

In the ruling, Justice Maureen O’Connor said cities may consider economic benefits but that courts deciding such cases in the future must “apply heightened scrutiny” to assure private citizens’ property rights.

“For the individual property owner, the appropriation is not simply the seizure of a house,” she wrote. “It is the taking of a home _ the place where ancestors toiled, where families were raised, where memories were made,”

Targeting property because it is in a deteriorating area also is unconstitutional because the term is too vague and requires speculation, the court found.

O’Connor wrote that the court attempted in its decision to balance “two competing interests of great import in American democracy: the individual’s rights in the possession and security of property, and the sovereign’s power to take private property for the benefit of the community.”

Kudos to the Ohio Supreme Court for doing what the U.S. Supreme Court was apparently incapable of, standing up for property rights. And doing it unanimously no less.

And there’s a detailed analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision by Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy, who calls the decision “A Major Victory For Property Rights”

Further information can be found at the Ohio Supreme Court’s website. And a the full text of the opinion (in PDF format) can be found here.

More at Wizbang, The Volokh Conspiracy, and How Appealing

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