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Thread: Jurisprudence of Prevention? YOU BET!!!

  1. #1
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    This struck me as a bit of seismic event, considering the source of Blankley's subject...Alan Dershowitz is considered one of this country's foremost civil-rights scholars, defenders and activists.

    I have to say I join Blankley in seconding Dershowitz's thoughts completely.

    That he of all people could have written this gives me hope.


    Feb 22, 2006
    by Tony Blankley

    Next week a vastly important book will be published: "Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways" by Alan Dershowitz. Yes, that Alan Dershowitz: the very liberal civil libertarian, anti-capital punishment Harvard Law School professor. And but for my lack of his legal scholarship, there is nary a sentence in the book that I -- a very conservative editor of the Washington Times, and former press secretary to Newt Gingrich -- couldn't have written.

    The premise of his book is that in this age of terror, there is a potential need for such devices as profiling, preventive detention, anticipatory mass inoculation, prior restraint of dangerous speech, targeted extrajudicial executions of terrorists and preemptive military action including full-scale preventive war.

    In his own words, from his Introduction: "The shift from responding to past events to preventing future harms is part of one of the most significant but unnoticed trends in the world today. It challenges our traditional reliance on a model of human behavior that presupposes a rational person capable of being deterred by the threat of punishment. The classic theory of deterrence postulates a calculating evildoer who can evaluate the cost-benefits of proposed actions and will act -- and forbear from acting -- on the basis of these calculations. It also presupposes society's ability (and willingness) to withstand the blows we seek to deter and to use the visible punishment of those blows as threats capable of deterring future harms. These assumptions are now being widely questioned as the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of suicide terrorists becomes more realistic and as our ability to deter such harms by classic rational cost-benefit threats and promises becomes less realistic."

    Yet, such policies conflict with traditional concepts of civil liberties, human rights, criminal justice, national security, foreign policy and international law He shrewdly observes that historically, nations -- including democracies -- have resorted to such deviations from law and custom out of necessity. But that it has all been ad hoc, secret or deceptive. Prof. Dershowitz argues that now, rather, we need to begin to develop an honest jurisprudence of prevention to legally regulate such mechanisms. It is better, he argues, to democratically decide now, before the next disaster, this new jurisprudence -- the rules by which we will take these necessary actions.

    To see the difference between traditional Anglo-American criminal jurisprudence and his proposed jurisprudence of prevention, he raises the great maxim of criminal law: better that ten guilty go free, than one innocent be wrongly convicted. That principle led our law to require proof beyond a reasonable doubt before conviction in criminal trials. Most of us agree with that standard.

    But then Prof. Dershowitz updates the maxim thusly: "Is it better for ten possibly preventable terrorist attacks to occur than for one possibly innocent suspect to be preventively detained?" I would hunch that most people would not be willing to accept ten September 11th attacks (30,000 dead) in order to protect one innocent suspect from being locked up and questioned for a while.

    Is it possible to go beyond such gut instincts and ad hoc decision making during a crises, and begin to develop a thoughtful set of standards for conduct in this dangerous new world? I don't know.

    As Prof. Dershowitz observes, a jurisprudence develops slowly in response to generations, centuries of adjudicated events. But to the extent we recognize the need for it and start thinking systematically, to that extent we won't be completely hostage to the whim and discretion of a few men at moments of extreme stress.

    At the minimum, an early effort at a jurisprudence of prevention would at least help in defining events. Consider the long and fruitless recent debate about the imminence of the danger from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or the current debate on Iran's possible nuclear weapons. Under traditional international law standards they are both classic non-imminent threat situations: "early stage acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by a state presumed to be hostile."

    But as Dershowitz points out, while the threat itself is not imminent, "the opportunity to prevent the threat will soon pass." Once they have the weapons it is too late.

    Or, a low price in innocent casualties might soon pass. For instance, in 1981 when Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear site at Osirak, if they had waited much longer the site would have been "radioactively hot" and massive innocent civilian casualties would have been incurred from radioactive releases. It is simply not enough anymore to say a country violates the norm by acting in its ultimate, but not imminent, self-defense. We need new standards for a new age.

    The new realities of unacceptable risk require new -- and lower-- standards of certainty before defensive action is permitted.

    As we develop a jurisprudence of prevention, we increase the chance of justice and rationality being a bigger part of such crisis decisions that our presidents will be facing for the foreseeable future.

    Dershowitz's sound, practical scholarship is commendable. But what I find heartening is the political fact that a prominent scholar of the left has finally entered into a constructive conversation about how to manage our inevitably dangerous WMD/terrorist infested future.

    If such as Dershowitz and I can find common ground, there should be space there for a multitude. And from that common ground can grow a common plan for a common victory.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    I had assumed this would raise some hackles.

    Or maybe you're all too lazy to read?
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    Busyman's Avatar Use Logic Or STFU!!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by j2k4
    I had assumed this would raise some hackles.

    Or maybe you're all too lazy to read?
    The last.

    Perhaps if a summary was given......

    I might read that and want the 5 minutes of my life back, cut-and-paste guy.

    Don't worry someone will come along, read all o dat, retort, and then I'll be able to glean what the article is about and post if interested.

    Silly bitch, your weapons cannot harm me. Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, Bitchhhh!

    Flies Like An Arrow, Flies Like An Apple
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  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    Basic summary:

    The threat of terrorism is the greatest threat america has ever faced so we must scrap all the niceties like civil liberties and launch preemptive strikes on anyone who looks at us funny.
    Signed
    Some harvard dude whose trousers get moist every time a car backfires.

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    Busyman's Avatar Use Logic Or STFU!!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by ilw
    Basic summary:

    The threat of terrorism is the greatest threat america has ever faced so we must scrap all the niceties like civil liberties and launch preemptive strikes on anyone who looks at us funny.
    Signed
    Some harvard dude whose trousers get moist every time a car backfires.
    Saved me the 5 minutes. Thanks.
    Silly bitch, your weapons cannot harm me. Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, Bitchhhh!

    Flies Like An Arrow, Flies Like An Apple
    ---12323---4552-----
    2133--STRENGTH--8310
    344---5--5301---3232

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    JPaul's Avatar Fat Secret Agent
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    Quote Originally Posted by ilw
    Basic summary:

    The threat of terrorism is the greatest threat america has ever faced so we must scrap all the niceties like civil liberties and launch preemptive strikes on anyone who looks at us funny.
    Signed
    Some harvard dude whose trousers get moist every time a car backfires.
    So, do exactly what the terrorists want, you say.

  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    Tempestv's Avatar Engineer
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    Quote Originally Posted by ilw
    Basic summary:

    The threat of terrorism is the greatest threat america has ever faced so we must scrap all the niceties like civil liberties and launch preemptive strikes on anyone who looks at us funny.
    Signed
    Some harvard dude whose trousers get moist every time a car backfires.
    in addition, he is an ultra liberal, which means that this bullshit is coming from the opposite side of the fence from where it usually comes from
    Plan for the worst, hope for the best

  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
    Quote Originally Posted by JPaul
    Quote Originally Posted by ilw
    Basic summary:

    The threat of terrorism is the greatest threat america has ever faced so we must scrap all the niceties like civil liberties and launch preemptive strikes on anyone who looks at us funny.
    Signed
    Some harvard dude whose trousers get moist every time a car backfires.
    So, do exactly what the terrorists want, you say.
    I wouldn't go quite that far, i'd say its more like giving them some very encouraging feedback.

  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tempestv
    ...he is an ultra liberal, which means that this bullshit is coming from the opposite side of the fence from where it usually comes from
    Tres significant.

    Anyone who's ever had an earful of Dershowitz should also have raised eyebrows.

    This warrants more than mere "gleaning", I think, unless you would choose to dismiss him as merely a Jewish lawyer, stricken with fear.

    Do you think it is "bullshit", Tempestv?
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
    Biggles's Avatar Looking for loopholes
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    It seems a bit of an over-reaction to me. The terrorists from terrorland are a pain but they have neither the numbers nor the means to de-rail even a small Western country let alone our civilisation as we know it. Even if they could lay their hands on a nuclear warhead and manage to explode it in a city it would change nothing and the loss of life would simply harden our position even more.

    The West is not at war, despite the rhetoric - we are nothing like on a war footing. Both the UK and the US are in the process of triming military size and reducing base numbers, not gearing up for war as we did in 39 (or 41). What we do have is increasingly authoritarian Governments and commentators trying to chip away at our own civil liberities in the guise of trying to protect us.

    I think in the name of freedom we need to tell them to Feck Off!
    Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum


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