Thursday, March 05, 2009

John Yoo, a really Schmitty lawyer?

Over at TNR, Damon Linker (real name?) chides perennial dumbass Jonah Goldberg for mocking the notion that John Yoo and Carl Schmitt have anything in common:
Schmitt's primary contribution to political theory is the idea that in emergency situations, the rule of law can and must be suspended in favor of an executive act of decision about how to defend the political community against its existential enemies. This act, for Schmitt, is the supremely political act, and as such it transcends the standards of right and wrong, legal and illegal, that prevail under "normal" political conditions. It is thus incoherent to condemn such actions, since by definition they take place beyond categories that empower us to make moral and legal judgments.

Gee, sound familiar? For those who haven't been paying attention, this is precisely what our last Republican president, his vice president, and their enablers (such as David Addington and John Yoo) asserted for themselves in the years following 9/11 -- namely, that (in Andrew Sullivan's words) the president has "the inherent power to suspend both the First and the Fourth amendments," as well as "the power to seize anyone in the US or [the] world, [and] disappear and torture them" as he sees fit. Moreover, in none of these cases -- indeed, in no conceivable circumstance -- can the president be accused of breaking the law because the president's war powers automatically place him above the law. His sovereign decision -- whatever it is -- simply is the law of the land.

That is Schmittian decisionism, pure and simple. (Whether Yoo and Addington formulated their views on their own, by radicalizing the doctrine of the "unitary executive," or through reading Schmitt by flashlight in a White House broom closet is irrelevant. The ideas are nearly identical, whatever their origins.) But Schmittian assumptions were hardly limited to the executive branch of the Bush administration during the past seven years. They were so widespread among conservative intellectuals, in fact, that most of them responded to the president's decisions with enthusiasm, putting their minds to work justifying and defending his extra-constitutional actions at nearly every turn, while also impugning the motives and patriotism of those who dared challenge the president's sovereign authority.
(H/t Sullivan.)

I've read one short book by Schmitt, Political Theology, which IIRC indeed rests upon the notion that the place of God in the modern state can and must be occupied by the sovereign. Once you grant that, I suppose, everything else makes sense.

-- All this apropos of Goldberg's mocking a new book by Alan Wolfe on liberalism, in the course of which Dumbass also sneers that "Wolfe apparently thinks contemporary conservatives are disciples of Rousseau as much as, if not more, than they are followers of Burke." As we recently saw, this is less implausible than one might've thought.

... Wolfe himself chimes in. "Reading John Yoo is like overhearing Schmitt translated into English." He and Linker both have blogs at TNR? When did this happen?

No comments:

Post a Comment