Monday, October 31, 2005

Alito first step in winning back conservatives

The nomination of Judge Samuel Alito the Supreme Court is the first step for President Bush to take control of the agenda that he set forth in his 2004 election campaign. The recent history with an unsuccessful attempt at Social Security reform, hurricane relief efforts, and the nomination of Harriet Miers to the bench have not been high points of the Bush administration’s five years. While the appointment of Chief Justice Roberts to the Supreme Court was a victory that will help conservative efforts for years to come, it was somewhat lost among other recent events. The appointment and successful confirmation of Judge Alito will help to change the momentum of the Bush White House.
In both 2000 and 2004, President Bush ran on a platform of conservative values. As I sat in the Republican National Convention, I watched a string of conservative speakers take the podium and espouse the ideals that the party was going to stand for. While speakers like Senator John McCain and Mayor Rudy Giuliani had their moments in the spotlight, the primary focus was on ensuring the continuation of a conservative agenda in the Bush White House. A 3 million vote majority showed that a predominance of Americans were in agreement of the direction of the country. However, since the election, the agenda has gone adrift. A failed attempt to push privatization of Social Security, a good idea which was not communicated appropriately to the American people, started the drift. Allowing news to obfuscate the reality of the progress in Iraq was the next failure of the administration. I have many classmates who have served in the Army in Iraq, and they bespeak of the progress that is being made, contrary to the continued morass that the media would like to portray. Having served in deployments before, I understand that the reality of what is happening on the ground often somehow does not get conveyed through the lens of the media.
The latest misstep was the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. It is entirely possible that Miers’s positions on cases would have reflected the conservative values that the Bush team and the Republican Party would hope for. After all, Miers was President Bush’s personal attorney and he has known her for many years. That story was never told, though, and because President Bush never made a compelling case for the jurist that Miers is, he lost credibility with the conservative base that brought him to the office.
The nomination of Judge Samuel Alito should help to mend fences with the conservative base that the President relies on. Judge Alito has a long track record of conservative writings and decisions and will likely continue along those lines as a Supreme Court justice. Once confirmed, Judge Alito will be a signal to conservatives that President Bush still has an appropriate conservative agenda that he wants to push forward to help make this country a better one than what it was on his first day in office.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Iraqi referendum should not signal beginning of end of American troop deployment

A successful constitutional referendum in Iraq is just another arrow in the quiver of liberals’, and some conservatives’, arguments that the United States should start withdrawing from Iraq. While the referendum is another step towards full Iraqi sovereignty and liberal democracy, the government and the country is still perched precariously on the brink of chaos, and it does not possess the infrastructure or organized resources to ensure success. Only American involvement can give Iraqis a chance at long-standing freedom.

First, Iraq does not have the organized resources and standing infrastructure to guarantee long-term stability if the United States withdraws its military forces from the Iraqi theater. The Iraqi defense forces have between one and three combat-ready battalions with upwards of 80 other battalions in varying states of readiness. This is hardly the amount necessary to protect a country the size of Texas. Iraqis are looking for their government, their military, and the American military to provide stability, security, and justice and to restore the order of law. While this is mostly the case and certainly a great improvement over the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, it is still a far cry from the conditions necessary for democracy and freedom to take hold and flourish. President Bush’s strategy, rightly so, is to create a bulwark in the Middle East where others can see democracy in action and the value of freedom; however, it will need to take root to be a successful example.

Additionally, the United States needs to show that it is truly committed to peace and democracy in the Middle East. Even talk about drawdowns of American forces show Iraqis, our allies, and the terrorists that the United States is not committed to the long-term investment necessary to guarantee creating a stable democracy in the Middle East. As long as the enemy cannot know if and when the deployment of American troops will end, it cannot plan on an end game. However, word of American withdrawal will reinvigorate recruitment and give the terrorists a reason to believe that they can win. Additionally, it will show Iraqis that America does not truly believe that democracy and stability in the Middle East are important.

Establishing a democracy and freedoms in a country is not a process that, even in the best of conditions, will take two years. It will take several years, and the United States, Iraqi leadership, and the coalition of the willing must be willing to commit the blood, treasure, troops, and time necessary for democratic roots to take hold. This is a theater that the United States cannot afford to lose to the terrorists. One victory will make winning the longer war on terror exponentially more difficult, as those who would think that they cannot hope to take on the United States will become emboldened. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in ensuring that the Iraqi constitutional referendum is one step in the march towards democracy, and not a high point in the war on terror.

Monday, October 10, 2005

New York City Subway Terror Plot Showed Appropriate Decision Making

The response of the New York City authorities to the potential terrorist attack over the weekend was an appropriate response and an example of the correct way for information flow and decision making to work. The federal government was in the best position to accumulate the information about the potential attacks, as it is responsible for leading the way on the war on terror. The federal government controls the CIA, military, FBI, and other agencies with superior resources for obtaining and interpreting information. The local New York City authorities were the correct ones to make the decision on how best to react to the situation. They knew their security capabilities and the true likelihood of the success of such an attack were it to be attempted.

The federal government is indeed the best resource to lead the effort in information gathering and determination of potential attacks by terrorists. The war on terror should be and is a combined effort of multiple federal agencies who can keep overarching global and strategic goals in mind while engaging in the conduct of the war. It has the resources and the capabilities that local governments cannot hope to have. While the coordination of the war leaves much to be desired, it is the correct level to lead that war.

However, the local level of government is the right level at which decisions about actions should be made. Local authorities know of the likelihood of the success of planned actions and the best countermeasures to take against the potential terrorist attacks. They also know their budgetary and resource constraints and can reach out for additional help where necessary. Additionally, and most importantly, they know their citizens and how those citizens will react to potential countermeasures.

While New York City officials have come under fire for the decision to flood the subways with police officers, the decision was New York City’s to make. The officials took the information that they had at the time and the time constraints that they had and decided that public safety was best served by not assuming that the risks posed were minimal. They knew the situation on the subways and the best way to protect the riders. This was an example of letting local government govern. Local governments are the first responders in times of crisis, so allowing them to make decisions on how to preposition resources to either prevent or to respond to terror attacks maximizes the probability that they will either deter, prevent, or correctly react to terror attacks. The federal government should facilitate and provide additional resources where necessary, but the decisions properly rest with local officials who are best informed about local situations and their citizens.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Oregon law supporting physician assisted suicide is not the right path

The Supreme Court is currently considering an Oregon law regarding the ability for a physician to provide drugs and treament necessary for a patient commit suicide. Gonzales v. Oregon, 04-623, contemplates the right of the individual to commit suicide and the rights of others, namely doctors, to participate in the suicide.

The decision hinges on the difference between the right to refuse treatment and the right to actively seek death. The Oregon law has gone too far in the intent to aid the suffering of patients. Aiding in death sets a precedent that facilitates others deciding on a person's death and leaves too much to interpretation.

Anyone should have the right to determine when to stop received treatment that can prolong life. Seeking to extend a life unnaturally is the right that any person has and links directly to the value that we place on a life. However, when the courts extend that right beyond seeking or refusing treatment, they set a precedent that can lead to other consequences that we will not want.

The solution is not to sanction assisted suicide, but, rather, to strengthen the legal frameworks concerning living wills. Define the standard of evidence--preferably clear and convincing or higher--by which life-sustaining treatment can be removed. Set the standard and the precedent for the value of human life. Prematurely terminating life cannot be the standard for a country that wants to support a culture of life.