The affirmative re-inscribes the primacy of liberal legalism as a method of restraint—that paradoxically collapses resistance to Executive excesses



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The affirmative re-inscribes the primacy of liberal legalism as a method of restraint—that paradoxically collapses resistance to Executive excesses.

Margulies ‘11

Joseph, Joseph Margulies is a Clinical Professor, Northwestern University School of Law. He was counsel of record for the petitioners in Rasul v. Bush and Munaf v. Geren. He now is counsel of record for Abu Zubaydah, for whose torture (termed harsh interrogation by some) Bush Administration officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee wrote authorizing legal opinions. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at workshops at the American Bar Foundation and the 2010 Law and Society Association Conference in Chicago., Hope Metcalf is a Lecturer, Yale Law School. Metcalf is co-counsel for the plaintiffs/petitioners in Padilla v. Rumsfeld, Padilla v. Yoo, Jeppesen v. Mohammed, and Maqaleh v. Obama. She has written numerous amicus briefs in support of petitioners in suits against the government arising out of counterterrorism policies, including in Munaf v. Geren and Boumediene v. Bush., “Terrorizing Academia,” http://www.swlaw.edu/pdfs/jle/jle603jmarguilies.pdf


In an observation more often repeated than defended, we are told that the attacks of September 11 “changed everything.” Whatever merit there is in this notion, it is certainly true that 9/11—and in particular the legal response set in motion by the administration of President George W. Bush—left its mark on the academy. Nine years after 9/11, it is time to step back and assess these developments and to offer thoughts on their meaning. In Part II of this essay, we analyze the post-9/11 scholarship produced by this “emergency” framing. We argue that legal scholars writing in the aftermath of 9/11 generally fell into one of three groups: unilateralists, interventionists, and proceduralists. Unilateralists argued in favor of tilting the allocation of government power toward the executive because the state’s interest in survival is superior to any individual liberty interest, and because the executive is best able to understand and address threats to the state. Interventionists, by contrast, argued in favor of restraining the executive (principally through the judiciary) precisely to prevent the erosion of civil liberties. Proceduralists took a middle road, informed by what they perceived as a central lesson of American history.1 Because at least some overreaction by the state is an inevitable feature of a national crisis, the most one can reasonably hope for is to build in structural and procedural protections to preserve the essential U.S. constitutional framework, and, perhaps, to minimize the damage done to American legal and moral traditions. Despite profound differences between and within these groups, legal scholars in all three camps (as well as litigants and clinicians, including the authors) shared a common perspective—viz., that repressive legal policies adopted by wartime governments are temporary departures from hypothesized peacetime norms. In this narrative, metaphors of bewilderment, wandering, and confusion predominate. The country “loses its bearings” and “goes astray.” Bad things happen until at last the nation “finds itself” or “comes to its senses,” recovers its “values,” and fixes the problem. Internment ends, habeas is restored, prisoners are pardoned, repression passes. In a show of regret, we change direction, “get back on course,” and vow it will never happen again. Until the next time, when it does. This view, popularized in treatments like All the Laws but One, by the late Chief Justice Rehnquist,2 or the more thoughtful and thorough discussion in Perilous Times by Chicago’s Geoffrey Stone,3 quickly became the dominant narrative in American society and the legal academy. This narrative also figured heavily in the many challenges to Bush-era policies, including by the authors. The narrative permitted litigators and legal scholars to draw upon what elsewhere has been referred to as America’s “civic religion”4 and to cast the courts in the role of hero-judges5 whom we hoped would restore legal order.6 But by framing the Bush Administration’s response as the latest in a series of regrettable but temporary deviations from a hypothesized liberal norm, the legal academy ignored the more persistent, and decidedly illiberal, authoritarian tendency in American thought to demonize communal “others” during moments of perceived threat. Viewed in this light, what the dominant narrative identified as a brief departure caused by a military crisis is more accurately seen as part of a recurring process of intense stigmatization tied to periods of social upheaval, of which war and its accompanying repressions are simply representative (and particularly acute) illustrations. It is worth recalling, for instance, that the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan in this country, when the organization could claim upwards of 3 million members, was the early-1920s, and that the period of greatest Klan expansion began in the summer of 1920, almost immediately after the nation had “recovered” from the Red Scare of 1919–20.7 Klan activity during this period, unlike its earlier and later iterations, focused mainly on the scourge of the immigrant Jew and Catholic, and flowed effortlessly from the anti-alien, anti-radical hysteria of the Red Scare. Yet this period is almost entirely unaccounted for in the dominant post-9/11 narrative of deviation and redemption, which in most versions glides seamlessly from the madness of the Red Scare to the internment of the Japanese during World War II.8 And because we were studying the elephant with the wrong end of the telescope, we came to a flawed understanding of the beast. In Part IV, we argue that the interventionists and unilateralists came to an incomplete understanding by focusing almost exclusively on what Stuart Scheingold called “the myth of rights”—the belief that if we can identify, elaborate, and secure judicial recognition of the legal “right,” political structures and policies will adapt their behavior to the requirements of the law and change will follow more or less automatically.9 Scholars struggled to define the relationship between law and security primarily through exploration of structural10 and procedural questions, and, to a lesser extent, to substantive rights. And they examined the almost limitless number of subsidiary questions clustered within these issues. Questions about the right to habeas review, for instance, generated a great deal of scholarship about the handful of World War II-era cases that the Bush Administration relied upon, including most prominently Johnson v. Eisentrager and Ex Parte Quirin. 11 Regardless of political viewpoint, a common notion among most unilateralist and interventionist scholars was that when law legitimized or delegitimized a particular policy, this would have a direct and observable effect on actual behavior. The premise of this scholarship, in other words, was that policies “struck down” by the courts, or credibly condemned as lawless by the academy, would inevitably be changed—and that this should be the focus of reform efforts. Even when disagreement existed about the substance of rights or even which branch should decide their parameters, it reflected shared acceptance of the primacy of law, often to the exclusion of underlying social or political dynamics. Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule, for instance, may have thought, unlike the great majority of their colleagues, that the torture memo was “standard fare.”12 But their position nonetheless accepted the notion that if the prisoners had a legal right to be treated otherwise, then the torture memo authorized illegal behavior and must be given no effect.13 Recent developments, however, cast doubt on two grounding ideas of interventionist and unilateralist scholarship—viz., that post-9/11 policies were best explained as responses to a national crisis (and therefore limited in time and scope), and that the problem was essentially legal (and therefore responsive to condemnation by the judiciary and legal academy). One might have reasonably predicted that in the wake of a string of Supreme Court decisions limiting executive power, apparently widespread and bipartisan support for the closure of Guantánamo during the 2008 presidential campaign, and the election of President Barack Obama, which itself heralded a series of executive orders that attempted to dismantle many Bush-era policies, the nation would be “returning” to a period of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. Yet the period following Obama’s election has been marked by an increasingly retributive and venomous narrative surrounding Islam and national security. Precisely when the dominant narrative would have predicted change and redemption, we have seen retreat and retrenchment. This conundrum is not adequately addressed by dominant strands of post-9/11 legal scholarship. In retrospect, it is surprising that much post-9/11 scholarship appears to have set aside critical lessons from previous decades as to the relationship among law, society and politics.14 Many scholars have long argued in other contexts that rights—or at least the experience of rights—are subject to political and social constraints, particularly for groups subject to historic marginalization. Rather than self-executing, rights are better viewed as contingent political resources, capable of mobilizing public sentiment and generating social expectations.15 From that view, a victory in Rasul or Boumediene no more guaranteed that prisoners at Guantánamo would enjoy the right to habeas corpus than a victory in Brown v. Board16 guaranteed that schools in the South would be desegregated.17 Rasul and Boumediene, therefore, should be seen as part (and probably only a small part) of a varied and complex collection of events, including the fiasco in Iraq, the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison, and the use of warrantless wiretaps, as well as seemingly unrelated episodes like the official response to Hurricane Katrina. These and other events during the Bush years merged to give rise to a powerful social narrative critiquing an administration committed to lawlessness, content with incompetence, and engaged in behavior that was contrary to perceived “American values.”18 Yet the very success of this narrative, culminating in the election of Barack Obama in 2008, produced quiescence on the Left, even as it stimulated massive opposition on the Right. The result has been the emergence of a counter-narrative about national security that has produced a vigorous social backlash such that most of the Bush-era policies will continue largely unchanged, at least for the foreseeable future.19 Just as we see a widening gap between judicial recognition of rights in the abstract and the observation of those rights as a matter of fact, there appears to be an emerging dominance of proceduralist approaches, which take as a given that rights dissolve under political pressure, and, thus, are best protected by basic procedural measures. But that stance falls short in its seeming readiness to trade away rights in the face of political tension. First, it accepts the tropes du jour surrounding radical Islam—namely, that it is a unique, and uniquely apocalyptic, threat to U.S. security. In this, proceduralists do not pay adequate heed to the lessons of American history and sociology. And second, it endorses too easily the idea that procedural and structural protections will protect against substantive injustice in the face of popular and/or political demands for an outcome-determinative system that cannot tolerate acquittals. Procedures only provide protection, however, if there is sufficient political support for the underlying right. Since the premise of the proceduralist scholarship is that such support does not exist, it is folly to expect the political branches to create meaningful and robust protections. In short, a witch hunt does not become less a mockery of justice when the accused is given the right to confront witnesses. And a separate system (especially when designed for demonized “others,” such as Muslims) cannot, by definition, be equal. In the end, we urge a fuller embrace of what Scheingold called “the politics of rights,” which recognizes the contingent character of rights in American society. We agree with Mari Matsuda, who observed more than two decades ago that rights are a necessary but not sufficient resource for marginalized people with little political capital.20 To be effective, therefore, we must look beyond the courts and grapple with the hard work of long-term change with, through and, perhaps, in spite of law. These are by no means new dilemmas, but the post-9/11 context raises difficult and perplexing questions that deserve study and careful thought as our nation settles into what appears to be a permanent emergency.
Legalism underpins the violence of empire and creates the conditions of possibility for liberal violence – the alternative is to endorse political, rather than legal constraints

Dossa ‘99

Shiraz, Department of Political Science, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, “Liberal Legalism: Law, Culture and Identity,” The European Legacy, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 73-87,1


No discipline in the rationalized arsenal of modernity is as rational, impartial, objective as the province of law and jurisprudence, in the eyes of its liberal enthusiasts. Law is the exemplary countenance of the conscious and calculated rationality of modern life, it is the emblematic face of liberal civilization. Law and legal rules symbolize the spirit of science, the march of human progress. As Max Weber, the reluctant liberal theorist of the ethic of rationalization, asserted: judicial formalism enables the legal system to operate like a technically rational machine. Thus it guarantees to individuals and groups within the system a relative of maximum of freedom, and greatly increases for them the possibility of predicting the legal consequences of their action. In this reading, law encapsulates the western capacity to bring order to nature and human beings, to turn the ebb and flow of life into a "rational machine" under the tutelage of "judicial formalism".19 Subjugation of the Other races in the colonial empires was motivated by power and rapacity, but it was justified and indeed rationalized, by an appeal to the civilizing influence of religion and law: western Christianity and liberal law. To the imperialist mind, "the civilizing mission of law" was fundamental, though Christianity had a part to play in this program.20 Liberal colonialists visualized law, civilization and progress as deeply connected and basic, they saw western law as neutral, universally relevant and desirable. The first claim was right in the liberal context, the second thoroughly false. In the liberal version, the mythic and irrational, emblems of thoughtlessness and fear, had ruled all life-forms in the past and still ruled the lives of the vast majority of humanity in the third world; in thrall to the majesty of the natural and the transcendent, primitive life flourished in the environment of traditionalism and lawlessness, hallmarks of the epoch of ignorance. By contrast, liberal ideology and modernity were abrasively unmythic, rational and controlled. Liberal order was informed by knowledge, science, a sense of historical progress, a continuously improving future. But this canonical, secular, bracing self-image, is tendentious and substantively illusory: it blithely scants the bloody genealogy and the extant historical record of liberal modernity, liberal politics, and particularly liberal law and its impact on the "lower races" (Hobson). In his Mythology of Modern Law, Fitzpatrick has shown that the enabling claims of liberalism, specifically of liberal law, are not only untenable but implicated in canvassing a racist justification of its colonial past and in eliding the racist basis of the structure of liberal jurisprudence.21 Liberal law is mythic in its presumption of its neutral, objective status. Specifically, the liberal legal story of its immaculate, analytically pure origin obscures and veils not just law's own ruthless, violent, even savage and disorderly trajectory, but also its constitutive association with imperialism and racism.22 In lieu of the transcendent, divine God of the "lower races", modern secular law postulated the gods of History, Science, Freedom. Liberal law was to be the instrument for realizing the promise of progress that the profane gods had decreed. Fitzpatrick's invasive surgical analysis lays bare the underlying logic of law's self-articulation in opposition to the values of cultural-racial Others, and its strategic, continuous reassertion of liberalism's superiority and the civilizational indispensability of liberal legalism. Liberal law's self-presentation presupposes a corrosive, debilitating, anarchic state of nature inhabited by the racial Others and lying in wait at the borders of the enlightened modern West. This mythological, savage Other, creature of raw, natural, unregulated fecundity and sexuality, justified the liberal conquest and control of the racially Other regions.23 Law's violence and resonant savagery on behalf of the West in its imperial razing of cultures and lands of the others, has been and still is, justified in terms of the necessary, beneficial spread of liberal civilization. Fitzpatrick's analysis parallels the impassioned deconstruction of this discourse of domination initiated by Edward Said's Orientalism, itself made possible by the pioneering analyses of writers like Aime Cesaire and Frantz Fanon. Fitzpatrick's argument is nevertheless instructive: his focus on law and its machinations unravels the one concrete province of imperial ideology that is centrally modern and critical in literally transforming and refashioning the human nature of racial Others. For liberal law carries on its back the payload of "progressive", pragmatic, instrumental modernity, its ideals of order and rule of law, its articulation of human rights and freedom, its ethic of procedural justice, its hostility to the sacred, to transcendence or spiritual complexity, its recasting of politics as the handmaiden of the nomos, its valorization of scientism and rationalization in all spheres of modern life. Liberal law is not synonymous with modernity tout court, but it is the exemplary voice of its rational spirit, the custodian of its civilizational ambitions. For the colonized Others, no non-liberal alternative is available: a non-western route to economic progress is inconceivable in liberal-legal discourse. For even the truly tenacious in the third world will never cease to be, in one sense or another, the outriders of modernity: their human condition condemns them to playing perpetual catch-up, eternally subservient to Western economic and technological superiority in a epoch of self-surpassing modernity.24 If the racially Other nations suffer exclusion globally, the racially other minorities inside the liberal loop enjoy the ambiguous benefits of inclusion. As legal immigrants or refugees, they are entitled to the full array of rights and privileges, as citizens (in Canada, France, U.K., U.S—Germany is the exception) they acquire civic and political rights as a matter of law. Formally, they are equal and equally deserving. In theory liberal law is inclusive, but concretely it is routinely partial and invidious. Inclusion is conditional: it depends on how robustly the new citizens wear and deploy their cultural difference. Two historical facts account for this phenomenon: liberal law's role in western imperialism and the Western claim of civilizational superiority that pervades the culture that sustains liberal legalism. Liberal law, as the other of the racially Other within its legal jurisdiction, differentiates and locates this other in the enemy camp of the culturally raw, irreducibly foreign, making him an unreliable ally or citizen. Law's suspicion of the others socialized in "lawless" cultures is instinctive and undeniable. Liberal law's constitutive bias is in a sense incidental: the real problem is racism or the racist basis of liberal ideology and culture.25 The internal racial other is not the juridical equal in the mind of liberal law but the juridically and humanly inferior Other, the perpetual foreigner.


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