An excerpt from the above linked-to article by Alfred W. McCoy follows. The original can be found at TomDispatch:
“The sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” said conservative thinker Carl Schmitt in 1922, meaning that a nation’s leader can defy the law to serve the greater good. Though Schmitt’s service as Nazi Germany’s chief jurist and his unwavering support for Hitler from the night of the long knives to Kristallnacht and beyond damaged his reputation for decades, today his ideas have achieved unimagined influence. They have, in fact, shaped the neo-conservative view of presidential power that has become broadly bipartisan since 9/11. Indeed, Schmitt has influenced American politics directly through his intellectual protégé Leo Strauss who, as an émigré professor at the University of Chicago, trained Bush administration architects of the Iraq war Paul Wolfowitz and Abram Shulsky.
All that should be impressive enough for a discredited, long dead authoritarian thinker. But Schmitt’s dictum also became a philosophical foundation for the exercise of American global power in the quarter century that followed the end of the Cold War. Washington, more than any other power, created the modern international community of laws and treaties, yet it now reserves the right to defy those same laws with impunity. A sovereign ruler should, said Schmitt, discard laws in times of national emergency. So the United States, as the planet’s last superpower or, in Schmitt’s terms, its global sovereign, has in these years repeatedly ignored international law, following instead its own unwritten rules of the road for the exercise of world power…
While Presidents Eisenhower and Bush decided on exceptions that violated national boundaries and international treaties, President Obama is exercising his exceptional prerogatives in the unbounded domains of aerospace and cyberspace.
Both are new, unregulated realms of military conflict beyond the rubric of international law and Washington believes it can use them as Archimedean levers for global dominion. Just as Britain once ruled from the seas and postwar America exercised its global reach via airpower, so Washington now sees aerospace and cyberspace as special realms for domination in the twenty-first century.
Under Obama, drones have grown from a tactical Band-Aid in Afghanistan into a strategic weapon for the exercise of global power. From 2009 to 2015, the CIA and the U.S. Air Force deployed a drone armada of over 200 Predators and Reapers, launching 413 strikes in Pakistan alone, killing as many as 3,800 people. Every Tuesday inside the White House Situation Room, as the New York Times reported in 2012, President Obama reviews a CIA drone “kill list” and stares at the faces of those who are targeted for possible assassination from the air. He then decides, without any legal procedure, who will live and who will die, even in the case of American citizens. Unlike other world leaders, this sovereign applies the ultimate exception across the Greater Middle East, parts of Africa, and elsewhere if he chooses.
My online response to the above linked-to article follows:
“A sovereign ruler should, said Schmitt, discard laws in times of national emergency.” It’s necessary, for obvious reasons, for those who choose the path of darkness to dress it up. But that seems to get missed in so much commentary. Leaders, even those as loony as George W. Bush, are not so caught up in dressing up their evil that they don’t know that it is evil. That’s my view. I will admit only that once on that path, a mind gets lost. Darkness is it’s own reward.
We are all compelled to sin in a world in which Satan rules. But his rule is not absolute and he answers to someone higher who has altogether different principles. God isn’t torturing us. This situation is unique, brought upon us by the abuse of free moral agency by the person who became Satan and his first human victims. Adam and Even wrongly chose to learn, the hard way, that independence from the Source of life, the highest Sovereign, doesn’t work. He’s the source of life. He designed us. He’s also a God of love. We were in Adam’s loins and had he punished all then and there with a punishment commensurate with their crimes, ‘some’ justice would have been done at the expense of a greater injustice. We were innocent. So Adam and Eve were given time to have offspring. However, We have inherited imperfection, clearly. And that imperfection allows for all kinds of folly, including the very darkness Alfred McCoy describes.
We will learn, fully, that independence from the Source of life doesn’t work. In the course of so doing, we are invited to avail ourselves of the means of escaping the destruction that the first rebel would cause to us if he could. And note, If this lesson, or issue, of universal sovereignty, was to be halted by the God of love, then it would never get settled. That’s not how judges judge. The issue must be settled once, for all time, so that a system – corporatocracy – like that which we are suffering under now may never be permitted to come into being again, even if individuals will always be free to request destruction if they should so choose. The difference between that future and now is that now, when individuals request destruction (knowingly and willingly embrace evil and reject God), they are able to cause untold harm to others. And that, in turn tests, or compels us. It’s easier to choose the wide and spacious road that leads to destruction than the cramped road that leads to life. Wide and spacious just means ‘rule-free’. Those choosing to live the life of a gangster, lying and manipulating and surviving by pleasing those they believe have power, aren’t thinking “I’m on the road to destruction.” That’s just God’s, and others’, standpoint. The cramped road leading to life is not cramped, as in unpleasant, in itself. It’s cramped because it involves rules and boundaries that those who accept them understand are needed for there to be social harmony and life in a positive sense. Sure, You can’t do this and you can’t do that, but the things that God’s people can’t do will be the things that would be harmful to them if they chose to do them.
We are compelled, but resistance isn’t futile. Some will be, as God’s Son was, tested to the max. But life comes from God and not even physical death can change that. And not all are tested to the max. Otherwise, None of the above would be fact. (And the reader can choose to accept the above as fact or reject it. The only compulsion God might employ is a reason that you can’t argue with, successfully. You can always choose, but there are always consequences. If you make choices ‘you’ know are wrong, you create a disturbance within your soul. And that turns you into a trouble maker. And if you’re a national leader…)
Alfred’s article, let alone his books (I have his most recent, but haven’t started it yet), certainly puts the meat on some bones of mine. I’ve been saying forever that [the] way evil people come to dominate in this world is by breaking every written and unwritten rule. You first get together with everyone (just the way the Americans have done in myriad ways, as outlined by Alfred in his article) to decide on the rules by which all will play, for the purpose of promoting social harmony, which includes security and prosperity for all. Then, because you don’t have principles, but would never come out and say so (especially to your young daughters), you proceed to strategically break those rules and agreements (and the ones that weren’t in writing, like James Baker’s agreement with Gorbachev to rein in NATO, are easiest to break), which enables you to climb over and on top of the ‘weak’ sheep who believe in all the law and order talk. From a position of dominance, you can then dictate and guarantee outcomes of all types.
For now. For the lesson has been learned really. The issue is all but settled. We are very near the end. We have tried all manner of social economic organization. We have developed technology. Have we proven that there is an equal or superior form of universal rule [to] God’s rule of love? Or, without his intervention, Are we about to burn to death on a poisoned planet that soon enough won’t be able to feed us even if it didn’t cook us first? And then there are those loons who want to accelerate that via nuclear war. But that’s their pathology. That’s their darkness. They have rejected God and attempted to replace him. It has turned them into monstrous trouble makers and their pathology includes a need to actually believe that there is no God of love who will judge them for their crimes and so they call out to God, via atrocity after atrocity, to “Bring it!” So far, He hasn’t responded (that they can see). They heave a little sigh of relief, but the pathology is still there. Lucky humankind! They continue to call him out because they are not convinced and they can’t actually convince anyone, for lies never work. They can exert pressure upon others to get the same slave’s mark that they’ve consented to be branded with, and that’s difficult to deal with. But we all possess free moral agency. And the Creator knows like no one else can what our limits are. Resistance might not get you a great career or even the necessities of life. But it isn’t futile.