Beyond Labels

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August 23: Afghanistan (cont’d)

At the end of our discussion on Afghanistan yesterday, we collectively decided that there were still lots of issues to explore on this subject. And the news continues to “break.” While we generally try to avoid “chasing the tape” containing the latest news (and the related short-termism that often accompanies such actions), we’ll continue the discussion this coming Monday.

There seems to be a general consensus that withdrawal, ending the “forever war,” is the right strategy–it’s the single common thread between Presidents Trump and Biden. The real debate (which we touched on yesterday) is around the actual execution of the withdrawal.

I’m sure we’ll explore many facets of the subject, but here are a few to consider:

  • What is your view of the Administration’s communications policy (both designated “talking heads” and the President himself? Successful? Failure? As good as could be, given the difficult circumstances? What could/should have been done better?
  • How far should the US go, at this point, to provide a safe exit for Afghans who wish to depart the country? (This seems, to me, to be the principal bone of contention.) The current path seems quite passive (something like “we’ll consider flyng you out if you are at the airport and are on a list; otherwise, find your own way to a third country and apply for entry to the US from there”). Theoretical alternatives might include elements of concerted diplomatic efforts, UN Security Council statements, the prospect of aid/sanctions, or even “safe passage” supported by US military?
  • Should the US maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, like China likely will and Russia is considering?
  • Perhaps most importantly, even if Afghanistan is not viewed as a national security priority, what will the US actions surrounding our exit say about:
    • Our commitment to our supposed “core values” (if, for example, we were to continue our minimalist efforts to extract Afghan employees, interpreters, others who worked with the US and ISAF efforts)?
    • Our reliability as an ally–in Europe, in the Far East, etc.?
    • Our intelligence and military capabilities? (Which, once again, either fell woefully short or were overridden by political considerations.)

I’m sure we will have plenty of material to continue the discussion.

Sarah Everdell thought this piece from Heather Cox Richardson might be of interest.

Hugh Nazor provided this Foreign Affairs book review.

We could fill up the Beyond Labels server with articles and commentary on this subject; if you think you have something really compelling that you want to discuss on Monday, you can provide a link to it in a comment to this post.

Aug. 9: Critical Race Theory

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss Critical Race Theory. We’ll probably spend a bit of time on the theory itself, but will also talk about CRT as a shorthand in the current political debate about how we educate and what we teach–to our children, employees, etc.

Here’s a note from Michael Sinclair on the origins and “real” meaning of CRT, which is consistent with other descriptions I’ve seen:

As I understand it, Critical Race Theory can be viewed as an offshoot of Critical Legal Studies, a way of analyzing the law that takes into account how it reflects social issues (https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/critical_legal_theory). My guess is that this approach to legal analysis began with the so-called Brandeis Brief in Muller v. Oregon (1908) (https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/muller_v_oregon_(1908)), in which Louis Brandeis (before he joined the Supreme Court) defended a state law limiting the number of hours women could work in factories. His brief included, apparently for the first time before the Court, sociological data to defend the law.

I also think Critical Legal Studies is related to Legal Realism, a theory that holds that “[p]rior to the 1930s, American jurisprudence had been dominated by a formalist account of how courts decide cases, an account which held that judges decide cases on the basis of distinctly legal rules and reasons that justify a unique result. The legal realists argued that statutory and case law is indeterminate, and that appellate courts decide cases not based upon law, but upon what they deem fair in light of the facts of a case.” In other words, judges fit the law (and sometimes even the facts) to their desired outcomes in the cases before them. In my opinion, this is what is happening with increasing frequency at the Supreme Court, particularly in cases involving Constitutional law, in decisions regarding, for example, the 1965 voting rights act and the Second Amendment.

I think Critical Race Theory is a direct descendant of Critical Legal Studies and Legal Realism, in that Critical Race Theory “… critiques how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuate a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers.” (https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/civil-rights-reimagining-policing/a-lesson-on-critical-race-theory/; https://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/index.cfm/book_number/4171/caste).

 I think the overwrought reaction of some right-leaning politicians and media outlets to Critical Race Theory is an often willful mischaracterization of what the theory is (https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2021/07/02/why-are-states-banning-critical-race-theory/) and could be seen as strong evidence of its validity.

If you want to “freshen up” on some other recent activities that have been swept into the CRT debate (even though any actual link may be tenuous at best), here are a few:

And a couple of Ellsworth American links to provide some local flavor:

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