War Is Too Important to Be Left to the Lawyers

By Barone, Michael | The American Spectator, November 2007 | Go to article overview

War Is Too Important to Be Left to the Lawyers


Barone, Michael, The American Spectator


War Is Too Important to Be Left to the Lawyers The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration By Jack Goldsmith (W.W. Norton, 256 pages, $25.95)

Reviewed by Michael Barone

Memoirs of presidential appointees who have left office in unhappy circumstances usually take the form of angry screeds. Not so with The Terror Presidency, by Jack Goldsmith, the Harvard Law professor who served less than a year as head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the White House. Naturally the publisher's press release and the first press accounts focused on his disagreements with administration policy. That's the way publishers sell books and the mainstream media attempt to sway opinion. But overall this is a careful and thoughtful book by a conservative lawyer who makes it clear that the threat of a terrorist attack imposes a tremendous burden on responsible officers of government, most of all the president. They know that thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people could die if they fail. Opposition party politicians, judges, and critics in legal academe, Goldsmith reminds us, do not bear this burden. Goldsmith did.

And he approved of much of administration policy. He continues to believe, as he did as a law professor, that the United States should not subject itself to the International Criminal Court. He believes that it was proper to call the conflict with al Qaeda a war and that it was legal to invade Iraq. He believes that the president has the power to detain enemy combatants, to deny them prisoner of war status, and to try them by military commissions.

Where he disagrees with the administration is on the question of whether, on particular issues like the NSA terrorist surveillance program, it should "go it alone, in secret," or seek authorization from Congress. Goldsmith tended to favor the latter. David Addington, then Vice President Dick Cheney's counsel and now his chief of staff, tended to favor the former, and almost always prevailed-at least until court decisions forced the administration to go to the Hill. Goldsmith argues that, although Congress might have given the administration less authority to act than it wanted, the administration would have been better off in the long run going to the Hill. He cites the legislation Congress eventually passed on military tribunals and terrorist surveillance in support ofhis case. But he also tells us enough about the other side's argument-that the administration needed maximum flexibility to act right now-to allow readers to reach their own decision. He expresses admiration for Addington's motives and, except for a stray reference to his "crazy ideas," is a model of civil discourse.

I leave it to readers to resolve the Goldsmith-Addington argument. What was most striking to me about The Terror Presidency is the picture it presents of an overlawyered war. "Many people think the Bush administration has been indifferent to wartime legal constraints. But the opposite is true: the administration has been strangled by law, and since September 11, 2001, this war has been lawyered to death." There are, Goldsmith tells us, 10,000 lawyers at the Pentagon and more than 100 at the CIA. They are called on to approve-or disapprove, or limit-every weapon and almost every military target and every intelligence mission. This was not the case, he points out, in World War II, when Franklin Roosevelt "acted in a permissive legal culture that is barely recognizable to us today.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

War Is Too Important to Be Left to the Lawyers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.