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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 10, Issue 30: July 28, 2008

  1. No Second Amendment Rights for Felons
  2. Negotiation and Money—Not U.S. Troop Numbers—Explain Lull in Iraq Violence
  3. Paraguay at the Crossroads
  4. CENTCOM: Planning for Empire
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) No Second Amendment Rights for Felons

Last month’s Supreme Court decision striking down the Washington, D.C., handgun ban has prompted many defense attorneys across the country to claim their ex-con clients—including convicted rapists, robbers, murderers—have a Second Amendment right to have guns. Some have filed motions so that their felonious clients can legally obtain firearms, but this maneuver is destined to fail.

In reality, the Court “flatly stated that this right does not apply to criminals,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Don B. Kates. In addition, the Founders excluded criminals from the meaning of the term “the people,” according to Kates. “Under the law as they knew it, felons were ‘civilly dead’: They had no legal rights whatever,” he continues. “All their property (including guns) was forfeit.”

Kates, a criminologist and former professor of constitutional and criminal law, also explains another reason why violent ex-convicts will not be obtaining a gun legally: the vast majority of those involved in life-threatening violence have a long criminal record that precludes them from having guns: “For instance, 90 percent of U.S. adult murderers have adult records (exclusive of their often extensive juvenile record),” continues Kates, “with an average adult crime career of six or more years, including four major felonies.”

“Gun Rights for Felons?” by Don B. Kates (New York Post, 7/22/08)

Purchase The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook.

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2) Negotiation and Money—Not U.S. Troop Numbers—Explain Lull in Iraq Violence

The key reason that anti-U.S. and internecine sectarian violence in Iraq has fallen probably is not the surge of U.S. troop numbers—that tactic failed when it was employed in 2005. Instead, the lull in violence is due to U.S. military leaders having taken two actions that the administration is unlikely to publicize widely, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty. The one-two punch consists of deploying diplomatic carrots rather than lethal sticks—namely, negotiating with Shi’ite cleric Moktaka al-Sadr and making payments to Sunni guerilla groups.

“Make no mistake: paying off your enemies is always a better and cheaper strategy than expending the blood and treasure to fight them,” writes Eland in a new op-ed. “Yet paying off enemies to reduce the violence is not a long-term solution to stability in Iraq. In that part of the world, if you quit making the pay offs or conditions change in such a volatile and fractured society, violence could quickly escalate again.”

Eland—long a proponent of using a U.S. troop withdrawal to motivate the fractious elements in Iraq to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement with decentralized governance—fears that Barack Obama and John McCain are missing the big picture. “The al Qaeda that threatens the United States is in Pakistan, not Afghanistan or Iraq,” Eland continues. “Thus, the U.S. should withdraw all of its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and concentrate on dealing with al Qaeda in Pakistan.”

“Did the Surge Work?” by Ivan Eland (7/28/08)

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed (Updated Edition), by Ivan Eland

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3) Paraguay at the Crossroads

President-elect Fernando Lugo will face huge obstacles to fostering a prosperous democracy when he takes power in Paraguay in August. As Carlos Alberto Montaner, advisor to the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity notes, the former Catholic bishop can hardly look to positive role models among his immediate neighbors. Argentina under the Kirchners is experiencing a new form of Peronism. Brazil? Lugo will likely be butting heads with it. Bolivia? Morales is Chavez “light.”

An alternative way to frame the choice for Lugo is to consider not Paraguay’s geographically closest neighbors, but rather two countries that exemplify widely divergent visions of economic development: Venezuela and Ireland. Which of the two approaches is he more likely to emulate?

“If he is guided by the rancorous nonsense of Liberation Theology, his country will undoubtedly follow the Venezuelan road and plunge into a deep political and economic crisis,” writes Montaner. “If he chooses to look to Ireland (or Chile, close to home), he’ll be able to serve his neediest compatriots, which is what he apparently desires. I haven’t the slightest notion of what he’ll do, but, with the passing of years, I’ve learned that optimism is usually followed by frustration. Lamentably.”

“Paraguay: Ireland or Venezuela?” by Carlos Alberto Montaner (7/16/08)

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director)

Purchase Lessons from the Poor: The Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Purchase Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

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4) CENTCOM: Planning for Empire

In May of 2007, Admiral William J. Fallon, then head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), asked Congress for $62 million for an ammunition storage facility at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, a station he called “the centerpiece for the CENTCOM Master Plan for future access to and operations in Central Asia.” What is the U.S. military leadership doing and planning to do in that region? Adm. Fallon discussed CENTCOM’s operations in terms of five broad goals: 1) setting conditions for stability in Iraq, 2) expanding governance and security in Afghanistan, 3) degrading violent extremist networks and operations, 4) strengthening relationships and influencing states to contribute to regional stability, and 5) posturing the force to build and sustain joint and combined war fighting capabilities and readiness.

“Notice that except possibly for the third item listed (“degrading violent extremist networks and operations”), none of this has more than a very remote connection with defending the people of the United States against foreign enemies,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs.

Higgs pulls no punches in his assessment of Fallon’s testimony rationalizing U.S. military involvement in Central Asia and beyond. Referring to Fallon’s impeccable delivery in “bureaucratese”—and its apparently favorable reception by members of Congress—Higgs writes the following: “Of course, it’s all a solemn face, a polished and meaningless charade staged purely for public-relations purposes—a ceremonial hors d’oeuvres served in public before the diners consume the entrée, which consists of a massive amount of the taxpayers’ money ladled out to the armed forces and their civilian contractors.” On Iraq, Higgs writes: “Indeed, a mere pullout is nearly inconceivable, despite the great amount of talk that goes on about it on both sides. On the Iraqi side, this talk is sincere; on the U.S. side, it is all for show.” On Afghanistan, he writes: “The likelihood that outside forces will ever impose their designs on Afghanistan’s backward but fiercely resilient tribesmen verges on nil.” On U.S. friends in the Persian Gulf, he writes: “An honest observer feels compelled to recognize, however, that every one of the filthy-rich sheiks in these desert despotisms would gladly cut Fallon’s throat if they weren’t raking in such fabulous amounts of money from the current arrangements.” Higgs concludes by arguing that Fallon omitted a fundamental truth about CENTCOM’s operations on in that part of the world: “He fails to mention, however, that the people of southwest Asia would harbor no grievances whatsoever against Americans if the U.S. government had only possessed the intelligence and the decency to stay out of their affairs.”

“CENTCOM’s Master Plan and U.S. Global Hegemony,” by Robert Higgs (7/22/08)

Also see:

Depression, War, and Cold War, by Robert Higgs

Neither Liberty nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government, by Robert Higgs

Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11, by Robert Higgs

Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close

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5) This Week in The Beacon

Peter Klein celebrates New Edition of Hayek’s Early Works

Robert Higgs exposes the Canadian “threat”

The Beacon invites your comments.

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