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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 12, Issue 31: August 2, 2010

  1. Lessons from the WikiLeaks Docs
  2. Halbrook Lauded for Defense of the Constitutional Right to Bear Arms
  3. The Trillion Dollar Foreign Policy
  4. Venezuela’s Smoking Gun
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Lessons from the WikiLeaks Docs

The 92,000 classified military documents posted last week to WikiLeaks.org yielded no shocking revelations about U.S. operations in Afghanistan. It was already well known, for example, that the Taliban were getting stronger with help from allies in Pakistan’s corrupt government. Nevertheless, the WikiLeaks affair does reveal something important.

According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, the leaked documents show how the foreign-policy elite has been blinded by nation-building fever—despite years of scant progress in advancing its goals.

In his latest op-ed, Eland argues against the White House’s policy in Afghanistan, including its implicit assumption that Taliban control of parts of Afghanistan would likely strengthen al-Qaeda and threaten the United States. Writes Eland: “Even if the Taliban didn’t learn from its ouster after 9/11 and did harbor al-Qaeda again in a post-U.S. Afghanistan, the United States has many local and regional allies that would help the U.S. in containing the Taliban and al-Qaeda.” Those allies include Uzbek and Tajik rivals of the Taliban, groups that are stronger now than they were a decade ago, according to Eland.

“The Main Effects of the WikiLeaks Documents Are Political,” by Ivan Eland (7/28/10)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

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

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland

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2) Halbrook Lauded for Defense of the Constitutional Right to Bear Arms

Three weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment bars the states and their jurisdictions from violating the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, Stephen Halbrook (Research Fellow, The Independent Institute) and Nelson Lund (Professor of George Mason University School of Law) discussed the run-up to the Court’s decision McDonald v. Chicago. (Video, audio, and a transcript from the June 8 forum, “The Supreme Court and the Battle for Second Amendment Rights,” are available here.)

When attorneys for the City of Chicago presented oral arguments in McDonald, they cited the most racist foes of the Fourteenth Amendment, who opposed granting African Americans a constitutional right to bear arms. Apparently Chicago’s counsel did not know that the Amendment was passed partly so that former slaves could protect themselves from violence perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan and others, explained Halbrook, author of Securing Civil Rights: Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms—a book cited by the Supreme Court’s majority decision in McDonald and its precursor, District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).

Nelson Lund focused his presentation on Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority decision in Heller, which struck down D.C.’s handgun ban. Lund lauded Justice Scalia’s citation of Halbrook’s work, but he criticized what he regarded was Scalia’s pragmatic, unprincipled approach in Heller. Said Lund: “To whatever degree the courts prove willing to protect our constitutional rights in this area, I think we will all owe Steve Halbrook a large debt of gratitude.”

Event video, audio, and transcript

“Heller, the Second Amendment, and Reconstruction: Protecting All Freedmen or Only Militiamen?” by Stephen P. Halbrook (Santa Clara Law Review, 5/1/10)

Securing Civil Rights: Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook

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

That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right, by Stephen P. Halbrook

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3) The Trillion Dollar Foreign Policy

“We’re spending $1 trillion a year on our foreign policy,” Texas Congressman Ron Paul told CNN. In follow-up communications with PolitiFact.com, a Pulitzer Prize–winning project of the St. Petersburg Times, Paul backed up that figure by citing an article by Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs.

“Higgs argues that looking at how much money goes to the Department of Defense is insufficient,” a column in PolitiFact.com reports. “One also has to include the appropriations for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons program, the Department of State, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the interest payments attributable to past debt-financed defense spending, among other expenses. Crunching the numbers for 2009, Higgs came up with a total that’s slightly over $1 trillion.”

To the uninitiated, a trillion dollar estimate for the annual cost of U.S. foreign policy might seem like an exaggeration, but other analysts’ estimates are comparable, according to PolitiFact.com. Winslow Wheeler from the Center for Defense Information put the 2010 foreign-policy price tag at $1,021.3 billion, slightly over $1 trillion. Cindy Williams of the MIT Security Studies Program put the tab at $966 billion. Stephen Donahoe from the Friends Committee on National Legislation came up with $935 billion for 2010 and $950 for 2011. When the numbers are gigantic, differences amounting to even tens of billions of dollars are but quibbles among the budget analysts—and chump change to the military-industrial-congressional complex.

“Ron Paul Says U.S. Spends $1 Trillion on Foreign Policy” (PolitiFact.com, 7/5/10)

“Defense Spending Is Much Greater than You Think,” by Robert Higgs (The Beacon, 4/17/10)

Congress, the Defense Budget, and Pork: A Snout-to-Tail Description of Congress’ Foremost Concern in National Security Legislation, by Winslow Wheeler

Depression, War, and Cold War: Challenging the Myths of Prosperity and Depression, by Robert Higgs

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

Arms, Politics, and the Economy: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Robert Higgs

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4) Venezuela’s Smoking Gun

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is unlikely to go quietly when he steps down from office on August 7. His successor, Juan Manuel Santos, is perceived to be more compatible with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, but Uribe hopes to mount external pressure to end Chavez’s clandestine support of the FARC and ELN terrorist groups.

“Uribe’s ambassador to the Organization of American States presented photos, videos, satellite maps and testimonies as evidence that 1,500 guerrillas enjoy protection in 14 camps along the Venezuelan border with Colombia,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Chavez has managed to stay in office despite these and previous revelations—which represent a violation of U.N. antiterrorism resolution 1373—because the Organization of American States is currently weak, and its leader is intimidated by Chavez. “Even if Chavez survives this, Venezuela is under notice that everything inside its territory will be meticulously revealed,” writes Vargas Llosa.

“Venezuela’s Smoking Gun,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (7/28/10) Spanish Translation

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

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

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

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5) This Week in The Beacon

Here’s the latest from The Beacon, the blog of the Independent Institute.

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