The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute. Subscribe
now, or browse Back Issues
Volume 7, Issue 4: January 24, 2005
- Confederation or Partition May Be Best Solution for Iraq
- U.S. Air Strikes on Iran Could Backfire, Eland Argues
- Fraud in Government Is Pervasive, Higgs Argues
- Bill Kurtis and Franklin Zimring Put "The Death Penalty on Trial"
1) Confederation or Partition May Be Best Solution for Iraq
Ambassador John Negroponte, the White House's emissary to the Allawi government in Baghdad, denied on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that insurgent violence will continue to plague Iraq after the national elections scheduled for Jan. 30th. According to a news report published last week by Knight Ridder, however, U.S. intelligence agencies have written studies concluding that the violence will likely continue and "could provoke a civil war between the majority Shi'ite Muslims and minority Sunni Muslims."
Is it possible to have a democracy in war-torn Iraq?
Iraq's fractious population cannot be made into a U.S.-style liberal federated republic, says Ivan Eland, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty. A better long-term solution is a partition or an economic confederation of states, which allows Iraqis to segment their multitude of ethnic, religious and tribal factions but integrate economically, Eland concludes in a new Independent Institute policy report, The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government <http://www.independent.org/publications/policy_reports/detail.asp?type=full&id=16>.
In this fragmented developing country with little prior experience in genuine democracy and more than a decade of severe economic isolation, almost any policy option has its drawbacks. But the plan with the best chance of success, according to Eland, would include a rapid U.S. troop withdrawal, replaced by a temporary multinational force, and the creation of a constitutional convention that included representatives from all tribes, regions, and ethnic and religious groups.
The strategic necessity for the U.S. to have a unified, democratic federation in Iraq is vastly overblown, writes Eland. True Iraqi self-determination would probably yield a decentralized government -- for example, a partition or a loose economic confederation, which allows for local security but features a simple common market and currency and has agreements on oil revenue sharing, he said. These alternatives have the best chance of reducing the violence and putting Iraqis on the road to peace, stability and prosperity.
"An Iraqi federation is doomed to fail because many of its groups -- most of them with armed militias -- would be suspicious that a strong Iraqi central government would eventually fall under the control of a rival group, says Eland. Iraq will eventually break up under a federated system. The question is whether it will be peaceably or through a bloody civil war. True Iraqi self-determination, which would probably lead to a controlled decentralization of power, would eliminate the incentive of these groups to fight for control of the central government.
See "The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government," by Ivan Eland
To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see
Center on Peace & Liberty
2) U.S. Air Strikes on Iran Could Backfire, Eland Argues
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh caused a stir recently when he reported in the NEW YORKER that the Pentagon had sent "black reconnaissance" teams (what used to be called "covert operations" forces, when they where directed by the Central Intelligence Agency) to find nuclear weapons labs and other potential targets in the event that the Bush administration decides to launch air strikes to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.
A U.S. air strike against Iran, however, would be both ineffective and counterproductive, warns Ivan Eland, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty.
"In fact, air strikes could ultimately accelerate Iran's nuclear program," Eland writes in his latest op-ed. Just as Iraq accelerated its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons after Israel bombed its nuclear reactor in Osirak in 1981, Iran may respond similarly if attacked. "In the wake of surgical U.S. attacks on some of its nuclear sites, an unnerved Iran would likely accelerate a clandestine nuclear weapons program," Eland writes.
"Surgical attacks on Iran could also have other negative consequences in the region and around the globe," he continues. "The Iranians could retaliate by making the U.S. occupation of Iraq even uglier than it is at present. They could feed money, arms, and fighters into the Iraq war or stir up Shi'ite populations against the U.S. occupation. In addition, attacks by a foreign superpower could cause a 'rally around the flag' effect among a restive, young Iranian population that might eventually throw out the ruling theocratic mafia. Finally, attacking a third Islamic country after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could spike retaliatory terrorism on U.S. targets around the world by newly energized radical Islamists. Iran might even begin sponsoring such anti-U.S. attacks."
To encourage Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, Eland recommends that the United States offer that country a carrot similar to the one that caused Libya to end its WMD programs: the removal of economic sanctions against Iran and the offer of a non-aggression treaty, in exchange for a verifiable end to the country's nuclear program.
"With military options so counterproductive, the United States has no choice but to use negotiations -- not force -- to end Iran's nuclear program," Eland concludes.
See "Should Iran Be the Next Target?" by Ivan Eland (1/25/05)
To purchase PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK INTO U.S. DEFENSE POLICY: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World, by Ivan Eland, see
To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see
Center on Peace & Liberty
3) Fraud in Government Is Pervasive, Higgs Argues
If I had to use a single word to describe what is fundamentally wrong with government today, I would use the word 'fraud,' Robert Higgs told the audience at the Independent Policy Forum devoted to his new Independent Institute book, AGAINST LEVIATHAN: Government Power and a Free Society.
Certainly nowadays -- and perhaps in every age -- government is not what it claims to be, namely competent, protective, and just. And it is what it claims not to be, namely bungling, menacing, and unjust, Higgs continued. The velvet glove of its countless claims of benevolence scarcely conceals its iron fist of violence and threats of more violence. It wants to be loved, but it will settle for being feared. The one thing it will not do is simply leave us alone.
Higgs explained that AGAINST LEVIATHAN was an informal sequel to his 1987 book, CRISIS AND LEVIATHAN: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, which explained how national emergencies had fertilized the growth of the American government -- often for the benefit of special-interest groups or political causes. Conveying his new book's tremendous breadth, Higgs then illustrated the malevolence of government leaders by quoting tape recordings of President Richard Nixon ordering aides to initiate IRS tax audits of wealthy supporters of his election rivals -- payback for what Nixon believed was a tactic that had been used against him in 1961.
Next, Higgs launched into the Food and Drug Administration, which pretentiously claims to protect the public from itself while delaying the introduction of life-saving medical products. More people have died as a result of the FDA's actions than have died in all the wars this country has fought in the 20th century, Higgs said.
Higgs then described the fraud -- and despotism -- that permeates the welfare state, whose unintended consequences eat away at the moral, social, and economic foundations of what was once a considerably more honest and self-reliant culture. He closed his presentation by showing how national crises of recent years have contributed to huge spending even on programs unrelated to the crisis at hand.
Public fear plays an indispensable role in these crisis episodes," Higgs said. "It's the mother's milk of all modern government. And if no crisis came along, then the government would be more or less compelled to invent some crisis. And it's for that reason that we have scares du jour, just to keep us going between the major events.
For a transcript of the talk, Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society," see http://www.independent.org/events/transcript.asp?eventID=100.
To purchase a copy of the book, AGAINST LEVIATHAN: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs, see http://www.independent.org/store/book.asp?id=53
4) Bill Kurtis and Franklin Zimring Put "The Death Penalty on Trial"
True-crime TV anchor Bill Kurtis and U.C. Berkeley law professor Franklin Zimring will discuss capital punishment at the Independent Policy Forum on Thursday, January 27th.
A former supporter of the death penalty, Bill Kurtis investigated two capital cases and learned that a fatally flawed criminal justice system had sent two innocent men to death row. His new book, THE DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL, concludes that there are eight main reasons why the wrong people are put to death, including overzealous and dishonest prosecutors, corrupt policemen, unreliable witnesses and expert witnesses, incompetent defense attorneys, biased judges, and jailhouse informants.
He also shows how the new jewel of forensic science, DNA, is revealing more innocence than guilt, opening a window into the criminal justice system that could touch off a revolution of reform. About Kurtis' book, the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES writes, "No matter where you stand on capital punishment, THE DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL is required reading."
Franklin Zimring has studied the controversy about capital punishment and has shown how it reflects a deep conflict of values that permeates American culture. Zimring predicts that this controversy, which grew during the 1990s, will intensify as DNA matching becomes more common. THE ECONOMIST magazine writes that Franklin Zimring's book, THE CONTRADICTIONS OF AMERICAN CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, is "a thought-provoking and genuinely original book which deserves to become a classic."
-- BILL KURTIS passed the Kansas Bar in 1966, but instead of practicing law he embarked on a thirty-year career as a correspondent and anchorman with CBS Television. In 1985, he formed his own production company, Kurtis Productions, which produces A&E's award-winning "Investigative Reports" and television's original forensic series, "Cold Case Files." Kurtis also anchors A&E's "American Justice."
-- FRANKLIN E. ZIMRING is the William G. Simon Professor of Law and Chair of the Criminal Justice Research Program at Boalt Hall School of Law, the University of California at Berkeley. His major fields of interest are criminal justice and family law, with special emphasis on the use of empirical research to inform legal policy. He is best known for his studies of the determinants of the death rate from violent attacks, the impact of pretrial diversion from the criminal justice system, and criminal sanctions.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Reception and book signing: 6:30 p.m.
Program: 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
The Independent Institute Conference Center
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621-1428
For a map and directions, see
TICKETS: $15 per person ($10 for Independent Institute Members), or $35 for admission and a copy of THE DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL. Reserve tickets by calling (510) 632-1366 or ordering online at http://www.independent.org/store/events/event_detail.asp?eventID=107.
More praise for THE DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL: Crisis in American Justice, by Bill Kurtis (PublicAffairs):
"With a novelist's touch, an award-winning career in investigative reporting, and a moral to preach against capital punishment, Bill Kurtis has turned out an important message and a gripping read."
-- WALTER CRONKITE
"DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL is an engrossing look at the American system of capital punishment through the lens of two startling death-penalty cases. It exhibits the classic hallmarks of the best journalism-meticulous investigation, lucid writing, and a nose for great stories-and makes addictive reading."
--SCOTT TUROW, author of PRESUMED INNOCENT
More praise for THE CONTRADICTIONS OF AMERICAN CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, by Franklin E. Zimring (Oxford University Press):
"Zimring is doing more than making a case for or against; he's presenting an impressive array of facts, suggesting that the U.S. would be 'a better nation' if it exorcised those vigilante values."
--LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW
For more information about this event, see http://www.independent.org/events/detail.asp?eventID=107