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Volume 11, Issue 31: August 3, 2009

  1. Rumsfeld and Military Transformation
  2. Latin America Needs a New Champion of Liberty
  3. Halbrook on the Sotomayor Nomination
  4. Does Value-Free Schooling Put Students and Society at Risk?
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Rumsfeld and Military Transformation

Critics of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have blamed his ideology and arrogance for the fiasco of the Iraq invasion and occupation, but few have evaluated the role played by his project of “military transformation,” that is, of remaking the U.S. armed forces into a lean, mean, fighting machine. Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow and Director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty, examines this in his latest op-ed, “Was Rummy Really Wrong?”

The problem was not that Rumsfeld’s idea of doing more with fewer resources (e.g., substituting more airpower for ground troops) was inherently ill conceived, but that it would not work effectively for the type of missions that Iraq and Afghanistan became: namely, occupations and counterinsurgency operations. In the right context, drastically cutting ground troops can provide several benefits, Eland notes, including saving taxpayer dollars and eliminating the temptation to undertake long-term imperial missions. But to realize those benefits would require that the United States avoid the imperial occupations that give rise to anti-U.S. terrorism.

“In short, if the U.S. gives up fighting such ill-advised wars of choice and concomitant occupations, Rumsfeld’s concept of fewer ground forces and a heavier reliance on airpower can be viable,” writes Eland. “The concept is not the problem, but it’s not going to work if the United States continues such drawn-out imperial quagmires.”

“Was Rummy Really Wrong?” by Ivan Eland (8/3/09)

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

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


2) Latin America Needs a New Champion of Liberty

President Manuel Zelaya’s expulsion from Honduras stems in part from the passivity of the Organization of American States. In a previous era, namely during the early 1960s, the OAS would have exerted pressure on the leaders of its member countries to respect their constitutions. Such pressure might have prevented Zelaya from challenging his country’s constitution.

The reason, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, is that back then the late Venezuelan president Romulo Betancourt exerted a strong moral force on the OAS, pressuring it to favor constitutionalism and democracy. Betancourt urged the organization, for example, to impose political and diplomatic sanctions (but not travel or trade restrictions) against Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. He also warned U.S. President John F. Kennedy of the negative consequences of supporting dictatorial governments.

What Latin America needs today is a leader like Betancourt to serve as the voice of constitutionalism and liberty. Writes Vargas Llosa: “Unless a new Betancourt emerges, there is a danger that a few years from now it will become apparent that Honduras’ establishment was not the only one in Latin America convinced that soldiers had to fill the vacuum.”

“Desperately Calling Romulo Betancourt,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (7/29/09) Spanish Translation

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

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

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


3) Halbrook on the Sotomayor Nomination

On July 16, Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen Halbrook testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court.

In his prepared remarks, Halbrook examines two court decisions that Judge Sotomayor joined and which gave short shrift to Second Amendment Rights. In Maloney v. Cuomo (2009), the appellate panel decided that the Second Amendment did not apply to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment; in doing so, it ignored the admonition of the Heller decision. In United States v. Sanchez-Villar (2004), it opined that “the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right” for anyone. Halbrook commended Sotomayor’s stand in United States v. Cavera (2008), in which the panel opined that judges must not follow policy preferences regarding firearms laws, but the panel’s rulings in Maloney and Sanchez-Villar raise questions.

“The tens of millions of Americans who choose to exercise their right to keep and bear arms anxiously await answers to their concerns,” writes Halbrook.

Stephen P. Halbrook in Sotomayor Confirmation Hearing (Video, 7/16/09)

“On the Nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to Be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Stephen P. Halbrook’s Testimony Before the Senate Judiciary Committee (7/17/09)


4) Does Value-Free Schooling Put Students and Society at Risk?

In 1922, the Ku Klux Klan helped persuade Oregon voters to pass the Oregon Compulsory Education Act, a statewide initiative banning private schools – a swipe aimed primarily at Catholics and their values. Although the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that law before it was to have gone into effect, traditional values-based schooling has long been under attack -- at public and parochial schools alike, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Jonathan Bean, editor of the new book Race and Liberty in America.

Bean witnessed this first hand. When he became a lecturer at the Catholic university he had attended as a student, he saw that it had “opened its doors to sixties radicals bent on reconstructing the school in their own image,” he writes in Ignatius Insight. The problem was not merely that the new academics had a different set of values, but that the “diversity” curriculum they implemented was a pragmatic hodge-podge short on values.

The adoption of value-free education, Bean warns, makes young people more vulnerable to the anomie of mass culture and puts them on the road to destruction. “Virtue takes conditioning, and like learning a language,” he writes, “it is better to start young.” Bean suggests that Benjamin Franklin understood the consequences of ignoring the inculcation of virtue when he wrote, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

“Trickle-Down Theology Won’t Work,” by Jonathan Bean (Ignatius Insight, 7/27/09)

Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, edited by Jonathan Bean


5) This Week in The Beacon

Below are links to the past week’s postings to our blog, The Beacon.

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  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless