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Volume 7, Issue 31: August 1, 2005

  1. Roberts May Continue O'Connor's Federalism
  2. The Politics of Troop Withdrawal
  3. Islam and the Institutions of a Free Society

1) Roberts May Continue O'Connor's Federalism

During her tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court, retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor helped swing the Court in the direction of what some called the New Federalism, upholding the states as co-equals with the federal government and voting against federal statutes that imposed unfunded mandates on the states, as Research Fellow William J. Watkins, Jr., explains in a new op-ed.

One of Court's most far-reaching decisions supporting the New Federalism came in its decision of United States v. Lopez (1995), in which it struck down a federal statute prohibiting possession of firearms near school premises. The Court rejected the government's claim that it had the authority to issue the ban under the Interstate Commerce Clause because guns could disrupt education and thereby hamper the productivity of the national workforce.

Will Supreme Court nominee John Roberts carry forward O'Connor's affinity for federalism? Quite possibly.

Judge Roberts has written little on the matter, but in his dissenting opinion in the case of Rancho Viejo, LLC v. Norton (2003), he "indicated that the protection of a non-commercial, local toad was not 'commerce' subject to federal regulation," Watkins writes.

"Judge Roberts described the panel’s reasoning as 'inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s holdings in United States v. Lopez' and other New Federalism cases," Watkins continues. "He feared that the panel’s broad approach would destroy any real limits on federal power under the Commerce Clause."

See "John G. Roberts and the New Federalism," by William J. Watkins Jr. (7/25/05)

RECLAIMING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Their Legacy, by William J. Watkins Jr.


2) The Politics of Troop Withdrawal

Aware that declining American public support for the U.S. occupation of Iraq could hurt Republicans in next year's congressional elections, the Bush administration has suggested that substantial reductions in the 140,000-strong U.S. troop presence would be possible as early as next spring.

"This short-term, politically expedient strategy, however, will not help the administration toward its long-term goals of stabilizing Iraq and, in fact, will undermine both it and Republican electoral prospects in the 2008 election," writes Ivan Eland, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, in his latest op-ed.

"The insurgency will probably continue, even in the wake of an October referendum on an Iraqi constitution and December elections, an improvement in the Iraqi economy and living conditions, and enough adequately trained Iraqi security forces to more than replace departing U.S. forces."

A recent comment by Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, suggests that America's military leaders continue to underestimate the Iraqi insurgency. Casey argued that if insurgents do not make clear-cut progress, they would not survive. The truth is the opposite, Eland argues: "In fact, as George Washington, the North Vietnamese, and the anti-Soviet Mujahedin fighters in Afghanistan demonstrated, insurgents need only to keep an army in the field and 'not lose' until the big power gets exhausted and goes home."

Concludes Eland: "The administration needs to give up on the fantasy of a permanent military presence -- even if reduced -- in Iraq and completely and rapidly withdraw its forces from that country. Republican electoral fortunes will be better in the short-term and long-term if the administration realizes that the war cannot be won -- either by U.S. forces or the Iraqi security services -- and cuts its losses."

See "The Politics of Troop Withdrawal," by Ivan Eland (8/1/05)

"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

To purchase PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK IN U.S. DEFENSE POLICY, by Ivan Eland, see

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, director)


3) Islam and the Institutions of a Free Society

Are Islamic values compatible with a free society? What are the prospects for liberty in predominantly Muslim countries? These questions have been asked frequently since 9/11, and the answers given have spanned the extremes -- ranging from the claim that authoritarianism is inevitable in Muslim countries to the claim that a robust freedom would emerge in the absence of a Western presence.

According to economist Stefan Voigt, one helpful method for addressing these questions is to examine the health of the key institutions of a free society in the Islamic world, determine the extent that these outcomes are due to Islamic values, and see whether opinion polls show strong or weak support for these institutions.

Writing in summer 2005 issue of THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Voigt examined the status in Muslim countries of the rule of law, constitutional democracy, and the market economy and "found that a number of severe impediments make the establishment of these core institutions less likely in the Muslim world."

He then looked at public-opinion surveys that examined Muslim opinions on freedom and government and came to some interesting conclusions: "Based on the attitudes expressed by its population, Jordan clearly has the least chance to establish the institutions that are preconditions for a free society; Pakistan and Bangladesh also seem highly problematic. As a region, Africa seems to have a better chance than the Asian countries polled."

Voigt noted that opinion polls should not be overemphasized -- especially when those polled may not fully grasp the consequences of living under conditions that they have never experienced. Also, although some of the attitudes Muslims express in opinion polls are surprisingly compatible with at least some of the central preconditions for these core institutions, fundamental liberal reforms "will require decades or even centuries to be made and cannot be dictated from above."

Voigt also suggested that liberal reform movements may arise in surprising quarters: "We might argue, for example, that the Shi'a branch of Islam will find reformation easier because it never agreed that all possibilities of human reasoning and individual opinion (ijtihad) in interpreting the Qur'an had been closed," he writes. "Another possibility is that the Asian Muslim countries that are subject to other influences and that guard against domination by interpretations of Islam that originate in the Arab heartlands will embrace reforms more readily."

See "Islam and the Institutions of a Free Society," by Stefan Voigt (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 2005)

Also see:
"The Cultural Undertow of Muslim Economic Rage," by Timur Kuran (, 12/12/01)

"The Vulnerability of the Arab State: Reflections on the Ayubi Thesis," by Timur Kuran (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 1998)



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