Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Jacoby’

Exploring Jeff Jacoby’s Call For Arms In Syria

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2013 at 12:12 am


It was in Shakepeare’s Henry IV where Lord Hotspur declared, “Now, for our consciences, the arms are fair,/ When the intent of bearing them is just.”

Such timeless words capture the question of today:  What is just for Syria?  Should America respect Syria’s national sovereignty or seek to intervene through the United Nations — or should it take unilateral action in the interest of human rights?  There are many arguments on every side, and surely they cannot all be addressed here.

One facet will be addressed however, as Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby has written on this topic.  He has boldly asserted that America is the only nation capable of being the “World’s Policeman,” because America is in fact “the world’s best policeman.”  Casting those who may disagree into the Dark Ages, he invokes the restrained foreign policy views in the post-colonial world of President John Adams, who uttered that America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”

Today, things are different, he argues, lauding America as “the mightiest, wealthiest, and most influential nation on the face of the earth.”  Because of this stated fact, Jacoby proclaims that America has an inherent duty to police the entire world.  He recalls the rise of Nazi Germany, the defense of Kuwait during the Persian Golf Conflict in 1990, military assistance in Kosovo, and how America “faced down the Soviet Union.”

As we have seen before, he omits critical facts which would be characteristic of a balanced perspective.  Jacoby fails to mention Vietnam, Haiti, or Nicaragua as unsuccessful intervention efforts, nor does he note that America has already committed to arming rebel forces, as we did during the Cold War.

He dismisses the United Nations by casually stating that the UN, brainchild of President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, is pointless.  Jacoby notes that policing the world “is clearly something the United Nations cannot do” and refers to its “bloody trail of failure.”  What about the 2005 RAND Corporation report, which compared “nation-building” activities of the UN to those of the USA, and concluded that UN efforts actually had a higher frequency of long term success?

Jacoby’s most fatal mistake comes when he compares America to NYPD officers walking their beat to “suppress crime and reduce fear.”  He argues that America’s police role must be in the interest of “deterring aggression, maintaining the flow of commerce, and upholding human rights.”

What is so flawed here is a concept apparently far beyond Jacoby’s grasp: jurisdiction.  The NYPD has jurisdiction over New York City.  The NYPD cannot go into New Jersey to enforce New Jersey laws or even New York laws.  The NYPD cannot go into Connecticut to enforce laws, nor can the NYPD make arrests outside of New York City.  That would be beyond its jurisdiction and exceed the scope of its authority.

To enforce laws in other states and jurisdictions, the NYPD must partner with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.  To apprehend individuals wanted in other jurisdictions, there is an established process known as extradition.

Even though it is the largest police force in the United States, the NYPD cannot anoint itself to be “America’s Policeman.”  Other jurisdictions already have law enforcement apparati in place; surely they may not have as many human and technological resources as the NYPD, but that doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if it could even be said that New York City is the “mightiest, wealthiest, and most influential” city in America.

There’s something about the “rule of law” which means if you lack the authority to do something, then you can’t do it.  You can’t break the law to enforce the law; that is inherently antithetical and compromises the very principles which anyone — or any “policeman” — seeks to defend.

The same debate occurs today with the question of whether the NSA exceeded its surveillance authority: the defense is that it keeps us safe, but does the invasion of privacy in fact threaten us even more?  How can we, as a nation, defend the rule of law and then seek to act outside of it?

As one pair of Yale Law School professors recently pointed out, “In the absence of Security Council authorization, international law prohibits the use of military force to enforce international law.”

While others believe that United Nations chemical weapons inspectors should be permitted to complete their evaluation, Jeff Jacoby believes that America should break the law to enforce the law.  In another article entitled “Yesterday’s Atrocities Are Happening Again,” Jacoby compares North Korea, Egypt, and Syria to Nazi Germany.

Like a singing bard, he sadly laments: “The burning of houses of worship didn’t end with Kristallnacht, nor the gassing of civilians with Halabja, nor concentration-camp butchery with Dachau…”  While the events in Nazi Germany were one of the darkest moments in modern world history, Jacoby’s vigilant warning is that the world cannot stand idly by while injustice spreads.

Yet the method he asserts — for America to invade Syria, North Korea, and presumably, Egypt — is inherently wrong.  While Syria has not signed the UN Chemical Weapons Convention, Syria has signed the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which bans the use of chemical weapons.  Chemical weapons are the “red line” drawn by President Obama determining whether direct American involvement may be warranted.

The core issue is not whether chemical weapons were used — it is instead, “who used them?”  Was it the government of President Assad or was it rebels, as the Syrian government officially claims?  That comes down to a question of evidence, and that process is ongoing at this very moment, although it is admittedly “no slam dunk.”

Now there are fears that more chemical attacks are on the horizon, and time is of the essence.  Jeff Jacoby argues that a failure to act will lead to widespread conflict, while others believe that taking action may lead to a World War III.  To act, or not to act: that is the question.

While there can be no answer to that here, what should be clear is that America should not police the world any more than the NYPD should police Detroit, MI, Oakland, CA, St. Louis, MO, or any other jurisdiction with a high rate of crime which would benefit from such intervention.

Jacoby should understand this already, as it was he who recently criticized President Obama’s administration for “federal overreach” and abusing its authority on the domestic front.  Yet he aggressively pushes for apparent military intervention abroad in Syria, Egypt, and North Korea.

Instead of exceeding its military authority, America must work together with its political partners, under the rule of law.  We must lead by example.  If there is a legal justification for taking action in Syria or anywhere else, then it must be defensible.  To enforce the law, a police officer must have legal authority while also having legitimacy from the community.

Jeff Jacoby’s noteworthy pride in America is misplaced, because even being the “best policeman” still does not bestow an inherent power to police.



Why We Must Shun False Media Reports of William Bulger

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm


In my last entry, I pointed out an indefensible error in the libelous headline of a British newspaper, The Independent.  I’ve even followed up by writing to the reporter and managing editor to correct and retract this egregious misstatement, but they have thus far failed to take any action.  Today, the drama continues, only much closer to home.

Boston Globe reporter Jeff Jacoby has written an article containing within its headline an ominous declaration: “Political elite should shun Bill Bulger.”  He then lays out his case, arguing that Mr. Bulger showed no allegiance “…to the people of Massachusetts, not to the law, not to Whitey’s innumerable victims, not to the truth — and not to God.”  Jacoby constructively asserts that Bulger should have been banned from attending the funeral service for former Governor Paul Cellucci and presumably should not venture outside into the public eye ever again.

As a preliminary matter, it’s important to note that Jacoby is a former assistant of the late Dr. John Silber, President of Boston University.  Ironically, Dr. Silber was one of those “political elite” who spoke out time and time again in support of William Bulger.  William Bulger spoke at Silber’s funeral service this past September as well, calling him “an independent spirit.”  Bulger further noted that, “He taught by example, he was determined to do that. He recognized people paid greater attention to what he did rather than what he said.”  In January, William Bulger also attended the funeral service for former Massachusetts House of Representatives Speaker Thomas McGee.

Yet his attendance at services for McGee and Silber went without this bold scrutiny.  William Bulger has a long tradition of attending the funeral services of his colleagues; indeed he even delivered the eulogy for U.S. Representative Joe Moakley in 2001.  On that occasion, he lamented: “Humility and pride, seemingly contradictory, coalesced in you, our Joe. Integrity. Justice. And useful service. It is wrenching to say goodbye.”

In these pieces, there is a recurring theme which dramatically contrasts that espoused by Jacoby.  As both his record and delicate choice of words show, William Bulger is a highly principled man who lives his life by certain core virtues.  The traits he admires in others reflect those which he holds so dear within himself.  If what Jacoby asserts was true, then surely he claims to know William Bulger far better than so many who are proud to call him a colleague and friend; these are the people who know Mr. Bulger.  Was Jacoby’s former employer, the esteemed Dr. Silber, wrong all along, too?

By insulting Bulger, Jacoby similarly attacks anyone in Bulger’s association circles, both living and dead: Ted Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, John Silber, Joe Moakley, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, and former Republican Governor William Weld.  Importantly, current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (also a former prosecutor from Middlesex County) wrote of William Bulger’s autobiographical memoir While the Music Lasts, “If you want to know what politics is all about — the joy, the sorrow, the purpose of public life — read this book.”

Famed historian David McCullough also wrote, “But it’s also a chronicle of an exceedingly intelligent twentieth-century American whose understanding of human nature is exceptional, and who apparently hasn’t an idea in the world of how to be dull.”  Even then-Governor William Weld (who served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 1981-1986) wrote that the book “…is a combination of hard-nosed politics and lyrical prose.  For the political insider, it is pure poetry.”  Indeed, it was Governor Weld who even recommended William Bulger’s appointment as President of the University of Massachusetts beginning in 1996.  Given that he was the former chief federal prosecutor in Boston and a member of the opposing Republican party, how was this possible if Bill Bulger is so sinister?

The real question then is, are all of these people really that corrupt themselves, or just naively stupid — and does Mr. Jacoby really know it all, while they apparently know nothing?  That is what he is saying — they really are Know-Nothings, whereas he is a Know-It-All.  Jacoby’s former boss, John Silber, is a Know-Nothing, too.  So is Ted Kennedy.  And don’t forget our current U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.

Needless to say, these meritless attacks on William Bulger always seem to escalate in gravity and frequency following the death of another of his colleagues; the most recent onslaught began soon after the death of former U.S. Representative Joe Moakley (D-MA) in 2001, and has resurged in intermittent waves ever since.  Not only is this approach sleazy and misleading, but it also tactfully dillutes the truth by attacking William Bulger at a time when those who know the the truth have died.

Jacoby urges that the death of his revered colleagues is not enough; even Mr. Bulger’s living colleagues should shun him now as well.  Such tacit efforts to isolate targets are, in fact, a common tool of bullies.  One anti-bullying organization warns, “Bullies often feel threatened by good performers, because it increases their own feelings of inadequacy and shame.”  Is it possible that such ill-reasoned criticisms, like those of Jacoby, are more probably sprung from dark hearts of envy?  The facts clearly do not match up with his empty assertions —  words lacking in substance, unless we choose to believe in them.  Yet, to do that would be to debase and demean our own intellectual capacities.  To do that is to see a vile mirage which serves up poison, instead of water.

There is also the fact that clearly, the beating of William’s own heart led him to far different places than his older brother, James.  Indeed, it was during the June 19, 2003 hearing that he distinguished himself from his brother, noting “Truth to tell, over the years I was unable to penetrate the secret life of my older brother.  He marched to his own drummer and traveled a path very different from mine.  Jim had his own ways I could not possibly influence.”  Current U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose brother was a car thief who served time in prison, made a fortune selling car alarms, and was himself arrested on more than one occasion; yet today he is Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  In 2003, former Governor Michael Dukakis wrote how his own brother has had criminal problems as well in penning an article entitled “A Vote of Confidence for Bill Bulger.”

Moreover, with approximately 3.2% of America’s population currently living in prison or under some “correctional control,” that amounts to more than 10 million people, which doesn’t include those released from prison or parole.  Each of these “criminals” has a mother and father, and many have children and siblings.  Yet, unlike in more distant places and times, our blood does not define social stature, and “Corruption of Blood” is expressly prohibited by Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution even in cases of Treason.

The deeds of William Bulger’s own life exemplify public service, as those words etched into the cover of his memoir firmly attest.  One cannot “fake” virtue.  You either have it, or you don’t.  And as the achievements of his life plainly show, William Bulger knows a lot about what public service is, and what it isn’t.

Like his Irish immigrant forebears, William Bulger has proven beyond any doubt that we all live in a Land of Possibility.  Possible not because he cheated — but instead because he worked hard, he loves his family, he respects his enemies, and he has never stopped believing in what matters most: Humility, Integrity, and Justice.  The keystone is that bundle of core virtues which have so defined the bedrock of Bulger’s own life.  He is thus not only a model for public service but also exemplifies that immortal apparition which is the American Dream.

With all things considered, Jeff Jacoby may very well be the real Know-Nothing here.