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Have Guns, Will Liberate: Inside the civic theology of arms-bearing

Source: The Baffler

European thought on violence and government doesn’t survive transatlantic shipping very well. In the American setting, the story of Hobbes’s state, which seizes for itself the exclusive right to force while providing domestic peace in return, has the reassuring and quaint cadence of a sanitized fairy tale. That’s because in North America, the war of all against all has long been seen less as a problem and more as a solution, one perfectly suited to a settler-colonial population conquering its way westward with non-state militias. Freelance physical force was indispensable in a slave society maintained by violence inflicted lawfully by state and private actors alike. Let loose in the New World, Leviathan goes feral. read more

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Why It’s Impossible to Indict a Cop

Source: The Nation

It’s not just Ferguson—here’s how the system protects police.

How to police the police is a question as old as civilization, now given special urgency by a St. Louis County grand jury’s return of a “no bill” of indictment for Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in his fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown. The result is shocking to many, depressingly predictable to more than a few.

Can the cops be controlled? It’s never been easy: according to one old sociological chestnut, the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is what defines modern government, and this monopoly is jealously protected against the second-guessing of puny civilians. All over the country, the issue of restraining police power is framed around the retribution against individual cops, from Staten Island to Milwaukee to Los Angeles. But is this the best way to impose discipline on law enforcement and roll back what even Republican appellate court appointees are calling rampant criminalization? read more

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Hawks for humanity

Source: Al Jazeera
Does the human rights industry adore war?

The human rights industry does a lot of noble work around the world. And yet many of the field’s most prominent figures and institutions have lately taken to vocally endorsing acts of war. Where does this impulse come from? On what grounds is it justified? And how’s the hawkish stance working out, given a decade of strategic and humanitarian debacles for Washington and its allies?

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and one of the country’s most celebrated human rights advocates, certainly doesn’t shrink from military action. She has supported missile strikes on the Syrian government as well as Washington’s participation in the Libya war and has called for strong-arming U.S. allies into sending more soldiers to fight in Afghanistan — all in the name of human rights, of course. Harold Koh, a former dean of Yale Law School, is best known for his scholarly work on human rights law and the War Powers Act — yet he devised the legal rationale for both Obama’s open-ended drone strikes and the war on Libya. And Michael Ignatieff, a former leader of Canada’s Liberal Party and Power’s predecessor as director of Harvard Law’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq War. read more