Five Best Friday Columns
Dan Hodges criticizes Parliament's inaction on Syria, Ginger McCall calls for the regulation of facial recognition software, Rosa Brooks explains America's decline, Noah Feldman opposes breaking international law to enforce international law in Syria, and Dahlia Lithwick laments a troublesome week in rape cases.
Dan Hodges in The Telegraph criticizes Parliament's inaction on Syria Yesterday, Great Britain's Parliament voted to avoid a military strike on Syria, a decision that Hodges says is a "catastrophe for the cause of progressive interventionism. Britain is now an isolationist nation. And neither we, nor the world, are stronger for it." Hodges holds particular contempt for the opposition's Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, who successfully led the fight against action in Syria for his own personal political gain. "But Miliband’s 'victory' has come at a price," Hodges concludes. "David Cameron has lost much of his authority over Syria. But he at least had the courage to stand up, set out his case, and do what he felt was right. Ed Miliband did not." The Times columnist Janice Turner writes, "Great blog by @DPJHodges. Agree: Syrian debate made me respect Cameron (principled) more & EdMili (politicking) less." And The Independent on Sunday chief political commentator John Rentoul tweets "If you haven't read @DPJHodges yet on why he's resigned from the Labour Party, you should."
Ginger McCall in The New York Times suggests regulating facial recognition software The development of effective facial recognition software will no doubt prove effective for law enforcement, but the technology requires some sort of regulation. "We need to implement safeguards to protect our civil liberties — in particular, our expectation of some degree of anonymity in public," McCall writes. She suggests that the database of faces only include terrorists and felons — not "ordinary" people — and that its use be limited by court warrants and monitored for abuse. "It's way past time to set parameters on use of snooping tech," tweets Sheryl Harris, a columnist on consumer issues for Cleveland's The Plain Dealer. "'No expectation of privacy' in public places is taking on new meanings all the time," writes Mark Andrejevic, who writes on surveillance and pop culture issues at the University of Queensland.
Rosa Brooks at Foreign Policy calls America a "Wounded Giant" Critics of Obama's current foreign policy are ignoring some inconvenient truths about the country's decline. "America has become a wounded giant. It's steadily weakening, but it's still strong enough to hurt a lot of people as it flails around," Brooks writes. Part of the nation's foreign policy struggles can be traced back to the myth-building of American international superiority that so many politicians, President Obama included, tend to parrot. "But he won't tell Americans the blunt truths they need to hear: America can't fix Syria. Or Egypt. Or most other places. Americans don't even know how to fix their own problems," Brooks argues. "Thought-provoking!" tweets Phil Williams, a Peabody Award-winning chief investigative reporter for Tennessee's NewsChannel 5. "This is harsh & overstated but gets to some important (if unspoken) truths about USA in 2013, good to ponder a bit," tweets John Schindler, a writer for The XX Committee covering national security issues.
Noah Feldman at Bloomberg View on breaking laws to enforce laws Syria's use of chemical weapons broke international law, but so would a U.S. retaliatory attack made without UN approval. "It would be worth violating international law to save hundreds of thousands of lives in Syria -- if we were confident we could actually do so. But that isn’t the Obama administration proposal," Feldman explains. "But sending a symbolic message isn’t a good enough justification to deepen the precedent of violating international law when we feel like it." Jonathan Rauch, The Atlantic contributing editor and Brookings Institution senior fellow, summarizes the story thusly: "Breaking international law to enforce international law doesn't make sense." Influential architecture professor Witold Rybczynski notes that America might not be the most appropriate country to make this decision. "The only country ever to have used a WMD on big scale should be more circumspect about enforcing intl 'norms,'" he writes.
Dahlia Lithwick at Slate on troublesome legal rulings on rape "It’s been a spectacularly awful week in rape," Lithwick writes. In Montana, a former teacher received just a 30-day jail sentence for rape of a 14-year old student, and in Massachusetts a rapist was legally granted visitation rights for his victim's child. "And what that suggests about where we are heading in the law of sexual assault is worrisome, to say the least," Lithwick writes. As Bloomberg News social media editor Scott Bixby points out, Massachusetts isn't the only state with troubling parenting laws around issues of sexual assault, noting that "31 states allow rapists to sue for child custody and visitation." "Makes me feel sick," tweets Kent Greenfield, a Boston College law professor.