Synopses & Reviews
Benjamin Wittes offers the first nonpartisan critique of a crucial front in Americas war on terrorthe legal battles fought by and among the Bush administration, the U.S. Congress, and the Supreme Court
Six years after the September 11 attacks, America is losing a crucial front in the ongoing war on terror. It is losing not to Al Qaeda but to its own failure to construct a set of laws that will protect the American peopleits military and executive branch, as well as its citizensin the midst of a conflict unlike any it has faced in the past. Now, in the twilight of President Bushs administration, Brookings Institution fellow Benjamin Wittes offers a vigorous analysis of the troubling legal legacy of the Bush administration as well as that of the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court. Law and the Long War tells as no book has before the story of how America came to its current impasse in the debate over liberty, human rights, and counterterrorism and draws a road map for how the country and the next president might move forward.
Moving beyond the stale debate between those fixated on the executive branch as the key architect of counterterrorism policy and those who see the judiciary as the essential guarantor of liberty against governmental abuses, Wittes argues that the essential problem is that the Bush administration did not seekand Congress did not writenew laws to authorize and regulate the tough presidential actions this war would require. In a line of argument that is sure to spark controversy, Wittes reveals an administration whose most significant failure was not that it was too aggressive in the substance of its action, but rather that it tried to shoulder the burden of aggressiveness on its own without seeking the support of other branches of government. Using startling new empirical research on the detainee population at Guantánamo Bay, Wittes avers that many of the administrations actions were far more defensible than its many critics believed and actually warranted congressional support. Yet by resisting both congressional and judicial involvement in its controversial decisions, the executive branch ironically prevented both of those branches from sharing in the political accountability for necessary actions that challenged traditional American notions of due process and humane treatment.
Boldly offering a new way forward, Wittes concludes that the path toward fairer, more accountable rules for a conflict without end lies in the development of new bodies of law covering detention, interrogation, trial, and surveillance. Sure to discomfort and ignite debate, Law and the Long War is the first nonideological argument about a controversial issue of vital importance to all Americans.
"Brookings Institution fellow Wittes evaluates the 'war on terror' from a refreshingly nonpartisan perspective that assesses the chasm between the gravity of American security needs and the 'inadequacy' of its laws. Both a defense and critique of the Bush administration, the book argues in favor of many of the measures taken by the executive branch while condemning its failure to secure congressional cooperation and the necessary 'legal architecture' to back policies that were bound to be unpopular. Wittes reserves his real ire for a legislature that has ignored its mandated responsibility of creating 'coherent, legal structure for this war' and a Supreme Court that has attempted to extend its jurisdiction over detainees and is increasingly interfering in foreign policy. Wittes's familiarity with the law and excellent analysis of contemporary Supreme Court cases give this book insight that transcends party politics and make for a fascinating read; however, his heavy reliance on legalese may alienate casual readers. His prose, when not bogged down by jargon, is appealing ('The Constitution is old old and short') and services a robust call to action. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
" A rich and thoughtful volume . . . Law and the Long War
addresses an impressively broad range of questions."
-Los Angeles Times
" Law and the Long War deserves to be read widely. It is one of the most balanced and nonpolemic accounts of legal issues in the war on terror to date."
" A strong case for adjusting our policies so that the public can support them more robustly."
-The Wall Street Journal
Wittes offers the first nonpartisan critique of a crucial front in America's war on terror--the legal battles fought by and among the Bush administration, the U.S. Congress, and the Supreme Court.
An authoritative assessment of the new laws of war and a sensible and sophisticated roadmap for the future of liberty in the Age of Terror
America is losing a crucial front in the ongoing war on terror. It is losing not to Al Qaeda, but to its own failure to construct a set of laws that will protect the American people during this global conflict. As debate continues to rage over the legality and ethics of war, Benjamin Wittes enters the fray with a sober-minded exploration of law in wartime that is definitive, accessible, and nonpartisan. Outlining how this country came to its current impasse over human rights and counterterrorism, Law and the Long War paves the way toward fairer, more accountable rules for a conflict without end.
About the Author
Benjamin Wittes is a Fellow and Research Director in Public Law at the Brookings Institution. A former editorial writer for The Washington Post specializing in legal affairs, Wittes currently writes a column for The New Republic online and is a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly. He is a member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law.
Table of Contents
Law And The Long War Introduction
One: The Law of September 10
Two: The Administration's Response
Three: The Real Guantanamo
Four: The Necessity and Impossibility of Judicial Review
Five: The Case for Congress
Six: The Twin Problems of Detention and Trial
Seven: An Honest Interrogation Law
Eight: Surveillance Law for a New Century