- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008


Clarifying the JAG story

On Friday, Bill Gertz quoted a Pentagon official as saying that “Congress last month quietly elevated the rank of the Judge Advocate General of the Army, as a result of JAG lobbying, from major general to lieutenant general” (“Army failure,” Inside the Ring). The official created the impression that active-duty JAGs had “lobbied” for this.

In fact, active-duty JAGs had nothing to do with the successful four-year effort to increase the rank of the Army, Navy and Air Force Judge Advocates General. Retired JAGs undertook that effort, which had the support of many former three- and four-star commanders and other senior leaders. I know because I was one of those retired JAGs.

This year, the Army and Air Force officially concurred with the proposal. The effort was a reaction to the longstanding quest by Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II to marginalize the JAGs and to Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker’s 2002 attempt to eliminate the Air Force JAG Corps.

Furthermore, there was nothing quiet about Congress’ action. The Senate passed the rank increase four years in a row. Each time, the proposal was vigorously opposed by Mr. Haynes and in letters from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others, who do not want independent, apolitical legal advice from JAGs in the Defense Department. Major national newspapers ran stories. Even Mr. Gertz weighed in: “Legislation to increase [to] the three-star rank [of senior JAGs] was proposed this year but failed from lack of Pentagon support” (“JAG proliferation,” Inside the Ring, Sept. 15, 2006).



Air Force (Retired)


Sri Lanka’s real record

In response to the “facts submitted to a candid world” by Bruce Fein in his article titled “Tamil statehood?” (Commentary, Tuesday), we submit the following:

Disenfranchisement: The Tamils who were disenfranchised were not Sri Lankan Tamils the group now claiming the statehood that Mr. Fein advocates. They were Indian Tamils: migrant workers who went back and forth from India to Sri Lanka similar to the migrant workers crossing U.S. borders today. During colonial times, since India and Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) were both colonies of the British Empire, all were British subjects. Upon independence, Sri Lanka had to define its criteria for citizenship requiring the Indian Tamils to apply for citizenship. Agreements between the governments of Sri Lanka and India resulted in some Indian Tamils being given full citizenship in Sri Lanka, and others being so accorded by India.

Language: At the time of independence from Britain, only 7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population was competent in English. This disenfranchised the rest of the country, of whom 80 percent spoke Sinhala. In these circumstances, making Sinhala the official language was justifiable. Within one year of this legislation, Tamil was recognized as a regional language. Furthermore, for the last two decades both Sinhala and Tamil have been recognized as official languages.

Standardization: This was introduced in order to compensate for lack of equal opportunities in Sri Lanka with regard to education. Similar “affirmative action” was introduced in the United States long before standardization was introduced in Sri Lanka.

Violence against Tamils: World history is replete with instances where governments have not acted responsibly in dealing with civil disobedience and unrest. This is true whether it be the U.S. or Sri Lanka. However, the very fact that today, more Tamils as well as Muslims live among the Sinhalese in the south is ample demonstration of the tolerance and inclusiveness that have characterized Sri Lankan society. This was conclusively demonstrated by the response of the Sinhalese toward the Tamils and Muslims following the catastrophic tsunami of December 2004. Threats against civil liberties by governments will continue to remain in the world, an issue that requires constant vigilance by civil society.

We hope that this sets Sri Lanka’s record straight.



North Bethesda

Commerce produces peace

War-making being the special talent of the state, Patrick McGinn sensibly predicts that war cannot be legislated away (“War can’t be legislated away,” Letters, Wednesday). But he incorrectly argues that war reflects basic human nature in a world of scarce resources.

Virtually all resources are scarce, and yet when they are privately owned and tradable in free markets, people seldom fight each other for access to them. For example, my wife and I bought our house peacefully; we didn’t have to kill the previous owners to get inside. So, too, with all of the other scarce things that we consume regularly: water, bread, milk, coffee, chicken, wine, hotel rooms you name it. Each of these things is scarce and in high demand, and yet people in market economies almost never fight for them.

Extend commerce and you extend peace.



Department of Economics

George Mason University


The headline “War can’t be legislated away” on Patrick McGinn’s letter on Wednesday in response to Deborah Metke’s earlier letter (“Creating a war-free world,” Sunday) may be true, but Mr. McGinn’s reasons for why law cannot replace war misses her main points. Those points are extremely relevant and urgent in today’s world.

Mr. McGinn is correct that nothing can be “legislated away.” However, laws and legal systems do provide people, groups and even nations a viable, proven alternative to the use of violence to solve differences. Also, laws are an effective step above diplomacy and economic, social or financial incentives. Finally, laws are better than war.

Laws won’t stop war, but with a global legal system to which conflicting nation-states can appeal, there would be a far smaller chance of states going to war. Mr. McGinn fails to realize that we in Virginia don’t have to maintain an army or draft our children into service to protect our water rights to the Potomac from our chief competitor, Maryland. We have a superior legal system for dealing with the “sovereign” difference between our states. After two massively bloody, destructive world wars, the nation-states of Europe finally adopted a legal system to avoid future wars to settle differences. There is no reason why this civilizing concept that allows the European Union to avoid war cannot work equally well globally.

Mr. McGinn neglects the extent of recent advances in powerful technology that have changed everything. We can no longer rely on a powerful military and the use of armed force to maintain our security. The force of law, however, remains a viable option.

The use of military force may very well be needed to respond to, or deter, a future aggressive state, but that force would be used in the context of law enforcement with which the vast majority of nations and peoples of the world agree. We might also have to use military weapons and armed forces against international drug cartels. However, that doesn’t mean we have to fight wars in which the loss of innocent lives in the form of “collateral damage” is deemed acceptable.



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