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The US Constitution and The Federalist Papers as “the Great Experiment” in the Light of Brexit and a potential Itexit

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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The Constitution of the United States is the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”-William Gladstone, Prime Minister of England

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] s the above quote suggests, most educated Europeans are aware of the importance of the US Constitution for the birth and development of modern democracy. Many consider it among the great contributions to political philosophy. What many don’t know, however, is that before the Constitution, Madison, Hamilton and John Jay had put together the so called Federalist Papers in order to win over the state of New York to the ratification of the proposed Constitution.

It can be argued, that a full understanding of the US Constitution requires an attentive reading of those papers, for those papers are nothing less than a work of original practical philosophy in the ancient tradition of Plato and Aristotle. Those essays constitute a veritable education in the founding of a nation: political philosophy on a grand scale written by men who were young but wise, and confident that things that have never been done cannot be done save by methods never tried before; acutely aware that historically republics have always failed. In brief, they are an education on the grounds, political and ethical, for any republic or federal union to succeed and survive. We, on both sides of the Atlantic, ignore them at our own peril.

The greatest danger is to confuse “populism” for the rule of the ignorant, vulgar mob. You see this phenomenon with the rise to power of individuals such as Le Penn, Le Farge, Trump, Grillo, Berlusconi, just to mention a few. All were democratically elected by misguided people who expect those so called leaders to redress their grievances not by democratic methods but by bullying, Machiavellian tactics of power grabbing, and even clownish methods. Give people bread and circuses and one can do what one wants. These unfortunately have never been very democratic tactics and far from solving people’s social problems, it may exacerbate them and be a prelude to demagoguery and even tyranny. We find ourselves in that deplorable situation as we speak.

But to return to The Federalist papers, they are and remain important documents because they offer the philosophical background to the US Constitution. To be sure, the dominating political treatises of the time were those of Locke (which most founding fathers had read), Montesquieu, and Rousseau, but none of those essays were the template for a national government, for the “American experiment” so called, which would be imitated and repeated by newer sovereign states in the subsequent two centuries.

As one surveys those essays one becomes increasingly aware that their writers (Hamilton, Madison and Jay) had in mind an audience that was large and pluralistic. That kind of audience could only be won over by specific arguments that confronted specific criticisms. This is a first, indeed, in political philosophy: an in depth conversation with the people on how to self-govern.

In total, the three authors of The Federalist Papers published 85 essays in New York newspapers between October 1787 and April 1788 under the pseudonym Publius. Hamilton planned the whole project and contributed the greatest share, followed by Madison. Jay’s contribution was slight but nevertheless addressed some important points. In any case, it is Madison, more than any other of the delegates, who deserves the praise for giving Americans their Constitution.

Madison says in those essays that a political regime is a republic only when the government’s power is derived entirely from the people and administered by persons holding their offices for a limited period and during good behavior. There is nothing new here, but Madison then observes that history shows that the closer something comes to that sense of a republic, the sooner it dies.

The only republics that seem to succeed for a long time are the ones which he refers to as a kind of puritanical republic. John Adams was behind that view. He had written that only “pure religion or austere morals” will be capable of holding a republican form of government together. Keeping those observations in mind, Madison distinguishes between pure democracies, subject to the functionalism that leads to anarchy, and the right sort of republic, in which power is delegated by the people. There is a tension here, almost a paradox, between the need of a central government able to secure the finances and defense of the nation and the jealously guarded freedoms of the individual states.

We must also observe that a remarkable feature of the Convention of 1787, which drafted the Constitution, is that it specifically refused to incorporate a Bill of Rights. This was written separately with the expressed purpose of defending the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority. It was a deliberate omission, for a self-governing people should decide what its own rights are. To list them is ipso facto to limit them. That is to say, the federal government should not trump the communities, or the states, that compose the federation; the people of a particular state have formed self-governing communities based on their own views of their rights.

You have no need of federal guarantees of your rights against your local community. This is derivative of the concept of “unalienable rights” mentioned in the declaration of Independence: a people are born with certain human rights. They have them by the mere fact that they are human. No State can confer them or violate them. Their violation is, for all intent and purpose, a violation of the natural law. So, right from the beginning we observe a tension between a centralized government, intent on consolidating its power, and a decentralized federalist government intent on leaving power in the hands of the people. In some way this is the current dilemma afflicting that other confederation called the EU.

The lesson taught by Montesquieu was that there are only three types of government: 1) despotism, which rules by will with the people cultivating reverential fear and submission, 2) monarchy, with rule by law in the hands of a single person, which calls for the cultivation of honor, 3) republic, dependent on the cultivation of virtue. A republic is what Garibaldi had in mind before the monarchy succeeded in coopting him to the cause of unification.

In any case, here power needs to be separated or the republic will convert into a tyranny. This is what we find in the Stoic outlook of the founding fathers: the republic will succeed in as much as we create and preserve lives of virtue and self-sacrifice. Power in this kind of republic would flow toward a natural kind of aristocracy which would arise spontaneously when the free exercise of virtue is permitted and even encouraged.

There is no doubt that The Federalist Papers and “the great experiment” in self-governance mark a special chapter in human history; a chapter where there would be convergence of political, scientific, and moral energies capable of overturning the old order. But the signal feature of the whole enterprise was the direct, open, respectful address to the people, an attempt to gain support by appealing to the common sense and mature political understanding of those who, in virtue of being fit for the rule of law, are fit to rule themselves. That address to the people is the essence of The Federalist Papers.

Perhaps at this point we begin to comprehend the open admiration of William Gladstone for the American Constitution as expressed in the above quote. One can only hope that more people, on both sides of the Atlantic, would take the time to read The Federalist Papers, constituting a theoretical but also pragmatic approach to political philosophy. This is essential for an enduring friendship and alliance among democracies; they cannot long last if they are based on a misunderstanding of each other’s political patrimony.  

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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A self-inflicted wound: Trump surrenders the West’s moral high ground

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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For the better part of a century, the United States could claim the moral high ground despite allegations of hypocrisy because its policies continuously contradicted its proclaimed propagation of democracy and human rights. Under President Donald J. Trump, the US has lost that moral high ground.

This week’s US sanctioning of 28 Chinese government entities and companies for their involvement in China’s brutal clampdown on Turkic Muslims in its troubled north-western province of Xinjiang, the first such measure by any country since the crackdown began, is a case in point.

So is the imposition of visa restrictions on Chinese officials suspected of being involved in the detention and human rights abuses of millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.

The irony is that the Trump administration has for the first time elevated human rights to a US foreign policy goal in export control policy despite its overall lack of concern for such rights.

The sanctions should put the Muslim world, always the first to ring the alarm bell when Muslims rights are trampled upon, on the spot.

It probably won’t even though Muslim nations are out on a limb, having remained conspicuously silent in a bid not to damage relations with China, and in some cases even having endorsed the Chinese campaign, the most frontal assault on Islam in recent history.

This week’s seeming endorsement by Mr. Trump of Turkey’s military offensive against Syrian Kurds, who backed by the United States, fought the Islamic State and were guarding its captured fighters and their families drove the final nail into the coffin of US moral claims.

The endorsement came on the back of Mr. Trump’s transactional approach towards foreign policy and relations with America’s allies, his hesitancy to respond robustly to last month’s missile and drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, his refusal to ensure Saudi transparency on the killing a year ago of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and his perceived empathy for illiberals and authoritarians symbolized by his reference to Egyptian field marshal-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as “my favourite dictator.”

Rejecting Saudi and Egyptian criticism of his intervention in Syria, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave the United States and Mr. Trump a blunt preview of what they can expect next time they come calling, whether it is for support of their holding China to account for its actions in Xinjiang, issues of religious freedom that are dear to the Trump administration’s heart, or specific infractions on human rights that the US opportunistically wishes to emphasize.

“Let me start with Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Erdogan said in blistering remarks to members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). “Look in the mirror first. Who brought Yemen to this state? Did tens of thousands of people not die in Yemen?” he asked, referring to the kingdom’s disastrous military intervention in Yemen’s ruinous civil war.

Addressing Mr. Al-Sisi, Mr. Erdogan charged: “Egypt, you can’t talk at all. You are a country with a democracy killer.” The Turkish leader asserted that Mr. Al-Sisi had “held a meeting with some others and condemned the (Turkish) operation – so what if you do?”

The fact that the United States is likely to encounter similar responses, even if they are less belligerent in tone, as well as the fact that Mr. Trump’s sanctioning of Chinese entities is unlikely to shame the Muslim world into action, signals a far more fundamental paradigm shift:  the loss of the US and Western moral high ground that gave them an undisputed advantage in the battle of ideas, a key battleground in the struggle to shape a new world order.

China, Russia, Middle Eastern autocrats and other authoritarians and illiberals have no credible response to notions of personal and political freedom, human rights and the rule of law.

As a result, they countered the ideational appeal of greater freedoms by going through the motions. They often maintained or erected democratic facades and payed lip service to democratic concepts while cloaking their repression in terms employed by the West like the fight against terrorism.

By surrendering the West’s ideological edge, Mr. Trump reduced the shaping of the new world order to a competition in which the power with the deeper pockets had the upper hand.

Former US national security advisor John Bolton admitted as much when he identified in late 2018 Africa as a new battleground and unveiled a new strategy focused on commercial ties, counterterrorism, and better-targeted U.S. foreign aid.

Said international affairs scholar Keren Yarhi-Milo: “The United States has already paid a significant price for Trump’s behaviour: the president is no longer considered the ultimate voice on foreign policy. Foreign leaders are turning elsewhere to gauge American intentions… With Trump’s reputation compromised, the price tag on U.S. deterrence, coercion, and reassurance has risen, along with the probability of miscalculation and inadvertent escalation.”

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Trump’s effects on diplomacy

Irfan Khan

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No longer has Trump’s haphazard behaviour persisted, more will be easy for his administration to enact actions against China, Iran and Taliban. The state department is in a quandary because of it, on each front. Trump’s entrenched eagerness to remain “great” and “first” on the chessboard of International power, could damage the world more ahead than before.

Following the Iran’s attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia’s oil infrastructure, US wanted to deploy troops to the Kingdom. It is primarily a justification for why the US has been imposing sanctions over Iran. Is troops deployment a solution? Or will it provide safe horizon to Kingdom oil’s installation? Or will it be revolutionary in oil diplomacy? Or is it the only target retaliated on, by Iran. However, such kind of engagement has short term beneficiary spots, while in broader perspective it has consequential effects for all stakeholders. The episode of nuclear deal has, as a factor of quid-pro-quo, been further dramatised by the state department, withdrawing from. Notwithstanding, the deal has advantageous prospects for the Middle East, and an exemplary for rest of nations, has been further dramatised by the US, in order to seek its diplomatic wins. What significant at this point, is an agreement to reback to the deal.

Embracing a different economic model, China, is plausibly on a runner-up position to the US. Whether it’s 5G tech. Or leading status of green energy, or ultra-scales exports or its leading developments for the nations having indigent economies, is a source of chaos for US administration. The current trade war is an antidoting tool for the whole scenario. The US should, I assume, eye China’s hegemony a piece of cake, and welcome its come out while securing its interests under the umbrella of cooperation. This logic, while posing no threat, seems to be long term functional. Is it?

Trump, according to many native writers, is psychologically unfit, unstable and fickle, however have had strong narrative to prevent America’s engagement into “useless wars” and end “endless” wars. Following this token, Trump announcement of troop withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan put the world politics and even his administration into chaos. This divided strategists and Washington security officials, which was underpinned by the resignation of James Mattis and recently John Bolton. The ten months of peace process which followed the US’s announcement of troop withdrawal, precipitously ended, putting once again the international and national politics into chaos. Trump, grandiloquently fired a tweet that talks with Taliban are dead and futile. The argument he contended was the Attack in Kabil, where one American soldier with 12 other people were lost. The policymakers and high officials in Washington who already negated the policy of troop withdrawal and then after peace deal. They, of course are winner in this policy discourse, have staunch beliefs in their opinion, who may make Trump’s change of heart. The Kabil attack was given, probably, an agent of resurgent for Obama’s approach. However, Trump’s administration had already scripted their policy framework for the region, and pretending Kabul attack was perhaps a way of redemption from the peace talk.

Trump’s factor in US foreign policy was chaotic to his subordinates for which, he attempted to compensate by cancelling peace deal with Taliban. However , on the domestic front, it is likely to be more pluses than on diplomatic front given to Trump in next year’s presidential election. Let’s see which side the wind blow. 

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Trump Cannot Be Impeached Over Ukrainegate, But Pelosi and Schiff Can Be Charged Criminally

Rahul D. Manchanda, Esq.

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Pursuant to United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304 (1936), the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unmistakable clear edict concerning the foreign affairs powers of the President of the United States.

In its majority opinion, the Court held that the President, as the nation’s “sole organ” in international relations, is innately vested with significant powers over foreign affairs, far exceeding the powers permitted in domestic matters or accorded to the U.S. Congress.

The Court reasoned that these powers are implicit in the President’s constitutional role as commander-in-chief and head of the executive branch.

Curtiss-Wright was the first decision to establish that the President’s plenary power was independent of Congressional permission, and consequently it is credited with providing the legal precedent for further expansions of executive power in the foreign sphere.

In a 7–1 decision authored by Justice George Sutherland, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. government, through the President, is categorically allowed great foreign affairs powers independent of the U.S. Constitution, by declaring that “the powers of the federal government in respect of foreign or external affairs and those in respect of domestic or internal affairs are different, both in respect of their origin and their nature…the broad statement that the federal government can exercise no powers except those specifically enumerated in the Constitution, and such implied powers as are necessary and proper to carry into effect the enumerated powers, is categorically true only in respect of our internal affairs.”

While the Constitution does not explicitly state that all ability to conduct foreign policy is vested in the President, the Court concluded that such power is nonetheless given implicitly, since the executive of a sovereign nation is, by its very nature, empowered to conduct foreign affairs.

The Court found “sufficient warrant for the broad discretion vested in the President to determine whether the enforcement of the statute will have a beneficial effect upon the reestablishment of peace in the affected countries.”

In other words, the President was better suited for determining which actions and policies best serve the nation’s interests abroad.

Period.

It is important to bear in mind that we are here dealing not alone with an authority vested in the President by an exertion of legislative power, but with such an authority plus the very delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations – a power which does not require as a basis for its exercise an act of Congress, but which, of course, like every other governmental power, must be exercised in subordination to the applicable provisions of the Constitution.

Separation of Powers Doctrine

In other words, neither the U.S. Congress nor the U.S. Senate can say or do very much of anything to prevent or interfere with this power, and if they do, they can in fact be held responsible for violating the Separation of Powers doctrine pursuant to the U.S. Constitution wherein the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) are kept separate.

This is also known as the system of checks and balances, because each branch is given certain powers so as to check and balance the other branches.

Each branch has separate powers, and generally each branch is not allowed to exercise the powers of the other branches.

The Legislative Branch exercises congressional power, the Executive Branch exercises executive power, and the Judicial Branch exercises judicial review.

National Security and Foreign Affairs

The Curtiss-Wright case established the broader principle of executive Presidential supremacy in national security and foreign affairs, one of the reasons advanced in the 1950s for the near success of the attempt to add the Bricker Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would have placed a “check” on said Presidential power by Congress, but that never passed, or became law.

If Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats really wanted to interfere with or prevent President Donald Trump from engaging in the activity that they are trying to prevent vis-a-vis Ukraine, China, and Joseph Biden’s alleged corruption and its effect on National Security, they would have to first draft, propose, enact, and pass sweeping legislation, and this could take years and would most probably never pass.

Even so, it could not affect President Donald Trump’s actions already occurred, since the U.S. Constitution prohibits ex post facto criminal laws.

Turning This All Against Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff

To that end if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Adam Schiff persist in pushing said “impeachment proceedings” against President Donald Trump, it is actually they who could find themselves on the wrong side of the law, with formal and actual charges of Treason, Sedition or Coup D’ Etat being levied upon them by the U.S. Government.

The consequences of that occurring, are truly horrific indeed.

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