Tillman files

Mark is probably right about the political payoff of using the Tillman coverup as a battlefield on White House secrecy. I’m not sure how it would come out in court, though. Governments at war have historically had enormous authority to conceal and to lie, for many reasons:

-to deprive the enemy of knowledge of our decision processes and our state of knowledge

-to maintain domestic confidence and tranquility

-to maintain the morale of the troops

-to directly deceive the enemy.

These legitimate reasons are of course right on the peg by the door to be thrown over any motivation like a camouflage tarp, and the most pervasive motivation is the comfort of authorities. Still, a war is a war, and nasty stuff like war crimes and profiteering can be sorted out after the armistice, so temptation is very powerful.

The administration is staking its claim on grounds of executive privilege with no particular war angle, but this may well change. The thing about a war is that winning is more important than almost anything, and it sops up not only the lives of the young in the services, and consumer goods like copper and steel, but also (in countries that started out with any), liberties of all sorts, and with the consent of the population. “National security” is the much weaker ground that can be trotted out absent a condition of actual war.

If the Supreme Court is willing to decide cases like this as though we are at war, I don’t think there’s a prayer of getting a good decision in a Tillman case. This is one of the most important reasons the casual metaphoric use of the word should be attacked wherever possible: there’s a quick political sugar high in dignifying “terrorists” or even Al Qa’eda with the status of a war enemy, but much more mischief follows. The word is completely inappropriate in Iraq and I can make a case that its equally wrong applied to Afghanistan operations, so calling the occupations and interventions by their right names has the advantage of truth.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.