Justice Ginsburg and the Supreme Court of the World

Sounds like the Big cheese admires Weeramanty,” by Mark Safranski, tdaxp, 26 September 2005, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/09/23/use-of-force.html.

Ginsburg discusses court integrity, Congress on campus visit,” by Meredith Grunke, Daily Nebraskan, 10 April 2006, http://www.dailynebraskan.com/media/storage/paper857/news/2006/04/10/News/Ginsburg.Discusses.Court.Integrity.Congress.On.Campus.Visit-1803033.shtml?norewrite200604101541&sourcedomain=www.dailynebraskan.com.

Note: My source for this post is the Daily Nebraskan, the occasionally incoherent student publication of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Most of their time, such as with their publication of my dialog with Dr. Frances Kaye over ROTC, they get things right. Occasionally they don’t. I am assuming that their reporting of a recent speech by a Supreme Court justice on our fair campus is accurate.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg wants to take over the world!

Ginsburg’s use of foreign laws in her decision has become unpopular. Attorney General has criticized the use of foreign laws, while the Washington Post criticized Ginsburg’s reasoning. Given the emphasis on American laws shown by her colleagues Justice and Chief Justice , you would imagine Justice Ginsburg would give in and do her job. Nope.

This past Friday, Ginsburg came up with a new reason to use foreign laws in our Courts:

In both her talks, Ginsburg mentioned the Supreme Court’s reference to international law, the exercise of executive power in times of war and recent confirmations to the court.

The justice also fielded questions and spoke in her lecture about the court’s references to foreign law when making decisions – a practice she believes is widely misunderstood. Congress has been looking into measures to curb the court’s references to decisions made by foreign countries.

If we aren’t willing to read and consider what our counterparts abroad are writing, … they will be discouraged from listening to us,” she said, pointing out that court decisions made in other countries are not binding to the U.S.

It appears that Ginsburg is saying that if the US Supreme Court does not use laws from other countries, those countries will not rely on the US Supreme Court.

This statement makes no interest if Justice Ginsburg is interested in interpretating the Law of the Land, or if her primary loyalties are to US Law and the US Constitution. However, it makes perfect sense if one sees her as part of an international league of justices primarily interested in see their words run the world.

In the words of Mark Safranski, these people

would like to establish as a legitimate authority is effectively a ” Transnational Progressive Ulema” where IL scholars and certain NGO and international bodies collectively float above nation-state sovereigns and hand down rulings much they way Ayatollah Sistani or Sunni scholars issue fatwas

This approach is undemocratic, because it removes the legislative (much less the diplomatic!) function from the Congress and gives it to the Courts. It’s non-modular, because it places its face in one, best, international solution whether than evolving local ones. It’s philosophy of experts-know-best has more in common with the theories of the French and the Soviets than with the experience of Americans.

I would stop here, except taking a shot at Ginsburg’s victimology is too easy:

“In some political circles, it is fashionable to criticize and even threaten, federal judges who decide cases without regard to what the `home crowd’ wants,” she said.


Academic Geographers Don’t Like the Pentagon’s New Map

Glossary,” by Thomas Barnett, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/pnm/glossary.htm.

Updated Glossary of Key Terms from the Pentagon’s New Map,” by Thomas Barnett, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/bfa/glossary.htm.

Neoliberal Geopolitics,” by Susan Roberts, Anna Secor, and Matthew Sparke, Antipode, 35:5, 2003, ppg 886-897, http://faculty.washington.edu/sparke/neoliberalgeopolitics.pdf.

Denaturalizing Dispossession: Critical Ethnography in the Age of Resurgant Imperialism,” by Gillian Hart, Creative Destruction: Area Knowledge & the new Geographies of Empire, 15 April 2004, http://geography.berkeley.edu/PeopleHistory/faculty/GHart_CreativeDestruction.pdf


Continuing my work from “Operationalizing the Gap” (which itself built off of “The Cores of Europe“), I now look at what the academic press is saying about Tom Barnett’s Pengatgon’s New Map Theory.

The results aren’t kind.

The 2003 article in Antipode is the earliest example of academic geopgrahic reaction to Tom Barnett’s theories. It is striking how much it gets its interpretation wrong, though in fairness Barnett has since clarified his work so address the reactions. The authors lump PNM Theory with a “neoliberal geopolitics,” and begin their assault…

  • The authors assert that Barnett claims the Core and Gap are perfectly continuous

    “What remains of the world is, of course, the “Functioning Core,” supposedly characterized by low levels of US military involvement and high levels of global connectivity. It oddly includes such countries as Mongolia, Bhutan and North Korea. Perhaps the Gap’s lasso could have wiggled north in the East China Sea to capture North Korea, but Barnett seems determined to maintain the Gap as a contiguous area, represented on his West/East globes as a dark blot seeping across the planet from the Caribbean to South East Asia. For Barnett there is no Gap in the Core, no Core in the Gap: no details that might disrupt his Mackinderesque bands of homogenized planetary difference.” (890-892)

    In his Blueprint for Action glossary, Barnett addresses this claim:

    course, each region contains some countries that are very Core-like in their attributes (just as there are Gap-like pockets throughout the Core defined primarily by poverty), but these are like mansions in an otherwise seedy neighborhood, and as such are trapped by these larger Gap-defining circumstances.

    However, even his older Pentagon’s New Map glossary addresses the non-continuous nature of Core and Gap:

    The Functioning Core at present consists of North America, Europe both “old” and “new,” Russia, Japan, China (although the interior is less so), India (in a pockmarked sense), Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and the ABCs of South America–Argentina, Brazil, and Chile

  • The authors assert that Barnett claims the US, unilaterally, is the SysAdmin

    “This systems theory technovernacular enables Barnett to refer to the US as the “System Administrator,” a metaphor that implies that the US alone has the ability to effect the rules and settings within which the other “users” on the network must operate.” (893)

    But compare to Barnett:

    The “second half” blended force that wages the peace after the Leviathan force has successfully waged war. Therefore, it is a force optimized for such categories of operations as “stability and support operations” (SASO), postconflict stabilization and reconstruction operations, “military operations other than war” (MOOTW), “humanitarian assistance/disaster relief” (HA/DR), and any and all operations associated with low-intensity conflict (LIC), counterinsurgency operations, and small-scale crisis response. Beyond such military-intensive activities, the SysAdmin force likewise provides civil security with its police component, as well as civilian personnel with expertise in rebuilding networks, infrastructure, and social and political institutions. While the core security and logistical capabilities are derived from uniformed military components, the SysAdmin force is fundamentally envisioned as a standing capacity for interagency (i.e., among various U.S. federal agencies) and international collaboration in nation building.

Roberts’, Secor’s, and Sparke’s conclusion, without comment:

As we said at the start, we do not want to claim too much for neoliberalism. It cannot explain everything, least of all the diverse brutalities of what happened in Iraq. Moreover, in connecting neoliberal norms to the vagaries of geopolitics, we risk corrupting the analytical purchase of neoliberalism on more clearly socioeconomic developments. By the same token, we also risk obscuring the emergence of certain nonmilitarist geoeconomic visions of global and local space that have gone hand in hand with neoliberal globalization (see Sparke 1998, 2002; Sparke and Lawson 2003). But insofar as the specific vision of neoliberal geopolitics brought many neoliberals to support the war (including, perhaps, Britain’s Tony Blair as well as Americans such as Friedman), insofar as it helped thereby also to facilitate the planning and overarching coordination of the violence, and insofar as the war showed how the extension of neoliberal practices on a global scale has come to depend on violent interventions by the US, it seems vital to reflect on the interarticulations.

In 2004, using the cartoons of Jonathon Shapiro as an anchor, Gillian Hart continues the attack


Like Roberts, Secor, and Sparke, however, Hart misses the mark.

  • Hart asserts that Barnett claims the Gap must be bombed into freedom

    “The Non-Integrating Gap must, quite
    literally, be bombarded into embracing Western liberal democracy and market capitalism.
    So direct, salient, and prescient is Zapiro’s cartoon of September 28 2001 that one is led
    to wonder whether he had privileged access to these savage Pentagon cartographies.”

    Hart is refering to the A-Z Rule-Set for Processing Politically Bankrupt states, one of Barnett’s two strategies. However, as Barnett wrote in his first book:

Hart’s conclusion, without comment:

The imperatives for foregrounding what Coronil calls non-imperial geohistorical categories assume intense urgency in a post-9/11 world in which the likes of Thomas Barnett and Samuel Huntington are at the helm of producing official knowledges that bound world regions in dangerous new ways. Relational understandings of the production of space and scale are crucial for forcing attention to the mutually constitutive processes through which metropoles and (post)colonies make and remake one another. In addition, attending to interconnections that circumvent the US and Europe can be productive of fresh insights into broader constitutive processes, as well as new possibilities for social change.

I’ve only highlighted interpretations which contradict Barnett’s definitions. The rest of the articles imply these errors may be purposive. Both are clear, normative attacks against PNM Theory. They are evidence that ideologically-based research has found a comfortable home in Geography.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of this research is the lack of geographic research in Barnett’s theories, at all. There’s the odd piece which lumps him with other “imperialists” or other boogie monsters, but nothing substantive. Nothing that adds anything,

Too bad.