In the last four years a great number of works have appeared which attempt to come to grips with the Bush Administration’s war on terror. Many of them are polemical, and few seem to me to be of lasting value. However, David Cole and Jules Lobel have crafted in Less Safe, Less Free one of the most important critiques to be put forward so far from the civil libertarians. They offer unsparing criticism, muster their arguments with skill and artistry, and most importantly they offer constructive criticism of the current Bush Administration model. On January 20, 2009, a new president will occupy the White House. The electoral process for Bush’s successor has already begun—the earliest such election contest in history—and polls show that Americans are uncharacteristically engaged and eager to see a turnover.
The key issue in this process will certainly be the war on terror and the paradigms that drive it. But it is distressing that this debate can only occur in the context of the election cycle. The most depressing fact about the Bush Administration is not the abject failure of its counter-terrorism policies; it is the Administration’s refusal to recognize the areas where those policies have fallen short and take some steps to correct them. Unlike any of its predecessors, this Administration has withdrawn from a public discussion of its own policies. [complete article]