TCS Daily

Why I Have Come to Iraq

By Ilya Shapiro - August 6, 2007 12:00 AM

BAGHDAD - Two weeks have now passed since I sat in the cargo hold of a C-130 and made the short journey north from Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait to Sather Air Base on the outskirts of Baghdad. I first made my way to Camp Victory and its Al Faw Palace—the headquarters of Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I), led by U.S. General David Petraeus—and then, by armored convoy, to the International (or "Green") Zone and the U.S. Embassy Complex in and around Saddam Hussein's presidential palace.

Since then I have been feeling my way around, meeting people, and getting up to speed as I start a two-month stint as Special Assistant/Advisor to the Law and Order Task Force (LAOTF), an affiliate of the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate (OSJA, headed by the senior JAG in Iraq). My role here is: part liaison among the various agencies involved in promoting the rule of law in Iraq, such as the OSJA, the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), and the Justice Department's International Criminal Investigative Assistance Training Program (ICITAP); part technical advisor, as an outsider who has studied these issues from academic and policy perspectives; and part public affairs officer, bringing a non-military perspective to the Department of Defense's rule of law efforts and their perception in the U.S.

More on all that, especially the mission and accomplishments of LAOTF, in the future; but first I want to address the two questions people ask me when I explain what I would be and am doing: Why am I doing this and how did I get this particular gig?

The answers to the two questions are somewhat intertwined: Even though I'm a Russian-born Canadian (my parents took a wrong turn at the St. Lawrence Seaway when we immigrated), I've long been a red-white-and-blue patriot. I mean, in middle school in Ontario, I pledged allegiance to the Star Spangled Banner in my locker...

Anyway, nearly two years ago I went to see General Petraeus speak at a Princeton alumni conference (he got his doctorate at my alma mater). I came up to him after his talk and said, hey, loved the talk, have always been into rule of law issues, would love to help out in either a military or civilian capacity but see, I have this immigration status issue.

General Petraeus put me in touch with senior military and civilian DoD officials and for many months we tried to figure out some way that would allow me to serve. To no avail whatsoever. We even tried lobbying then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (for whom I had interned way back when) for a private member's bill—except that was right around the time when the immigration debate exploded in 2006, so I was out of luck.

I stayed in the law firm world and continued to write and teach on the side, and of course follow the law, politics, and policy of Iraq. Then, about three months ago now, I got an email from the office of the head JAG in Iraq detailing the creation of LAOTF and the role I could play. They couldn't pay me, again for immigration reasons, but if my firm would release me, they would be happy to have me for as long as I wanted.

So I ran it up my firm's flagpole and, after various consultations, got my approval. I negotiated a two-month leave and here we are. (The Army had to get a few more approvals from General Petraeus so I could get the appropriate pre-deployment training at Fort Benning, plus access to the mess and gym in Baghdad.)

To return to the "why" now that you have the "how," basically I want to live a life that has impact, and I'm also committed to public service. This country, while writing ridiculous immigration laws that prevent me from having a green card, has given me a lot. I believe it's the shining city on the hill, and I also believe it's the body of the spear in this great civilizational battle we're in (Israel being the tip).

It's somewhat odd being a pro-public service libertarian—but that's why I'm classical liberal and not libertarian. Plus, I relish the military values: honor, courage, duty, loyalty. Despite the civilian authorities' use of the military as a laboratory for social engineering, it's one of the last places in American society where men can be men, in the Harvey Mansfield sense.

Moreover, I had long studied comparative politics and law, as well as institutional and cultural theories for building the rule of law, and here was my chance to see everything in action. Just like clerking for a federal judge allowed me to learn about the combination of the theory and practice of law, this sojourn in Iraq will allow me to observe the implementation of the lessons of political science. Or that's the plan; stay tuned here and at my blog to see how it turns out.

Ilya Shapiro is the incoming Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute. He writes the "Dispatches from Purple America" column for TCS and a blog of the same name at



Why odd?
"It's somewhat odd being a pro-public service libertarian—but that's why I'm classical liberal and not libertarian."

And thank you for your service.

When you have a chance, please compare and contrast "classical liberal" and "libertarian" from your perspective. I don't see any difference.

No Subject
I have had the same feeling about America and I am Middle Eastern (but Christian). You words were like coming out of my own heart. I have two kids and I don't have the luxury that you have. May God bless you on this honorable path that you have taken.


local law and order
My guess would be that at this point there is more hope for localized law and order than for a national legal system.

In one neighborhood, a tribal leader would have the respect of the populace. In another neighborhood, it could be a religious leader. My guess would be that you want people to defer to these local leaders, unless a local leader supports the insurgency or picks a fight with another local leader.

L-Libertarians are often idealists
After running for office as a Libertarian in 1986 & 1988, as well as voting for Ron Paul then, I decided to come to Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia) as an advisor.

I'm still here, with my Slovak wife and 4 kids and after supporting the Hayek Foundation (founded by Libertarians) as well as massive Privatization, a Flat Rate tax (19%), and 3-pillar Pension reform which allows a required second pillar to be under private control (forced savings).

I'm now more Libertarian Paternalist, and am very happy to have my family, but also wish I could help more in Iraq.

Rule of law requires force, and judgement about guilt / innocence by those accused of breaking the law. I'm surprised to hear so little about any criminal courts in Iraq; I hope you will tell us more.

Given that every system has both types of error (innocents wrongly punished, guilty wrongly allowed to go free), I'd be very interested in your view of the balance between these errors.

Good luck, to you and all Iraqis, on a slow path towards justice and rule of law.

good inquiry - differences
I think a difference between "classical liberal" and "libertarian" is in the value placed on altruism. As the author expressed. I think libertarians tend to dismiss, and in some sectors even lambast altruism. Every speech I've seen in the last decade from Objectivists, particularly devout disciples of Ayn Rand, go out of their way to ridicule and marginalize altruism. Its striking to see it, I mean, its one thing to ignore or view altruism as marginal, its perplexing to see someone attack it and attempt to define it as weakness.

I think classical liberalism keeps a conscious foot in each category, balancing the value of personal freedom and responsibility with the equally valuable action of altruism. I don't see modern libertarians in general putting much value in altruism. At least not in discussion or presentation.

Honestly, I see Libertarian viewpoint hardening on parallel with Conservativism into an ideological and statist philosophy that doesn't consider nuance of perspectives. Its obvious Libertarian philosophy has shifted more to the right since 2000, a shift that trades critical thinking for ideology. Just review the articles on TCS for proof of that.

I must admit though, as a person who checks out TCS at least 3 times a week, I do recognize a "softening" of TCS lately compared to a year ago or so. Back then most articles were barely more than right-wing talking points, today it seems the ideology and toxicity are less prevalent. I shake my head though, and wonder if its a coincidence that this change has occurred parallel to the time mainstream America has finally learned the threat the Bush Administration poses to our Constitution and society in general. Is it coincidence, or band-wagon philosophy?

I didn't look up any definitions or do any research beforehand, this is just how I see it from my own experience. Its a very interesting philosophical question.

Give that man a green card!
If anyone deserves a path to citizenship, it's this guy. He's an American in his heart, not by birthright. If only more of us who were born here had a clue what America is all about.

How wonderful to view such a waste of good bytes. Another pseudo-conservative Jew prattling on about how patriotic he is so that he can suck in the unaware with the standard anti-White propaganda. We are to import the entire world (especially the Third World) so they can be part of the “shining city on the hill” and enjoy the American sueño.

Now that the Stern gang in DC has gotten us into the Iraqi bear trap, we can expect that their leaders, like the “American” Georg Sörös, will do their best to globalize us with imported Arabs and the rest of the diversity-enhancing crowd. All while protecting poor little Israel, of course. Their latest ploy - to use U.S. SF men to murder Kurds who discomfit the Turks - is just another example of their craven idiocy. Shapiro is in TwixtRiverLand only to provide cover for a failure that has no exit. And it’s going to be really fun after Peak Oil has passed, i.e., after ca. 2012. For the first time the purchased princelings of Shapiro’s host bribe-ocracy will experience what the iron grip of history is, and all of his scribbling will fail to keep the American snoozer asleep.







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