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Rules for Radicals

“Resistance” derives from the Latin verb resistere, literally “to stand against.” A call to action — to stand up — is embedded in the very etymology of the word. But the reflections in the recent issue tell us more about how to think than how to act [“Trump: A Resister’s Guide,” Forum, February].

Our most urgent priority is to act now and think later. Corey Robin and other contributors offer new ways to understand the nature of the menace we face, but the strategies to resist that menace do not need much rethinking. A group of former congressional staffers recently created a website called Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, which encourages people to organize locally, bombard elected representatives with calls, and turn Republicans’ misdeeds into media buzz. These tasks are as unoriginal as they are mundane — and, to be honest, we don’t have time to wait for analytic clarity before testing their efficacy. Voters in North Carolina’s newly drawn Congressional districts will go to the polls this year. As we wade into uncharted political waters, “resistance” means using the tried-and-true tools of democracy to make our system work again.

Claudia Koonz
Professor Emeritus, Duke University
Durham, N.C.

Wesley Yang hits the nail on the head in his essay for the February Forum. “Four decades of neoliberal globalization,” he writes, “have cleaved our country into two hostile classes.” I used to argue about this with my pro-NAFTA Democratic friends during the Clinton Administration, when free trade was embraced by both parties as a way to make America more prosperous. At that time, nobody seemed to be thinking about the Americans in aging factories and fraying communities.

What economists don’t seem to understand is that a country cannot export good jobs overseas for three decades without causing huge problems at home. They seem to have no concern for the losers in their models. And now the losers think they have found a champion in Trump. So we find ourselves with no jobs, no prospects, and an unstable demagogue in the White House.

Tenney Ford
San Rafael, Calif.

Somehow, the articles in the resisters’ guide to Trump missed the crucial point. Our federal government is the institution that has the best chance of solving income inequality, extricating us from our reliance on fossil fuels, providing health care to all Americans regardless of their ability to pay, dismantling the military-industrial complex, and helping disadvantaged people acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. The Trump Administration has neither the desire nor the ability to use the federal government for those purposes. That is the point that needs to be addressed.

Al Galves
Las Cruces, N.M.

War and Peace

May Jeong’s article makes clear that it will be challenging to find a viable path to peace in Afghanistan [“The Patient War,” Letter from Kabul, February]. More than fifteen years after invading the country, the United States still lacks a strategy for bringing about a negotiated end to the Taliban-led insurgency. While President Trump has thus far given few signals as to his stance on the issue, the administration has an opportunity to take a fresh look at how best to fight, and hopefully end, the longest war in American history.

First, Trump needs to reassure Afghans that the United States is not abandoning them — a destabilizing narrative that resulted from the Obama Administration’s decision to announce deadlines for withdrawing U.S. troops. Trump should send a strong message in the opposite direction by approving a modest increase in military support — particularly intelligence resources, close air support, and medevac assistance — in order to reduce the shockingly high numbers of casualties experienced by Afghan forces.

Our objective should not be to defeat the Taliban, since no senior official — Afghan or American, civilian or military — thinks that force alone can achieve our strategic goals. But increased military assistance from the United States could pressure the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. We would, of course, have to pair that effort with diplomacy. We should strongly encourage Pakistan to play a more constructive regional role and pressure the National Unity Government in Kabul to reduce the rampant corruption that delegitimizes it and fuels the insurgency. Ultimately, the key to a successful policy in Afghanistan is to shift the focus from winning the war to winning the peace.

Andrew Wilder
United States Institute of Peace Washington

Conspiracy Weary

Walter Kirn warns Trump opponents not to fall victim to conspiracy theories about his win [“A Grim Fairy Tale,” Easy Chair, February]. From the wide-open spaces of Montana, he says, this election looked like nothing more than your average “anticlerical” populist revolt. Kirn neglects to mention that, thanks to “river-bound New York” and “gridlocked L.A.” — places he doesn’t seem to count as real America — Hillary Clinton beat the supposed populist by nearly 3 million votes. Typically, anticlerical revolutions have the numbers to back them up. In any event, it’s no conspiracy theory to believe that for a candidate as weak as Trump to eke out a win despite losing the popular vote, an organized campaign of disinformation by a foreign adversary may have played a part.

Idan Ivri
Los Angeles

In Bounty Hunters, Jeremy Milticizes the McKittrick Policy as a threat to wolves, claiming that “it’s not clear” why the policy exists. The McKittrick Policy interprets the Endangered Species Act provision making it a crime to “knowingly” take a protected species as requiring prosecutors to prove that the defendant knew his activities would cause take and the identity of the species affected.

It’s abundantly clear why the policy exists; it is the only legally permissible interpretation under Supreme Court precedent. In too many cases to count, the Supreme Court has enforced a “background rule” of criminal law that knowingly crimes, like this one, require prosecutors to prove that a criminal defendant knows “each fact making his conduct illegal.” Under the Endangered Species Act, that includes the identity of the species affected.

If you consider the exceptional breadth of the statute’s take prohibition, any other interpretation would be absurd. Although Mr. Miller’s article focuses on hunting, take can also be caused by such innocent activities as building a home, plowing a farm, driving a car, or going for a jog. Without the McKittrick Policy, anyone doing any of those things could go to jail if they accidentally affected a protected species, including more than a hundred insects.

Jonathan Wood*

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April 2017

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