The Political Dream of Guantanamo: America’s War-on-terror Jurisprudence Through the Prism of the Enlightenment

By Daniel Williams.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This project examines the juridical side of the war on terror through the prism of our Enlightenment heritage and the geo-politics of a pax Americana global order. Consider the possibility that Guantanamo-style detention-streamlined administrative detention of the dangerous-exists not to serve the war on terror, but rather the converse: the war on terror serves Guantanamo. Just as our technological prowess on 9/11 was whipsawed back against us, thereby threatening to eliminate the distinction between war and peace, so too our fundamental anxiety we feel towards our criminal justice process (the vitalizing embodiment of our Enlightenment heritage) is, in this war on terror, whipsawed back to strike us hard, hurling us deeper into what Michel Foucault described as the “disciplinary society.” Viewed from this prism, Guantanamo is an emblem of how our legal culture, and indicative of how Western culture itself, has become paralyzed and corrupted by an over-commitment to a form of instrumental reasoning atrophied by a fetishism for means-ends maximization. Whatever veil of administrative decency our jurisprudence may drape over Guantanamo-style detention, that veil can only mute the betrayal to our Enlightenment values, alleviate a bit the sting of it, all the while silently corroding those values, through its Weberian rationality, through its means-ends rationality that characterizes an undisciplined and rampant form of instrumental reasoning that thinkers like Jurgen Habermas have been warning us against. I call for a deeper awareness of not only how our civil liberties are entangled with issues of globalization and threatened by pax Americana, but how those rights and liberties are imperiled by 9/11’s unleashing of cultural forces that have been percolating for centuries within our Enlightenment heritage.

Keywords: Enlightenment, War on Terror, Jurisprudence, Criminal Justice, Constitutional Law

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp.127-134. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 538.791KB).

Prof. Daniel Williams

Professor of Law, Law School, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA

Daniel R. Williams is an associate professor of law at Northeastern University School of Law. He received a J.D. from Harvard Law School and then went on to distinguish himself as a lawyer, handling many high-profile cases. Most notable was his handling of the case that resulted in the ending of capital punishment in New York. His writings range from issues of capital punishment to legal theory to the jurisprudence of the war on terror. He was named Teacher of the Year at Northeastern Law School in 2007.


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