Aziz Huq

Aziz Huq directs the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. He is  also the co-author of Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror.

Recent Articles

The Ghost of George Kennan

Two new books assess the nature of our alliances and what containment could mean today.

Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy Against Global Terror by Ian Shapiro (Princeton University Press, 208 pages) The End of Alliances by Rajan Menon (Oxford University Press, 280 pages) Some ideas, like some gunshots, can be heard around the world, and down the centuries. On the night of February 22, 1946, a young U.S. diplomat named George Kennan, then based in Moscow, sent a famous telegram outlining what he saw as a gathering conflict with the Soviet Union. In embryonic form, that telegram prefigured a strategy Kennan would later term "containment": a "long-term, patient but firm and vigilant" resistance to Soviet expansion. The dominant trope of Cold War security policy, containment casts a shadow over the form and direction of U.S. foreign policy. One way of understanding Bush's novel doctrine of muscular preemption is as a reaction to containment. Both start from the premise that America must capture the world's moral leadership and seize the strategic high ground. But where...

Foolish Deference

Terror in the Balance: Security, Liberty, and the Courts by Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule (Oxford University Press, 328 pages) Talk of emergencies and their consequences has been thick in the air since 9/11. The Bush administration insists that the current fight against terrorism -- a situation it has an interest in depicting as a continuous crisis -- requires the courts and Congress to take a back seat. But the White House's claims of omnicompetence starkly conflict with mounting evidence of negligence and malfeasance. From the stacks of cash gone astray in Iraq to the embarrassing criminal proceeding against CIA agents in Germany for the erroneous "rendition" of an innocent man, the news for mavens of centralized executive authority is hardly comforting. The time, indeed, is ripe for a sophisticated defender of executive prerogatives to make his or case. To date, defenders of the executive branch's aggrandizement have mainly offered thin analytic gruel. ( Here's an example.)...

Continental Divide

In the run-up to last month's Dutch election, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, known locally as "Iron Rita," declared her intention to pass a ban on religious garments that cover all of a woman's face. According to one Dutch parliamentarian, full face covering is so rare that the ban would apply to less than one hundred of the Netherlands' one million Muslims. Verdonk nevertheless insisted the ban was a needed from a "security standpoint." Picking up on recent comments by British parliamentarian Jack Straw, Verdonk elaborated that "people should be able to communicate with one another." Apparently, communication is impossible with a veiled woman. Not for the first time in European history, the question of national security today is entangled with matters of minority assimilation. The argument now goes like this: Europe has developed Muslim minorities in the past few decades that have failed to assimilate into the mainstream of European society. Unable to assimilate, they have...

Five Squandered Years

The United States has two main resources to combat terrorism: The hard power of military might, and the soft power of diplomacy that comes from convincingly claiming the moral high ground. Five years after the 9/11 attacks, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Bush Administration has gutted both. On the one hand, the military is stretched to the breaking point across Iraq and Afghanistan. As noted analyst Olivier Roy and many others have explained, the big winner of both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom has been Iran. Ironically, America is in a weaker military posture today in regard to two of the three charter members of the so-called “Axis of Evil” -- Iran and North Korea -- than at any moment since 9/11. As to soft power, no one outside the United States takes seriously any more President Bush's claims that America does not torture. America's claim to be a moral actor has been fatally undercut. Congress's enactment of legislation last week that...

Threat Assessment

Terrorism penetrates the psyche by being unpredictable. Terrorists rely not only on the element of surprise but also on a second-level uncertainty to strike so deep: The difficulty of knowing exactly who the terrorist might be. Background is no guide. Many of the 9-11 plotters had tertiary educations. Others, like the self-starting (and foiled) millennium bomber and former petty thief Ahmed Ressam, came from the social margins. Ethnic profiling, proposed again recently by New York Representative Peter King, hardly works. The July 2005 London attackers and the recent High Wycombe arrestees both defied racial stereotypes. Any halfway calculating terrorist group, moreover, will simply work around ethnic profiling. Worse, al-Qaeda has shifted from a centralized, geographically situated entity that operated in eastern Afghanistan into a borderless network, connected by Internet tendrils and shared sentiments. Its ideas spread like viruses. The key questions for counter-terrorism policy...

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