Think tanks wrap-up-1

Feb. 20, 2003 at 6:58 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the first of two wrap-ups for Feb. 20.

The Nixon Center/The National Interest

(The Nixon Center is a public policy institution that is a substantively and programmatically independent division of The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation in Yorba Linda, Calif. The National Interest magazine is published quarterly by The National Interest Inc., a non-profit partnership of Hollinger International Inc. and The Nixon Center.)

WASHINGTON -- France and the United States: drawing the distinction between alignment and solidarity

by Bruno Tertrais

There has been so much acrimony in the trans-Atlantic debate in recent days -- in particular since France refused to agree to NATO planning for the defense of Turkey -- that an observer from an outer planet would hardly believe that the French-U.S. alliance is the oldest functioning military pact in the world.

Once again, there is a need for an explanation.

French observers have been surprised at the virulence of some of the attacks emanating from the American media, calling into question the moral standards of France as a nation. Many of these attacks have been unnecessarily vicious, much more than the so-called "bursts of anti-Americanism" that frequently erupt in France (and which usually target U.S. policy, not the United States as a country).

But some just left us speechless. A good example is the recent New York Post cover page with a photograph of an American military cemetery in France, referring to the "forgotten sacrifice" of GIs in Normandy. On this side of the Atlantic, such headlines just astonished us.

Is this just one more trans-Atlantic misunderstanding? The past few months provided a great deal of fodder with, for instance, public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic believing that the other's policies about Iraq are determined by oil interests (which, in this analyst's opinion, is true neither in the case of the United States nor France).

But the current crisis about the possible role of NATO in a war against Iraq is serious, because it involves the crux of any military alliance: solidarity in times of need. NATO's primary raison d'etre, as suggested by Nikolas Gvosdev, is "to provide security for its members."

However, I must disagree with his bleak assessment about the "damage done" to NATO's cohesion by the French (as well as German and Belgian) stance. No country in the alliance is currently under attack.

From the French point of view, allowing NATO to take action in preparation for a military strike against Iraq, in particular to beef up the defense of Turkey, would have shown the world that Paris considered that war was now inevitable. It would have signaled the final defeat of the last attempts to avoid a military conflict.

(This has no impact, by the way, on the measures suggested by the United States, such as the deployment of air defense systems to Turkey, which could have been undertaken on a bilateral basis.) In fact, there was the feeling in Paris that Washington, by asking a collective decision, wanted to force NATO to show support for its imminent military operation.

The compromise reached earlier this week is a second-best solution, since it involves only the 18 members of the integrated military structure, leaving France as the odd country out.

But while opposing NATO planning for a possible war in Iraq, French authorities have also reaffirmed the obvious: if there was a war and Turkey was attacked, Paris would honor its engagement to assist Ankara by all possible means. France's commitment to defend its allies when they are attacked is not at issue.

Despite (or perhaps because of) its withdrawal from the integrated military structure of NATO, France has always been one of the staunchest supporters of the commitment to allied solidarity under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. To respond to Gvosdev's query: Yes, the Article 4 and 5 guarantees really are worth the parchment on which they are written.

Clear proof of such support was given in September 2001, when France declared itself ready to give military assistance to the United States in the fight against al Qaida in the name of collective defense. Paris was more than happy to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Let us also remember that during the Cold War, France showed complete and immediate solidarity with its allies each and every time our common freedoms were militarily threatened, like for instance during the Berlin or Cuba crises. (Many in the United States also seem unaware of the fact that France is also the biggest European contributor to NATO operations in the Balkans.)

What is baffling us, in the broader debate about Iraq, what we perceive as confusion on the American side of the Atlantic between solidarity and alignment. We make a clear difference between the two.

Since when does being an ally imply following U.S. positions on each and every account? In French eyes, Iraq does not represent a clear and present danger to the West. The despicable regime of Saddam Hussein is being contained, and in France's view the potential risks of war now outweigh its possible benefits.

Of course, if clear evidence is given of obvious Iraqi breaches of its commitments, Paris will be ready to take all necessary measures to enforce them (including probably by contributing troops to an operation against Baghdad). But it would be up to U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix -- not President George W. Bush -- to say that Iraq has failed to abide by U.N. Res. 1441.

We've been here before. For instance, in 1986, Paris refused to let U.S. aircraft fly over French territory to bomb Libya. And in 1999, France vetoed the bombing of bridges in Serbia and targets in Montenegro. Each time, Paris was accused by many in Washington of misplaced arrogance and obstructionism in the name of "la difference."

But each time, Paris thought it had a good reason to say "no." In 1986, it was a matter of national sovereignty: the United States had refused to tell President Mitterrand what the exact mission of the bombers over-flying France would be.

In 1999, Chirac vetoed the bombing of bridges because of fears of civilian casualties, and that of Montenegrin targets for fear of a wider escalation of the war.

Now again, the French position on Iraq is a matter of principle: for Paris, no less than the future of the international system is at stake.

The Atlantic alliance will survive this latest crisis, provided that on each side there is a willingness to understand the true motivations of the other, which supposes, in turn, that cooler tempers prevail.

Bruno Tertrais is a senior research fellow at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique.)

The Center for Democracy and Technology

(CDT works to promote democratic values and constitutional liberties in the digital age. CDT seeks practical solutions to enhance free expression and privacy in global communications technologies, including the Internet and other new media.)

WASHINGTON -- CDT report calls Pennsylvania ISP law unconstitutional and unsound

The Center for Democracy and Technology released a major report calling unconstitutional a recent Pennsylvania law that forces Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, to block access to numerous web sites without adequate court oversight. The report's release coincides with a request under Pennsylvania's right-to-know law seeking records of the Attorney General's previously undisclosed demands to block Web sites pursuant to the law.

The report, entitled "The Pennsylvania ISP Liability Law: An Unconstitutional Prior Restraint and a Threat to the Stability of the Internet," analyzes a 2002 Pennsylvania law that forces ISPs to block access to any Web site deemed "child pornography" without

notice to the site's publisher and without any opportunity to challenge the determination.

ISPs are required to block the sites even if they do not host the content and have no relationship whatsoever with the publishers of the content.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General has since gone even further, bypassing the law's inadequate court procedures to simply demand by letter that sites be blocked. The report argues that the statute, which blocks access to sites that are wholly innocent, is an unconstitutional restriction on speech, blocks access to sites that are wholly innocent.

While acknowledging the grave nature of the problem of child pornography, CDT's report details the serious problems -- both legal and technical -- inherent in the law and the Attorney General's actions:

-- CDT concludes that the law violates constitutional principles of free speech and due process and is unconstitutional under both the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

-- Because ISPs must block Web sites based on their numeric "Internet Protocol," or IP, address, the law also blocks Web sites that are completely unrelated to any child pornography sites, simply because most Internet sites now share their IP addresses with many other wholly unrelated sites.

-- Because of how the Internet is structured, Pennsylvania's blocking orders reach far outside of the state and prevent people across the country from accessing lawful Internet content.

-- The Pennsylvania law forces ISPs to manipulate the sensitive "routing tables" used to send communications around the Internet, increasing the risk of major Internet service outages.

The law does nothing to remove the child pornography at its source or to prosecute the creators and posters of the content. The law merely attempts to shield Pennsylvania citizens from the content while allowing children to continue to be victimized in the production of the child pornography.

"Child pornography is abhorrent and cannot be tolerated in a civilized society," said CDT Associate Director Alan Davidson, "but the Pennsylvania ISP law attempts to fight child pornography through means that are unconstitutional and technically flawed. This law does little to punish the producers of child pornography, but by blocking sites that are not pornographic will have serious ramifications for free expression and the stability of the Internet."

The magnitude of over-blocking under the Pennsylvania law is demonstrated in a separate report -- released this week -- by Benjamin Edelman of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the Harvard Law School.

In that report, Edelman finds that more than two-thirds of all .COM, .NET, and .ORG sites share their IP addresses with at least 50 other Web sites. Any blocking order aimed at one of those sites under the Pennsylvania law would block all 50 (or more) sites, even if those sites are wholly unrelated to the targeted site.

"It would be as if mail delivery for an entire apartment building were stopped because one tenant was accused of wrongdoing," said John Morris, CDT Staff Counsel and a primary author of the report. "This law will prevent many Internet users around the country from accessing hundreds or perhaps thousands of innocent Web sites, with no notice or explanation whatsoever."

In conjunction with the release of its report, CDT has also assisted in the filing of a Pennsylvania "Right to Know" Request to the Attorney General, demanding that he disclose the hundreds of sites that he has blocked since the law went into effect.

Professor Seth Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, with CDT as counsel, submitted the "open records" request seeking all orders and notices served pursuant to the law on ISPs by the Attorney General's office.

Under Pennsylvania's open records system, the Attorney General must produce the requested documents within 10 days.

In addition to Professor Kreimer, CDT has consulted with Professors David Post (Temple University Law School), Polk Wagner (University of Pennsylvania Law School), Dan Hunter (the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania), and Jonathan Zittrain (Harvard Law School) on this matter.

The CDT report is available on the Center for Democracy and Technology Web site at

Benjamin Edelman's report, entitled "Web Sites Sharing IP Addresses: Prevalence and Significance," was released by Mr. Edelman this week and is available at

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