Is Lawfare Changing?

By Robert Chesney
Friday, December 2, 2016, 5:32 PM

Has Lawfare changed? It turns out quite a few people think so, judging both by the private messages that have been coming to the founders of the site (me, Jack, and Ben) and by the post that Brett Max Kaufman put up at Just Security earlier today. The perceived change pleases some and disappoints others. As Brett summarizes it, the perception is that there has been a "recent editorial turn, in response to current events, toward newly appreciating the dangers inherent in a too-powerful executive branch."

It's a kind sentiment, but it is wrong in a critical respect.

I don't mean Brett is wrong because Lawfare's editorial position in fact has always appreciated "the dangers inherent in a too-powerful executive branch" (though I do think that). I mean he is wrong because Lawfare does not take collective, institutional positions on anything (aside from our long-standing commitment to decency and fairness in the discourse we publish), and we have no intention of changing this going forward.

It is perfectly sensible, of course, to discuss whether individual authors on this site have changed their views. And, indeed, that's precisely what Brett's post actually is about, with a focus on Ben's views. I'm not quibbling with that all. I'm just writing to make clear that we do not have a collective editorial posture, and that we have no intention of changing that, since we have been hearing quite a bit that it seems otherwise.

I appreciate, by the way, that there are people who will reject my claim that we don't have a collective editorial position. I am well aware that there are some who feel that there always has been at least an implicit editorial posture hard-wired into the site simply by virtue of who the founders and regular contributors are. Fair enough; that is unavoidably true at some level for all platforms. But it does not meet my fundamental point, which is no more and no less than that Lawfare itself is not changing to take on a new institutional posture that can then find reflection in our content.

If it happens that the actions of Donald Trump or his administration warrant more criticism than defense in the eyes of the contributors on this site (as compared to the actions of prior presidents and administrations) so be it, the content on the site will reflect it. If we are fortunate and it turns out otherwise, though, the site will reflect that too. Our authors will speak their own minds about it, as they always do.