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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Perfect Storm of Terrible Legal Writing

From the ABA Journal, I learned about the resignation of Professor William Bradford of West Point. Bradford resigned after publishing a notably awful article entitled Trahison Des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict Academy as an Islamist Fifth Column. Bradford also is alleged to have "misrepresenting his military and academic credentials," as reported in this Guardian article. The Guardian notes:
Bradford had represented himself in academic papers as an “assistant professor” at the Defense Department-run National Defense University. But he was not a professor there, nor even a staff employee, according to NDU representatives. He is said to have worked for a Waynesboro, Virginia-based translations and business consultant, Translang, which had a contract with the university.
And as for that article it can be found here. The abstract reads:

Islamist extremists allege law of war violations against the U.S. to undermine American legitimacy, convince Americans that the U.S. is an evil regime fighting an illegal and immoral war against Islam, and destroy the political will of the American people. Yet Islamists’ own capacity to substantiate these claims is inferior to a critical cadre of American law of armed conflict academics whose scholarship and advocacy constitute information warfare that tilts the battlefield against U.S. forces by arguing — against evidence and reason — that the Islamist jihadis a response to valid grievances against U.S. foreign policy, that civilian casualties and Abu Ghraib prove the injustice of the U.S. cause, that military action is an aggressive over-reaction, and that the U.S. is engaged in war crimes that breed terrorists, threaten the rule-of-law, and make us less safe. Rather than lending their prodigious talents to the service of their nation, these legal academics, for reasons ranging from the benign to the malignant, have mustered into the Islamist order of battle to direct their legal expertise against American military forces and American political will. This psychological warfare by American elites against their own people is celebrated by Islamists as a portent of U.S. weakness and the coming triumph of Islamism over the West. 
This Article defends these claims and then calls for a paradigmatic shift in our thoughts about the objects and purposes of the law of armed conflict and about the duties that law professors bear in conjunction with the rights they claim under academic freedom. It then examines the consequences of suffering this trahison des professeurs to exist and sketches key recommendations to attenuate its influence of this, shore up American political will, and achieve victory over ISIS and Islamist extremism more broadly.
Bradford's difficult-to-follow (and 185 page!) article reveals that he is not above name calling:

Most pointedly, this charge is aimed at a clique of about forty contemptuously critical LOACA [Law of Armed Conflict Academy] scholars (“CLOACA”) who, by proposing that LOAC restrictions on Islamists be waived to provide unilateral advantage, that Western states face more rigorous compliance standards, and that captured Islamist militants be restored to the battlefield, effectively tilt the battlefield against U.S. forces, contribute to timorousness and lethargy in U.S. military commanders, constrain U.S. military power, enhance the danger to U.S. troops, and potentiate the cognitive effects of Islamist military operations. Moreover, CLOACA, rather than make good-faith legal arguments as to what LOAC does, does not, should, and should not require, offers up politicized arguments—against evidence and reason—that the Islamist jihad is a reaction to valid grievances against U.S. foreign policy, that civilian casualties and Abu Ghraib prove the injustice of the Western cause, that law enforcement suffices and military action is a gross over-reaction, that U.S.-led interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan are illegal aggression per se, that the United States is engaged in a pattern of war crimes à la Nazi Germany, that U.S. criminality breeds more terrorists and threatens the rule of law, that U.S. leaders should be prosecuted for crimes that make Americans less safe, and that dissenters merit professional condemnation and prosecution to shame or compel them into silence.
Bradford's article led to this notable response from the National Security Law Journal, which published Bradford's article this spring. From the response:

Moving forward, the current Editorial Board is committed to generating legitimate scholarly debate, representing all points of view, in the area of national security law. However, we have learned from this experience, and we recognize the responsibility that attends our publication decisions. The process of selecting articles is one our Editorial Board takes very seriously, and we are re-examining our selection process to ensure that we publish high quality scholarly articles.
I haven't seen many retractions like this. But I wouldn't be surprised to see one forthcoming from the University of Melbourne's Media and Arts Law Review, which recently published this abomination on arbitration, trial by combat, and Game of Thrones.

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