Sincere Appreciations to John Bellinger

by Roger Alford

I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank John Bellinger and our guest respondents for engaging our readers in such a serious way. While there has been much disagreement the past two weeks, there has been virtually unanimous expressions of sincere appreciation to Bellinger for his willingness to participate in this discussion.

The blogosphere certainly took notice and was equally complimentary. Numerous blogs noted that Bellinger’s stint here was the first time a senior executive branch official has participated in a blog, with Dan Drezner going so far as to call it a “perfectly legal coup” by Opinio Juris and Americablog billing it a “milestone” for the blogosphere. The Blawg Review described it as an “extraordinary series of posts,” the Volokh Conspiracy called Bellinger “among the most articulate and nuanced” defenders of the Bush Administration’s war on terror,” and the blog established by the editors of Foreign Policy magazine said “the entire debate, a rare instance of the Bush administration engaging its critics seriously and at length, is not to be missed.”

Another common theme was the value of high-level government officials addressing a diverse audience on the blogosphere. On the left, Balkinization and Glenn Greenwald, while both critical on substance, called Bellinger’s willingness to appear on a blog “admirable” and “commendable.” On the right National Review Online stated that “the administration has thoughtful positions — particularly well articulated by Mr. Bellinger — and it would be nice if its officials got out and engaged with critics more often.”

His willingness to genuinely engage his critics did not go without notice by mainstream media. The Daily Telegraph said that “the comments on John Bellinger’s posts are polite and learned in the main but he isn’t being pitched softballs…. Some politician’s blogs are hilariously vapid or gimmicky…. But John Bellinger is using the blog forum with gusto to take on critics and argue the Bush administration’s case on the most contentious issues of our time. Agree with him or not, that’s pretty ballsy for a government lawyer.” In a report in U.S. News & World Report, Bellinger said of his experience, “I’m not sure whether this was a fit of ‘modernity’ or ‘madness,’ but I’ve enjoyed the experience. It’s very important for us to explain our legal positions and respond to the arguments of our critics, and this seemed like a good way to reach a large audience.”

The discussion was greatly enriched by our guest respondents. Sincere appreciations are due to Ken Anderson, Charles Garraway, David Golove, Deborah Pearlstein, Eric Posner, Michael Ramsey, and David Sloss for their wonderful contributions.

Obviously we at Opinio Juris hoped upon hope that our readers would treat the discussion with the appropriate level of respect and seriousness, abiding by our requests for substantive, responsive, and civil discourse. Although there were a few hiccups, I think Bellinger was fully correct to say that “most of the comments have been very civil and thoughtful.” While much of the blogosphere is about pathos, we are very pleased that the legal blogosphere can be a home for logos, where persuasion is pursued through soundness of arguments rather than the stirring of emotions.

3 Responses

  1. It’s certainly admirable in comparison to the general stonewalling on these policies. But there’s something that sits uneasily with me about all of us congratulating ourselves and Mr. Bellinger on the civil, thoughtful, erudite, logos-filled symposium about policies in which he is complicit; that this discussion will do nothing to change; and which have destroyed and will continue to destroy people’s lives.

  2. As an inveterate Opinio Juris reader, I too want to thank all parties for a most enjoyable and thoughtful dialogue (I refrained from commenting to allow illumination from brighter lights). Although my views remain unaltered, the exchange allowed me to better appreciate the presuppositions, assumptions and premises on all sides, including the subtleties and obfuscations intrinsic to passionate yet no less sophisticated arguments in international law and politics.

    A special thanks to those at this blog responsible for arranging the discussion. I hope it portends similar discourses in the legal blogosphere.

    All good wishes,


  3. Indeed, I greatly appreciated the opportunity.

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