There's Something Rotten in Hogsmeade

Snowden-esque scandals at the Ministry of Magic (and Ron and Hermione got a divorce).

Editor's Note: After this weekend's shocking news that J.K. Rowling thought it was a mistake to have Hermione end up with Ron in the Harry Potter books, Dan Drezner begged us to publish this excerpt from his forthcoming fanfic novel, Eat, Cast, Love. We have reluctantly acceded to his request.

It was in the middle of the "Why Women Wizards Can't Have It All" seminar that Hermione Granger (it had been Hermione Weasley for nearly 20 years, but she'd opted for her maiden name after the divorce) felt a strong hankering for the libations at The Three Broomsticks. Six months ago, when she'd signed up, the idea of attending these seminars at her 25th Hogwarts reunion sounded wonderful. They certainly seemed like they would come as a welcome respite from her day job at a "special unit" of the Ministry of Magic

That was the old Hermione, though... the one who believed she'd married the right man. The past six months had been more disorienting than a portkey trip. Ron had been talking about "finding himself" for a while. When Weasley's Wizard Wheezes had their IPO and George's bank accounts at Gringotts swelled, Ron went into a tailspin. He started talking more about his glory days playing Quidditch and trying on his old Gryffindor uniform. One day he just disapparated without a word, without a note. He'd now been gone for longer than when they were searching for the Hallows. Hermione had gone ahead and filed for divorce, but she felt just as uncertain about the future now as she had then.  

In those moments when she did not want to curse Ron into a stint at Azkaban, Hermione acknowledged that Ron was only partly responsible for their drifting apart. The kids had been a typical stressor, but it was her Auror job at the Ministry of Magic that had become a very atypical source of strain. When Hermione took her Unbreakable Vow to join the new MAGICOM unit, she thought it would be an opportunity to do well and to do good. Foiling threats and plots to the world of wizards was exactly what she wanted to do after all of her kids started Hogwarts. Only after she realized MAGICOM's true goals did the Unbreakable Vow feel like a straightjacket. Ron would ask her to talk about it, and she literally could not.    

Losing Ron was bad enough... but coping with the media firestorm that followed their split was worse than the Cruciatus curse. Of course Rita Skeeter published a tawdry story in the Daily Prophet about their separation. The only fact Skeeter got right in that story was Ron's disapparation. The rest of it was filled out with baseless speculation that Ron had run away with Gabrielle Delacour and that, absurdly, Hermione was seeking comfort in the arms of Harry Potter. That sort of tripe she could deal with. After all, she'd been dealing with it since their fourth year at Hogwarts when the school famously hosted the Triwizard Tournament. But, it was when Luna Lovegood published the "Weasley Letters" in the Quibbler that things got really bad. Someone on Lovegood's staff had gotten a hold of the letters Ron had written to his family over the years, and published them on the online version of the Quibbler (now called thelovegoodletters.com). Luna pulled them once she heard about it, and blamed the mess on an intern, but the damage was done. Ron's misspelled, grammatically foul prose nevertheless painted an unflattering picture of Hermione: always harping on him to take a more active role in the children's lives, long nights she had to spend at work, etc. After a decade of striving, of "leaning in" with her wand at the Ministry of Magic, Hermione found herself treated as a cliché by friends and enemies alike in the mainstream wizard media. 

The reunion itself proved to be as painful as she'd feared. Out of loyalty to Ginny, Harry had decided not to come. Around every corner of Hogwarts, she could hear the whisperings: "Did you hear about them?" and "Who has custody of the children?" and "No, I hear the Potters went to America for the year to get away from the mess." Indeed, while most classmates at least feigned sympathy, quite a few blamed her for Harry Potter's absence. The only people being nice to her were her old classmates who had been Slytherins. Draco Malfoy, clearly overjoyed at not having to deal with either Harry or Ron, had even put his arm around Hermione and suggested she be granted honorary Slytherin House membership. When Dolores Umbridge started explaining that women simply couldn't attain both high rank and happiness at home that Hermione knew she had to make a beeline for Hogsmeade. 

By her fifth butterbeer, Hermione had lapsed into total self-pity. How did the valedictorian of her Hogwarts class wind up a separated mother of two, stuck in a horrible, officious job, with nary a fun spell cast in nearly a year? As much as she wished otherwise, the answer was not to be found at the bottom of her frosted butterbeer mug. Clearly, she'd made some wrong choices in her life. Worse, the wrong choices at home were causing her to procrastinate the hard choices she was putting off at work. 

"Hermione? Is that you? You haven't aged a day!"

She looked up to see Neville Longbottom, now Professor of Herbology at Hogwarts, gazing down at her with a kindly face.  

"Neville! How are you doing?! Can I buy you a drink?" she blurted out before realizing that he already had a glass of pumpkin juice.

"How about I buy you a drink instead?" He said. "Perhaps some tea?"   

Within minutes, they had moved past the awkward pleasantries to some actual conversation.  Actually, Hermione did most of the talking. 

"What did I ever see in him? Sure, he could be decent at times, but we're not exactly talking about a real go-getter, you know what I mean? He would be happy about every promotion I got at work, or any prize the kids won, but he was still so detached. The only time he got really animated was talking about Quidditch... or Harry. Seriously, I felt like I was married to a Judd Apatow character."

Neville spit out his pumpkin juice, and Hermione laughed for the first time in weeks. But her smile quickly faded. The catharsis of talking about her personal life had merely exposed the other problems that had weighed on her for months. 

She looked at Neville intently, feeling as sober as she had ever felt in her life. "I'm an Auror, Neville, but at this point, I feel like my full-time job is being a keeper of secrets, Neville. You have no idea what the Ministry of Magic's surveillance capabilities really are. I can't tell you the really bad stuff -- Unbreakable Vow and all -- but even the minor stuff is bad. Do you know they're spying on Muggles?!" 

"But that's not allowed!" Neville said, looking aghast. "We have to do something!!"

Hermione hadn't seen him that passionate since the Battle of Hogwarts. She'd never realized how tall Neville was before....




Rand Paul Is Right

The United States needs to officially end the Iraq war -- or else acknowledge that it’s waging an endless and unwinnable fight.

There is no state between war and peace. So said Cicero, and now proclaims international law: Either there is an armed conflict or there isn't.

Yet when Cicero spoke those famous words, before the Roman Senate in 43 B.C., the empire had split into armed factions and his fellow senators had declared a state of "tumult" -- precisely the ambiguous state between war and peace Cicero claimed could not exist.

This vignette tells us two things. First, that the boundary between war and peace as factual phenomenon is often blurred. Second, that it is precisely when the facts on the ground are blurred that the legal line between war and peace matters most.

On Jan. 14, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) proposed a bill to repeal the 2002 Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq: "With the practical side of the mission concluded, I feel it is appropriate to bring this conflict to an official, legal end," he said in a statement.  

Paul's proposal has generally been seen as purely symbolic, including by the Obama administration, which agrees with Paul in principle, but does not see it as a priority for that reason.

That the legal end of the war should be understood as symbolic and practically irrelevant is disturbing: Legal lines limit executive discretion to use force. And given the rapid deterioration of Iraq's security situation in recent months, such discretion matters.

Throughout 2013, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's exclusion of Sunnis from national politics has effectively reversed many of the gains made during the U.S. surge in 2007, cumulating in the capture last month of Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar province by al Qaeda affiliates.

The deterioration has drawn the United States back in, even if only indirectly. Apart from ongoing high-level military and intelligence assistance, December 2013 saw the United States rapidly accelerate sales of ScanEagle drones and Hellfire missiles to the Iraqi government.

On Jan. 5, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that: "We are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We're not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight, but we're going to help them in their fight."

But Kerry immediately went on to say that this was not, actually, just their fight: "And yes, we have an interest. We have an interest in helping the legitimate and elected government be able to push back against the terrorists. This is a fight that is bigger than just Iraq...The rise of these terrorists in the region and particularly in Syria and through the fighting in Syria is part of what is unleashing this instability in the rest of the region."

So whose fight is it in Iraq? Or put another way: How should we characterize the conflict in Iraq? Is it a continuation of the 2003 war, but now in a phase where the Iraqi government is in the lead? Is it simply Iraqi domestic law enforcement? Or is it part of what the Obama administration refuses to call the war on terror?

There is no clear answer, as the ambiguity of Kerry's statement makes plain. The facts on the ground in Iraq do not establish a clear line between war and peace.

That should come as no surprise: The concept of war in an analytical as opposed to a descriptive sense was ill-suited to characterize the Iraq conflict after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The factual distinction between war and peace typically correlates with the distinction between the military and political phases of war: Two sides fight militarily, and then a political settlement is reached on the basis of the military outcome.

But in Iraq, there were never two clear sides. Beginning in 2005, the U.S. mission was primarily aimed at enforcing the domestic jurisdiction of the Iraqi government. As a result, the realistic end state was not a clear military victory over a coherent enemy, but a relatively stable political balance between the various factions holding power.

In that kind of fight, every action -- violent or non-violent -- needs to be considered in terms of its local political impact, success being measured by how political affiliations change as a result of individual actions. Wins and losses, in other words, are generally measured in bazaar chatter, not body counts.

When Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, was asked in 2010 if the war was effectively over, he replied: "[W]ar is a very different concept...I call [Iraq] more of an operation, not a war." That was a very astute comment.

Iraq for the United States was, of course, war in a descriptive sense, since that level of violence was more than just law enforcement. But to think that as a war it had an end-point clearly distinguishable from peace is misleading. The U.S. surge was successful because it realigned Iraqi politics, so by definition it was vulnerable to reversal. Politics does not end.

So why does this matter? When the factual boundary between war and peace is blurred on the ground, legal lines are critical because they delimit executive discretion to use force -- all the more so when there is a realistic possibility of being drawn back into the war.

While ground re-intervention is not on the table, the possibility of U.S. drone strikes in Anbar against al Qaeda affiliates is not so remote, and was a possibility that Kerry implicitly left open: "We are going to do everything that is possible to help them, and I will not go into the details except to say that we're in contact with tribal leaders from Anbar province whom we know who are showing great courage in standing up against this as they reject terrorist groups from their cities."

The legal basis for any U.S. re-intervention in Iraq -- for example, carrying out drone strikes -- could either be the 2001 AUMF that is directed against the 9/11 terrorists and their supporters or the 2002 Iraq AUMF. Given that the legal basis of past U.S. drone strikes has remained largely opaque, uncertainty as to which AUMF would be used raises both democratic and strategic concerns.

Strategically, were the 2002 AUMF repealed, the Obama administration would have to link any action in Iraq to the 2001 AUMF. Then at least there could be a debate about the extent to which the 9/11 attacks can still be used to justify an expansion in the campaign against terrorism today. My point here is not to come down on either side -- I can see good reasons why the United States either would or would not want to use drones directly in Iraq -- but about strategic clarity: The 2001 AUMF authorizes the United States' seemingly never-ending fight against terrorism.

The enemy is so loosely defined in the 2001 AUMF that it can never be defeated, being as much an ideological franchise as a physical entity. As a result, the war never ends and ultimately merges with routine political activity. If that's the fight the Obama administration considers itself to be in, it should make that clear and be held to account, given all the consequences that flow from an effective state of permanent war. If not, it should not fall back on the 2001 AUMF. Either way, the current approach has only led to strategic confusion: Denying that the so called "war on terror" exists is obviously not compatible with using the 2001 AUMF to fight terrorists worldwide.

Because the 2001 AUMF has created a gray zone between war and peace, Rand Paul's bill is useful less because of its political impact -- which has been insignificant -- but because of the strategic question it should prompt the U.S. administration to answer: Where are we with the war on terror?

The democratic implications follow logically. Under the 1973 War Powers Act, Congress limits executive discretion by defining the war within which the executive can use force. When that war is not clear, the constitutional checks aren't clear either. That is plainly unsatisfactory.

Finally, we should recall that this is not the first time legally ending a war in Iraq has mattered. According to President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's lawyers at least, the second Iraq war was simply a continuation of the first. One of the U.S. and British legal justifications for the 2003 invasion was that Iraq was in material breach of its disarmament duties under the terms of the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire. That revived a previous U.N. authorization to use force against Iraq from 1990. Thus, while armed conflict as a factual circumstance faded between 1991 and 2003, it continued throughout in a legal, technical sense.

That view is contentious to say the least. It is that very contention, however, that should make us take Paul seriously.  

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