The Corner

An Open Letter to Sen. Lincoln Chafee

This morning I posted an Open Letter to Sen. Lincoln Chafee on the Rhode Island blog site Anchor Rising. A shorter version will appear in the Newport Daily News. Nothing in it will surprise anyone who has been following the issue on The Corner or elsewhere on NRO. It won’t change anything of course, but at least some people who read it might see that Chafee’s all wet on the issue—but he is on so many other as well.

Does anyone know for sure the origins of the use of the word “filibuster” to describe tying up legislation in the Senate? The word, which comes from the Spanish for “freebooter” or “pirate,” was regularly applied in the ante-bellum period to pro-slavery Southern adventurers who raised expeditions to overthrow Latin American governments in an attempt to bring more slave states into the Union—Cuba, Nicaragua, etc. I am just guessing here, but I assume that it was simply extended to encompass the tactic of using the Senate’s rule of “unanimous consent” to protect slave interests, as John c. Calhoun did in 1841.

Mackubin Thomas Owens is senior national security fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia, editing its journal Orbis from 2008 to 2020. A Marine Corps infantry veteran of the Vietnam War, he was a professor of national-security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College from 1987 to 2015. He is the author of US Civil–Military Relations after 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain.


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