Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Why does this matter? Because the UN has a veneer of international legitimacy; that is what the UN does is seen by much of the world as legitimate. Why? I promised in an earlier post to discuss the sources of international legitimacy; unfortunately, I don't have time to do this question justice now (Tuesdays and Thursdays are my busy teaching days -- 3 classes). But, I do want to touch on this subject now. There are two sources from which an action can gain legitimacy: adhere to an ideal or adherence to a process. The example of the UN human rights commission reform this case makes the point for me. Is the human rights commission legitimate because it will be created through the quasi-democratic process of the General Assembly, even if it fails to uphold any meaningful standards of human rights? Or, should the new body be judged according to how well it protects and promotes the protection of human rights? Unfortunately, far too many people choose the former, even if they're not willing to admit it to themselves. The UN does not in any way represent a consensus of values or ideals; it represents the triumph of procedural process over everything. That is, what the UN does it legitimate so long as it follows its own institutional procedural rules. So, the new commission will bear the imprimatur of international law and rectitude, even as it continues to accomplish nothing and allow gross violators of human rights to sit in judgment of themselves and others. This is disgusting, or in the word of my friend Geoff, "Another reason the UN should be taken out and shot."
[I'll consider this issue more as soon as I get some breathing space here...]
Monday, February 27, 2006
Lately, I have been castigating the international community for its adherence to procedural rules that undermine the pursuit of justice. And this is a perfect example. The veto power in the Security Council was designed to protect sovereignty and, hopefully, interstate war on a large scale. But that veto undermines the ability of the UN to pursue justice. It is time for the US and NATO to take action into their own hands, either by imposing their own sanctions or by using military force as in Kosovo. If the international community has any credibility when it claims to care about justice and protection of human rights and life, it cannot let the antiquated procedural rules of the UN prevent action being taken to save Darfur.
Now, there are signs that this may be in fact happening. According to several top Sunni political leaders and officials, the Sunnis are ready to return to the discussion table to consider forming the new Iraqi government. Several conditions were mentioned, including the return of Sunni mosques occupied by Shiite militias, but nothing that seems unreasonable or impossible. Hopefully, from the ashes of the Golden Dome can rise the hope of a new Iraq.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
According to the Times:
Ideally, violators of the declaration should be barred from the new Human Rights Council, which would succeed the commission. Mr. Annan's original proposal did not go that far. But it significantly raised the bar by requiring a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly to win a seat. This essential change has been eliminated and replaced by a technical adjustment barely visible to the naked eye. Slates will still be nominated by regional blocs without regard to human rights performance. A few other incremental improvements are not enough to redeem this pathetic draft. Approving it, as groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International wrongly urge, would take off the heat for meaningful change.This would be all well and good, but it's exceedingly unlikely to ever occur. The change would have to go through the Security Council, and as Russia and China would perceive themselves as unlikely to win seats on such a council -- or at least to have their human rights records publically examined and criticized -- it's hard to imagine them agreeing. The real question is: Why is the Times so shocked by this? The reaction reveals misplaced faith in an institution that is no longer suited to dealing with these kinds of international political and security challenges.
Friday, February 24, 2006
As of November 2005, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) had handed down judgments for only 25 individuals. More than $1 billion has been spent on the tribunal so far, or about $40 million per judgment. By contrast, South Africa's truth commission processed 7,116 amnesty applications for less than $4,300 per case. In post-conflict Mozambique, programs to demobilize and reintegrate thousands of former combatants cost about $1,000 per case. Rwandan community leaders aren't shy about saying that the more than $1 billion the UN has so far poured into the ICTR could have been better spent....Why do people believe that internationalizing something makes it inherently better, more legitimate, or more just (I'll be examining this question -- the sources of international legitimacy -- in a few days)? In cases like Milosevic or Hussein, kangaroo courts to air what is already known should be sufficient. For other, more widespread situations like in Rwanda, South Africa, or Mozambique, leave the pursuit of justice up to the nation itself. It will proceed in the manner it best sees fit.
The courts in Nuremberg and Tokyo were part of a broader political project that aimed to rehabilitate the occupied countries socially and economically, not simply to try guilt or innocence or hand out hard punishments. The Allies enaced a punitive policy towards Germany a quarter-century earlier, with disastrous results. The US-dominated courts established after World War II were stream-lined and efficient -- perhaps to a fault. At Nuremberg, defendants were given no meaningful right of appeal, and the prosecution was able to introduce documentary evidence into the record that defendants could not challenge. But the fact that many due-process concerns were swept aside meant that the court completed its work in less than 11 months; 10 of the 22 defendants were hanged on Oct. 16, 1946....
By contrast, the international courts for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and the new ICC in The Hague operate under civilian law and provide generous protections to defendants. The result is a ballooning of the courts' timelines and costs. It took the ICTR 10 years to complete the same number of trials that Nuremberg conducted in less than a year. The trial of Slobodan Milosevic is now in its fourth year. Nor have these societies been able to make a clean break with their past. The protracted and always polarizing exercises that are today's war crimes trials cannot serve the same decisive political and social function that Nuremberg did....
Because most atrocities these days are committed during violence intergroup conflict, most survivors seek first and foremost an end to the fighting and to regain basic economic and social stability. That is no small matter. Nations have found various ways to deal with perpetrators of violent acts, and throughout history many of these methods have given priority to the reintegration of wrongdoers into normal, nonviolent existence. In Mozambique, the 1992 peace accord than ended 15 years of civil war mandated a blanket amnesty for all those who committed war crimes. It also provided for the demobilization of fighters from both sides and their reintegration into civilian life....Nearly all the Mozambicans I talked to between 2001 and 2003 expressed great satisfaction with the 1992 amnesty. Most said they could not imagine prosecuting people who had committed wartime atrocities. "If we did, the whole nation would be on trial," one man said. Satisfaction with amnesties can be found elsewhere. In South Africa, researchers found in 2001 that more than 75 percent of black citizens were satisfied with the work of the truth commission -- which offered complete amnesties to former perpetrators who met its conditions.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
The recent elections in Iraq have not resolved the main problems there—a constitutional crisis, continued terrorism, a potent Sunni rebellion, and fighting between religious and ethnic groups that could result in a full-blown civil war. Is the Iraq war a hopeless quagmire that has been lost, or can the U.S. still foster a united, peaceful and prosperous Iraq? If the latter, how can this be achieved? Should the Iraqi constitution be revised and, if so, how? Should the U.S. withdraw its forces—with Iraq partitioned—or use the threat of withdrawal to pressure Iraqi groups into a negotiated settlement? Should the U.S. extract troops rapidly, pull them out gradually, stay the course with current Bush administration policy, or escalate its involvement, as advocated by Senator John McCain? This very timely policy forum will address these thorny issues and propose varied and innovative solutions for Iraq.The forum will be broadcast on CSPAN Saturday, February 25, 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT) and Monday, February 27, 6:20 a.m. ET (3:20 a.m. PT).
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
As I have said many times, the UN needs to decide between protecting sovereignty and protecting human rights. It just can't do both.
I read Olmert's comments are paving the way for Israel to give Hamas some space to decide what kind of government it wants to create. By declaring that Hamas does not threaten the existence of Israel, Olmert is likely preparing Israel for the possibilities of dealing with a Hamas-led Palestinian government. A wise decision, I believe.
However, the decision to withhold the Palestinian tax revenue is unwise and threatens to force Hamas' hand. Hamas has already looked towards Iran to make up for the lost cash flow, and strangling the Palestinian people can only ramp up support for new violent attacks. Israel should resume the payments to the PA immediately, predicating the flow on the continued absence of terrorist attacks against Israel (and of course, threatening wide-scale military responses as well as continued separation). This would give Hamas both the incentive and the time to decide how it wants to deal with Israel. Note there has not been a resumption of suicide attacks, or any other uses of violence, by Hamas or Fatah since the election. Now is not the time for Israel to antagonize the situation. If Hamas is truly not a strategic threat as Olmert claims and I believe, then why not give Hamas the money until it screws up?
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
This is an excellent example of why it's going to be so hard to get guilty verdicts in this trial, as well as that of Slobodan Milosevic. As the AP reports, "Saddam's approval of death sentences handed down by the Revolutionary Court against Shiites from Dujail could not prove incriminating unless there is compelling evidence that Saddam knew the defendants were railroaded. Also, orders for arrests or transfers of detainees from one facility to another mean little unless the prosecution can prove that Saddam knew they would be tortured." As the sovereign ruler of Iraq, Hussein had a right and duty to protect his country, even through methods we might find repugnant. To find him guilty, the prosecutors have to show that Hussein knew what was going on and had a hand in ordering murders. It's simple enough for Hussein to claim that he was suppressing a rebellion and that if a few officers went beyond the call of duty and tortured or murdered a few Kurds or Shiites, Hussein had nothing to do with it. In the words of Saddam's attorney, "There is nothing in these documents that show anything beside President Saddam exercising his constitutional authorities. As president, he ratifies death sentences and approves promotions."
The chief prosecutor has announced that he does in fact have hard evidence, claiming "he would present a document during the next session, Feb. 28, involving communication between the intelligence agency and Saddam that he suggested would further tie Saddam directly to the Dujail crackdown." We'll see....
Monday, February 20, 2006
The article writes that "the success of those [censorship] measures has been mixed. ...the Internet presents a formidable challenge to China's authoritarian political system." Just having access to the Internet, even if it's under governmental control, makes it more difficult to keep information out. And the more information flows into China, the better. So, as I've said before, chastising, punishing, or preventing Google from bringing the Internet into China, even if they have to collaborate with the Communist Party to do so, is extremely short-sighted.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Friday, February 17, 2006
Is there something inherently wrong with the appellate court's ruling? Interestingly, I have been discussing this very question with my class The Politics of Terror here at the University of Puget Sound. If the concept of "terrorism" is to have any analytic meaning whatsoever, one must be able to distinguish "terrorism" from "not terrorism." After all, the word "terrorism" inherently means the illegitimate or illegal use of political violence, as opposed to the legitimate or legal use of the same.
If attacking soldiers occupying your country is not legitimate or legal, then there is no way in which political violence can be acceptable. To deem something legitimate is not to approve of it. I am a supporter of the war in Iraq and most certainly would prefer that the insurgents do not succeed. But that doesn't mean that I believe they are not justified in their actions. Terrorism must be defined by the means used to pursue a political goal, not the goal itself. A group pursuing a terrorist goal can use both legitimate and illegitimate means to pursue its goal. When Iraqi insurgents attack US soldiers, it's legitimate; when they attack schools or mosques, it's terrorism.
One caveat: the men acquitted by the Italian court were North African. In my mind, this changes things slightly...it's a matter of "standing." I'm not so sure if people not directly impacted by the occupation should have the "right" to legitimate political violence. If Sunni Iraqis are attacking US troopsin hopes of overthrowing the new regime and returning to power, fine. But I'm not so sure the definition works for outsiders more interested in causing chaos than creating a political alternative.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
What puzzles me is why there is so little media coverage of this. A web search turns up almost no mention of this development other than the ABC (the Aussie version) reports. I did find one CNN report that, buried in the middle of an article about Hussein's courtroom tantrums, mentioned that "documents -- such as signed execution orders signed by Hussein -- were put into evidence." This is a huge development...why is no one reporting about it?
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
One would think that the EU would be hestitant to make concessions to states that fail to live up to the basic standards of liberal human rights, such as freedom of religion, freedom of the press and speech, and equality of women, for example. Just take a look at this map of freedom created by Freedom House. How many Islamic countries rate as free, or even partly free? Among states with Muslim majorities (46 countries), 3 rate as "Free," 20 as "PartlyFree," and 23 are "Not Free." However, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana sided with the OIC, saying that "We have been talking today on how we can send a message to the people in both communities, the Islamic and European, that we need this not to happen again ... We strongly hope that people will be now sensible to understand that. Be sure we are going to do our utmost for this not to happen again, because we need each other... I don't think honestly it will happen again."
Just to demonstrate that this is not a case of an official's personal views deviating from stated policy, Solana's chief of staff concurred: "[The Islamic states] want mechanisms to guarantee this is not repeated and we should be able to find it in UN conventions on human rights."
An unnamed EU official close to the talks between Solana and the OIC dissented, arguing that the EU had and would make no promises to the OIC on anti-blasphemy legislation. But, he went on to say that "We deviated from the word 'laws' and moved to concentrate on conventions, resolutions and such things. We have to be careful of Western public opinion." Ah yes, the European commitment to free speech and press is not a moral one, but merely a reflection of public opinion.
Actually, I hope that the EU's spineless appeasement succeeds. What better way to demonstrate the complete and total irrelevance of the UN than to have its human rights codes be stronger in preventing satiric criticism of religion than genocide or oppression? Such an act would truly consign the UN to the ashbin of history where human rights are concerned. Good riddance.
While it may be true that Bush has few good options in dealing with Iran, it's hard to see how anyone can have more faith in the UN. Is Beijing going to sacrifice more than $100 billion in energy deals with Iran to give the US and the West a political victory? Will Russia alienate one of its major arms clients? And even if the UN can convince Russia and China to get on board with a serious sanctions regime, does the experience of sanctioning Iraq provide any assurance that sanctions can work? Sanctions take an exceedingly long time to have any effect on the political leadership of a country, and the more direct effects are felt by the civilian population. Additionally, sanctions create huge collective action problem that encourage widespread defection and cheating. This means that sanctions are usually just strong enough to harm the public but insufficient to achieve the intended political outcome.
Also, let's consider the UN's track record in preventing countries from developing nuclear weapons? North Korea...no. Pakistan....no. India...no. Israel...no. South Africa...no (South Africa secretly developed a nuclear weapon, but dismantled its program voluntarily). Iran...not so far. Argentina and Brazil...no (these two countries were locked in a nuclear arms race, but created an agreement that has prevented the development of NW). The only possible success story is Iraq. But, without the Israeli strike on Osiraq and the US invasion in 1991, Iraq most certainly would have had nuclear weapons. Furthermore, let's not forget the outcries against the sanctions that killed so many Iraqi civilians. It's hard to imagine the world having the stomach to impose an ever harsher sanctions regime on Iran.
So, how can more Americans believe that the UN can solve this problem? It's hard to fathom. I'm not confident that the US will be able to find a nice solution, but the UN can't even stop the Sudanese government from slaughtering its people. How will it be able to stop Iran from getting nukes? Note in such an excellent oxymoron that the poll also notes that while 67% of Americans believe that Bush won't do enough to prevent Iran from getting nukes, 69% fear that Bush will be "too quick" to use force. Idiots. This is why we should be happy that foreign policy isn't made by the more subject-to-public-opinion congressmen and senators.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Still, one cannot help but think about (or at least I couldn't) this op-ed in the Washington Post by William Easterly, an NYU economist. Easterly writes that while things like the genocide in Darfur or the problem of AIDS and other infectious diseases are "tragedies that deserve attention, the obsessive and almost exclusive Western focus on them is less relevant to the vast majority of Africans -- the hundreds of millions not fleeing from homicidal minors, not HIV-positive, not starving to death, and not helpless wards waiting for actors and rock stars to rescue them. Angelina [Jolie, but feel free to insert Joey Cheek], the continent has problems but it is not being destroyed. This is not to say that all Western aid efforts in Africa are condemned to fail. Aid groups could search for achievable tasks with high potential for poor individuals to help themselves. To do so, they would have to subject themselves to independent evaluation and be accountable to the intended beneficiaries for the results. Such an approach would contrast with the prevailing norm of never holding anyone individually accountable for the results of traditional government-to-government aid programs aimed at feeding the hubristic fantasies of outside transformation of whole societies."
The real question is: Why must anybody respond to this idiocy at all? Under any definition of free speech or freedom of the press, there is nothing inherently wrong with criticizing, or even mocking, the Holocaust or publishing cartoons that do so. [Please note that I think the ban on Holocaust denial in many European countries is a really bad idea, if only because an idiotic idea that the authorities need to ban is much more believable than an idiotic idea that can be exposed to the public.] Not that Iran has any level of free speech or freedom of the press. If these cartoonists dared insult Islam or the Iranian regime, you can be sure that they wouldn't be lauded by the Iranian president. Furthermore, what effect will protesting the contest have? It will provide grist for the mill on the Arab street, giving credence to the argument that the West has a double standard when it comes to Islam and Muslims. Also, protesting the cartoons will only call more attention to them and get them more publicity.
So, everyone should simply ignore this pathetic and moronic attempt by Iran to make a point about free speech. The more attention given to it, the worse it will become.
However, on top of any logistical impediments to a NATO involvement, there also seems to be a philosophical objection as well; namely, the commitment to sovereignty that I've previously identified as the bugaboo of the UN. Many seem to doubt whether Sudan will allow US or NATO soldiers on its soil. The French are questioning whether NATO can be the "gendarme of the world." US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick stressed that African problems should have African solutions.
This is pathetic. A government that is massacring and ethnically cleansing its populations gets to decide whether peacekeepers can protect those people? That won't go far in preventing genocide. What meaning can international law have if sovereignty permits a government to block peacekeepers? How can the AU possibly hope to protect the people of Darfur? AU troops are woefully underfunded and undertrained, not to mention the political in-fighting that gets in the way of meaningful political improvement. And finally, if NATO, and the US in particular, won't act as the world's policemen, then who will?
The international community has to face up to a question. What is more important: adherence to the existing rules and norms, or commitment to the norms of liberalism, which are rapidly being seen as commensurate with the international system writ large? The two cannot co-exist. If the existing laws and norms are to prevail, then the protection and promotion sovereignty will be the international imperative, and people should simply stop talking about law and morals in international politics. If the international community truly wants to prevent genocide and promote human rights, then it needs to drop this knee-jerk commitment to the existing rules of the system and start punishing those who break the norms. If Sudan doesn't want peacekeepers to interfere with its genocide and ethnic cleansing in Darfur, should a belief in sovereignty enable that desire? If France is concerned with the well-being of Africans, should NATO do what it can to ensure those Africans aren't slaughtered?
The existing rules of the international system simply cannot coexist with a concern for human rights and preventing genocide.
Monday, February 13, 2006
This court is of great concern to Hamas as it prepares to take control of the parliament. Specifically, the court will be able to overturn any religious laws that Hamas passes to move the territories closer to the rule of shari'a. The Basic Laws do state, in Article 4, that Islam is the official religion of the territories and that the source of all legislation shall be Islamic shari'a. However, the Palestinians have been largely resistant of any moves towards increased Islamic law in their domestic law.
Hamas will, upon taking control, try to overturn the creation of the court. If Hamas is not successful, the court could be a meaningful and important brake on the ambitions of Hamas and play a moderating role in Palestinian politics, as well as perhaps setting a precedent for other Arab and/or Islamic countries.
Friday, February 10, 2006
I was going to blog about the original piece in this morning's print edition reporting on Russia's plan (before the French got on board) by discussing the irrelevance of Russia on the international stage. Russia's role as a member of the Quartet (the US, EU, Russia, and the UN), like its status in the G-8, is an artifact of Russia's Cold War relevance. Now, as exemplified in Russia's recent failed attempt to leverage its natural gas power over Ukraine, Russia has little real power in international politics. How much difference has Russia made in the Israel-Palestinian peace process? None whatsoever (nor has the UN for that matter).
However, the more I thought about it, the more I think that these initial advances towards Hamas may be the right step. Forget the rhetoric about not rewarding terror: governments negotiate with and reward terrorists all the time. Just look at the PLO. The only relevant question is: What actions are most likely to lead towards a peaceful settlement of the crisis? Shutting out Hamas from the get-go will likely only alienate and polarize the Palestinian people even more. Reaching out to Hamas, combined with swift and vicious punishment and retaliation for any violent acts, can sufficiently engage Hamas and demonstrate the advantages to be gained by peaceful participation in the political process.
Ultimately, what difference does it make to Israel's security if Russia talks to Hamas? None whatsoever. Israel still has the capability to punish Hamas for any acts of terrorism. So who care if a few irrelevant countries choose to meet with them?
Thursday, February 09, 2006
The EU is considering creating a media code of conduct that would "urge the media to respect all religious sensibilities." EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini claims that by adopting the code, the media will "give the Muslim world the message: We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free speech. We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right."
I find the EU's proposal shameful. Why does the European press need to acknowledge that they are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free speech? Have the rioting Muslims been made aware of the consequences of burning embassies, killing priests, or even of exercising the right of free speech in threatening to behead those with whom they disagree? Whether or not the cartoons should have been run is a difficult question. But to ask the press to self-regulate in order to not offend groups of people willing to raze, threaten, and kill is another entirely. And here, the EU is giving the wrong answer. Were the cartoons offensive? Probably. But to allow the threats and violence of these lunatics to dictate how and what should be printed in disgraceful.
I was not aware that cheese-eating surrender monkeys lived in Italy (Frattini is a former Italian foreign minister) as well as in France.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan points out that the offending cartoons were printed on the front page of an Egyptian newspaper last October, and no riots ensued. As he writes, "this whole affair is a contrived, manufactured attempt by extremist Muslims to move the goal-posts on Western freedom. They're saying: we determine what you can and cannot print; and there's a difference between what Muslims can print and what infidels can print. And, so far, much of the West has gone along. In this, well-meaning American editors have been played for fools and cowards."
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
The real problem is that the military is wedded in multiple ways to its high-tech toys, even if they are not well-suited to the battlefield of the future. Short-range fighters are particularly problematic, as the US is withdrawing from its forward-deployed air bases, and has increasing difficulty obtaining over-flight rights. Heavy naval ships, while capable of lobbing cruise missiles at distant targets, are designed to fight the now-non-existant Soviet surface navy. The most likely future challenger to US military might -- China -- has shown little interest in fielding a true blue-water navy. As we have seen, future military campaigns are much more likely to resemble Afghanistan and Iraq than World War II. What are needed are boots on the ground (soldiers) trained not only in infantry tactics but guerrilla/urban warfare, police duty, and language/culture, long-range precision-strike capabilities, special forces, and things like that.
The military is, however, reticent to accept such changes. A telling example: When I worked for SAIC back in the mid-1990s, I was running a wargame examining the future of the Air Force by looking at different possible configurations for the air force, including an entirely unmanned air force that used drones. The Air Force officers present at the game were almost incapable of playing the game as they just could not accept even the possibility that pilots might, someday, become unnecessary. Also, as Boot notes, Congress prefers to fund big-ticket, high-tech weapons that provide jobs in their districts.
This is going to be a problem. Even taking into account China, the US is not likely to find itself in a WWII- or WWIII-type conflict in the forseeable future. Smaller operations against other rogue states (and no, I'm not naming Iran or North Korea here) or humanitarian interventions are much more likely to demand a US military presence. The US needs lots of soliders combined with the ability to precisely strike targets at long distances to deal with these kind of problems. Of course, the US needs to maintain air and naval superiority, if only to deter others from even trying to develop such capabilities. But that can be occurred at a much cheaper price than is currently laid out in the new budget or the QDR.
Monday, February 06, 2006
As my friend Geoff says, "Um, so we’re not supposed to be able to see those, right?"
There is a difference between a declaration of war and an authorization to use force that is significant and relevant, and it would be, in fact, counter-productive for the administration to go to far down this path. Congress is clearly and explicitly given the power to declare war by the Constitution. The president is clearly and explicitly given the power to command the nation's armed forces in the role of commander-in-chief. Even in the face of the War Powers Resolution, president after president has claimed authority to deploy force, even in the absence of a formal declaration of war or even congressional authorization, to meet the demands of national security.
Now, the administration is arguing that an authorization of force is the same thing as a declaration of war. This seems to limit, rather than expand, the president's authority to deploy military force, as it expands the definition of "declare war" beyond what presidents have previously accepted. This strategy, seems to me, to be extremely short-sighted. The congressional-executive war powers balance has evolved through the twin precedents of presidents claiming more power and Congress ceding its responsibility and acquiescing to the presidents' claims. President Bush is giving some of that ground back to Congress, setting the stage for a more aggressive Congress to possibly assert that, in an expansive view of congressional war powers, it should have authority, a la the War Powers Resolution, to oversee each and all deployments of US troops abroad.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
The title of this post comes not only from an excellent episode of The Simpsons, but from Ash's assertion that the French, by virtue of Chirac's veiled threat to use nuclear force in response to terrorism, have become tougher than the US, which Ash believes has seen the light by recognizing that "the only serious answer [to the problem of Iran's nuclear program] coming from Washington is multilateral diplomacy, preferably through the UN. Welcome to the Euroweenies club, Mr President!"
I doubt the logic here, but even if Ash is correct, how can he possibly put his faith in the UN to solve this problem? Is there not an international institution known as the IAEA, of which Iran is a member, that has the power to control nuclear material and punish countries for violating the rules? Is there not an international institution known as the UN which has the power to enforce on a global scale the rules of the IAEA? Ash's solution is tantamount to announcing that while the UN has failed and will never work, the solution is to simply keep trying.
The UN's problems and inability to solve difficult problems like this are not in its scope, but in its design. Having 5 nations that possess opposing understandings of international security and national interest responsible for making policy -- and giving each the power to prevent anything from happening -- is a recipe for an unworkable solution. Why does Ash have any hope that a new institution could be better? If it is to be made stronger and more binding, the powerful states won't join it. If it looks like the UN, preserving the sovereignty of all, then what's the point?
The only solutions to the problem rest with either unilateral or small-scale multilateral action (like NATO) or in creating an institution that is not as inclusive as the UN and thus can actually make decisions, pass judgments, and enforce its rules. Recreating the UN is simply a fool's errand.
There is no doubt that these decisions are victories for free trade, but I am not as convinced that they represent the advance of international law. One must be careful to distinguish between cooperation under law and coordination of interests. While the WTO does have enforcement powers, it is an organization that represents coordination of interests, rather than real compulsion. That is, the member states believe that free trade is in their long-term, over-all national interest. However, free trade in particular is often hijacked and held hostage by collective action problems. This is why protectionism is able to remain such a powerful force, despite the glaring and massive economic inefficiencies it produces. The US would prefer to comply with the dictates of free trade but often finds it difficult to do so due to reasons of domestic politics. The WTO serves, in essence, as a "hands-tying" organization that binds the US to a course of action. When domestic politics gets in the way of free trade, the US can point to the WTO and argue that there is no choice but to comply.
Institutions can, of course, have meaningful political effects. In particular, by coordinating actions, decreasing information asymmetries, and permitting states to bind their hands and avoid collective action problems. But that's not quite the same thing as arguing that they represent real, hard international law. Law requires that states are prohibited from doing things that they would prefer to do and that they will be punished if they do those things. Most institutions do not operate this way. Rather, they help states cooperate to get what they all want anyway. International legal institutions that do not operate this way more often than not do not work (the NPT, the IAEA). Note this also explains why obtaining membership in the WTO (a trade organization with very difficult accession rules) is more difficult than in the NPT (any nation can sign): the member states of the WTO must be exceedingly careful not to let a fox in the henhouse.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
So yes, now is the time to get the UN involved. Where was it for the past few years, while tens if not hundreds of thousands of people were being killed, raped, forced from their homes, and otherwise brutalised? Placing the hopes of a people for justice and salvation in the UN, or the AU for that matter, is akin to believing in the Tooth Fairy. Unfortunately, while belief in the Tooth Fairy might net a kid a buck or so, trusting the UN usually produces indifference to, if not the outright abetting of (as in Srebrenica), genocide.
UPDATE: Case in point, the money quote from the ICG statement: While the AU troops have done much to provide security in Darfur they have been unable to protect civilians throughout the region. The AU forces have lacked manpower and resources and the Sudanese government has not cooperated with their mission. I hope this leaves you as dumb-struck as I am. If the AU has been unable to protect civilians, lacks manspower and resources, and has not had cooperation from the Sudanese government, how can it be claimed that "AU troops have done much to provide security"?
UPDATE, PART 2: The US has, in fact, called for the UN to deploy troops into Darfur. The article cited mentions the 2 million displaced persons, but does not mention numbers of dead or raped. It also notes that if the African Union and Khartoum do not agree to allow the UN to replace the AU troops, China will likely not consent to any operation (China gets a large amount of oil from Sudan and has long been a political protector of the regime). And, continuing the look at money quotes exemplifying the inability of the UN to deal with these kind of problems (note the use of my chosen title for the original blog post in the quote from Pronk):
"Looking back at three years of killings and (ethnic) cleansing in Darfur, we must admit that our peace strategy so far has failed," Jan Pronk, the top U.N. envoy in Khartoum, said in mid-January. "All we did was picking up the pieces and muddling through, doing too little too late," he told the Security Council.
In another note, Fatah and the PA are officially denying a claim by Egypt that the PA has agreed that Hamas would have to recognize Israel in order to join a Palestinian government. While it's too early to tell which claim is accurate, it certainly wouldn't be surprising for the PA and Fatah to publicly deny this, for the sake of domestic opinion, even if it is in fact true.
Overall, the pressure is mounting on Hamas to restrain itself and move towards becoming a legitimate political player.
UPDATE: Apparently, as I predict above, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have already begun pressuring Hamas to to moderate its stand towards Israel, work with Fatah, and continue the peace process.
Now we find that Hussein is boycotting his trial. According to Hussein's lead lawyer, Hussein and the other co-defendants will refuse to appear in court until the lead judge, an ethnic Kurd, is removed from the bench. This is nothing new. Saddam has repeatedly interrupted the trial with ridiculous claims of abuse, political and religious tirades and rants, and refusals to cooperate with the court.
I fail to see how this is advancing justice in any way. The lead judge is apparently "considering" a request from the prosecutors to compel the defendants to appear. "Considering?" Hussein should be bound and gagged and forced to sit in court as his crimes are laid before the bench. He should not be allowed to interrupt the procedings (note that Milosevic has adopted a similiar strategy, which has caused his trial to drag on for several years). Witnesses should present the evidence, and Hussein should only be allowed to speak in direct rebuttal of any charges. Any thing else, even in the name of legal procedure, is a gross violation of the need for retributive justice. Domestic law, with its emphasis on procedural justice, is not well suited to dealing with such crimes. Allowing Saddam to walk free because the chain of command linking him to torture or genocide cannot be demonstrated is not an acceptable option.