Good morning! Today's post is going to be a little different (but not as different as yesterday's, so you can relax). I have a number of blogs that I read everyday for news or for comment (and usually a little of both). A blog that doesn't get much plugging here (because it's almost strictly analysis, rather than 'breaking news') is TMLutas' Flit. Today I mean to fill the linking void, but not arbitrarily. He's written what I consider very important pieces on the emerging world, and I think that the more people that read and think about it, the better off we'll all be. So here goes.
The Geneva Conventions are perfectly fine for conflicts in which all sides are relatively committed to honoring them. They are like black tie event dress codes. If you're at a black tie event, the rules are just fine. The problem is that the incidence of black tie events is rather small in most people's lives. So you need new rule sets in addition to the Geneva Conventions, not instead of. You need a new protocol that covers in much more detail the growing incidence of combat that does not fall under the convention rule set.There are a number of phrases in his analysis that you may not be familiar with (yet), so lets do some background reading.
In 1684 the Treaty of Westphalia brought to a close eighty years of religious wars in Europe with new rules of international law establishing the modern state system. The foundation of this system is the sovereign character of the nation state and the solemn prohibition against interference in its internal affairs by outsiders.Tony Blair himself has commented recently on the transition.
Although the international rules of the road set out in the Treaty of Westphalia have been modified over the years, most recently notably by the Charter of the United Nations, they remained more or less intact until recently, until June 10, 1999, to be exact. That is the date when the UN Security Council approved Resolution 1244 (1999). With that resolution on Kosovo, the world?s major countries redefined the sovereign character of the nation state, including their own. The post-Cold War world has segued into what might be called the post-Westphalian world.
Already, before September 11th the world's view of the justification of military action had been changing. The only clear case in international relations for armed intervention had been self-defence, response to aggression. But the notion of intervening on humanitarian grounds had been gaining currency. I set this out, following the Kosovo war, in a speech in Chicago in 1999, where I called for a doctrine of international community, where in certain clear circumstances, we do intervene, even though we are not directly threatened. I said this was not just to correct injustice, but also because in an increasingly inter-dependent world, our self-interest was allied to the interests of others; and seldom did conflict in one region of the world not contaminate another. We acted in Sierra Leone for similar reasons, though frankly even if that country had become run by gangsters and murderers and its democracy crushed, it would have been a long time before it impacted on us. But we were able to act to help them and we did.There's a lot to digest in that speech, but you should read the whole thing.
So, for me, before September 11th, I was already reaching for a different philosophy in international relations from a traditional one that has held sway since the treaty of Westphalia in 1648; namely that a country's internal affairs are for it and you don't interfere unless it threatens you, or breaches a treaty, or triggers an obligation of alliance. I did not consider Iraq fitted into this philosophy, though I could see the horrible injustice done to its people by Saddam.
However, I had started to become concerned about two other phenomena.
The first was the increasing amount of information about Islamic extremism and terrorism that was crossing my desk. Chechnya was blighted by it. So was Kashmir. Afghanistan was its training ground. Some 300 people had been killed in the attacks on the USS Cole and US embassies in East Africa. The extremism seemed remarkably well financed. It was very active. And it was driven not by a set of negotiable political demands, but by religious fanaticism.
The second was the attempts by states - some of them highly unstable and repressive - to develop nuclear weapons programmes, CW and BW materiel, and long-range missiles. What is more, it was obvious that there was a considerable network of individuals and companies with expertise in this area, prepared to sell it.
And the number of modifications it is bringing with it are quite interesting. For example:The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got.The President of the United States just annulled a number of the principles that have guided international system since 1648. Since that time, when the Peace of Westphalia was signed, the idea was that states were sovereign. Inside their borders, they could do largely what they pleased and they were responsible for what happened inside. Only states could declare war. Only states could make peace. Who was recognized as sovereign was the key to who you would talk to.
Israel, the US, Russia, a number of other nations have been doing little pirouettes around the inconvenient fact that subnational organizations are declaring and acting as parties that can declare war and have been waging war. George Bush just stopped the dance.
We are now in a very uncomfortable position. Heads of State all over the world now know that if an organization on their territory declares war on the United States, the United States will believe them and act accordingly, with likely devastating consequences to the country.
This is going to do a slow roll throughout the diplomatic world. I don't think it's going to be retracted.
Let's put aside the question, for the moment of whether it's a bright idea to have blown up Sheik Yassin, of Hamas infamy. What caught my eye was Jack Straw's statement that Yassim's killing was unlawful.So you can see the kind of dangers this move might lead us to, if we are not prepared for it.
What law, exactly, was violated?
President Bush's Greater Middle East Initiative will ignore sovereignty issues and reach into middle east societies to support liberal reformers inside their own country. He's currently unveiling it to Europe and there seems to be some cautious willingness to come on board in a partnership where "there's work enough for everyone." What's being ignored is the institutional tearing of Westphalian assumptions of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.The objections to American policy are rooted in this construct of political theory, whether objectors know it or not. The sad thing is, ignorance of this world transition is very dangerous, not because it places Europe in a different mindset from the American-led Coalition, but because it holds very real consequences in the way our mutual enemies (who have no compunctions about violating some 350 year old political theory) act against us. If we can't respond in kind (not "terrorism for terrorism," but "mindset for mindset"), then we face the very real possibility of defeat. And given the expressed desires of our enemies, defeat means death.
This initiative has some chance at success but win or lose, the implications for the permissibility of interfering in the affairs of other countries is profound and hardly noticed (or at least noticed publicly) at all by the present leadership of the international system.
The United Nations and Red Cross have been providing cover for terrorists ? literally. And American taxpayers are footing some of the bill.I don't need to reiterate the rage and disgust that I feel toward this political body (summed up: United Nations - The Enemy of Liberty), so I'll move on.
Last week, an Israeli television station aired footage of armed Arab terrorists in southern Gaza using an ambulance owned and operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Palestinian gunmen used the UNRWA emergency vehicle as getaway transportation after murdering six Israeli soldiers in Gaza City on May 11. The footage shows two ambulances with flashing lights pull onto a street. Shots and shouts ring out during the nighttime raid. A gang of militants piles into one of the supposedly neutral ambulances, clearly marked "U.N." with the agency's blue flag flying from the roof, which then speeds away from the scene.
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