Drezner, Quiggin, Smoking, and International Legitimacy

I’ve been watching the Daniel DreznerJohn Quiggin debate about the centrality of policy elites and international law (based, amusingly enough, on a Glenn Greenwald post).Drezner cites Quiggin:

John Quiggin asks some valid questions about my rephrasing of Glenn Greenwald’s take of how foreign policy analysts think about the use of force (“The number one rule of the bi-partisan foreign policy community is that America can invade and attack other countries when vital American interests are threatened. Paying homage to that orthodoxy is a non-negotiable pre-requisite to maintaining good standing within the foreign policy community.”)

Unless “vital national interest” is construed so narrowly as to be equivalent to “self-defence”, this is a direct repudiation of the central founding principle of international law, prohibiting aggressive war as a crime against peace, indeed, the supreme international crime. It’s more extreme than the avowed position of any recent US Administration – even the invasion of Iraq was purportedly justified on the basis of UN resolutions, rather than US self-interest. Yet, reading this and other debates, it seems pretty clear that Drezner’s position is not only generally held in the Foreign Policy Community but is regarded, as he says, as a precondition for serious participation in foreign policy debates in the US.

Drezner then replies:

Quiggin is clearly bothered by the idea that this conception of the use of force is a violation of international law — nay, “the supreme international crime.” Without making a normative comment one way or the other, most positive analyses of world politics would conclude that there hasn’t been a whole lot of adherence to that tenet of international law. As James Joyner observes:

The UN Charter’s outlawing of war has, from its outset, been observed only in the breach. It has stopped the United States from declaring war but not from going to war.

This applies to every other state in the international system as well. Quiggin wants international law to be a powerfully binding constraint on state action. That’s nice, but what Quiggin wants and what actually happens are two very different animals.

Another way to look at it is this:

When I started grad school at U.C. Berkeley, one of my core professors was Stephen S. Cohen (he’s still there, teaching with Brad DeLong). I met him at the first session of his class; there was an overflow of students, and Professor Cohen walked in, smoking a cigarette. This was 1974 or so, and smoking had just been banned in classrooms.

As he stood there and started explaining the class, an aggrieved student interrupted. “Professor Cohen, Professor Cohen…there are rules against smoking in class you know…”

Cohen looked cooly at the student and took a big drag on his cigarette.

“There are also rules against cheating on exams and screwing students. None of those seem to be very closely enforced either.”

I was a fan for life.

Quiggin and other fans of international law want to wish into existence an international polity in which law has or can be given adequate legitimacy to check the ambitions of the actors contained.

Personally, I’m less than thrilled with the idea that I am supposed to be subject to a set of laws crafted with the approval of Robert Mugabe or Hugo Chavez. I do appreciate the restraint that the concept of international legitimacy ought to bring to the table. But when so many of those who are granting it are themselves despots or otherwise legitimate only through the most brutal application of force of arms, what – exactly – does that legitimacy rest on?

I have my own take on the “Foreign Policy Experts” issue, but I want to dig out my copy of Gaddis and find a quote first.

119 thoughts on “Drezner, Quiggin, Smoking, and International Legitimacy”

  1. In international relations, states normally signal the invalidity of a law or an institution by disregarding it, not by explicit legal acts of repudiation. It wasn’t a flurry of lawmaking that put an end to the authority of the League of Nations, or to the Kelogg-Briand Pact of 1928.

    So when someone says, “you have to do this, because there are treaties never formally repudiated that say so,” that is just talk, based in a misunderstanding, intentional or unintentional, of what sorts of things treaties are.

    The force of international laws and institutions that have been vitiated, though not explicitly so, is moral if it is anything other than propaganda and lawfare.

    Israel is a criminal under international law because it builds fences to stop suicide bomber, in violation of international requirements that it not build fences so that suicide bombers in adequate numbers can get at Jewish civilians.

    When the majesty of international law required that Muslim suicide bombers be free to get at Israeli children, my willingness to be over-awed by the moral force of international law ended. And I don’t think anyone else should be over-awed by the moral force of international law either.

    In sum, when people advocate that international law be obeyed, in disregard of decency and the interests of their nations and their allies, they put utter bunkum above country and what ought to be their conscience.

  2. If the check-out person at the supermarket gives you too much change, do you keep it?

    It’s a bit saddening to see how surprised people get when you point out an error in your favor, so they can correct it. You didn’t have to behave rightly, but you just did, because it was the right thing to do. Lots of other people don’t, and they don’t get caught. But you feel good. It’s also a testimony, albeit a small one, encouraging the people around you to behave well toward each other.

    On the international scale, saying that we won’t attack someone except in self-defense is like that. In the abstract, it’s the right thing to do, in the Kantian sense that the world would be a far better place if everyone did it. If we live like that, it’s a testimony on the world stage, telling other countries how they should behave too.

    Of course, such a rule is violated often, sometimes by us.

    But for virtually the entire twentieth century, and especially for the first half, the USA was a “beacon on the hill”, standing witness for a set of ideals, and willing to pay the real cost of living with those ideals in the real world. This witness was worth a lot, to me personally, to our country, and to the world as a whole. Perhaps especially, to people who live in countries that violate those ideals, because it showed that the most powerful country in the world could live according to ideals.

    The great tragedy of the last six years is that the Bush administration has thrown that away. They have unilaterally abandoned the moral high ground.

    They sold my birthright, and yours, for a mess of pottage.

  3. Beard, I actually agree wholeheartedly with almost everything you say.

    But there’s a world of difference between doing something because “we should” and doing something because “international law says”…

    A.L.

  4. Where do you suppose “international law” came from? Lots of places, of course, but a great deal of international law related to conflict within and among nations since WWII came about because the USA wanted it that way. It reflects the moral position that the USA and its allies felt should be followed the rest of the world.

    Now, that certainly doesn’t mean that every UN resolution passed since WWII was to our liking, or even was morally reasonable. But it all took place within the moral framework we had established.

    (By the way, anyone who has raised teenagers knows what it’s like to have one’s own moral framework applied to onesself by an unsympathetic, even hostile and manipulative, observer. It’s often no fun, but the right way out is usually to have a stronger allegiance to what is right than to what is comfortable. You end up with better kids, too, by the time they reach their twenties.)

    Doing something because “we should” means looking at the moral foundation we live by, and seeing how to live well in a dangerous world. There’s a “gotcha” aspect to imposing the letter of international law on someone else, but I don’t think you could find anyone who actually advocates mindless adherence to the letter of international law for themselves or their own country.

    The pitfall is to discard the spirit and morality behind international law, as well as the sometimes-fallible letter, and say, “We can pre-emptively attack so-and-so because he is a SOB and wants to do us harm, even though he hasn’t actually done it.” I hope (against experience) that we’ve learned how wrong that is.

  5. David,

    I don’t mean this in a confrontational ‘prove your assertion’ sense, but do you have cites to treaties or conventions or other international law sources regarding the Israeli wall and suicide bombers (or, perhaps an earlier WoC post on the subject that I might have missed)? If it’s not a specific treaty or convention you’re referring to, but rather someone or some group’s interpretation, I would still be interested to see particulars. Again, out of legal curiosity, not to bicker.

    Planter

  6. But for virtually the entire twentieth century, and especially for the first half, the USA was a “beacon on the hill”, standing witness for a set of ideals, and willing to pay the real cost of living with those ideals in the real world.

    Did we have the ‘moral high ground’ in Vietnam? Did we have it during Iran contra? Did Europe support our actions in Bosnia? Did we have the moral high ground during the Iran-Iraq war, or when we supported the mujahideen against the Soviets?

    We got our hands dirty during the cold war because we were the only power in the world that was capable of defending Europe and a multitude of other weak states against the commumist threat. Once we won the cold war, the Europeans ‘thanked’ us by criticizing us as warmongers. Which should teach us a lesson about why we should never stand up for Europe again.

    The UN was not effective against the communist threat. It did not prevent, nor did it try to prevent, the massacres and mass starvation that caused 100 million deaths under communism.

    The UN is an unelected clique of elites whose main goal is to preserve their power and the status quo. Their only goal is to prevent one nation from threatening another nation’s power. They have no interest in preventing genocide, civil war, oppression or ethnic cleansing. The organization is as corrupt as Enron and as ineffective.

  7. International Law is the Holy Roman Empire of our times. A polite fiction like Santa Claus that does not exist (sorry Virginia).

    International Law does not exist:

    *China invaded and annexed Tibet.
    *India and Pakistan fought several wars.
    *The Arab-Israeli Wars of 1948, 1952, 1967, 1974, and 1980 contravened “International Law.”
    *Saddam invaded and annexed Kuwait in 1991.
    *Nearly every Central African country fought in the Congo from 1999-2003.
    *Falklands War.
    *Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia last year.
    *Hezbollah vs. Israel war.
    *Hamas vs. Israel war.
    *Al Qaeda vs. America war.
    *Iran’s acts of war against the US too numerous to mention.

    Besides having no ability to constrain non-State actors (note that Hezbollah, Hamas, and Al Qaeda are at war with Israel and the US respectively) International Law does NOT constrain non-US actors at all. What International Law proponents (not being stupid) want is:

    The US forbidden to act in self-defense.

    International Law “might” work within the Western European framework under the US defense umbrella. Paid for by the US taxpayer and defended with American lives (Europe being unable to defend itself or pay for it’s defense). But you might argue that the US defending and paying for that defense should have it’s own way there too. Since it’s our blood and money that secures Europe today.

    There is no International Law and never will be. By definition it cannot exist because there is no enforcement mechanism to enforce it, absent a world government which requires surrender of sovereignty. Chavez, Mugabe, and Bush alike would have no powers and merely enforce the agenda of the world government. Which is a fantasy of fundamentally unserious and childish people.

  8. Mary [#7],

    Are you presenting those examples as good things we did? Certainly in some cases, we have failed to live up to our own ideals. In others, arguably Bosnia, we did stand up for our ideals in a messy situation where others disagreed, and we have made things (somewhat) better. As to the rest, I think we blew it, but not nearly as badly as we have in Iraq.

    I am sorry that all these efforts have failed to provide you with Heaven on Earth. The lion and the lamb have not made peace, nor have the scorpion and the frog. Sorry.

    If the UN’s “only goal is to prevent one nation from threatening another nation’s power”, then they have bitten off a pretty ambitious chunk. Yes they are inefficient, and yes they are corrupt, but you can’t argue that they have been totally ineffective unless you can make a clear case for what the second half of the twentieth century would have been like without them. Personally, I’m astonished that we made it this far without a nuclear war. The UN certainly doesn’t get all the credit for that, but I don’t think you can give them none.

    You wanted to be thanked by Europe. I guess you haven’t raised teenagers, then. You’ll be lucky if you get thanked before they are 25 years old. You just quietly thank yourself when you see them doing the right things, by themselves.

  9. Jim [#8],

    By your argument, personal morality doesn’t exist either.

    Would you steal, rape, or murder, if you knew you wouldn’t get caught?

    Go back and read my statement [#2]. Do you give back the extra change when the supermarket checker gives you too much? Why?

  10. Re: #6 from Planter,

    Warm thanks for your courtesy.

    I’m no expert on international law, so I’m just going by my memory of reports, reports, such as:

    BBC: West Bank barrier ruling: Key points (link)

  11. I have no links, and memory is unreliable so I will not be put out if you think I must have misunderstood, but at the time I was started to read serious arguments by high-level supporters of the court’s ruling (I mean players in the international law game, not bloggers), that the Court had to get involved in this way for fear that the Israelis might render themselves less susceptible to pressure to make territorial and other concessions to the Palestinians, in a context where the only “pressure” under discussion was suicide bombings directed at Jewish civilians. The tone of the arguments was so unsympathetic that in context “pressure” and “tough pressure” were hardly even euphemisms.

    This is what I meant by saying that the point of the court’s ruling was that suicide bombers must be able to get at Israeli civilians in sufficient numbers. From the point of view of preventing Israel from consolidating itself territorially and generally in a position that was deemed illegitimate, it was essential that pressure not be turned off or slackened too much, and there was no doubt what “pressure” was meant.

  12. In raising this point, I did not mean to take an emotive turn away from the numb of the discussion.

    Rather, I was saying: here’s how international laws and lawmaking bodies are nullified: it’s never been accepted as a rule that it takes an explicit legislative act to do that. Now, when the law is without force because not backed by arms, it may be said its moral force remains. And I gave this example to show the machinery of international law exercising its moral, educative force, saying what is lawful and what is not, and declaring that Israel could act to defend its civilians against terrorism only within international law, with international law being carefully, pointedly defined to exclude a right of self-defense against the attack in question, that is terrorism by non-state actors.* And that is, or I say it ought to be, shocking to a reasonable conscience. As far as I am concerned, it is enough to de-credential bodies of international law as arbiters of morality. (And I think other people should react the same way.) Therefore, when the ordinary means by which states have nullified treaties and international laws in the past have nullified law or treaty X, nothing remains of it. There is no moral force that lingers behind like the grin of the Cheshire cat when the cat itself has disappeared. There is only the real, pragmatic state of international diplomacy.

    * The Hezbollah-Israel war could put an even sharper point on that limit to our right to defend ourselves against Islamic terror, which is only incidentally ever state terror, being in the first case religious.

  13. Are you presenting those examples as good things we did? …as to the rest, I think we blew it, but not nearly as badly as we have in Iraq.

    My point was, America never was ‘the beacon on the hill’ for the denizens of the UN and Europe. However, they were most terribly offended by our actions in Iraq, because the UN and Europe had very profitable business arrangements with Saddam.

    Yes they are inefficient, and yes they are corrupt, but you can’t argue that they have been totally ineffective unless you can make a clear case for what the second half of the twentieth century would have been like without them. Personally, I’m astonished that we made it this far without a nuclear war.

    Most experts noted, even before the end of the cold war, that the biggest nuclear threat did not come from the United States, the Soviets or the Chinese. Most experts agreed that the biggest nuclear threat came from random terrorist groups.

    Given the way the UN appeases and tolerates terrorism, and given their support of the Palestinian terrorist ‘resistance’, I’m astonished that terrorism isn’t a major threat to peaceful civilian life worldwide.

    Oh, wait a minute. It is.

    You wanted to be thanked by Europe. I guess you haven’t raised teenagers

    I have raised teenagers, and they do say thank you every once in awhile. Kids nowadays are better-behaved than we were. Even when they were little, they were suprised by the brattiness they saw in Europe – the grafitti, the French waiters, general rudeness.

    If you see the Europeans as children, then I guess you see us as their mommy. I agree with that. That may be the reason behind their whining about ‘international law’. They don’t want to grow up and get a job, they want us to keep taking care of them. International law is just their latest effort to maintain a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship.

    So, why would anyone want to live under a system of laws created by this childlike, Enron-esque elitist bureaucracy?

  14. So, David and Mary, if I understand you correctly, your argument is that, because some bad “laws” have been passed and some bad “decisions” have been handed down by a court, that the entire *system* of international law should be rejected. (I put “laws” and “decisions” in scare-quotes because neither are binding the relevant parties.)

    Do I understand you correctly?

    If so, your position is that, rather than attempt to improve a useful but faulty mechanism, we should discard it and go back to international relations based on “Might Makes Right”. This is pretty convenient during this point in history, when the USA appears to have more might than most others, but that status might not continue forever.

    Furthermore, recent history has shown the limits to the effectiveness of great military might, when confronting a population that doesn’t want it around. (You would have thought we would have learned that from the American Revolution, much less more recent adventures like Vietnam. We actuallly *did* learn that after 1776, but I guess memories are short.)

    And Mary: I agree that our major threat is from international terrorism. However, we are using precisely the wrong weapons against it. Fighting fire with gasoline seems like a particularly useful metaphor. Our moral stature was an enormously effective weapon against terrorism.

    I’m sorry you seem to have missed it, but the USA really has been seen as a “light on the hill” internationally. European friends still talk with me about the missed opportunities for American leadership during the past six or seven years. Yes, we’ve been chipping away at that moral authority for decades, but this Iraq adventure is by far the biggest blow.

  15. Beard, my claim is pretty simple; a body of meaningful law requires a polity. There is no polity beyond our national borders, and if I were asked, I’d reject the idea of joining a polity that included Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

    You may claim a series of moral and practical advantages for this presumption; I’ll suggest that it’s both a fig leaf that is used by immoral thugs, and a fiction.

    If there was a meaningful body of international law, there would be someone to enforce it. They would have both the power and legitimacy to do so – and in reality there is no such party.

    Could or should there be? An interesting question that’s worth a serious discussion.

    A.L.

  16. Beards argument resonates with me. The formation of laws and the establishment of human rights is a long and arduous process. No one said that the establishment of workable international law would be easy.

    The arguments made by those criticizing him seem to me to add up to walking away from the process because things don’t go our way and that “There are bad people in the world.” I don’t see that these constitute a reason to abandon the process.

    The very existence of the rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness have only existed for he blink of an eye and the vast majority of the world’s population enjoy none of them.

    Does that mean that the United States should throw the baby out with the bath water and possibly rescind these rights because they are “a fantasy of fundamentally unserious and childish people.”

    There is a pathology that is rampant in this administration and its foreign policy that is directly tied to the abandonment of even trying to establish international norms of behavior by consensus and the establishment of force and preemption as the primary tools in Foreign Policy.

    This mindset has bled over into the domestic area with the “preemptive use” of surveillance in the domestic arena. Another trend I find troubling is the increasing use use of “Private Military Contractors” (read mercenaries) in Iraq and the growth of these organizations on U.S. soil.

    These seem connected to me in that they are part of a general and growing perception that we cannot acheive goals by anything other than the use of raw power, which is, IMO, extremely dangerous thinking.

  17. A.L.,

    I think you have it backwards. Once there’s an emerging consensus about moral law, people (and states) will come together to form the polity and give it the power to enforce that. To the extent that such a consensus fails to exist, the polity and the power fail to come together as well.

    As the twentieth century came to an end, the general consensus that states are the world actors was under attack from non-state groups (“terrorists” because only asymmetrical warfare is effective for them). After 9/11, the USA had some choices to make about how to oppose these non-state groups.

    Those in power have evidently been seduced by the vision of the “New American Empire”, so powerful it could crush any opposition. (This turns out not to be realistic in an age where technology supports asymmetrical warfare so well.)

    We are now farther from a consensus on international moral law than before, in part because our own country has become a “poster child” for immoral state action, as advertised so effectively by the non-state actors.

    There are competing groups who are trying to build a consensus that will be the foundation for the international order. We have acted to strengthen our enemies.

    It may not be too late, but you have to know which war you are fighting. Otherwise you end up throwing gasoline on the fire.

  18. Consider how long it took the “United” States to decide that they were, in fact, a single state called the USA, and not just a collection of independent states.

    We took major steps in 1776-80, then in 1789-93, 1861-65, and in 1954-66, among others. (I’m not a historian, so I could have some of these wrong.)

    It takes a while to form “a more perfect union”. Perhaps it should be a “less imperfect union”, though that doesn’t have the marketing ring.

  19. The problem, Beard, is that the consensus isn’t among people, but among leaders – many of whom are brutal kleptocrats who see international law and international organizations as levers they can use to keep themselves in power by denying resources and legitimacy to their opponents.

    The best example for your case is the EU which is moving toward a body of law such as you suggest, and struggling hard with the fact that the legal system is advancing ahead of the political system, and that citizens are reluctant to grant legitimacy to the legal system because of that.

    You really are engaging in Rawls’ fantasy – which was interesting (if, I believe, flawed) as a thought experiment, and pernicious as a plan for a real politics.

    There’s a longer post here to explain my position, and I’ll put it in the queue…

    A.L.

  20. #21 from Armed Liberal at 3:46 pm on Aug 23, 2007

    The problem, Beard, is that the consensus isn’t among people, but among leaders – many of whom are brutal kleptocrats who see international law and international organizations as levers they can use to keep themselves in power by denying resources and legitimacy to their opponents.
    ______________________________________________

    You are absolutely correct. This is and always has been the problem. What we seem to be discussing is the solution to this problem, which will not be easy to find. But that does not mean that we should give up its pursuit.

  21. TOC – note that I don’t think that international law is a bad idea or undesirable – but I do think that acting as though it exists when it doesn’t (except in several narrow cases) is ridiculous.

    This leaves us with two productive discussions – in the absence of international law, how should our nation act? and how do we create international law?

    Both are very interesting and would be fruitful areas for discussion.

    A.L.

  22. > I’m sorry you seem to have missed it, but the USA really has been seen as a “light on the hill” internationally.

    I may be too old to be nostalgic for those decades when the rest of the world (the elites of the RoW?) looked up with awe and respect to Father America.

    The Fifties? Probably the high point of Uncle Sam’s reputation, with Uncle Joe and Chairman Mao looming, and the hangover from WW2, and the US not being one of the faltering colonial powers. Still, the Korean War, fought under half-a-UN, Guatemala, Iran.

    The Sixties? Vietnam didn’t, IIRC, endear us to very many of the smart set. Or Cuba.

    The Seventies? That I remember. No “City on a Hill” talk from my European relations. Display the Stars & Stripes while abroad? Unthinkably embarrassing.

    The Eighties? Perhaps Euros and others respected and admired Reagan for his cowboy foreign policies and persona… I was awake, and I missed that.

    Was it Bush I and Clinton who represented the apogee of causing foreigners to see America with saucer eyes? Or was it more hurrumphs and eye-rolling, albeit less for the more-like-us Clinton?

    So the foreigners who the Pew Trust interview tell us year after year how much they used to respect America. Giving pundits an annual excuse to ponderously remind their readers of the Former Glory Days of Lost American Respect, so unfortunately squandered by the misbegotten policies of the Current Occupant (by coincidence,the pollsters seem to feel the same way as those they poll).

    Speaking about a different subject, a social critic coined a phrase that’s stuck with me: “The Good Old Days That Never Were.”

    The virtues and demerits of closely adhering to International Law will have to stand or fall without an appeal to such nostalgia, I fear.

  23. #16 from Beard:

    “So, David and Mary, if I understand you correctly, your argument is that, because some bad “laws” have been passed and some bad “decisions” have been handed down by a court, that the entire system of international law should be rejected. (I put “laws” and “decisions” in scare-quotes because neither are binding the relevant parties.)”

    “Do I understand you correctly?”

    No.

  24. Two thoughts.

    International law, like all other laws, no matter how well meaning, unless enforced evenly and fairly is tyranny.

    This has nothing to do with choice. If I choose to give back the incorrect change, I made a choice to do that. It was my decision. This is very different from being compelled to do so.

    Uneven compulsion is tyranny, pure and simple. The Jim Crow south is a good example of this, full of laws that taken at face value are fine, but were selectively enforced only on minorities. Is that good in any way, shape, or form?

    Actually, I’m having trouble coming up with any examples of anyone attempting to stop any war or mass killings that wasn’t US led or US instigated, with the exception only of Vietnam interfering in Cambodia…

    But whenever the US does anything at all, suddenly the international law rhetoric is everywhere.

    Enforce it evenly or quit pretending it’s law.

    Second, I’m strongly opposed to including non-nations into the playing field for fairly simple reasons. It’s undemocratic, and eliminates any pretensions of the belief that people are equal under the law.

    By including them in the balance of power, even if they were counted up and apportioned power by the quantity of people they represent (which somehow never happens…), everyone of those members is also a citizen of some nation, do they double count? Or do we have citizens of non-states living inside of states in which they get no vote, have no say, and are not citizens of?

    In reality, inclusion of non-state actors in political processes is a realpolitik attempt to acknowledge their ability to commit violence. I bet the Boy Scouts outnumber Hamas, but no one’s including them in any talks. Bet that would change if they started blowing up shopping malls.

    There’s a large degree of logic in that inclusion of course, but to both attempt to grant political power to unaccountable non-state actors on basis of their ability to unleash violence, and then to attempt to take political power away from nations, especially the US on the same basis is rank hypocrisy. And unworkable to boot.

  25. Here’s a question that I think Beard would do well to ponder:

    bq. in part because our own country has become a “poster child” for immoral state action

    How did that happen, given Mr. Rockford’s earlier list of far worse actions by other nations? Why, for instance, isn’t China the poster child due to its oppression of Tibet? Can Beard name one other nation that bothered to even consult with the UN before invading another nation? If not, why is the USA the “poster child” even though it has been the most compliant?

  26. So, David and Mary, if I understand you correctly, your argument is that, because some bad “laws” have been passed and some bad “decisions” have been handed down by a court, that the entire system of international law should be rejected. (I put “laws” and “decisions” in scare-quotes because neither are binding the relevant parties.)
    Do I understand you correctly?

    As David said, no.

    This is pretty convenient during this point in history, when the USA appears to have more might than most others, but that status might not continue forever.

    I hope it doesn’t. Since our (the world’s) response to terrorism is so weak, terrorism has become an effective tactic. Terrorism is basically a politically opportunistic infrection. In an age when terrorism has been allowed to run wild, centrallized power is a weakness, not a strength.

    Our military power is not convenient at all. 9/11 was an act of war, an attack against the only real military power in the West. We suffered such a grave attack because we basically provide the world’s defense – if we’re crippled, the world is crippled.

    As I said, Europe needs to grow up. They need to start providing for their own defense – they certainly can afford to.

    Every nation around the world should learn from Lebanon’s experience – if you don’t have a miltary that’s capable of defending your borders, if you can’t stop a terrorist gang and their state sponsors from building a state within a state, you can’t fight threats from within your borders or outside them.

    If power was centralized through the United Nations and the system of ‘international law’, the UN would be the new magnet for terrorism. And the UN is a much softer target. If we want terrorists to run the world, we should make the UN the center of international law and diplomacy.

    Our moral stature was an enormously effective weapon against terrorism.

    Now you’re just being silly.

  27. I have to agree with “AMac”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/009751.php#c25 – where exactly is this “evidence” that the United States lost any of our “moral stature” by forming a coalition of nations and liberating Iraq? I wasn’t around for all of the years that AMaC apparently was but I remember anti-Americanism being pretty prevalent in Europe and elsewhere throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s.

    And I agree with “Treefrog”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/009751.php#c27 that “international law” is generally a fig leaf used by the opponents of US policy abroad (and the administration’s political opponents domestically) that only gets brought out when it’s a policy they don’t like or when it’s a member of the other party in the White House. Adherence to or support of “international law” isn’t really any sort of moral imperative on their part but simply just another weapon in their arsenal to advance their own national or partisan self-interest.

  28. Love the comment on the Drezner debate being “..based, amusingly enough, on a Glenn Greenwald post.” Which is of course, followed by a whole post which can be summarized as “International law is icky, eww…”

    Ah yes, let’s dismiss whole categories of things wholesale, employing nothing but the flimsiest of rationales, shall we? Progblogs? International law? Fuck em.

    Of course the idea of International law as a mild restraint or heaven forbid even a useful tool for national interests or humanity is beyond the question. No, with heavyweights like Robert Mugabe exerting their immense influence on our international institutions… no it would be best to just withdraw as a whole.

    It’s as if the French decided to completely forgo any efforts to influence or control the papacy, at the height of the middle ages. In other words, stupid.

  29. Sorry, SAO, that’s not what I’m saying. Quiggin says we shouldn’t (as a nation) do something because it’s against the law. Without debating whether we should or shouldn’t do that thing, I’m suggesting that it’s a silly notion because it presumes the existence of something that I’m claiming doesn’t exist.

    I’m not saying it’s icky, I’m saying it’s a fiction – one that’s convenient primarily for thugs and dictators around the world.

    And while Greenwald is an excellent agitator, I don;t tend to take his agitations seriously – unlike those of Quiggin or Drezner.

    A.L.

  30. Mary:

    I have my doubts that Europe will grow. They are to far along the appeasement track. It will take a war to change them and a conventional war is not on the cards.

  31. Let’s consider a comparison. When the Magna Carta was made, there wasn’t much of a polity in england. There were a bunch of nobles who each did pretty much what he liked with his own peasants, and who fought other nobles as needed. A tradition of vassalage that got so complicated nobles were often obligated to both sides and could choose which to support, if they supported either. And for the most part the nobles were more like Mugabe than like, uh, whatever story of a beneficient dictator you may have heard.

    But — Magna Carta. These squabbling nobles joined forces against a king and limited his power. They created a polity, and over centuries they expanded it to include common folk, and eventually even women.

    So by analogy, if we want a real international law, perhaps we should be the ravenous lion, the superpower that recognises no limit, the rogue state that destroys any nation we want to whenever we want. We can create a polity that way, we can unite the world against *us*.

    We can’t do it with sweet reasonable words. We can’t do it by example. We can do it by showing the world, with repeated example, that they must unite against us or be destroyed.

    And once they understand that, they’ll see that any nation that too much offends the sensibilities of the others _will_ be handed to us to do as we like. The most repressive of the nations will learn to moderate their behavior, for fear that they won’t get support when we come huffing and puffing to their door.

    The nazis served that role but they didn’t last long enough. They were taking as much land as they could, they fought *too* much, and most of the world got together to beat them. We can be the new nazis but less aggressive, if we only attack nations that break international law and are abandoned by their allies the-rest-of=the-world, then we can last for a long long time, we can be the barbarian threat that forces the world to agree on international law.

  32. Treefrog,

    I’m having trouble coming up with any examples of anyone attempting to stop any war or mass killings that wasn’t US led or US instigated, with the exception only of Vietnam interfering in Cambodia…

    Well, Tanzania did drive Ida Amin out of Uganda. Not much on the global scale, perhaps, but it did eventually result in a much-improved situation for Ugandans.

  33. Beard —

    In places where there is no authority, save that of personal violence, the record shows that people will indeed kill, murder, rape, rob, and much else with impunity.

    This is why we have states, nations, chieftans, rules, authority, backed by force. The experience of the LA Riots shows what happens when authority withdraws. So too Somalia. Or any tribal people (murder attrition rates for men approach 40%).

    Why give back change to a supermarket clerk? The windfall is negligble. The clerk is a working person like yourself. An act of kindness that costs nothing under the umbrella of national law enforced by police and courts and prisons (and ultimately, the death penalty).

    However, the world is not made up of comfortable, working-middle class people living under the rule of national law. It is made up of men like Charles Taylor, General Butt Naked, Ratko Mladec, Osama bin Laden, Saddam, Ayman al Zawahari, and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. International Law DOES NOT EXIST.

    You ignore my central point: in order for International Law to EXIST, penalties for non-compliers must FORCE compliance. This means monopoly of force: no national armies, police forces, etc. and an “International Force” of military/police to enforce International Law. Which will never happen for obvious reasons.

    International Law has no means (even if it existed as more than a fantasy of childish persons) to order non-State actors to stop doing things or do things. It cannot for example force Osama to turn over any WMDs he might have. And it certainly cannot force Mugabe to stop starving his own people or the Janjaweed and Sudanese government to stop killing people in Darfur. It failed to do anything about the massacres of the Tutsis or nearly every nation in southern Africa fighting over the corpse of the Congo/Zaire.

    The only way “International Law” can exist is for there to be essentially, no nations and a world-empire.

    WHAT International Law proponents really want (they are not stupid, they can see this as well as I can) is a situation in which thugs/free-riders are empowered to do as they please and the US is constrained from doing anything. The Chinese for example profit very nicely from Sudanese genocide in Darfur, no messy payments to the locals for their oil and a sweetheart deals with the regime in Sudan.

    The fantasy of International Law is all about preventing the US from stepping on the sweet deals of arms-traders, and nations like China, who are aiding local thugs in killing people and taking their wealth.

    Follow the money.

  34. I have to say that of all the well-intentioned, non-insane, arguments I’ve ever seen in my 17 years on the internet, Beard’s has to be the silliest.

    I have no desire to get into the tedium of refuting it. For now, I just want to say two words.

    Han Solo.

  35. I think he’s saying international government sounds good, then one day you realize the empire is being run by a bunch of people named Darth.

    Or someday you’ll be looking across the table at a country named Greedo and survival comes down to who fires first.

    Or Celebrim has invented the blog equivalent of the Chewbacca defense.

  36. _I think he’s saying international government sounds good, then one day you realize the empire is being run by a bunch of people named Darth._

    Lord, yes. But Darth Cheney won’t last forever.

  37. Beard:

    As the twentieth century came to an end, the general consensus that states are the world actors was under attack from non-state groups (“terrorists” because only asymmetrical warfare is effective for them).

    It is not non-state actors, it is non-state groups acting in concert with states, the states being by far the pants-wearing party. These states fund and harbor terrorists, some because they want to and some because their government is too weak to prevent it.

    It wasn’t the United States that made a mockery of international law; it was Saddam Hussein, who showed how pathetically easy it was to defy and bribe the “international community” into impotence. And even the exposure of this scheme has not put a dent in the ignorance that made it possible.

    Before that, Rwanda proved that even if a “consensus about moral law” existed, the UN is too gutless to even scold lawbreakers.

    Among the nations of the West, who in alliance have held the line for civilization over the past 100 years with little or no help from international organizations, it is not the United States that’s wearing the asshat right now. It’s the French, and they know it.

  38. _Well, Tanzania did drive Ida Amin out of Uganda._

    Ah forgot about that one. I suppose if you squint funny you might also be able to add Ethiopia meddling in Somalia and some of the various actions in Central Africa by various neighbors were also (at least meant to be) on the side of law and order.

    Funny how Europe never seems to be involved though…

  39. If international law coincides with acts prompted by our interests and values, fine. Do that.

    Lots of international law is fine and worth obeying. I have in mind conventions regarding international mail. There are many other examples.

    But the debate over the authority of international law isn’t about things like that.

    If there is a tension between international law and our interests or values, before I even consider advocating that we subordinate out national interests and values to international law, I want to know: is this a real law? Or is this just a bunch of verbiage that has been or is being or will likely be voided by the normal means, that is to say noncompliance, or demands for compliance that are so selective and even targeted that we are talking about lawfare, not law?

    If the laws or the legal bodies in question are not real law, does the form of law nevertheless give them a moral force that means we should obey them, even to the detriment of our moral values and our national interests? I say no – and judging from comment #27 I’d say Treefrog says no too.

    The best place to look for valid examples to discuss this is in international law’s treatment of Israel, because that’s where we can see a lot of targeted law, law in conflict with one state’s interests and even in tension with its survival, pressed by those interested in destroying that state, and those who would have no interest in obeying similarly adverse and partially applied international law directed against themselves.

    When the International Court of Justice rules that Israel is a law breaker because, among other violations of international law, it puts up fences to stop suicide bombers, exercising a right of self-defense that it does not have because the suicide bombers are not defined at part of a state vs. state conflict, how much moral force does this ruling have?

    I say none whatever. This is just deceit, crookedness. As such, it has no rights.

    The court can and does rule that the Israelis are under all sorts of obligations, obligations to retreat from territory, to surrender defended positions, to pay reparations, and to pay in effect the blood of their children, because that is what the jihadists want. But the Israelis are under no moral obligation to comply with these malicious demands. Zero. None.

    In this case and in all cases where we are commanded by a pretense of international law to give up our interests and our moral values we should refuse to do so and denounce as unlawful and crooked the bodies doing the demanding.

    I also have a big question mark against international courts and courts asserting universal jurisdiction. Given the way that real international law evolves, I don’t think courts and judges are ideal to handle it. There may be occasions where there is nobody else to handle it, and then, reluctantly, one convenes a court. But that should be a last resort, for special cases. In the ordinary course of events, diplomats should be far better qualified than judges to discuss history and the flow of events, and which rules are really in force and which aren’t evenly enforced, and when people are kidding and when they’re not kidding and when they’re kidding a bit, but not so much so that the rules they’re arguing about don’t have to be taken seriously.

    I’d offer the international law of the sea relating to naval blockades as a field where diplomats are better qualified than judges to be useful. If you look at British blockade policy against … darn, nearly Godwined the thread there … OK, if you look at about any blockade, including the American non-“blockade” of Cuba in the Cuban Missile Crisis, I don’t think this is a field where assertive judges laying down the law would do a lot of good.

  40. #24 from Armed Liberal at 4:08 pm on Aug 23, 2007

    TOC – note that I don’t think that international law is a bad idea or undesirable
    ____________________________________

    I understand you and I apologize if anything I have said implied anything different.
    ************************************

    but I do think that acting as though it exists when it doesn’t (except in several narrow cases) is ridiculous.
    ____________________________________

    Agreed, but international law does exist and has for centuries. And, as in the case of the Law of the Seas, it has worked relatively well over a sustained period of time. The state of International Law is that it is incomplete and applied, in many cases, either sporadically or selectively. This does not mean that it is without merit, it just means that we are in a process, that will take a long period of time to perfect. I think the claim that International Law does not exist only serves to unravel the body of law that we are building that has led to progress in the areas of human rights, trade, environmental protection, health, diplomatic relations and international politics.

    ***********************************

    This leaves us with two productive discussions – in the absence of international law, how should our nation act?
    __________________________________

    I would think a good place to start would be not to announce a policy that reserves the right to selectively reject international law as was done with the announcement of the policy of preemption, for example.

    and how do we create international law?
    __________________________________
    Painstakingly. I do not think that we are in disagreement at all and I also agree with you that they would be fruitful areas for discussion

    Both are very interesting and would be fruitful areas for discussion.

    A.L.

  41. #37 from Celebrim at 10:38 pm on Aug 23, 2007

    I have to say that of all the well-intentioned, non-insane, arguments I’ve ever seen in my 17 years on the internet, Beard’s has to be the silliest.

    I have no desire to get into the tedium of refuting it. For now, I just want to say two words.

    Han Solo.

    *******************************

    Thanks for sparing us the tedium of reading it.

  42. Oh, come on. I can’t be the only Star Wars fan here.

    Beard writes among other silliness:

    “The pitfall is to discard the spirit and morality behind international law, as well as the sometimes-fallible letter, and say, “We can pre-emptively attack so-and-so because he is a SOB and wants to do us harm, even though he hasn’t actually done it.” I hope (against experience) that we’ve learned how wrong that is.”

    And, I say, “Han Solo.”, and no one else is nerdy enough to get the reference?

  43. _Agreed, but international law does exist and has for centuries. And, as in the case of the Law of the Seas, it has worked relatively well over a sustained period of time._

    How is the International Whaling Commission doing resolving the tension between the freedom to fish and the duty to conserve? It seems to me that when a subject becomes important to a country they opt out. The international conventions that have worked have been relatively uncontroversial, such as the conventions on weights and measures, or self-policing, such as in economic areas. There are also the international conventions that work because of U.S. unilateral bullying, such as the aformentioned “whaling”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Whaling_Commission commission:

    bq. _The effectiveness of IWC decisions (at least on smaller whaling states) may be explained in large part by the fact that the United States was willing to act unilaterally in support of them. The pro whaling nations often see the U.S.’s propensity to act outside the IWC framework as bullying tactics, while the green and the conservation lobby tend to applaud it._

    There is an interesting analogy here. The U.S. enforced the security council resolutions against Iraq in a way not too dissimilar from the U.S. enforcing International Whaling Commission rulings.

    But security is different. It’s why the post ’45 hegemons demanded a veto on the security council. It is an issue of central importance, it cannot be self-policed without war and at this point in time it appears that the United States is the only country that could police serious infractions of the “no war” “law.”

  44. Speaking of sci-fi, isn’t J Thomas’ post (#34), the premise of a 50s sci-fi movie? Something about the threat of alien invasion (real or pretend, I can’t remember) brings about world peace and world government?

  45. #50 from PD Shaw at 4:47 pm on Aug 24, 2007

    First let me say that I believe one has no rights that one cannot police. I also think that law must be backed by coercion of some sort to assure compliance and the state, national or international is not anyone I would want to trust with my rights. I am by no means a Pollyanna. Coincidentally, I also wrote a film about whaling about 35 years ago.

    My point throughout the thread is that the establishment of International Law is a very arduous and tedious process. This process does not automatically equate with the establishment of one world government, nor does the sometimes impossilbly slow pace of the process lead to the conclusion that it is hopeless and should be abandoned.

    Ideally, the process deals with compromises that benefit all sides of the debate and the world community at large and avoid the surrender of rights.

    Laws are by no means perfect nor are we assured justice in say the United States just because we have a good case. If you have ever been in a law suit against a large corporation, you soon find out how much “justice” can be bought with deep pockets. We also know that a tremendous amout of laws are influenced by lobbying, political contributions, media and any number of special interests. This does not mean that we should abandon the system of law making that we have established.

    The IWC has made unbelievable strides towards the protection of whales in the past 35 years. It has been backed by political and economic preessure from the U.S. This is the way of the world.

    A statement of a policy of preemption and a self proclamation of the U.S. as the policeman of the world even if it violates international law is not only just plain dumb and destructive to our self interest, we cannot back it up, so why say it?

  46. The IWC has made unbelievable strides towards the protection of whales in the past 35 years. It has been backed by political and economic preessure from the U.S.

    If international law protected human rights and human lives as well as it protected whales, the concept would probably be more successful. But it doesn’t so it’s not.

    We can pre-emptively attack so-and-so because he is a SOB and wants to do us harm, even though he hasn’t actually done it.” I hope (against experience) that we’ve learned how wrong that is.

    That makes me think of Firefly, when Mal says:

    Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill ‘em right back!

    A basic law that has ensured the survival of most forms of life for eons. Don’t mess with success.

  47. _And, as in the case of the Law of the Seas, it has worked relatively well over a sustained period of time._

    The Law of the Seas isn’t really law though.

    Boiled down to basics to have a legal system you need:

    1 – A set of rules or regulations.

    2 – An enforcer or watcher that cites violations.

    3 – A method of arbitrating disputes and clarifying gray areas.

    and

    4 – Application of coercion for the violators of 2 and the losers of 3.

    Maritime law has 1, 2 and in some areas 3. It does not have 4. Punishments are voluntary. The violator can always tell the accuser to go put a sock in it and the only recourse the accuser has is to escalate the matter to a declaration of war (or some lesser form of conflict – trade restrictions etc).

    In a very real sense the court room here is the field (sea?) of battle, and the judge is Aries. It doesn’t count as a legal system.

    The problem with creating International Law is that, I strongly believe, you must require there to be equal representation under the law. That needs to be addressed first, everything else will follow.

  48. #53 from mary at 6:16 pm on Aug 24, 2007

    If international law protected human rights and human lives as well as it protected whales, the concept would probably be more successful. But it doesn’t so it’s not.
    ____________________

    It does in many cases. It might be that, at this point, it is more difficult to protect human life worldwide.. It is no reason not to continue to persevere

  49. When people believe that there is some thing called “international law” and believe that it has some independant existance, fundamentally they are confusing themselves.

    The confusion arises from the difference between a society and its law, and the transient cooperation of a multitude of societies. “International law” as some form of independant thing does not really exist – don’t confuse the transient cooperation for something that is more substantial.

  50. _Speaking of sci-fi, isn’t J Thomas’ post (#34), the premise of a 50s sci-fi movie? Something about the threat of alien invasion (real or pretend, I can’t remember) brings about world peace and world government?_

    Well, you have to admit he’s got a point.

    I mean, the history of the world is full of the bones of military empires that threatened everyone and were destroyed by coalition alliances of their threatened lesser peers.

    We have the famous example of Alexander the Almost Great who’s army of Macedonians disappeared somewhere north of modern India after his conquest of Persia frightened the rest of the world into ganging up on him.

    Then there was the putative Roman Empire, that was fine as long as it stuck to the Italian peninsula, but upon emerging and attempting to conquer Greece, Egypt, the Franks and Germania was quickly met by a huge alliance and forced back into their own city-states, where they’ve stayed and stuck to wine making ever since.

    Several wannabe-Chinese imperial dynasties became threats to conquer all of China and beyond and quickly faced universal resistance and were nipped in the bud.

    Then we have the Arab tribes of Arabia, who after conquering a weakened Persian empire were forced back into the Arabian desert by a combined alliance of the Byzantines, Persian remnants, Indians, and various Silk Road kingdoms.

    The Mongols of course came out of the steppes of Asia, and in a lightning campaign conquered China, followed by an even faster campaign whereby the entire rest of the world invaded the steppes to force them out (World War 0).

    Then we have the asskicking the united Asians nations gave the Europeans when the various European powers tried to conquer China and the Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Thai, etc put aside their differences and tossed the invaders out.

    And I almost forgot the Native American tribal alliance that put together every tribe between the Rockies and the Atlantic to toss the white invaders back into the sea…

    Then we have the Nazi’s who invaded several countries and then, when they invaded Poland, the whole world realized the danger and declared war. No wait, only the one’s with defense treaties with Poland (France and England), but the Soviets realized the threat and joined in voluntarily…hehe, well they did join in voluntarily, sorta. They only really joined in after being invaded…but the US…err, no we didn’t join until the Nazi’s declared war on us…hold on, there must be someone who declared war on Germany without being attacked or declared war on… China maybe?

    Wait, I lost track, what was the point again?

  51. #57 from Treefrog: “Wait, I lost track, what was the point again?”

    The point was that in every case, world peace and racial harmony followed.

    This is why, in J. Thomas’ comment #34 master plan, to make Americans the new Nazis and get the rest of the world to gang up and beat on America will bring about the Age of Aquarius, or something like it.

  52. I think the consensus seems to be that ‘International Law’ either doesn’t exist in practice – through the lack of an enforcement mechanism, or perhaps shouldn’t exist – because it seems to limit ones ability to act in one’s own interests. Implementation issues aside, the rule of law is not for the other guy’s benefit, but for one’s own. Altruism doesn’t exist; people are ultimately motivated by self interest. Useful rules are postulated and adhered to for the betterment of one’s own situation – even if they appear counter to one’s interests in the short term. NOT assasinating the other guy’s head of state is the precedent leader’s are wise to assert (What goes around …). Developing and adhering to laws is ultimately self beneficial, tossing them aside for any reason looks like the epitome of short term thinking to me. The alternative is anarchy, or if you prefer the ‘law of the jungle’ and I like to think we have moved away from that – not because its the ‘right’ thing to do – but in actuality because it is for our own collective good.

  53. #59 from Ian Coull:

    “I think the consensus seems to be that ‘International Law’ either doesn’t exist in practice – through the lack of an enforcement mechanism, or perhaps shouldn’t exist – because it seems to limit ones ability to act in one’s own interests. Implementation issues aside, the rule of law is not for the other guy’s benefit, but for one’s own. Altruism doesn’t exist; people are ultimately motivated by self interest” …

    That’s not my view, and it’s not clear who else, if anybody here, would be part of that alleged consensus.

  54. J Thomas:

    So by analogy, if we want a real international law, perhaps we should be the ravenous lion, the superpower that recognises no limit, the rogue state that destroys any nation we want to whenever we want. We can create a polity that way, we can unite the world against us.

    I recognize this plan. It’s a modification of the plot by Ozymandius, the evil-liberal genius in Alan Moore’s The Watchmen, who decides to unite the world against an imaginary alien invasion by using a giant psychic squid to wipe out half of New York City.

    Your plan is even better, I guess, because it would involve even more senseless death, and would not require a giant psychic squid.

  55. #48 from Celebrim:

    “Oh, come on. I can’t be the only Star Wars fan here.”

    I assume there are others. Star Wars is very good.

    #48 from Celebrim:

    “And, I say, “Han Solo.”, and no one else is nerdy enough to get the reference?”

    I got your point (as others did too), but didn’t say so.

    #53 from mary:

    “That makes me think of Firefly, when Mal says:

    Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill ‘em right back!

    A basic law that has ensured the survival of most forms of life for eons. Don’t mess with success.

    I’ve only seen the movie (which I love), and read the comic (which is good).

    Let’s see if we can find something pertinent to the main difference in philosophy apparent in this thread …

    As sure as I know anything, I know this: they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people better. And I do not hold to that.

    – Malcolm Reynolds – Serenity (2005)

    I am not in favor of the perennial radical movement to perfect mankind.

  56. Re: #61 from Glen Wishard:

    Yes, that’s the one I was thinking of too. But I think Ozymandias’ plan much better, as it directed hostility way from any actually existing people while the idea of America as the world scapegoat – which in one form or another seems to be popular with progressives – involves creating masses of real scapegoats.

  57. _I recognize this plan. It’s a modification of the plot by Ozymandius, the evil-liberal genius in Alan Moore’s The Watchmen, who decides to unite the world against an imaginary alien invasion by using a giant psychic squid to wipe out half of New York City._

    It’s been proposed countless times in science fiction. _The Voice of the Dolphin_ by Leo Szilard for one, but I’m sure he wasn’t the first, there were some in the 30’s.

    _Your plan is even better, I guess, because it would involve even more senseless death, and would not require a giant psychic squid._

    Best of all, it requires no change in US foreign policy! So I don’t have to get anybody to agree to my plan, we’re following it already, by default.

  58. J Thomas —

    More like the rest of the world is coming around to our view.

    Note: China and Chinese nationals in Pakistan (a historic ally) are constantly attacked by the Taliban/AQ in an effort to drive out the Chinese and attain a “pure” Islamic state. AQ and the Taliban have YES picked a fight with the Chinese. Iran arrested briefly some Chinese on espionage charges relating to their nuclear program and seems to be picking a fight with the Chinese.

    Europe faces Islamist pressures from Muslims to demand Europeans stop doing things they find offensive: eat pork, consume alcohol, have “uncovered meat” as they refer to unveiled and un-burqua’ed women. Libya set the rules for extorting money from Europe: arrest and sentence to death Europeans on trumped-up charges, release them for billions. This creates tension between the anti-Western elites who loathe their people even more than the Muslims do, and the European people who hate Muslim aggression against their traditional way of life (pork, booze, and women).

    Europe of course could not fight it’s way out of a paper bag so absent our protection is dead meat. China and Russia matter but they are getting the same AQ treatment we got. Islam can’t exist with Hong Kong movies anymore than it can with Hollywood ones.

    At any rate this is like the Antigua WTO case covered at Belmont Club. Short story, Antigua “won” a judgment against the US for the outlawing of internet gambling. The “penalty” being Antigua “allowed” to pirate all US intellectual property. It’s an attempt by Chinese and European backers to essentially “loot” US IP via treaty.

    It’s result is predictable: Entertainment, Drug, Software, and Aerospace companies will fight this and whip up popular sentiment for protectionism and a trade war. Microsoft is not giving away it’s products anymore than Time-Warner or Merck will.

    The very idea of international agreements is dying because of the free-rider and enforcement problem. NATO is nothing but a shell since only the US has significant military forces. WTO is probably dead and NAFTA and the EU both face huge internal pressures to dismantle the whole thing.

    The idea of as one EUnuch said, “a new Empire” via treaty is as old as the Carolingian dreams of restarting the Roman Empire and as doomed to failure.

  59. #34 from J Thomas:

    “So by analogy, if we want a real international law, perhaps we should be the ravenous lion, the superpower that recognises no limit, the rogue state that destroys any nation we want to whenever we want. We can create a polity that way, we can unite the world against us.

    We can’t do it with sweet reasonable words. We can’t do it by example. We can do it by showing the world, with repeated example, that they must unite against us or be destroyed.

    And once they understand that, they’ll see that any nation that too much offends the sensibilities of the others will be handed to us to do as we like. The most repressive of the nations will learn to moderate their behavior, for fear that they won’t get support when we come huffing and puffing to their door.

    The nazis served that role but they didn’t last long enough. They were taking as much land as they could, they fought too much, and most of the world got together to beat them. We can be the new nazis but less aggressive, if we only attack nations that break international law and are abandoned by their allies the-rest-of=the-world, then we can last for a long long time, we can be the barbarian threat that forces the world to agree on international law.

    #64 from J Thomas:

    “Best of all, it requires no change in US foreign policy! So I don’t have to get anybody to agree to my plan, we’re following it already, by default.”

  60. Ian Coull #59 —

    bq. I think the consensus [among some here at WoC against] ‘International Law’ [arises] … because it seems to limit ones ability to act in one’s own interests.

    Well, not exactly. All parties to this argument recognize that ‘we’ (the US, here) will sometimes have to “act against our own interests.” Our own interests are complex with respect to specifics, and time horizons.

    bq. the rule of law is not for the other guy’s benefit, but for one’s own…

    This is one good starting premise. Plus, we can all agree that the (ex-US) world being a better place is, of itself, also a good thing, and worth considering.

    bq. Useful rules are postulated and adhered to for the betterment of one’s own situation – even if they appear counter to one’s interests in the short term.

    Yes. Laws on the international postal union have been brought up as examples in this regard; there are many other instances that address more fraught issues. The US has been willing and should continue to be willing to enter into agreements on a case by case basis.

    bq. Developing and adhering to laws is ultimately self beneficial, tossing them aside for any reason looks like the epitome of short term thinking to me. The alternative is anarchy, or if you prefer the ‘law of the jungle’ and I like to think we have moved away from that – not because its the ‘right’ thing to do – but in actuality because it is for our own collective good.

    These sentences describe a faith-based inititative, not a hard-eyed view of the world of international law as it is–far less as its ardent proponents would like it to be. To the extent that the first notion (“Developing and adhering to international laws is necesarily self beneficial”) can be described as a hypothesis, it is false.

    Some things are zero-sum, others are not. One (out of many) objective of some (not all) proponents of encompassing systems of International Law is to constrain the United States. Win-lose; US loses, RoW wins. These are the times when the US government, acting on behalf of the US polity, should say, “Sorry our sovereignty isn’t subordinate to your dreams of a universal system of International Law. We’ll stick with case-by-case.”

  61. re #60 from David

    You are quite correct to challenge my sloppy use of the word ‘consensus’, my comment was based on my own extraction of a couple of points in the thread I thought salient. Nonetheless, I would suggest that you do qualify as one of those asserting that we should reject ‘international law’ because it opposes national interests. I interpret these statements as evidence for this:
    bq.
    _”Now, when the law is without force because not backed by arms, it may be said its moral force remains…”, “…does the form of law nevertheless give them a moral force that means we should obey them, even to the detriment of our moral values and our national interests? I say no – and judging from comment #27 I’d say Treefrog says no too.”_

    re #27 from Treefrog
    bq.
    _”Actually, I’m having trouble coming up with any examples of anyone attempting to stop any war or mass killings that wasn’t US led or US instigated, with the exception only of Vietnam interfering in Cambodia…”_

    Try WWII… if I recall correctly the US was the last of the Western powers to get involved.

  62. #68 from Ian Coull:

    “re #60 from David

    You are quite correct to challenge my sloppy use of the word ‘consensus’, my comment was based on my own extraction of a couple of points in the thread I thought salient. Nonetheless, I would suggest that you do qualify as one of those asserting that we should reject ‘international law’ because it opposes national interests.”

    In this thread, the advocates of “international law” have been routinely mis-stating the positions of those taking a more skeptical view, putting in their mouths stupid and immoral views. (And this is evidence of a very weak position.)

    You did this, speaking of a nonexistent “consensus” that included anti-moral and anti-altruistic formulas of your own invention.

    I said that is not my position. And it isn’t. And I should not have had to explain that, because I have spelled out my own position at length, precisely and repeatedly in this thread.

    And you again tell me, in contradiction to my explicit statements, that I am asserting the straw man position that you want me to assert; but now starting with the easiest part of your false claim to fudge, and not mentioning now but also not withdrawing your general claim about altruism.

    That is a threadbare bit of goalpost-shifting.

    If someone repeatedly asserts obviously false claims about his opponent’s position, that attack has no other force than whatever frustration the target of such a weak attack may feel at the sheer stupidity of it.

    I had another non-genius in a recent thread pressing the claim that in that thread I was advocating genocide, when I had done no such thing. The stupidity of making claims that simple inspection of that very thread would refute did not deter him.

    Is this a new fashion?

    Are people now using their own refusal to exercise basic reading skills as a weapon, trying to deter opposition by the weariness and disgust that their toothless attacks may inspire in their targets?

    It looks like it, but if so I hope this fashion will be short-lived.

  63. _Try WWII… if I recall correctly the US was the last of the Western powers to get involved._

    I made this point in a later post, but name a power that ended up in the war against Germany that wasn’t A) attacked by the Nazis, B) declared war on by the Nazis, or C) automatically at war with the Nazis via activation of a defense treating involving A or B on someone else.

    Nobody at all said, well gee, we don’t have anything directly to do with this, but those Nazis are nasty, we hate them, we’re going to join up and help free the world of them.

    Certainly nobody who could/did more than throw verbiage at them.

    Historical incidents of non-involved nations leaping in to stop expansionistic powers, until the US started doing so (and even we haven’t done it more than a few times), are so rare as to be non-existant. The only other example I’ve thought of is the Crusades, and that’s a little muddy.

    Re: #59

    I kind of agree with the general thrust of your argument, but I think you’re missing two details that make all the difference. First, law isn’t really intended for the normal cases. If law touches heavily on average people, something is wrong. Law is created for the exception cases, for those willing to do anything to have their way. If everyone were good and selfless and kind, what point would law serve (other than morally neutral regulations like traffic laws and such)?

    Second, and most importantly, you assume that any law is better than no law. This I most certainly take violent exception to.

    Law that places thugs, rapists, and murderers in power while normal people are enslaved and good people are punished is better than anarchy? I think not, at least under anarchy the good guys have a fighting chance.

    That kind of law is not in our best interests, short or long term.

    What exists (or pretends to exist) now isn’t quite that bad, but it’s uncomfortably close. Who were the last 5 heads of the UN Human Rights Commission again?

  64. re #69 from David
    The problem with being a _’non-genius’_ is that when exposed to sentences such as:
    _”In sum, when people advocate that international law be obeyed, in disregard of decency and the *interests of their nations* and their allies, they put utter bunkum above country and what ought to be their conscience.”_ and _”If international law coincides with acts prompted by *our interests* and values, fine. Do that.”_
    one may foolishly conclude that the author subscribes to the idea that international law be rejected when it conflicts with ones own interests. Your statements in this thread clearly refuting this position escaped me in the first instance, and indeed elude me still. You continue to be right about my misuse of the word consensus, a careful reading of my previous comment should confirm that.

    My original point was to assert that cherry picking laws (international in this instance) to subscribe to, or reject, on a case by case basis, undermines the concept of the ‘rule of law’, and may be counter-productive in the long term.

  65. As for creating international law (I’m going to assume we’re talking about law between nations as opposed to some kind of world governing body with direct sovereignty over individual people), I think the whole idea is inherently flawed.

    First off, what’s a nation? We use the Westphalian notions of territoriality and sovereignty explicitly because it’s so hard to come up with a paper definition of nationality. And note international law, unless applied only to dealings between nations, violates even this definition.

    Is a nation people? People die and are born daily. Is a nation a government? Democracies swap out governments continuously, dictatorships less often but more spectacularly. Is a nation a culture? Cultures alter over time as well.

    What about the non-national groups? Do they get in or not? Why or why not? And if so, how do you even begin to define them (or choose the basis of membership)?

    How do you expect this to work if you can’t even define your basic building blocks?

    If you convict a nation of a crime, who and what do you punish? The leaders? What if they are former leaders now? What if they are dead? What about in democracies where the people choose the leaders? Do you punish all the people? Just those who voted for the leaders? How precisely do you get at those leaders if they refuse to let themselves be punished?

    Do you declare war and invade with all the killing and bombing and hurting? Do you stick ‘em with economic sanctions and effectively punish the poor and weak? Nastily worded diplomatic notes?

    The whole judgement side is also riddled with flaws. How precisely do you come up with judges? And jurors? Where are you going to find disinterested, neutral parties from a juror pool of less than 200 each of which have centuries (or more) of history. And keep in mind that after each trial, suddenly even those who previously didn’t have history now do.

    The planet isn’t as big as it used to be.

    Then we have the enforcement conundrum. Powerful militaries are required to enforce the law, but powerful militaries are also the greatest threat to the law. A system terrified of it’s own enforcers isn’t going to hold together.

    I have a mental image of a courtroom setting and the accuser is up on the stand holding a foam cut-out of their country and the prosecutor is saying ‘Please show the court where the defendant touched you that made you uncomfortable.’

    It’s sloppy logic. The only way international law works is if you anthropomorphize nations and make them independent moral actors, with rights, freedoms, etc. But nations aren’t people and I reject the application of natural law to them.

    Ironically, many of the proponents of international law are also the biggest critics of corporate law, and they completely miss that both share the same fundamental problem: the attempt to apply natural rights and freedoms to non-sentient organizations.

  66. RE Treefrog #70

    _”I made this point in a later post, but name a power that ended up in the war against Germany that wasn’t A) attacked by the Nazis, B) declared war on by the Nazis, or C) automatically at war with the Nazis via activation of a defense treating involving A or B on someone else.”_

    It probably doesn’t count, but you just described Canada. I am no historian so there may well be others.

  67. RE Treefrog #70

    “I made this point in a later post, but name a power that ended up in the war against Germany that wasn’t A) attacked by the Nazis, B) declared war on by the Nazis, or C) automatically at war with the Nazis via activation of a defense treating involving A or B on someone else.”

    #73 from Ian Coull:

    “It probably doesn’t count, but you just described Canada. I am no historian so there may well be others.”

    Australia.

    The solidarity of the Empire, the Commonwealth, and the English-speaking peoples, when it still applies, was and is a Good Thing.

    People have been prepared to take on scary monsters, for the sake of Our Gang. The world is a better place for it.

  68. I thought Canada and Australia were still part of the Commonwealth at that point, and thus were automatically in the war when England declared war, or am I thinking WWI?

  69. Re: #71 from Ian Coull,

    It’s not a question of being a “non-genius”, it’s a matter of using a technique of argument, playing dumb about what the other guy said, taking a role, and persistently contradicting the other guy on what he said, even when the evidence is right there in the thread.

    It leads to arguments of the form:
    Me: I assert X.
    Interlocutor playing the non-genius game: So I see you assert Y, and further you assert that there is no such thing as altruism, and you are for genocide, and you say you are all for molesting small furry animals – you say that in this thread.
    Me. No I don’t.
    Interlocutor playing the non-genius game: Yes you do.
    Etc.

    It’s a very bad method of argument, and I hope it goes out of fashion soon.

  70. #75 from Treefrog: “I thought Canada and Australia were still part of the Commonwealth at that point, and thus were automatically in the war when England declared war, or am I thinking WWI?”

    World War I hadn’t been a lot of fun.

    In practical politics, if Australia had decided that we were all about defending ourselves against Japan and not about sending off our troops to the other side of the world to fight Hitler – and believe me, the thought was in many minds in Australia – about this, Churchill would do … what? He was kind of busy at the time.

    There was nothing “automatic” about deciding we had other priorities that required the diversion of major forces from our own part of the world.

    We stood up for our mates. That’s how we know who we are. If the day comes, when we don’t have the attitude to do that any more, we won’t be Australians. I don’t know who we’d be then.

    Let me give you another example of “automatic” commitment. After 11 September, 2001, NATO was automatically committed to the American cause, as an attack on one was an attack on all. But the Europeans soon decided that “an attack on one being an attack on all” meant it wasn’t an attack requiring a serious response unless all said so, meaning unless they said so, meaning they were vetoing America’s right of defense, or trying to. Here we see the value of a paper treaty not backed by real mateship, solidarity or values. It’s less than nil – literally less than nil because of the attempted veto.

    Australia’s treaty ANZUS “committed” us to consult only, and that provided the attack was in the Pacific region. John Howard, and the opposition, and the public, and service personnel working with the Americans, took the view that on 11 September, 2001, New York was in the Pacific region, or near enough, and that “consultation” meant supporting any statement that the Americans might make and assisting any action they might take. That is the value of, effectively, a blank bit of paper backed by culture and values.

    This has nothing to do with the Americans by the way. It has to to with us, our traditions, our values, and who we want to see in the mirror. It has to do with knowing who we are.

    Between the “law” of treaties and the unwritten laws of values and culture, which do you think is precious?

    I’ve got my answer all figured out.

    And I’m quite serious in saying that judges are badly qualified to decide in cases like this what the real law is. This isn’t their field of special expertise.

  71. _I said that is not my position. And it isn’t. And I should not have had to explain that, because I have spelled out my own position at length, precisely and repeatedly in this thread._

    David, you are assuming that mutual understanding is the norm. But it isn’t.

    People routinely misunderstand each other. This is part of why the military must train and train until soldiers can act mostly by reflex, because they misunderstand as much as anybody else and to make things move smoothly they must learn to do the right thing regardless of their intellectual understanding. Similarly in business, people train for jobs, you can’t depend on them to do the right thing from its description in a training manual, they have to actually go through the motions. It takes a lot of coordinated learning to do a transaction at MacDonald’s, which is easy to forget until you help an immigrant do it who’s never done it before.

    People mostly misunderstand each other and we mostly don’t notice it happen.

    That’s particularly going to happen when we discuss vague astractions. We have no agreement what “international law” is, whether it exists, or whether it would be a good thing if it did exist. We aren’t very clear about “national interests” either. There’s tremendous room for misunderstanding here.

    When people misunderstand, it emphaticly isn’t enough to deny what they think you mean. There are after all people who simply deny things that are true. Note Ledeen denying his advocacy of one war or another despite the written record. Also, different people make different assumptions.

    So for example somebody who’s pro-palestinian might say “I would strongly approve if some combination of arabs pushed israel into the sea.”. And then when accused of proposing genocide, he said “I don’t want genocide and I never said I did.”. On closer look it might turn out that he wanted to have all the israelis emigrate, and only those who resist emigration would be killed or forcibly removed. You might think that enough israelis would violently resist that a successful removal should be called genocide. But he assumes genocide would not be required. People living in two different worlds might not mean the same words quite the same way.

    It doesn’t work to assume people understand what you mean. It doesn’t even work to assume they’re living on the same planet you are. And when you think they’re agreeing with you, very often it’s another misunderstanding.

    Communication is hard.

  72. I don’t know how to explain this, Treefrog–I certainly agree with you as far as the big picture, but somehow there’s always a quibble about details. In your #44 you say

    Funny how Europe never seems to be involved though

    whereas in fact the French (of all people, and omigosh here I am defending them, sorta) have been moderately active in the former French colonies in Africa, and quite recently, too.

  73. Mmm, after the events in Rwanda I have trouble placing the French on the side of truth and justice in their fiddling with their former colonies. But I’ll admit it was a bit of a cheap shot. In fairness, very few of the US overseas adventures really fit in the altruistic enforce the world peace slot.

    Snark aside, the larger point I was dancing around was that a successful law environment requires the willingness of the lawful citizen to risk themselves to defend that law and order in situations and causes where they have no personal stake (beyond the benefits of the general law and order environment itself).

    Police officers routinely put themselves in great personal danger to stop people they’ve never met from hurting people they never knew and likely will never meet again. And they’re lucky if they get a couple inches in the back page of a newspaper about it.

    Even if you solve the implementation problems with international law, and come up with some kind of perfect system, it’s meaningless without both the will and the capability to stand by it.

    This is why I think ‘international law’ is mostly an anti-US smokescreen. If I truly believed in international law I’d want to both improve and strengthen the three key areas: legislation, adjudication, and enforcement.

    For the first two, that means major reforms at improvement the makeup of the UN and to try and clean out the incredible corruption embedded in that institution.

    For enforcement, that means encouraging everyone to build up a robust military capability so they can make meaningful contributions to enforcing that law.

    Current enforcement actions should be studied, successes noted, mistakes analyzed and solutions found, etc. The UN ought to have teams following the US military around in Iraq, finding out what works, what doesn’t work, what capabilities are needed, so that the next time, everyone is ready.

    If the international law supporters truly supported our current international law, they’d be staunch supporters of the Iraq war. It’s a very simple logic chain. Saddam violated international law in invading Kuwait. An international enforcement team rescued the hostage and apprehended the suspect (loosely speaking). The adjudicating body then decided that his terms of punishment were to be a strict parole. Again, whether you agree with that or not (too harsh, not harsh enough, etc) is irrelevant. That was the decision of the system, and that should be respected.

    Saddam’s Iraq then repeatedly and deliberately violated the terms of his parole. The US acting in it’s loose role as parole officer brought the violations to UN attention. After much wrangling the UN authorized the use of force. The US acted and invaded the UN.

    What did the international law supporters do? Mostly accuse the US of acting unilaterally and illegally. Now we’re into blatant hypocrisy.

    If you support the system you must support the system, not just when you agree with it’s decisions but all the time. Don’t care for a decision, advocate it’s reversal. Don’t care for the process, advocate for reform. Don’t care for the methods of enforcement, advocate for clarifying rules. But to support the system means standing by it especially when you don’t like the results.

    The supporters of international law showed it to be a far greater sham in the events surrounding the Iraq war (the very fact it’s called the second Iraq war, when, from an international law standpoint it should clearly be referred to as the conclusion of the first is telling), than anything skeptical right wing Americans could ever have done.

    There have been numerous UN resolutions condemning Israel. Again, I don’t care if you think those are good or bad, they passed. Why have none been acted upon?

    The non proliferation treaty is an unenforced joke. Why is it not enforced?

    If you believe that international law is a good thing and should be honored, why then do those who support it not honor it?

  74. Mr. Blue

    _There was nothing “automatic” about deciding we had other priorities that required the diversion of major forces from our own part of the world.

    We stood up for our mates. That’s how we know who we are. If the day comes, when we don’t have the attitude to do that any more, we won’t be Australians. I don’t know who we’d be then._

    Thanks for the clarification. Looks like Canada and Australia get the hero awards for WWII, with everyone else just in it for themselves.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the virtue of standing up for one’s friends, but that’s loyalty not lawfulness. Actually, loyalty and lawfulness are probably the two virtues with the highest tendency to conflict.

  75. Treefrog #80
    _”the larger point I was dancing around was that a successful law environment requires the willingness of the lawful citizen to risk themselves to defend that law and order in situations and causes where they have no personal stake (beyond the benefits of the general law and order environment itself).”_

    This premise touches on an aspect of ‘international law’, indeed all ‘law’ that bears mention. At every stage of the ‘law’ process, events are mediated by persons, sentient beings. And thus in every case ‘unwritten law’, ‘philosophy’, ‘religious tenent’, ‘moral code’, (call it what you will) trumps law. Unwritten law, the moral code of a society (to the degree it is internalized by its members) determines actions, _in spite of the law_. Law in the US is what 2/3 of congress says it is – prohibition in – prohibition out, arbitrary and transient. Laws are generated from the philosophical beliefs of lawmakers, compliance dependent on the philosophical beliefs of the society as a whole. The law says OJ didn’t do it, that’s why everyone wants to introduce him to their daughters. The law is not the final arbiter, people are. I am asserting that the court of public opinion is the highest court in the land, any land. And it is in this court that the US invasion of Iraq will be judged. So don’t agonize over the status of ‘international law’, and its legitimacy, or whether someone claims the war just or unjust as per their interpretation of UN resolution 1441. You would be much further ahead to simply consider whether it passes the ‘smell’ test.

  76. You would be much further ahead to simply consider whether it passes the ‘smell’ test.

    Forget legality or morality and just do what everyone says the popular kids are doing? Interesting method for making decisions.

    At every stage of the ‘law’ process, events are mediated by persons, sentient beings.

    The law is not the final arbiter, people are.

    This is simply incoherent. People create law, but law isn’t important because people created it, only people are important?

    I also love the, law is arbitrary and changes based on culture and time, therefore we should ignore it and rely upon that bedrock of steadfastness, the court of public opinion, argument.

    If you want to honor international law as having some reality to it, you don’t get to pick and choose which laws you want to abide by (and force others to abide by) and which you don’t. It kinda comes as a package deal. Popularity is irrelevant.

    Developing and adhering to laws is ultimately self beneficial, tossing them aside for any reason looks like the epitome of short term thinking to me. The alternative is anarchy, or if you prefer the ‘law of the jungle’ and I like to think we have moved away from that – not because its the ‘right’ thing to do – but in actuality because it is for our own collective good.

    This was a good point, you should listen to this guy.

  77. If we are civilized, we abide the rule of law and the laws of the land. Since this rule, and these laws are liquid and everevolving, we must then trust in the legal mechanism of change to adjust these laws, and the rule of law to improve our socalled civilized societies.

    Fascist totalitarian dictatorships, ruthless kings, emperors, imams, nor televangilists have any legitimate right in civilized societies to unilaterlly alter, pervert, betray, or in anyway reengineer the rule of law or the laws of the land on their own accord, for their own benefit, regardless of what threats (real or conjured) might face any respective society. Human beings and socalled civilized societies either abide by standing laws and the rule of law, and engineer changes through the proper and legitimate legal standards, procedures, and mechanisms, – or we are in truth barbarians.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  78. Developing and adhering to laws is ultimately self beneficial, tossing them aside for any reason looks like the epitome of short term thinking to me. The alternative is anarchy, or if you prefer the ‘law of the jungle’ and I like to think we have moved away from that – not because its the ‘right’ thing to do – but in actuality because it is for our own collective good.
    ———–

    Who’s laws? God’s laws from Arabia? China’s laws? Mugabe or Chavez or Castro’s laws?

    Laws require the consent of the governed. I did not sign up and won’t sign up for Saudi Arabia’s laws to govern my country.

    This is the fundamental problem of International Law. It requires Global Sovereignty, i.e. the erasure of all National governments and one World Government. Various NGO-istans and their apparatchicks have tried to use international regulatory bodies to get around this. It can only work until national sovereignty is violated.

    Question: can international law ban alcohol, pork consumption, require all women to be veiled? After all this is the “law” of one billion Muslims. What about stoning adulterers to death, death for those who convert out of Islam, gays, etc.? This is also the law of 1 billion Muslims.

    Laws ultimately flow from States, or more precisely nations. Who have the presumed legitimacy within them to insure that the Laws made are roughly just and agreeable to most. Not a foreign tyranny from another people who’s fundamental values of justice are in conflict with the nation and it’s peoples.

  79. Re: #81 from Treefrog,

    When it came to the Nazis, yes we deserve credit for getting into a right and necessary fight when it seemed we could easily have avoided it – but not when it comes to World War II. In Asia and the Pacific, the history of World War II is remembered mostly with reference to the Japanese. Australia’s response to Japan was based on total hostility to a big threat, with no idealism about it.

    The idealists were the Americans. The reconstruction of Japan as it happened was an American idea, not an Australian idea. The Australian idea was “end the threat” – and a Japan “reconstructed” as grasslands would have filled that bill. The American view prevailed, because it was their show and they were putting up the money, and we got ANZUS as our insurance policy.

    I would say this difference of perspective and values persists today.

  80. In answer to your query Jim Rockford, – only if the “governed” provide consent. In practical reality, it is a battle between the barbarians and civilized society that shapes us as nation, and as a species. Place or attach any name or flavor to any law or the foundation for that law be it conjured by man or for the sake of argument god – there still exists in civilized societies a lexicon of law, and mechanism to address or if necessary redress those laws. In Barbarian societies, there may be law, but the mechanisms for change, or evolution are denied the “governed”, thepeople by a ruthless fascist totalitarian dicatorship, or some fascist like leader that rules by force, and stands above, beyond, and outside the laws of the land and the rule of law.

    No civilized society, or nation would consent willingly to the depraved, perveted, and primitive malignancy of wahabism, or jihadist islam. Though in the nottodistantpast, women, minorities, the poor were institutionally denied certain inalienable rights, protections, freedoms, and privilages, – civilized society have evolved the rule of law and the laws of the land to recognize and accept that denying these rights, protections, freedoms, and privilages to any member of the society is a perversion and betrayal of the guiding principles that form the foundation of that socieites laws, and the rule of law.

    The “governed” in civilized societies, if they are truly given voice and power would not willingly accept, or provide to consent to laws or the rule law that is rooted in the kind of primitive depravity and malignancy that is wahabism, or jihadist islam.

    For example; – Saudia Arabia whose state religion is wahabism, the heart and engine of jihadist islam is a barbarian state. Outside of the royals who are falsely immuned from accoutabilty or culpability, Saudi Arabia is one of the most brutal, fundamentlist, primitive, and repressive societies on this violent and divided earth, – but Saudi Arabia in fact and truth, and regadless of the Baker Botts disinformation and propaganda campaigns to the contrary – are a barbarian state.) The rest of civilized humanity would not willingly abide the kind of depravity and malignancy proselytized by the freaks and shaitan in the wahabi maddrasses and tacitly, or overtly sanctioned by the House of Saud. Nor would civilized societies willingly provide consent to the insane and pathological freaks and shaitans of shi’a fundamentalist mullahs in Iran preaching a similar kind of depraved primitive malignancy, and nor should Americans abide the exact same psychotic madness pimped for profit by the demons and snakeoil salesmen in the socalled evangelical kristian klans.

    The point is; we either live and abide by our laws, principles, and the rule of law, or we are in fact – barbarians.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  81. #87 brings us back to one of the nubs of the “International Law” problem.

    In describing the practices of Saudi Arabia as “barbarian” (etc.), TonyForesta is insulting the Deep-Seated and Culturally and Religously Treasured Practices of a Member In Good Standing of the United Nations.

    We could quickly add “a few dozen more countries”:http://www.oic-oci.org/ to the list of grievously offended Members in Good Standing.

    Plenty of additional sympathizers among the “members of the UN’s Human Rights Council.”:http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/membership.htm

    Limited agreements on a case-by-case basis, when it serves my country’s perceived self-interest, and/or when my country’s polity sees agreements as likely to Make The World A Better Place?

    Fine.

    But how much would I like the laws under which I must live subjected to the influence of the political elites of these sorts of nations?

    Not much at all, thanks.

  82. In principle, of course we don’t want to be subject to anything we don’t agree with.

    In practice, the UN etc generally propose as “international law” ideas which would tend to fit our highest ideals. Some of those ideas are not completely practical. Usually they don’t affect us except in terms of military technology. When we make the best WMDs and the world wants to outlaw things we’re really really good at, that could affect our wars. But mostly the things that actually get into international law fit our own morality pretty well.

    If there had been international law in 1840 or so that outlawed slavery, of course the USA would have argued that it was wrong and didn’t apply to us. We were a slave nation and we didn’t need outsiders telling us to change. As it happened, britain did do a whole lot to stop the international slave trade, to the point that our slave imports were mostly cut off and we had to breed our own slaves at great expense. Now there’s a universal international agreement that slavery is bad and the few states that practice it try to some extent to hide what they’re doing. This is not a bad thing.

    In principle we don’t want to be bound by other people’s laws, just as anarchists don’t want to be bound by US federal or atate law, or county and city regulation. In practice international law hasn’t gotten in our way much at all, while we have used it as our official excuse to invade various nations that we say violate it.

    As a sheer tactical choice, I’d say we’d be better off to object to international law after it gets in our way more than it helps us, and not before that. At the moment we have the guns and we have the force projection and international law mostly means what we say it means. It’s *our* tool. I can understand objecting to your own tool on principle — wanting to get rid of international law is a lot like wanting to get rid of our nukes. A principled thing to do but maybe not practical just yet.

  83. J Thomas:

    If there had been international law in 1840 or so that outlawed slavery, of course the USA would have argued that it was wrong and didn’t apply to us.

    Really?

    There was a US law against transporting slaves in 1840, and the penalty for breaking it was death by hanging. Even the Southern Confederacy outlawed the international slave trade.

    The Confederacy maintained that its own slaves were a matter of national sovereignty, and if the UN had been in existence then it could hardly have disagreed. The UN exalts sovereignty, not morality.

    Of course, the international slave trade had largely ended by 1840, thanks not to any notion of law or morality, but due to the unilateral might of Great Britain. They ended the trade with policy, diplomacy, bribery, but above all with the guns of the Royal Navy.

    That’s what it took to enforce that particular morality: grapeshot and Congreve rockets, and bodies flying through the air. Isn’t that shocking?

    We won’t see much of that in the future. With states constrained by deference to the UN, governments who want to accomplish some military end (moral or not) that they cannot undertake themselves will have two choices: They can call for UN peacekeepers, or they can turn to private military companies who will provide forces that are both cheaper and more effective.

  84. It is a canard to suggest that any international law would somehow superimpose laws that conflict with, or undermine US legal structures or alter in any fundamental way the foundations of American democracy.

    Our own laws protect America from intrusive influence by any other nation. That said, we are part of the global community, and certain issues, (environmental, energy, agriculture, various treaties relating to commerce, and borders, and even warmaking, and such nebulous concepts as basic human rights, and the use of torture, or imprisonment without charges, or the right to habeas corpus, et al) are internationally recognized.

    Civilized societies work within the framework of these internationally recognized precedents to address or redress particular issues of concern when necessary.

    Unilaterally dismissing any internationally recognized law or precedent simply because it does suit the designs and ambitions of the fascist totalitarian dictatorship is the hallmark of barbarism.

    For example, the Bush governments fascist machinations in Iraq and beyond, and the you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us supremist insanity subverting centuries old legal precedents and belligerantly dismissing laws, (torture, due process, habeas corpus, etc.) that democracies old and new have long accepted and defended – are the acts of barbarians, – and not a civilized government and society.

    If laws need changing, change them legally. Simply ignoring or dismissing any particular law, or the rule law in general for whatever reason because it is inconvenient or does not allow the fascists in the Bush government to impose their will and way on Americans or any foriegn nation is the ill work of barbarians that cannot be tolerated, and must be repudiated by a civilized society.

  85. International law and treaties have been breached for centuries, when it suits the economic needs of government and privileged elites. One of the most glaring examples was the action taken by Andrew Jackson against the Cherokee nation. Another was the action taken against the Lakota, another against the Seminole, another against the Cheyenne, another against the Nez Perce, another against the Modoc, another against the Apache…

    The main reason this is now considered an issue, in regards to foreign policy in Iraq, is because so far the course of the war has not gone according to plan and the outcome appears adverse.

    Mark Pyruz Merat

  86. “In practice, the UN etc generally propose as “international law” ideas which would tend to fit our highest ideals.”
    —————-
    Such as outlawing “Insulting Islam” which is a core component of the UN’s “Human Rights” campaign. Such as the death penalty for those who leave Islam. Such as banning pork or alcohol.

    This is your International Law. Stoning to death “adulterers” is as much a part of it as bans on (US only) WMDs (while encouraging Iranian WMDs).

    “Now there’s a universal international agreement that slavery is bad and the few states that practice it try to some extent to hide what they’re doing.”
    —————————-
    No, all Muslims hold to the Koran, which not only allows but encourages slavery of the Kuffar, the non-Muslim. Sudan, Saudi etc. practice this.

    “Unilaterally dismissing any internationally recognized law or precedent simply because it does suit the designs and ambitions of the fascist totalitarian dictatorship is the hallmark of barbarism.”
    ———————————-
    Laughable naivete based on Liberal idiocy about human nature. International Law has ALWAYS been violated when it’s been to the advantage of other states to do so: Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, China, etc. For example ALL our POWs have been tortured in contravention of the Geneva Convention. By China, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, etc. Invading our Embassy in Tehran was a violation of International Law.

    AT BEST International Law can moderate disputes between compatible parties who are mostly in agreement (i.e. the US and Europe). With hardened men who made their bones by killing people to rise to the top: Saddam, Ahmadinejad, Castro, Mugabe, etc. it’s a fantasy of children. “Deals” and the “Law” are merely what they take now before killing you and taking everything later. Since that’s how they operate.

    This last is my objection to Liberals: they cling to childish, naive, proven-wrong fantasies about human nature and how the world works like Jonestown cultists or the Heaven’s Gate loonies.

  87. #90 from Glen Wishard at 6:36 pm on Aug 27, 2007

    “turn to private military companies who will provide forces that are both cheaper and more effective.”

    The extent to which these companies have been used and nourished by contractors in Iraq will wind up being he most bitter part of what we harvest from this bungled occupation.

  88. #94 from Jim Rockford at 10:34 pm on Aug 27, 2007

    When you write these things, Jim, do you ever sense that you might be going a bit overboard? I remember reading stuff like this is the National Thunderbolt in the sixties.

  89. Jim Rockford #85
    _”Developing and adhering to laws is ultimately self beneficial,…”_. The sentence says _*Developing* and adhering_ Jim, and in both cases by the collective ‘self’. Laws will be changed either with the consent of the governed – or if Democracies continue to suffer from voter apathy, with the consent of the focused minority.

  90. You might want to investigate a little information beyond the wingnutsia jibberish pimped by Limbaugh, and the gospel according to Fox Jim Rockford. No one insulted islam. I stand on however on my claims that wahabism (the state religion of Saudi Arabia) is a depraved, perverted, bloodthirsty, maligancy. I did not, and would not make any blanket aspersions on islam, or all muslims.

    Secondly, where in any UN document or any international charter or law is there any mention of banning pork, or alcohol. These laws may be applicable in Saudi Arabia, but no international law recognizes any such mandate.

    Lastly, there is no naivete. Just because other nations act like barbarians, does not mean that America should follow in their bloody footsteps, or stoop to the same level of savagery and lawlessness. If we are barbarians, then so be it. Admit it, and stop whining whenever other barbarians injure or impede America’s interests. If we are not, – then we have to stand on higher ground, and hold to higher standards and the rule of law no matter how difficult, complex, and arduous that process might be.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  91. Treefrog #83
    _”Forget legality or morality and just do what everyone says the popular kids are doing? Interesting method for making decisions.”_
    Both legality and morality are expressions of popular sentiment, the point I suggested was that when the decision to act is made, morality (the internalized version) of popular sentiment will prevail over its legal counterpart.

  92. Ian Coull #100

    Both legality and morality are expressions of popular sentiment, the point I suggested was that when the decision to act is made, morality (the internalized version) of popular sentiment will prevail over its legal counterpart.

    I suggest, if you happen to be pulled over by a cop for speeding, that you tell him that giving you a speeding ticket is morally wrong, because speeding tickets are unpopular. The response should be interesting.

    You’re making a broad argument that systematized, consistent rules be overridden with vague indicators of popular perception.

    Who makes those calls? How do you handle the fact that often public perception changes? In many cases changes faster than it is possible to alter the actual response on the ground.

    Should we then throw out our pesky government and enthrone the Pew Research Poll as the ultimate arbiter of correct policy?

    I’m not exactly sure what ‘morality of popular sentiment’ is supposed to be, but I’m pretty sure that the whole legality side has clearly written rules, metrics for measurement, and processes for enforcement, cleanup, and conflict resolution.

    ‘Morality of popular sentiment’ on the other hand tends to mean that whatever ideological axe I’m grinding is legal, and anyone who disagrees with me is immoral and illegal. Actually naming laws broken gets in the way of decent invective after all…

  93. It is a canard to suggest that any international law would somehow superimpose laws that conflict with, or undermine US legal structures or alter in any fundamental way the foundations of American democracy.

    Oh hogwash. You contradict this in the next paragraph.

    That said, we are part of the global community, and certain issues, (environmental, energy, agriculture, various treaties relating to commerce, and borders, and even warmaking, and such nebulous concepts as basic human rights, and the use of torture, or imprisonment without charges, or the right to habeas corpus, et al) are internationally recognized.

    How precisely do you make international law on any of those subjects without generating conflicts with US law?

    Mocking Islam has been declared hate speech and is illegal in a number of European countries. Making ‘freedom from hate speech’ a universal rule has popped up a number of times. That’s a very clear violation of our first amendment.

    Civilized societies work within the framework of these internationally recognized precedents to address or redress particular issues of concern when necessary.

    Framework of precedents? What’s a precedent? Who decides what counts?

    Millions of people celebrate Christmas on Christmas morning. That’s a clear precedent. Is it illegal to celebrate Christmas the day before? The day after? Not celebrate at all?

    Unilaterally dismissing any internationally recognized law or precedent simply because it does suit the designs and ambitions of the fascist totalitarian dictatorship is the hallmark of barbarism.

    Recognized by whom? You are making the explicit argument that unless I submit to laws I have no representation in the making of or enforcement of, that I have no say in, that I am a barbarian.

    If laws need changing, change them legally.

    How precisely does one legally change internationally recognized precedents out of curiosity? Is there a precedence court somewhere we can go? Can we vote for these things somewhere?

    Vague rules, fuzzy meaning, no representation, no change procedures. Basically, international law and precedent can mean anything those putatively in charge of it say it means.

    Not participating in tyranny is barbarism? You keep using the word fascism. Presumably as an insult. While simultaneously explicitly arguing for a form of tyranny no American has been subject to since before the revolution. And you are representing that tyranny as the height of civilized behavior. Interesting.

    Take a crack at answering my previous question about why the US invasion of Iraq the second time around wasn’t considered mandatory under ‘international law’. You’ll find the logic under post 80.

    In the meantime I’ll be off buying a horned helmet and changing my name to Hagar.

  94. TOC:

    The extent to which these companies have been used and nourished by contractors in Iraq will wind up being he most bitter part of what we harvest from this bungled occupation.

    Well, you can reap whatever kind of bitter harvest you want to in the privacy of your own home, and call all the world bungled if you wish, but I’m not talking about Iraqi contractors.

    I’m talking about mercenaries; private military forces that do not shrink from insurgency and counter-insurgency operations. Better trained, equipped, and financed than the French and South African rabble of the last generation.

    That gives a sober person pause, and it should. But when all international authority is invested in a corrupt, donut-gobbling sheriff who’s always asleep at his desk, the world will find other ways to police itself.

  95. First, as mentioned above, the US is the worlds hyperpower and largely dictates the framing of most international law. For example with regard to financial law, America carries by far the biggest stick, since most of the worlds financing flow one way or another through American financial institutions. It is international financial laws that allows the US to impose economic sanctions on Iran, or formally Iraq or Sudan or whomever.

    Relating to your hogwash assetion, – there is no contradiction since none of the issues mentioned, and there are many more, actually undermine existing US law. Do certain nations or regions interests conflict with America’s from time to time like for example Kyoto? Yes. Are the breaches? Yes. Yet instead of resorting to military force whenever there is a disagreement, – nations resolve these differences through the courts domestic and foriegn.

    I am not mocking islam. I am simply stating obvious facts with regard to wahabism. Similar language could be applied to satanism and there would be no accusations of mockery, or hate speech. And if these hate speech laws you mention, (which I would have to review the details of before forming an opinion) truly are popping up as a universal rule, wahabism itself would be subject to the most extreme punishments, since there is no strain of religion on earth more drenched in, and glorifying of hate.

    Your Christmas analogy is confusing, and I have no idea what point you were hoping to make, but with regard to precedents, – I am refering to the ongoing evolution of democracy and legal systems. All the worlds democracies are evolutions, or in some instances devolutions of forms of government and legal precedents that are hundreds and in some cases thousands of years in the making. Habeas corpus precedents are centuries old, and provide one of the legal foundations for most of the worlds democracies.

    “Not participating is tyranny is barbarism?” Again, these are your terms, not mine, and I have no idea what point you are hoping to make by question.

    Look up the word fascism, compare the definition with the Bush government policies and machinations, and get back to me.

    I never in any place on this post mention tyranny. You are falsely putting words in my mouth, and projecting your confusion on to the subject.

    I reject and repudiate tyranny, particularly the brand pimped by the Bushg government, and masked as liberation.

    That said, my point is that we are either a nation of laws, and a nation that abides by the rule of law, or we are barbarians.

    With regard to your question on Iraq, which is twisted and mangled into a simplification that has no basis in reality, – and I do not want to further bore fellow posters unravelinig your mangled assertions, – but the UN did universally mandate Resolution 1441 in a 15 to zero vote urging Iraq to disarm or face “serious consequences”. There was no “authorized use of force”!!!!!

    The hope, then from the international community was to prevent the kind of regional catastrophe we have now by increasing pressure on Saddan, and allowing the inspections process to complete the mission. We were all denied the potential less bloody, costly outcomes by the Bush government belligerence, fascism, predation, and intent on wanton profiteering.

    Here and elsewhere you resort to the timehonored wingnustia Bush government apologist tactic of blurring or mangling fact and reality with fiction and blatant lies in order to conform to, or in some twisted way support the Bush governments fascist machinations.

    The Bush government has repeatedly and insistently broken, perverted, and betrayed our own laws, as well as international laws.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  96. Tony, I asked you twice to email me – and you didn’t – so we’ll do this in the comment thread.

    You were banned here for being so over-the-top and hostile; you’re – warily – welcome to rejoin the community here but it will require some self-control and willingness to have dialog, rather than posting indignant 2,000 word orations.

    I’m not asking you to change your views, but I am requiring that you change your tone. If you can do that, welcome.

    If not…well, we’ll just leave that.

    A.L.

  97. … the timehonored wingnustia …

    How can it be time-honored when I’ve never heard of it before?

    Is this some kind of code, or are you just a huge James Joyce fan?

    Just kidding you, Tony, no offense. I can tell you’re an important leftist intellectual, because you know how to spell “fascist”.

  98. I hear you A I, (and I did email you twice), but what could be more overthetop then deceptively selling, and then actually hurling our daughters and sons to war based on single sourced, unvetted, uncorroborated, cherrypicked, unsubstantied, dodgey, and otherwise fictional justifications?

  99. #103 from Glen Wishard at 4:03 am on Aug 28, 2007

    TOC:

    The extent to which these companies have been used and nourished by contractors in Iraq will wind up being he most bitter part of what we harvest from this bungled occupation.

    Well, you can reap whatever kind of bitter harvest you want to in the privacy of your own home, and call all the world bungled if you wish, but I’m not talking about Iraqi contractors.

    I’m talking about mercenaries; private military forces that do not shrink from insurgency and counter-insurgency operations. Better trained, equipped, and financed than the French and South African rabble of the last generation.

    That gives a sober person pause, and it should. But when all international authority is invested in a corrupt, donut-gobbling sheriff who’s always asleep at his desk, the world will find other ways to police itself.
    ________________________________

    I do not think we are at all in disagreement and nor do I see a hell of a lot of difference between “contractors” and mercenaries.

    Nor are either a large step away from Brown Shirts. This is the bitter harvest.

  100. Tony, did you send it to the armed@windsofchange.net address?

    And you need to understand that your take that “…what could be more overthetop then deceptively selling, and then actually hurling our daughters and sons to war…” misses my point pretty clearly; if you believe that than no style of argument or political behavior is unacceptable – in fact I’d say that carefully placed bombs could be justified with that take as well.

    Which is why I oppose it so adamantly.

    A.L.

  101. It is international financial laws that allows the US to impose economic sanctions on Iran, or formally Iraq or Sudan or whomever.

    This is incorrect. It’s a series of interlocking treaties that allow for economic sanctions. There is no law involved.

    Treaties are not international law, they are bilateral agreements between nations. They can be withdrawn from at will. They do not have binding power and cannot be enforced save on the field of battle.

    Relating to your hogwash assetion, – there is no contradiction since none of the issues mentioned, and there are many more, actually undermine existing US law. Do certain nations or regions interests conflict with America’s from time to time like for example Kyoto? Yes. Are the breaches? Yes. Yet instead of resorting to military force whenever there is a disagreement, – nations resolve these differences through the courts domestic and foriegn.

    Err, that was in response to this.

    It is a canard to suggest that any international law would somehow superimpose laws that conflict with, or undermine US legal structures or alter in any fundamental way the foundations of American democracy.

    Since US legal structure is pretty clear on the idea that the only thing that has sovereignty over US citizens is US law, any international law that effects US citizens directly in any way directly conflicts with US law.

    the UN did universally mandate Resolution 1441 in a 15 to zero vote urging Iraq to disarm or face “serious consequences”. There was no “authorized use of force”!!!!!

    Let’s see, he was already under heavy economic sanctions, the US was obviously seeking permission to conduct unrestricted military action, and US troops were massing on the Kuwaiti border. What precisely do you think ‘serious consequences’ meant? Unless your positing that the entire UN security council is composed of senile idiots?

    The real point I was making is this: What worth are international legal structures, if the guy living under a temporary cease fire after his last clash with the law, can get away with pissing on the UN and the terms of his cease fire at will?

    Your Christmas analogy is confusing, and I have no idea what point you were hoping to make, but with regard to precedents, – I am refering to the ongoing evolution of democracy and legal systems.

    And my point was simply that your ‘evolution of democracy’ is a term so incredibly vague as to mean whatever the speaker wishes it to mean. Ditto with ‘precedent’ and ‘custom’ and ‘international conventions’ etc etc.

    Law is nice because it’s actually written down and everyone can read it. Under no legal system is precedent allowed to contradict or reverse a written law. A law can be judged in conflict with a higher law (such as the Constitution) but no precedent can overturn a law. Precedent is simply used to clarify a law.

    Tyranny is very easy to define. It’s simply enforcing law on those who have no say in its making. To ask US citizens to subordinate our sovereignty to a vague cloud of precedent and tradition and international rules not of our direct making is tyranny.

    Whether or not the US has significant representation on the world scene is irrelevant unless I, the US citizen, has a clear representation in the world scene. And the average citizen of France. And Uganda. And Pakistan. And Micronesia. etc.

    No ifs ands or buts. I don’t care what you call it, that’s what I’m calling it. Beneficial or not, it’s still a tyranny. The rule of an absolute ruler not held accountable by the ruled.

    If you want to come up with a world government with rigorous election laws, duly appointed judges, and all the trimmings, well, then we have something to discuss. No such entity currently exists and attempting to castigate the US for violating international law makes about as much sense as citing someone for unicorn poaching. We can be in violation of our TREATIES, but that’s a whole different animal.

    We either have a clearly defined process for creating, enforcing and adjudicating such laws involving the people ruled by those laws, or we have tyranny, laws created by some arbitrary group of elites deciding what’s best for everyone.

    If the first is ‘civilization’ and the second is ‘barbarism’, well in this case I stand with the barbarians.

  102. You are holding to positions based on opinion not facts, by stating that “…any international law that effects US citizens directly in any way directly conflicts with US law.” This is simply not true! All nations recognize international law with regard to borders and the oceans. Again internatinal financial laws also effect US citizens, and Britain for example has much more stringent privacy laws than America, that American financial institution must abide when dealing with British banks and financial firms.

    Nor was the UN or the rest of the world accepting of the notion that the Bush government was “…obviously seeking permission to conduct unrestricted military action, and US troops were massing on the Kuwaiti border.” The UN and the rest of the world was attempting to arrest the Bush government fascist machinations and predation in Iraq.

    Your proclamation that – “Under no legal system is precedent allowed to contradict or reverse a written law. A law can be judged in conflict with a higher law (such as the Constitution) but no precedent can overturn a law. Precedent is simply used to clarify a law.” is wildly flawed since precedent is the foundation and support structure of written law.

    And this statement – “No ifs ands or buts. I don’t care what you call it, that’s what I’m calling it. Beneficial or not, it’s still a tyranny. The rule of an absolute ruler not held accountable by the ruled”, and your addition claim that “We either have a clearly defined process for creating, enforcing and adjudicating such laws involving the people ruled by those laws, or we have tyranny, laws created by some arbitrary group of elites deciding what’s best for everyone” clearly supports my assertion exactly describing the Bush governments fascist machinations at home and abroad.

    Finally your spooky admission that you are a barbarian is both telling and sad. On one hand you will hold to hollow and empty claims just to imagine you are right, or vindicated in some twisted unfounded, and unsubstantiated way, – and on the other you are willing to claim you are a barbarian rather than recognizing that laws, domestic and internation define the critical differnce between civilized societies and barbarians.

  103. At the risk of not being very substantive…

    Tony, where I hail from, correct spelling is also a mark of civilization.

    I consider anyone who throws the word “fascist” around as much as you’ve been doing rather cartoony (and perhaps a bit spooky). Fortunately, it’s all of a piece with your apparent claim that all “laws” (at least the ones you like) are of equal standing.

    Much of your recitation of recent history might be interesting, if it weren’t just as cookie-cutter as your use of the term “fascist”. Just who was attempting to arrest the US? By what means?

    And more importantly, to what ends? You make a great deal of noise about US profiteers, and some of it might be justified. But–are there no brokers in Paris, Moscow, Beijing…? What were they doing all that time, pray tell? Or don’t, because it doesn’t fit your narrative.

    Lastly, whatswithallthe runtogetherwords? Is the space bar (or spacebar) on your keyboard defective? Or are you channeling one of the minor characters from John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar?

    Yours for readability,

    Nort

  104. If the United Nations Security Council had been in favor of enforcing its own numerous resolutions on Saddam Hussein, it could have provided the Americans with a second resolution. It did not do so.

    When a body from which international legal obligations can arise is averse to the enforcement of its own strong and multiply repeated resolutions, an odd situation arises.

    So again I suggest that before we even consider sidelining our values and interests in the name of international law, we should be certain that the relevant law really is a law.

    Is it seriously meant? It may not be.

    Is it supposed to be impartially enforced for all, and not just called on when convenient to harass particular parties? The less fortunate case is very common, so we should be absolutely certain about impartiality before we consider acting or refraining from acting on the basis of un-serious “laws”.

  105. This is simply not true! All nations recognize international law with regard to borders and the oceans. Again internatinal financial laws also effect US citizens, and Britain for example has much more stringent privacy laws than America, that American financial institution must abide when dealing with British banks and financial firms.

    You don’t seem to grasp the difference between a treaty and a law.

    And you really don’t grasp the simply concept of sovereignty.

    The reason American firms dealing with British banks must obey British law is because either A) the transaction takes place on British territory and is subject to British law or B) because the British banks refuse to do business with partners that don’t meet certain standards.

    A violation of B is not criminal violation, it’s a contractual violation. If an American bank breaches a contractual agreement, the dispute is settled under US contract law (unless the bank has a presence in Britain, in which case suit could be brought against the British branch of the US bank under British law).

    Certain treaties allow for foreign countries to bring certain legal claims to bear against US citizens, but that is because those treaties have the force of US law being ratified by the US senate. The foreign law involved is irrelevant. International law is irrelevant. Only the US law (via the ratified US treaty) is important.

    The UN and the rest of the world was attempting to arrest the Bush government fascist machinations and predation in Iraq.

    This is sheer comic genius. The mighty and wise UN, attempting to halt the fascist machinations and predation authorizes (unanimously no less) a resolution dictating compliance with about a bazillion previous resolutions or face serious consequences, and left the nature of those consequences up to the US to decide. Right. That’ll stop them.

    I must’ve missed the part where they passed a resolution ordering the US to stand down after they realized the US was running further than they meant to let us.

    Rule by corrupt, non-elected, unaccountable bureaucrats is bad enough. You are amending that to make them corrupt, non-elected, unaccountable and stupid. I feel so much better.

    is wildly flawed since precedent is the foundation and support structure of written law.

    I’ll try and use smaller words. If a written law clearly and unambiguously reverses precedent, no matter how long standing, the law stands and the precedent goes. Period. End of story.

    clearly supports my assertion exactly describing the Bush governments fascist machinations at home and abroad.

    What’s Congress then, chopped liver? I missed when fascist machinator Bush dissolved the Supreme Court as well.

    Fascist machinator Bush is an absolute ruler unaccountable to anyone save himself? Two words. Harriet Myers. What’s Planck’s Constant in your universe?

    You on the other hand apparently have no problems with letting a handful of unelected precedents determined by faceless unaccountable bureaucrats have absolute sovereignty over the lives of everyone on the planet.

    You keep using the word fascist, I do not think it means what you think it means.

    So you find rule by a clearly elected and accountable government (ours) worse than rule by an unelected and unaccountable government (nameless international precepts, precedents, rules, UN resolutions, etc etc)?

    You do realize Bush, sorry, that fascist machinator Bush, won’t be President much longer, right?

    Finally your spooky admission that you are a barbarian is both telling and sad.

    Try reading what I actually wrote. If the choice is between tyranny and standing with barbarians, I will choose to stand with the barbarians.

    Freedom is more important to me. I will not sell myself into slavery to meet your definition of civilized behavior. I suspect I will not stand alone.

  106. If the United Nations Security Council had been in favor of enforcing its own numerous resolutions on Saddam Hussein, it could have provided the Americans with a second resolution. It did not do so.

    It authorized ‘serious consequences’ and they would’ve had to been complete idiots to not realize exactly how the US was going to interpret that.

    It’s the concept of negative law, serious consequences certainly includes warfare, which wasn’t explicitly ruled out and therefore was allowed.

    They could always have stopped the US by passing a resolution blocking invasion.

    I think you’re right that none of the resolutions were seriously meant and that validates my opinion that UN isn’t a legal body in any way shape or form. It’s simply political theater. Not even the supporters of international law seem to actually take it seriously.

    Except of course when they can use it to score political points. Then it apparently becomes the basis of all human hope and civilization.

  107. Re: #115 from Treefrog: “It authorized ‘serious consequences’ and they would’ve had to been complete idiots to not realize exactly how the US was going to interpret that.”

    Right. But everybody was playing charades, as they had been all along.

    I think we are in agreement now.

    I hope you will go further with me and agree that the best qualified people to deal with these games of charades are diplomats and not judges.

    To some extent, the dispute about international law is about turf. Whose professional field does international relations fall into?

  108. I hope you will go further with me and agree that the best qualified people to deal with these games of charades are diplomats and not judges.

    We are in agreement. Lost in the back and forth I think was my way back when original exploration of the ‘If I genuinely believed International Law was real, how should I be behaving?’.

    And the conclusion I come to is that those who claim to believe exactly that really don’t. Or they’d behave very differently from the way they do.

    They’d be pushing for clear rules, procedures, and transparency at the UN.

    They’d be pushing for democratization of the UN as quickly as possible.

    They’d be pushing to clarify the responsibilities, powers, and accountability of UN enforcement actions.

    They’d be pushing to give UN resolutions real teeth.

    They’d be pushing for serious and immediate consequences for violations of UN resolutions (particularly early – an established authority can afford to be lenient, and unsure one cannot).

    If the supporters don’t take it seriously, why should I? None of ‘fix the UN’ proposals I’ve seen have been taken seriously by anyone.

    International law, in my opinion, is a method whereby nations without decent playing hands to bluff.

    If you don’t have any options, time to start making up options.

  109. Dangit, I hate when I edit one section and forget to change the dependent parts.

    Read method whereby nations without decent playing hands to bluff. as method whereby nations without decent playing hands can bluff

  110. #117 from Treefrog: … ” …’If I genuinely believed International Law was real, how should I be behaving?’.”

    That’s a good question.

    If you were charged with securing the best diplomatic outcomes for your country, and the practical constitution of your country was “rule by men, not by laws”, so that no amount of law, including international law, would really constrain you, but there were other and immensely powerful states in the system that were governed by laws not men, so that laws, including international laws, could potentially hogtie them, how then should you be behaving?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>