Should the sheriff be above the law?

by John Quiggin on August 23, 2007

Daniel Drezner (supported by Megan McArdle and Glenn Reynolds, but not by Brad DeLong) has responded to my criticism of his claim that the US should be able to invade foreign countries whenever its “vital national interests” are threatened. Drezner narrows the gap between us a bit, saying that most members of the FPC are more skeptical about the effectiveness of military force than they used to be (though of course, plenty of members in good standing are pushing for a war with Iran that’s even more certain to fail than the war with Iraq), and saying

there is a big difference between not taking force off the table as a policy option and advocating its use in a particular situation. As Quiggin observes, force is a really messy option and carries horrendous costs.

That’s where the agreement ends, though. Drezner dismisses my concerns about international law, quoting James Joyner’s observation that the UN Charter prohibiting war has mostly been observed in the breach. Joyner only mentions the US, but Drezner goes on to claim that

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.

A couple of questions arise here. First, is Drezner’s claim that the international law prohibiting aggressive war is a dead letter factually correct? Second, would the US (more precisely, the people of the US) be better off if the option of unilateral resort to (non-defensive) war was taken off the table or at least put further out of reach?

On the first question, I’m mildly surprised to find myself in partial agreement with Megan McArdle who notes “the wars that don’t happen in the Middle East, or Central Europe, because all the participants know that it would be a foolhardy invitation to US intervention”. The fact is that the (admittedly selective) enforcement of the interantional law against aggressive war, in which the US has taken the leading role, has had a significant effect in securing adherence to that law. But even without any obvious threat of US intervention, a great many states have abandoned the idea of military force as a legitimate instrument of public policy except in the context of (individual or collective) self-defence and UN-authorised peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. In particular, outright invasions of one country by another, with the objective of either annexing the target country or installing a puppet government, have been quite rare in the period since 1945. So the claim that international law is a dead letter is far from obvious.

It’s also far from clear how to view international law in general, from the Hobbesian starting point Drezner seems to be assuming. What is the point, for example, of elaborate agreements like NAFTA and the WTO (which Drezner appears to support) if states can get their own way by force whenever they don’t like the outcome of the rule of law.

But it’s the second question that is of more interest to me. Considered as a state, the US, is the state most likely to have both a “vital national interest” and a physical capacity to enforce international law against aggressive war. Hence the US has an obvious interest in voluntary compliance with that law, and in the willingness of other states to help in its enforcement even in the absence of any direct national interest. So that unless Drezner means to be taken literally in saying that ” every state in the international system” regards international law as an irrelevancy, US actions that undermine international law have adverse consequences for the US as a state. Conversely, a clear commitment from the US to uphold international law has obvious benefits.

If we disregard any effects of leading by example, it might seem self-evident that the US is always better off having more freedom of action than less. Implicit in this claim, though, is the assumption that the US state is a unitary, rational actor pursuing well-defined interests, and that these interests are at least broadly consistent with those of Americans as a group. The first part of this idea is particularly associated with “realism” in international relations, but I think it’s fair to say that the assumption as a whole is taken as axiomatic by members of the Foreign Policy Community.

On the other hand, the idea of the state as the direct embodiment of the national will is the exact opposite of the assumptions on which the United States was founded. The Founders sought, as far as possible, to divide and constrain state power to prevent its misuse, and this was particularly true of the power to make war (Congress was supposed to declare war, while the President was Commander-in-Chief). Libertarians in particular have stressed the ever-present conflict between the interests of the state and those of individual citizens[1].

So, it’s reasonable to ask whether Americans in general would be better or worse off if US Administrations were constrained from unilateral resort to force, for example by a legal requirement to act in accordance with the UN Charter. Of course, as we’ve seen in the Iraq case, any such restriction could be rendered ineffectual by an Administration willing to lie and to evade the law, but it seems likely that such a restriction would have at least some effect. Looking at the major recent cases of US use of force, Afghanistan was not a problem since it was clearly consistent with the UN Charter, and subsequent actions were supported by the Security Council. That leaves Kosovo and Iraq. In both cases, securing support from the United Nations would have been difficult, in the Kosovo case because of a likely veto by Russia or China[2], and in the Iraq case because most member countries, and most of the world’s population, opposed the invasion. However, it seems at least plausible that, if mass expulsions had continued in Kosovo, and the US had been willing to make some concessions to Russia’s perceptions of a sphere of interest, that some UN-backed action could have been organised, though with a delay that would have had tragic consequences for some. On the other hand, had there been a delay in the case of Iraq, the absence of the WMDs that were the purported casus belli would eventually have become undeniable, and UN support would never have been forthcoming.

At least as regards these two examples, the American people, and the world as a whole, would have been better off on balance if their government were more constrained from making war.

fn1. As has been noted many times, self-described libertarians like Reynolds and McArdle have shown themselves unconcerned by this conflict in matters of life and death, despite being happy to reach for libertarian rhetoric whenever the state impinges on their recreational or financial interests.

fn2. THe anachronistic structure of the UN is a major problem here. Constraints on unilateral action imposed by international law would be more palatable if the relevant decisions reflect the views of the world as a whole (at least as represented by their governments) rather than the consensus of the Great Powers of 1945.

{ 1 trackback }

Tim Worstall
08.23.07 at 11:17 am

{ 40 comments }

1

James Wimberley 08.23.07 at 10:02 am

Superb post. Please make it even better by fixing the failed jump tag.

2

John Quiggin 08.23.07 at 12:19 pm

Fixed now, I hope, James.

3

Mike 08.23.07 at 12:19 pm

for example by a legal requirement to act in accordance with the UN Charter

The UN Charter being a treaty signed by the United States, it is, under Article 6, clause 2 of the US Constitution, the supreme law of the land, and there is, therefore, a legal requirement to act in accordance with it.

Whenever the government fails to do so, it is acting illegally. Which means that a number of past US presidents (perhaps all of those still living) and members of Congress and the military should all be put on trial.

I would definitely buy popcorn and roast some marshmallows for that.

4

Steve LaBonne 08.23.07 at 12:40 pm

Sadly, I think most of my fellow countrymen are not going to understand the problems with the Drezner model until they’ve experienced how it works when some other country is top dog.

5

Mike Russo 08.23.07 at 12:51 pm

On your first, factual point: looking at state practice since 1945, I would say that the Nuremberg (and Tokyo) Tribunal’s treatment of the planning and waging of wars of aggression as creating individual criminal responsibility has been mostly repudiated (or, it might be better to say that the state practice has never been sufficiently in accord with the norm in order to crystallize it as a rule of international law). There was some attempt to raise the issue during the Vietnam war (I believe a group of academics held a mock trial in Stockholm and “convicted” much of America’s leadership of crimes against the peace in absentia), but this portion of Nuremberg’s legacy does not seem to have borne very much fruit, certainly when compared to the far richer jurisprudence and practice given birth to by the international tribunals’ treatment of crimes against humanity and war crimes. There are good reasons for this, in my view, but probably the self-interest of nations’ leaderships are mostly responsible for this — ultimately, leaders were not willing that they be judged by the same standards used to try the Nazis and the Japanese militarists.

However, to say that aggressive war is no longer punished as an individual crime has little to do with the question of the prohibition on the use of force enshrined in the U.N. Charter (most rules of international law bind only states, rather than cutting against individuals, in fact). Here, the situation is different — in most wars since 1950, at least one of the belligerants has felt the need to justify their resort to war within a legal framework of self-defense, and there has been at least some recognition that this framework is binding. The Nicaragua v. U.S. International Court of Justice case is perhaps instructive — Nicaragua sued the U.S., alleging that the latter was waging an aggressive proxy war in the country, and the court agreed. The U.S. didn’t change its policies, of course, but my understanding was that this was based on a jurisdictional objection to the competence of the court, rather than repudiating the rules of international law as such.

6

James 08.23.07 at 1:00 pm

John Quiggin: …a great many states have abandoned the idea of military force as a legitimate instrument of public policy except in the context of (individual or collective) self-defence and UN-authorised peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

In reality a great many states have switched to funding third party actors to us military force in order to estable friendly or pupet governments. This reduces the risk to the state while still allowing the use of deadly force.

Megan McArdle who notes “the wars that don’t happen in the Middle East, or Central Europe, because all the participants know that it would be a foolhardy invitation to US intervention”

This statement is factualy incorrect. From 1945 there have been a minimum ten wars in the middle east. If you count non-state actors that number only goes up. Lebanon has been invaded four times (three by Israel and one by Syria).

7

Stuart 08.23.07 at 1:18 pm

Sadly, I think most of my fellow countrymen are not going to understand the problems with the Drezner model until they’ve experienced how it works when some other country is top dog.

Isn’t the GDP (PPP) of China predicted to pass that of the US (and soon after the entire EU) in around 2010-12. Plus they have a huge surplus (tens of millions) of military age men in their population? I imagine the male/female imbalance would make the leaders view a few expensive (in terms of manpower) land wars quite favourably.

8

Kieran Healy 08.23.07 at 1:24 pm

The interesting thing here is the disconnection exposed between the _realpolitik_ tough-talk about foreign policy — which presuppose that states can be treated like individuals with interests and preferences — and models of the relationship between the state and its own citizens, particularly ones that insist the state has no legitimate purposes over and above the provision of some basic functions for citizens. John’s position is consistent working from the bottom up. A pure power politics or a theory where the state is the real actor and individuals are just components of the corporate body is consistent from the top down. Not seeing that there’s a problem leads to inconsistent positions like schmibertarianism or its left-wing mirror image, where the state is a force for evil (or good) until me and my friends want it for something (or want it to leave us alone).

9

Barry 08.23.07 at 1:24 pm

John Quiggin: ” However, it seems at least plausible that, if mass expulsions had continued in Kosovo, and the US had been willing to make some concessions to Russia’s perceptions of a sphere of interest, that some UN-backed action could have been organised, though with a delay that would have had tragic consequences for some. “

In the case of the Balkans in the 1990′s, the US did delay quite a bit, primarily (IMHO) because those right-wingers who were generally in favor of war at the drop of a hat were opposed. This opposition generally ceased once a proper (GOP) president was back in power.

10

Barry 08.23.07 at 1:25 pm

Re: Tim Worstall, in comment 2: was there some part of ‘since 1945′ that you didn’t understand? I thought that it was pretty clear.

11

thag 08.23.07 at 1:31 pm

“Self-interest” is also hopelessly confused between individualist and tribalist versions.

The mafia are not impartially benevolent, nor do they use the whole society’s good as their guide.

But they would not look kindly on some sort of randian/libertarian individualist in their midst, who refused to act for the good of the family.

If you’re a made man, you’re expected to take sacrifices for the family. It’s the family’s good that you aim for.

And any loner who tries to cheat the family to advance their own interest will get whacked pronto.

So you work for the family, you sweat for the family. You even die for the family. What’s good for the family is good for you: that’s the ideology of tribes.

Is that self-interest? In one sense yes, in one sense no.

(And for mafia of course read “zaibatsu”, “liege lord”, “Hatfields”, or any other non-state social aggregate. The blind-spot of libertarians: they are so fixated on state and individual, they see nothing in between.)

12

abb1 08.23.07 at 1:43 pm

And for mafia of course read “zaibatsu”, “liege lord”, “Hatfields”, or any other non-state social aggregate. The blind-spot of libertarians: they are so fixated on state and individual, they see nothing in between.

Of course a libertarian would respond that the difference is that membership in Mafia is voluntary and in the state it isn’t.

13

thag 08.23.07 at 1:52 pm

Maybe entry is voluntary; exit not so much. even entry is not so voluntary if you’re the son of or nephew of.

The fundamental mistake about the ambiguity of “self-interest”, i.e. the assumption that all interests are either individually selfish or globally impartial, is of a piece with the mistake of thinking that “voluntary” is a simple concept when applied to an individual born and raised deep within the matrix of tribalist assumptions.

(i.e., ‘voluntary’ = ‘in accordance with my assessments of my interests’ vel sim.. But neither ‘my interests’ nor ‘my assessments’ can be walled off from the pressures of father, liege-lord, children, etc.)

14

Barry 08.23.07 at 1:53 pm

John Quiggin: “fn1. As has been noted many times, self-described libertarians like Reynolds and McArdle have shown themselves unconcerned by this conflict in matters of life and death, despite being happy to reach for libertarian rhetoric whenever the state impinges on their recreational or financial interests.”

This is worth repeating, particularly since Megan’s moved up a notch on the pundit scale, with her new gig at The Atlantic.

Extending this – ‘war is the health of the state’; it has a strong tendency to increase state power. It’s almost always initiated in secrecy, and conducted in a lot of secrecy and lies. This leads to people being accustomed to not having access to information, to the media assuming that it sholdn’t know, or shouldn’t tell what it knows.

It leads people to think of their leaders as commanders, not as politicians, or leaders of a party. It leads people to think of opposition to government leaders and policies as evil. Vast expenditures of money are the norm, leading to increase taxation and spending power by governments.

For all of these reasons, any self-professed libertarian who’s not as skeptical of war as they would be of Civil War-era surgery is a liar, pure and simple. And considering that they’re a liar about rather important parts of their proclaimed political beliefs, they should be assumed to be just as dishonest about anything else that they discuss.

15

Davis X. Machina 08.23.07 at 1:56 pm

the difference is that membership in Mafia is voluntary and in the state it isn’t.

Hey, I saw Godfather III! Try telling Michael that.

16

Dan Drezner 08.23.07 at 2:01 pm

Every time I think I’m out of this debate, John pulls me back in!!

I’ll try to post a response before the end of today.

17

Davis X. Machina 08.23.07 at 2:03 pm

For all of these reasons, any self-professed libertarian who’s not as skeptical of war as they would be of Civil War-era surgery is a liar, pure and simple.

In schmibertarianism –what a cool word! — if state-sponsored coercion is on a grand enough scale — and that’s pretty much what war is — it seems to morph from an evil to a good.

Yet adehrents to this belief don’t write diet books that suggest that living on pizza will cause drastic weight loss if you simply eat/drink massive amounts of both.

18

J Thomas 08.23.07 at 2:55 pm

“Megan McArdle who notes “the wars that don’t happen in the Middle East, or Central Europe, because all the participants know that it would be a foolhardy invitation to US intervention””

This statement is factualy incorrect. From 1945 there have been a minimum ten wars in the middle east.

I misread that to mean “the wars that don’t happen (apart from the middle east, or central europe)….

It makes more sense that way.

I’m not sure which wars didn’t happen because of us. It’s hard to be sure what the world would be like if things were different.

19

bi 08.23.07 at 2:57 pm

Dan Drezner, how can an academic leftist blogger even Coerce(tm) you into a debate? Don’t you have the right — and the free will — to decide whether you’re in or out of a debate? You should sue him for violating your constitutional rights!

Ahem.

= = =

“In schmibertarianism—what a cool word!—if state-sponsored coercion is on a grand enough scale—and that’s pretty much what war is—it seems to morph from an evil to a good.”

Sponsored by _their_ favourite state, that is.

20

Alex 08.23.07 at 3:54 pm

Another important point here is that the importance of states, per se, has dropped dramatically since 1945. IIRC the notion of aggression essentially carries a suffix “against a sovereign state” with it.

Wars between State Y and State Z have become rare; wars between State Y and Rebel Movement X, or between Movements X and A on State Y’s territory with the intervention of State Z, are much more common.

21

abb1 08.23.07 at 5:00 pm

It appears that she is talking about some hypothetical wars in the Middle East and Central Europe that didn’t happen but, she thinks, would’ve happened in the absence of a threat of US intervention.

If that’s the meaning, then it would be interesting to hear a couple of examples. It seems to me that all the wars that could happen did happen.

22

Tim Worstall 08.23.07 at 5:07 pm

“Tim Worstall, in comment 2: was there some part of ‘since 1945’ that you didn’t understand? I thought that it was pretty clear.”

That is not a comment, it’s a trackback from a post on my own site. Is there some part of that you didn’t understand?

It goes on to discuss only post 1945 wars. My interest (which is why it isn’t here in full) is solely whether “quite rare” in John’s assertion is correct.

23

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.23.07 at 5:24 pm

“But even without any obvious threat of US intervention, a great many states have abandoned the idea of military force as a legitimate instrument of public policy except in the context of (individual or collective) self-defence and UN-authorised peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. In particular, outright invasions of one country by another, with the objective of either annexing the target country or installing a puppet government, have been quite rare in the period since 1945.”

I don’t really understand how this is a refutation or counterpoint to the idea that the threat of US intervention forced the issue. Outright invasions of one country be another with the objective of annexing the target country or installing a puppet government have been rare because of the threat of US intervention so far as I can tell. Which countries are you talking about? Certainly not anywhere in Europe?

And haven’t we also seen a shift in tactics? Instead of ‘outright invading’, a nearby country creates and/or helps a militia force to wage war for them. The examples for this are numerous (and stretch back quite a ways).

24

Steve LaBonne 08.23.07 at 6:23 pm

If we’re talking (as in your quote from John Quiggin’s post) about the entire post-1945 period, for then for nearly the first half-century of that period there should have been LESS fear of unilateral US intervention than in the post-Soviet period, because of restraints imposed on the US by the Cold War and balance of terror. This would appear to make your point untenable.

25

Dan Drezner 08.23.07 at 6:42 pm

bi: exiting the debate remains one of the options on the table — but just because I could do it doesn’t mean I will.

26

c.l. ball 08.23.07 at 7:45 pm

While US use of force in Afghanistan in 2001 was consistent with the principles of the UN Charter it was not implemented as the Charter intended. The US did not seek and did not receive authorization from the UNSC to use force against Afghanistan and the UNSC had plenty of time to attack before the US took measures justified (or not) as self-defense following an armed attack.

This gets to the heart of what is meant by compliance with international law of war — do regulatory norms and formal rules need to be followed, or is compliance with underlying principles sufficient?

In 2003, the US argued inter alia that Iraq was violating UNSC resolutions (which it was although nowhere near the degree to which the US claimed or to which invasion would be a prudent option). Bush’s claim was that the US would enforce what others would not.

27

buermann 08.23.07 at 8:40 pm

“There was some attempt to raise the issue during the Vietnam war (I believe a group of academics held a mock trial in Stockholm…”

Yeah, the Russell War Crimes Tribunal, in ’67:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_Tribunal

28

abb1 08.23.07 at 8:50 pm

While US use of force in Afghanistan in 2001 was consistent with the principles of the UN Charter…

How was it consistent? The US presented an ultimatum to the Afghan government demanding extradition of a group of country’s residents. The US was asked to produce the evidence of these residents’ involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attack. The US then refused to produce any evidence. The US government announced that it does have the evidence, but it won’t be disclosed. The US government then attacked Afghanistan, defeated its government and installed a puppet government that has no support and can’t control the country. Almost 6 years later the US is still bombing the country regularly.

How can this be consistent with any principles of anything? You’ve gotta be kidding.

29

Nathanael Nerode 08.23.07 at 10:18 pm

“The US was asked to produce the evidence of these residents’ involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attack. The US then refused to produce any evidence.”
Well, there was one piece of evidence: the *claim of responsibility* by Osama Bin Laden.

Admittedly, we have since found out that the Taliban was willing to negotiate to hand him over, and Bush refused to negotiate. :-P But that wasn’t obvious to us or the UN at the time.

30

Asteele 08.23.07 at 10:44 pm

Yes, his claim of responsibility: which he made for the first time in October of 2004.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,137095,00.html

31

buermann 08.23.07 at 11:02 pm

from
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=582916

‘The United States has turned down Taliban offers to negotiate. Bush repeated that stance Tuesday. “I have said that the Taliban must turn over the al-Qaida organization living in Afghanistan and must destroy the terrorist camps. They must do so, otherwise there will be a consequence,” he said. “There are no negotiations. There is no calendar.”‘
source: CourtTV, Oct. 2, 2001, “Taliban still says: no proof, no bin Laden”
http://www.courttv.com/assault_on_america/1002_nobinladen_ap.html

By October 17, 2001, The Guardian was reporting that the Taliban was offering a deal that didn’t require evidence.

“For the first time, the Taliban offered to hand over Bin Laden for trial in a country other than the US without asking to see evidence first in return for a halt to the bombing, a source close to Pakistan’s military leadership said. But US officials appear to have dismissed the proposal and are instead hoping to engineer a split within the Taliban leadership. The offer was brought by Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban foreign minister and a man who is often regarded as a more moderate figure in the regime.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/waronterror/story/0,1361,575593,00.html

See libruls: bombing does too work! If we keep at it who knows what else they’ll accept!

32

J Thomas 08.24.07 at 1:04 am

Yes, his claim of responsibility: which he made for the first time in October of 2004.

Is there trustworthy evidence that it was actually Bin Ladin in that video?

The Bush administration said they thought it was him, but we shouldn’t take their word for it, or for anything.

33

brooksfoe 08.24.07 at 3:03 am

Not seeing that there’s a problem leads to inconsistent positions like schmibertarianism or its left-wing mirror image, where the state is a force for evil (or good) until me and my friends want it for something (or want it to leave us alone).

The position that the State is always a force for good is actually a fringe right-wing phenomenon, known as Fascism. There is no left-wing “mirror image” of libertarianism, and hence no inconsistent left-wing inverse schmibertarianism.

34

Ragout 08.24.07 at 5:17 am

The Guardian reports that an anonymous “source close to Pakistan’s military leadership” says the Taliban offered up Bin Laden, but that the Taliban leadership deny that any such meeting took place. And this is offered up as evidence of the Taliban’s good intentions? I guess some people will believe even the most flimsy evidence, if it portrays the US in a bad light.

And they will deny the strongest of evidence. Don’t forget, 9/11 wasn’t Bin Laden’s first terrorist act. The Clinton Administration provided plenty of evidence to the Taliban in 1998 after the embassy bombings. Bin Laden had issued fatwas calling for killing Americans several times and had actually been indicted for the embassy bombings and earlier terrorist acts. Many of his associates had been convicted, and much evidence against Bin Laden was presented at their trials. But the Taliban didn’t hand him over in 1998, and after 9/11 we weren’t stupid enough to wait any longer.

35

abb1 08.24.07 at 7:09 am

Ah, it’s too bad you guys don’t remember the ‘evidence’ story, it was actually quite a funny story in a Kafkaesque sort of way.

Remember, this was 2001, only a few months after the nice-guy Clinton and this kinda formalities still seemed important; it was all in the newspapers.

So, the Taleban guys asked for evidence. The Bushies guys said: ‘sure, we have the evidence and it’s strong but it’s also totally secret and can’t be shown to anyone’. The Taleban guys kept insisting on having the evidence before they begin extraditing the evildoers.

And then something very funny happened. Bush said: ‘OK, if you don’t believe me, I’ll show the evidence to Tony Blair, capiche? Surely you will trust my friend Tony, eh?’ And so, he showed ‘the evidence’ to Tony, Tony confirmed that it’s good and that was the end of story as far as the western press was concerned; who could doubt Tony’s integrity?

36

John Quiggin 08.24.07 at 7:24 am

This kind of quibbling over evident facts was of great assistance to Bush when he made similar, this time false, assertions about WMDs. Those who questioned him then could be tarred with the brush of reflexive opposition to any action evident in the comments above. Thanks a heap, guys.

37

J Thomas 08.24.07 at 3:27 pm

John Q, Bush supporters will tar questioners with whatever comes handy, whether it makes sense or not. People who only pay attention to the MSM, or who don’t pay much attention, will tend to accept whatever they say.

This does not look to me like good reason to avoid questioning Bush’s questionable assumptions.

I have seen no credible evidence that bin Ladin recordings after 2002 were the same voice etc as before 2002. All I have is a vague statement from Bush’s NSA, the same organization that would be the best in the world at faking it.

38

Seth Edenbaum 08.24.07 at 7:29 pm

I’m going to post this a second time, just to telegraph the point

“I confess that I have a much greater tolerance for these sorts of creative approaches to national sovereignty and democratic change when I have any confidence the puppeteers have a clue what they’re doing.

This argument is founded on corruption.

39

roger 08.24.07 at 10:57 pm

Hmm, this quote from McArdle seems to selective: “the wars that don’t happen in the Middle East, or Central Europe, because all the participants know that it would be a foolhardy invitation to US intervention”. The fact is that the (admittedly selective) enforcement of the interantional law against aggressive war, in which the US has taken the leading role, has had a significant effect in securing adherence to that law.”

After all, when the U.S. feels like it, the U.S. is pretty good at resourcing, manning and encouraging aggressive wars. I count: the invasions mounted by South Africa of Namibia, Mozambique and Angola; the invasion of Laos by the South Vietnamese; the guerrilla war against Nicaragua; the Kurdish guerrilla war against Iraq in the 1970s; the Chinese nationalist cold war against Communist China, which included organizing a nationalist chinese army in Burma that found the processing of heroin a much more lucrative business – and those are off the top of my head.

The notion that the U.S. is going to submit to an international authority that is less powerful than the U.S. seems to ignore both the massive unpopularity of this stance in the U.S. and the lack of a single example where the U.S. backed off on an intervention or overthrow it had decided on because it contravened international law. Is there a single case? I am not talking about shifting jurisdictions to international forums so that multi-nationals can sue to overturn state environmental laws, now.

The problem with the post-Cold War order would not have surprised any of the canonical writers on politics – Machiavelli, Hobbes, Montesquieu. And when the U.S. gets Iraq internationally condemned for purchasing and making WMD, and then turns around, violates every international covenant, and helps India make WMD, who is going to raise a voice against the U.S.? The UN is much more interested in Iran, of course, has said nothing about Pakistan, and will continue to operate mostly as cover for what the U.S. wants to do on the major things, while giving vent to grievances on the smaller scale.

40

Ros 08.25.07 at 4:42 pm

Katherine is a control freak and that is all that’s important.

It’s not international law. It’s Public International Law. In the 80′s CIA would have referred to this as the latter. After Afghanistan and the planning and funding of the war through Mercy Corps, Sarah Chayes and the Shays on the intellignce committee; one might change back to international law because of the huge funding through USAID to Mercy Corps from the Intelligence Committee, CIA. the definition probably changed right after Chayes, who worked with Kennedy to from PC, died and 9/11 happened a couple of months later and we had to call PC and the Green Berets out. The problem with international law is that is who had Kennedy killed.

Using force is vital when it’s a good time to pay back some dems and Kennedy pals like PC and Green Berets. The UN would have picked Public International Law.

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