June 01, 2004

Serious Post-Westphalianism

One of the consequences of post-westphalianism is that by the breakdown of the westphalian limitations, there are an awful lot of things that we now have to keep track of that we don't have to under the westphalian rules. Westphalian rule sets permit you to create a black box called a country and you have very limited things you have to track. You have to track government pronouncements, economic treaties, etc. but you don't have to cover an awful lot of things that are internal to that country because the national government assures you that they will take care of any bad things so they don't spill across the border. Thus in westphalian foreign policy, we trust that the government of Iran will not permit a fatwa that is not official government policy to exceed the borders of Iran. In a functional westphalian system, Salman Rushdie could rest easy in the UK.

The reality is that Rushdie is still nervous and with good reason. The non-state judicial system of Islam arrogates to itself the right to issue punishments throughout the world. It claims universal jurisdiction and does not recognize westphalian limits. So, is our State Department tracking these fatwas? Does the Defense Department game out how to prevent assaults against our citizens as a consequence of these fatwas? Does anybody in the federal government have an official answer to the question of at what point does a fatwa become a judicial declaration of war?

The problem is that the answers to these questions are very hard. We can barely wrap our minds around the idea that we've declared war against a non-state actor. How do you respond to a non-state judiciary? Our serious thinkers seem to be so much at a loss on that one that they have no answers.

Posted by TMLutas at June 1, 2004 04:24 PM