March 25, 2007

Straying Across the Border

So 15 British sailors and marines have been taken by Iran, probably while in Iraqi waters but the accusation is that they were in Iranian waters. You can read the Now there's a Pajama's Media roundup that is quite good so I won't go into too many details. Border incursions happen. Giving Iran the benefit of the doubt, I wouldn't have any problem whatsoever adopting the Mexican solution of a diplomatic note and a 3 day snit.

But what has been done by Iran goes far beyond that. Some in Tehran are even going so far as to suggest holding espionage trials. In Iran, espionage is a death penalty crime. Fortunately for the captives, such a trial would be a war crime and a casus belli so it is unlikely to be more than talk.

But what to do now? The likely response is to cave in, either publicly or quietly but one does wish that Blair would double down and extend UK participation in Iraq by increasing its territory of responsibility and permitting US forces to have higher concentrations in zones where surge operations are underway. Here's hoping.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:51 PM

December 11, 2005

"Human Rights" Lawfare Revealed

In a previous article I speculated that the US is running a shell game on "human rights" organizations with its "secret CIA prisons" story. The previous article left some threads dangling:

Why put quotes areound "human rights"?
Why would the US do such a thing?

A great illustration of the reasons behind both is here. A Danish paper exercises free speech and publishes images of Islam's prophet and threats of violence and state action ensue. The Danish paper acted entirely within the law but the "UN High Commissioner for Human Rights" is on the case and seems to be on the side against free speech and for threats to shut down same.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour was investigating the matter. "I understand your attitude to the images that appeared in the newspaper," Arbour wrote the Organization of the Islamic Conference. "I find alarming any behaviors that disregard the beliefs of others. This kind of thing is unacceptable."

So if an entirely legal political cartoon is going to put a newspaper and several cartoonists under legal scrutiny and difficulty, what are the fates of US military and civilian interrogators of muslim terrorists? Can they look forward to anything other than investigation after investigation, with threats to follow for even completely false accusations?

Why would the US subject itself voluntarily to this sort of lawfare? It wouldn't if it had any sense. If we had a healthy human rights sector, investigating a Danish publication on human rights grounds for publishing a few cartoons should have led to widespread calls for the firing of the current commissioner. It hasn't. This makes the use of scare quotes fully justified. The "human rights" sector is sick and needs reform.

The War on Terror has no business voluntarily getting caught up in that fight. Thus a lack of information sharing, thus a lack of cooperation, thus an operation that actually is free enough to do its real job of interrogating prisoners not covered by any of the laws of war because they are the worst sort of international war criminals.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:00 AM

April 23, 2005

Sovereignty Contraditictions

Fareed Zakharia spots a problem with conservative defenses of sovereignty. They are generally political in nature and ignore the economic sovereignty compromises that an awful lot of international institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, et al.

Zakharia ignores two things. First, economic sovereignty is simply not on most conservatives' agendas. Free market liberalism, a tremendously powerful current in american conservatism, is ultimately an internationalist current. It's not surprising that economic internationalism is OK in most conservatives' eyes. Ultimately, economic internationalism is a system of voluntary arrangements.

The same is not true for political internationalism. Since governments are inherently institutions that make rules backed by force, political sovereignty has a distinct character that is unique. In the ideal westphalian system, each state has a monopoly on violence. When you give up sovereignty, you risk tyranny. There must be feedback loops for the control of the highest political class so that ultimately the people are in charge, not some micro-elite accountable to nobody.

The feedback loops for international political organizations are horribly inadequate. Pedophiles in the military extorting child sex for food, sexual slavery rings that feed into prostitution houses across the first world, graft, theft, extraordinary fiscal malfeasance on top of a willingness for too much of the world to sell their UN vote and you have a mess that would trigger Thomas Jefferson's right of rebellion if these world government wannabees were actually in charge.

Jefferson affirmed that individuals have a right to rebel against tyranny. His motto was "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." From the Declaration of Independence: "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience [has] shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security." Later in 1776 he declared: "The oppressed should rebel, and they will continue to rebel and raise disturbance until their civil rights are fully restored to them and all partial distinctions, exclusions and incapacitations are removed."

Under stress, conservatives return to first principles. President Bush is replaying the Radical Republicans present at the founding of the Republican party. The world clearly is discomfited by this. If we were ever to come under rule by the jokers who staff the political internationalist elite, the UN crew and company, we'd go back to Jefferson and the world would tremble.

Instinctively all conservatives know this and they know that political sovereignty must be maintained so long as the replacement is inferior. There is absolutely zero prospect of a superior political system emerging out of the international system as it is currently constituted. We're going to go through at least one more major upheaval in the system, on the order of replacing the League of Nations with the United Nations, before we have a realistic chance of getting something sufficiently good to consider political sovereignty as even on the table for discussion. To be honest, I don't think just one round will be enough.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:08 PM

January 10, 2005

Defining Torture II

A thought occurs that a great part of the problem with torture word games is that people don't really understand how strict the restrictions are on interrogation under the Geneva Convention. It would be a useful educational matter to come up with some sort of smart DVD that would show an escalating interrogation that went through all the various grey zones of interrogation violations that are not in the popular definition of torture but are outlawed by a "zero tolerance" regime advocated by many on the left.

You would define a button on the remote to hit when you think the first illegal bit of interrogation happened and the DVD would go back and explain all the bits of legal violations between when you stopped the interrogation and the actual first violation. It could also let you know if you would have let in some techniques that the Bush administration has not allowed.

A picture is worth a thousand words and if the Bush administration has been drawing the legal line too close to the black, people will hit the button before the administration's limit and you'd be able to know what techniques you're really mad about and what should continue to be used without using vague legislative wording that will unintentionally knock out unobjectionable techniques for illegal combatants.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:02 PM

January 06, 2005

Sovereignty Reform

David Frum asks:

Burma's Losses

Meanwhile, it seems likely that Burma too suffered horribly from the tsunami – but that the suffering is being concealed from the world by that country’s corrupt and brutal military government. Question: By what right does a small group of violent men deny their people access to international help after a disaster? Looking back on Rwanda, many people around the world came to reject the idea that “sovereignty” entitled a government to massacre its people. But what about consciously dooming people to death by abandonment – can the claim of “sovereignty”really entitle a government to do that?

The question, unfortunately, is dangerously incomplete as asked. The problem is not sovereignty challenges per se but leaving things open ended like that means that it's at least even odds that you'll end up with a variant of one of the pre-westphalian international system (with all their bloody problems) rather than any actual post-westphalian improvement. It's a shame, really.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:47 PM

October 20, 2004

War Polling Implications

Putting aside the presidential race for a moment a new poll has huge implications on the War On Terror (WOT).

Where the poll got interesting was on the war. 69% said the war on terror was a real war as opposed to a figurative war. The Republicans were most likely to feel that way at 87% and the Democrats least likely to feel that way at 56%. Independents were at 65%. Interestingly, this quesiton really captures the 9/11 mentality, I think. When asked if the war was being waged too aggressively, not aggressively enough, or just right, surprisingly 32% said not aggressively enough with 35% saying just right. Only 25% thought it was being waged too aggressively. When asked which candidate would "more aggressively fight the war on terrorism," 61% said George Bush and only 25% said John Kerry.

The question in the poll that stood out was "do you think it is more important to win the war in Iraq or end the war in Iraq?" 46% said win and 46% said end. Republicans at 69% said win and only 23% of Democrats said win. Among Independents, 46% said win and 45% said end.

That approximately 7 in 10 voters feel that we are in a real war, a war that is non-westphalian, is incredibly disruptive to the current international system which is based on westphalian principles and which can not survive in a non-westphalian world. This poll means that a durable majority in the country that supplies nearly 50% of the world's military force essentially believes that all the international applecarts are going to have to get turned over. Furthermore, this is one of the two issues that they feel are most important for the country to face today. This is an electoral tiger that neither candidate is entirely comfortable riding though President Bush comes a lot closer to popular sentiment than Senator Kerry.

What I truly wish would be that this section of the poll gets expanded out and run internationally. The expansion would ideally detail both the consequences of WOT being a real war and answer the question of who started and who can stop this war.

Did the WOT start when George W Bush proclaimed it or did prior Al Queda attacks start it? If a new president stops fighting the WOT as a war and takes a law enforcement approach, does that mean that the war is over or do underlying facts have to change in our enemies before the war can be over? What has to happen, who has to give up for the war to end? And, most provocatively, do the people know and understand our enemies' war aims, what we would have to do for them to declare victory?

I suspect that if the poll were taken among the political elite and among the general population, a huge, yawning chasm would appear in their responses. In this bifurcated nation between the people and the powerful, it would be President Bush on the side of the people, with the powerful's champion being Senator Kerry.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:18 AM

July 30, 2004

Making the World Love Us

After a night's sleep and a bit of reading, I think I know what the price will be for a Kerry success in making our traditional allies love us again. As I've noted in the past one of the major player factions on the global stage is a group of people who thrive on monopoly/monopsony profits, providing the spider thin controlled connectivity that most Gap states have to the Core in order to supply the elite's whims for expensive cars, jet setting travel, and PS2s.

The US has played along with this game in the past but the major unforgivable sin of this Bush administration in old Europe has been threatening all these sweet, cosy deals by wanting to open connectivity wide and bring in all the world's major players into these countries, bringing prosperity and freedom to the Gap while costing the established players their ultra-fat profits.

This is the heart of France and Germany's beef with us, the reason why they are so implacable in their enmity. Major contracts are threatened, established relationships would largely be rendered worthless, and a high amount of unpredictability would ensue with US firms winning an awful lot of those new opportunities. The problem is that Bush wants to bring too much competition, too much free market, too much rule of law into the Gap. Pace, Dr. Barnett this is not a neo-marxist critique but rather a very capitalist one.

Kerry has an opportunity to reestablish peaceful relations with Germany and France, Russia and the PRC by letting them maintain and expand their network of spider-thin connectivity webs, by running the GWOT as a war without Gap shrinking. Satisfy these established powers, don't force rule set resets in the Gap, and all will be right with the world. We will have glowing press releases. The UN will bless our military endeavors. All we have to give up is any hope of ending the war by appeasing the implicit villains.

We would end up in an Orwellian nightmare, 1984 writ more complex with a kaleidoscope of ever shifting enemies in the Gap, reaching out and striking us in unpredictable, bloody ways but with us unable to do much more than we did in the Clinton administration. The major difference is that the tents will not be empty, individual terrorists will be killed. The only problem is that we will be accelerating their creation with every strike.

If the opposition we're encountering in old Europe is truly centered around the hidden villains, Kerry's boxed himself into authorizing a perpetual war. It'll be containment v. rollback all over again with GWB being the early rollback guy and Kerry accepting aggressive containment as the best we can do without losing France and Germany again.

Do we really need another four decades of continuous cool war before another heir to Reagan comes along and rolls back the Gap? I certainly hope not.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:12 PM

July 26, 2004

Political Ad Scripts I

Draft I


After a particularly brutal war that raged all across Europe, everybody gathered in a place called Westphalia to settle things and make sure that there would never be a repeat. The solution they came up with, national sovereignty, saved the world from countless horrible, nasty wars ever since...

Until now...

It's been over 350 years since royalty, military and spiritual leaders all gathered together to hammer out the Peace of Wetphalia. Since then, a few unimportant colonies in the wilderness of the New World became the greatest power on Earth. The International Law that depended on Westphalia's national sovereignty principle stretched and grew and became a huge, complex structure on which rested many treaties, many organizations.

But today the great threats to our security come from people who simply do not accept the limits of national sovereignty. They make war in an older, more brutal fashion because they can't get what they want any other way. They organize across borders and can't be eradicated by declaring war on a nation, or even a group of nations.

For the first time in America's history, the underlying foundation of the world system is up for grabs. A big chunk of the world is too frightened to even try to address the big question. Others see the issues but are just too small to do the work without us.

President Bush broke 350 years of precedent and declared war on a non-state group, he implicitly challenged the world to move beyond Westphalia. The world, to a great degree, has ignored his call because they hope that the next President of the United States will let us all get back to the business of letting us be killed by terrorists at a "sustainable" rate. They are too frightened to do anything else...

Are you?

current running time 1:00

Posted by TMLutas at 08:23 AM

May 06, 2004

What About the ITU?

With all the talk about killing off the UN, there's an awful lot of things that are inside the UN that are there for convenience sake but may or may not be extricated easily. One of the best examples I can find is the ITU. It predates the UN. It joined the UN as a special agency. And I'm sure that no 1 in a 100 UN replacement advocates knows how to disentangle it from the UN system at this point. Until there is some sort of framework of how to shift such organizations over to a new system without much disruption, the great weight of many of the worlds largest companies are going to be against any UN replacement scheme. It's not that they care about Kofi Annan or the General Assembly or the UN Charter (though they may). What really would steam them is the loss of ability to push forward the synchronization of TV signals, standardize new packet switching telecom services, and the thousand other mundane details that can make, or lose, people billions of dollars.

Personally, at this point, I happen to be one of the 99. I think the UN system is rotten and probably irretrievable at this point but what I don't see is a detailed road map of how to improve things without making a bigger mess in a lengthy, and painful, transition. What I worry about is the others in that same group of 99 out of 100 who not only don't know how to fix it right but don't know that they don't know (Rumsfeld's famous unknown unknown in action). Those are the reformers that truly worry me.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:23 PM

May 04, 2004

UN Stonewall I

The UN is stonewalling oil for food investigations by insisting that contracts not be revealed to outside investigators. Former program director Benon Sevan received the backing of Kofi Annan in his effort to stymie accountability.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:11 PM

April 29, 2004

80% of Oil For Food Contracts Disappear?

The New York Post is breaking the story that after the UN turned over all its records to the GAO for an investigation, 80% of the contracts aren't there. Where they shredded, burned, hidden away in a filing cabinet drawer like the Rwanda airplane black box (the plane crash ended up sparking the Rwandan genocide), or never received by the UN in the first place? Take all the private scandals of the past few years, Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Anderson, Parmalat, and you will find none of them missing 80% of their records.

And if they had, the repercussions would have been severe. I wonder how many, even now, have not even heard that there is an oil for bribes scandal going on at all?

HT: Instapundit

Posted by TMLutas at 02:28 PM

April 22, 2004

Wars Against Individuals

Thomas Barnett has an item on our tendency to run wars against individuals instead of states. While I wouldn't put down Korea and Vietnam as wars against individuals, I believe he makes a compelling case that post-Westphalian tendencies were creeping into US foreign policy long before the current president took the bold step of declaring literal war against a non-state entity.

In other news, you can no longer preorder The Pentagon's New Map as it's now shipping (order now!).

(To my own shame, I don't qualify for a Barnett cookie, which he offered for anybody who knew the last declared war of the US. I didn't know that the US' last one was against Romania in 1943)

Posted by TMLutas at 10:15 AM

April 18, 2004

Welcome to our Post-Westphalian World

With the death of Abdel Aziz Rantisi the hazards and pitfalls of the post-Westphalian world start to show up. As a terrorist criminal, Rantisi should have been arrested, tried, convicted, and punished judicially. His extra-judicial killing should be condemned. As the leader of Hamas, a group with whom Israel is at war, Rantisi is a legitimate target for a missile at any time, any place. If he surrounds himself with civilians, their deaths are his fault, not the Israelis'.

Israel is somewhat at fault for not declaring the war it is conducting against Hamas but this is a relatively minor point. The fact that Israel is at war with Hamas is the elephant in the room. Everybody knows it, if nobody wants to talk about it. The US, in conditionally supporting the action is remaining true to its implicit post-Westphalian commitment while the UK, in condemning the killing, is behaving hypocritically, stepping back from Tony Blair's explicit announcement that Westphalian notions are no longer UK policy and that we're in a post-Westphalian world.

Arguing about Westphalia is fraught with danger to all manner of international institutions so nobody wants to open the Pandora's box. An essential part of the challenge of Al Queda and other trans-national terrorist groups is that they are fundamentally counting on our political elite's cowardice in this matter. They position themselves so that to strike at them effectively, we must dismantle the Westphalian construct of national sovereignty.

In the end, we can give up our freedom or we can give up Westphalian sensibilities. The choice is up to us.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:29 AM

April 10, 2004

What's our Obligation to Iraq in Case of Invasion?

Donald Sensing is furthering the case that Iraq's overrun with foreign fighters. I'm not a lawyer of any type (not even barracks or jailhouse) but I can certainly see that if Iraq were sovereign and in a normal situation, they would have every right to declare war against Iran and Syria for funding revolt and supplying fighters to try to overthrow the current order.

I have yet to see anybody ask the question of whether such invasion is a legitimate cause of war with the United States. Isn't it about time that we started?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:43 PM

April 07, 2004

Sadr's Only Hope

I think that Sadr does have a hope of surviving this emerging debacle where his military forces are cut to shreds and, along with them, any influence he hopes to have. His one and only hope is that when he is taken into custody, he does a deal that exposes how Iran funded and supported him in violation of all norms of international law and says he has been acting under Iranian orders through his patron who stays in Iran.

Doing such a deal would not do much for his reputation but it might just keep him from getting put on death row once the US suspension of the death penalty comes undone. Sadr must realize by now that he's playing a losing hand and all he can hope to salvage is his life. If anything will keep Sadr alive, this will. It would move the debate from what is the US doing wrong in Iraq to provoke such rebellions to what punitive measures should be enacted to ensure that fomenting coups ceases to be an Iranian habit.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:50 AM

Rules of War

I've previously commented on the inadvisability of turning Fallujah into a lake of glass. That's explicitly what we were invited to do by those four desecrated corpses. War is such a savage act and we are so good at it, that we (like boys who have discovered that their bodies are now big enough to kill each other) have hemmed it in with rules of mutual self-preservation. I'll work with precise violence and so will you, say these rules. This works in various ways and the desecrated corpses were an invitation to throw out the rulebook. Where that ends up is one plane, one bomb, one city sized lake of molten glass, Carthago Delenda Est in the most literal modern fashion.

This, and not the blood guilt that Armed Liberal talks about in his recent post is why the contractor's desecration matters more than the very real child's death that Armed Liberal uses for comparison. There were five soldiers killed that same day and their deaths did not provoke that same outrage. The only differences were that one set of victims maximized pay and decided to forego the flag and the other had flag and reduced pay on the one hand and on the other the contracters were desecrated and the soldiers were not. Since it would be considered normal for the outrage to be greater for the patriotic soldiers the reason it was the other way around has to center around the desecration. And desecration only matters as a violation of war crimes rules. Armed Liberal is saying true things, but they are not directly relevant to the visceral emotions at hand.

The enemy must be destroyed but Carthago Delenda Est should not be applied literally if we can at all avoid it. Violations of the laws of war are invitations for us to do just that and they've been threatened for some time (since Afghanistan, really). The USG has struggled to keep such incidents quiet because it does not want the public baying for blood. It's counterproductive and leads to bad long-term choices. The desecrators of Fallujah demand that we take note of their barbarity and took that option away from us.

We are thus thrust into the world of war crimes reprisals to enforce the rules. It is an arena that is fraught with peril. We need to step back and choose wisely our method of reprisal to avoid a descent into hell.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:03 AM

April 02, 2004

Letter to the Paper XIII

Fareed Zakaria notes that terrorists don't need states, and he's right. That's the heart of the need to remake the world system. Terrorists don't need states but any traditional response to terrorists does need a state. This is the best thing that Al Queda and the rest of the nihilistic death cultists have going for them. Unfortunately, Zakaria doesn't pursue the larger point, though I don't know whether he, himself, doesn't understand the problem of westphalian revisionism or such a subject is too big for a column. Below, the letter I wrote him:

When you say that people don't understand "this same error" that society sponsored terror is the dominant threat and that this error persists today, I think you make entirely too much light as to the nature of the problem. Society sponsored terror, and I agree you are correct in pointing to it as the problem, requires addressing, not states, but societies. Few have the scope of vision to understand exactly how far reaching the changes in our international system will have to be.

There has been an institutional bias growing to outright revulsion at this strategy dating back to 1648 and the Peace of Westphalia. The international system has to adjust to a post-westphalian reality that sovereignty, useful and even vital to maintaining peace for centuries, is now often in the way and we must adjust all the treaties and norms that assume it and require it. Institutions like the United Nations entirely structure their suffrage based on national sovereignty. States get votes, societies or nations do not. Treaty after treaty need to be reexamined. A new rule set must be forged to modify sovereignty so that we do not fix terrorism to find we have remade a world which can replay the Thirty Years War.

This possibility of breaking old fixes while hunting new enemies explains why President Bush has not laid out the theoretical boundaries of his post-westphalian revisionism. Prime Minister Blair, less prudently, has directly attacked the Westphalia system of national sovereignty but, also, has not provided a system to enable predictability in this proposed new international system.

So, until such limits to revisionism are hammered out and adopted, many who know better will politely whistle past the graveyard in public and pretend that nothing fundamental has changed. And those who are a bit less connected to our history will be confused and bewildered by seemingly irrational decision making all around. A public debate needs to start about this revisionism in order to clear the air of this polite pretending. We cannot escape it.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:12 AM

March 27, 2004

Taking The Palestinians Seriously

Steven Den Beste's current salvo regarding palestinian complaints about Israel's policy of targetted killings is right on the larger point of the sheer chutzpah of their outrage but, like the original miners in the Old West, leaves some wealth behind just sitting in the tailings.

The gold sitting there out in the open regards the subject of war. The palestinians, essentially, are complaining that the Israelis are not adopting the proper form of hypocrisy (you know, the one which would permit them to get exactly what they want) but rather are adopting a form of inconsistency that allows the Israelis to maximize their own gain on the international stage.

But hypocrisy is hypocrisy and it would do well for the Israelis to abandon it, though it would be tough sledding for awhile. The cause of the hypocrisy is the nature of Hamas and the rest of the intifada groups and what is their legal status both in the wider international system and in Israel itself.

The natural tendency would be for Israel to be in a state of war with palestinian groups that are committed to violence against it. This would put the members of these groups and their leadership in a state where they had the rights given to combatants under the laws of land warfare. It would be a tremendously clarifying stand and would both change international behavior and Israeli behavior. The idea of collective punishment would go right out the window, for example, but it is unlikely that in a true war situation the leadership of these groups would last very long. And without effective pro-violent leadership, it's quite likely that things would be very different in the palestinian territories today.

So why are we not seeing a declaration of war against the violent palestinian factions? Our old nemesis, the Peace of Westphalia, with its principle that war is a thing only between states, stands in the way. In fact, there was, a few years back, an injudicious statement (which I simply can't find on the net) where some high Israeli official said that they were at war with this or that group. This line of reasoning was immediately shut down because the Israeli consensus was, and probably still is, pro-Westphalian.

But Israel, I believe, is slowly learning that Westphalianism is impractical for it to continue to survive. The only question is when they're going to jump in support of the US and UK positions that Westphalia is dead and war, at least in the Gap, is possible between a nation state and a sub-national group.

I think that when this realization happens (and I hope it is soon) it's going to really fall in the pot. The other shoe will drop and everybody is going to realize just how big a change has been going on in the international system. They can either acquiesce to that change and live in the new world or the international system is going to fracture.

We're going to be living in interesting times for the foreseeable future.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:44 PM

Who's the Biggest Brigand of Them All

Samizdata is noting that the CPA is preserving evidence of corruption in Iraq's oil for food scandal. The big question is who stole the most out of the mouths of starving Iraqi children, Iraqi Baathists or their partners in crime on the UN side of the ledger. My money is that the Baathists end up being the biggest beneficiaries because they are more concentrated and were able to control events more but I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise because I don't think they'll win by much.

But what do you do about the corrupt in the 'international community' who siphoned off so much on their own initiative? What kind of appropriate penalty will restore confidence in the system? This is far worse than the Arthur Anderson scandals yet the penalties available to the UN are far less. So where does that leave us? With an awful lot of potential prosecutors facing some very unpleasant choices. If they don't turn over the rocks and expose corruption, they're helping to wreck the UN system. If they do it, they create an obligation to punish these people or they'll weaken the system even more but there are currently few ways they can effectively reach the miscreants.

So what will they do? Stay tuned...

Posted by TMLutas at 11:02 AM

March 23, 2004

French Crimes Against Humanity

Here's a sleeper issue, french complicity and active participation in the Rwandan genocide. I don't have a great deal to add other than it seems very strange to hear about Rwanda in this way. It's not just fallen off the mainstream media's radar screen but most of the blogosphere's as well.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:18 PM

March 22, 2004

Is This Normal?

From Debka:

Hizballah directed heavy cross-border missile-mortar bombardment at IDF positions Monday night for almost three hours. Israeli air force and artillery returned fire against Hizballah firing positions along border and inside Lebanese territory.

Ho hum, just another international bombardment. In normal circumstances, this is considered an act of war. At the very least the country from which the attacks are launched has an obligation to catch these people and hand them over to the attacked for trial.

Is anybody even bothering to demand that of Beirut? How about Damascus?

Posted by TMLutas at 09:30 PM

Unlawful Killing?

Let's put aside the question, for the moment of whether it's a bright idea to have blown up Sheik Yassin, of Hamas infamy. What caught my eye was Jack Straw's statement that Yassim's killing was unlawful.

What law, exactly, was violated?

Extra points if you don't step all over UK Prime Minister Blair's position that we're in a post-Westphalian world (which Minister Straw is not supposed to do until after he resigns).

Posted by TMLutas at 06:45 PM

March 20, 2004

Guantanamo v Incommunicado

Iberian Notes, inside a longer post on the latest from Spain opines:

Here's the latest from Spain. The five people, three Moroccans and two citizens of India, who were arrested on Saturday have been placed in preventive and "incomunicado" custody in Madrid by Judge Juan del Olmo of the Audiencia Nacional. Under Spanish law, they can now be held for two years without an indictment, which can be extended to two more years. Spain doesn't need a Guantanamo; they can lock these guys up for four years without even having to indict them, much less try them.

This is a difference of approach that, merits close observation and investigation. What is the difference between preventative, 'incommunicado' detention by civilian authorities and military detention? What makes one better than the other? Is part of the EU's concern over Guantanamo because they fundamentally never understood that we don't have such tools as preventative and 'incommunicado' detention? That in the normal course of events we can't just toss somebody in a black hole for four years?

But if they didn't understand such things, why didn't they? Who should have been telling them? Journalists should, of course, but the State Department has a role in that too. Did they do their job on the subject? The foreign ministries of the various EU states also had an obligation. Citizens of EU countries should be asking how did their own authorities do on that?

Posted by TMLutas at 11:48 AM

March 12, 2004

Ignoring War Crimes

I just got through reading an interesting article on Strategy Page regarding the arrest of five terrorists who killed two americans and their iraqi interpreter. One thing absolutely bothered me about the article. There was no recognition, no notice that wearing somebody else's uniform is a war crime. This is a big problem.

We cannot become desensitized to the idea of the enemy committing war crimes. If we do, we might as well get rid of the Geneva Conventions entirely as they would become worthless, one sided pieces of paper of no use to us. At the very least, we have, as civilians, an obligation to note and mention that what was done was a war crime. We cannot give that up without descending a step down a very slippery slope.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:11 PM

February 23, 2004

War Thoughts

Is the palestinian struggle with Israel, a war? This is a definitional problem that is incredibly important. The entire idea of an armistice line from the 1967 war having any meaning depends on the idea that the palestinians are not fighting a war with Israel and that Israel has no justification for adjusting borders based on palestinian aggression.

But if Palestinians are fighting a war, it is a war that they are clearly losing and Israel has every right in the world to adjust borders based on the results of the conflict. To challenge that right is to challenge virtually every border the world over.

The problem that Israel faced was that the last time the international system seriously took account of non-state warfare was in the 30 Years War. It's been a long time since the Peace of Westphalia.

But is Israel bound by those Westphalian definitions anymore? If you take George W. Bush at his word, "The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got" means that they don't because we (the US, a state) gave them (Al Queda, a non-state terrorist group with territorial ambitions) war. The precedent is there if Sharon wants to take it up and Europe would be caught in a bind if they protest Israel's following american precedent too strongly.

I've said before that this State of the Union speech was highly consequential. I doubt if Israel will not take the opportunity to take advantage of the new rules. The only question is how and when will they do it?

Posted by TMLutas at 05:42 PM