Author: Stephanie Carvin (page 2 of 5)

Do the ‘Securitweebs’ matter?: Between Facts and Snark

Brian C. Rathbun now has 64 twitter followers!

Co-authored by Stephanie Carvin and Ben O’Loughlin

This article is about the twitter community who post content about human security or security in a non–traditional context – not just tanks and strategy but natural disaster relief, post-conflict reconstruction, low level political violence, and all the law and politics surrounding these issues.

So far as we can tell, this community seems to share the following characteristics:

  • They are a mix of journalists, think tankers, academics, NGO staff, and students.
  • While they frequently link to articles on traditional media websites, they frequently produce their own content, whether that is academic research, op-eds, or ‘reputable’ blog posts.
  • Although anyone may have a twitter account, and it may be seen as an equalizer, these individuals seem to have ‘elite’ qualifications. They seem to have skills (languages), experiences (military, conflict zones, journalism) or qualifications (graduate education). They are engaged with research and researchers.
  • They follow each other on twitter and engage with each other, forming a dense network. They often re-tweet each other’s links.
  • The perspective is often US-centric but inflected with international experiences and views.
  • The politics tends towards the centre-left on US terms or centre in Europe, but recent disagreement over whether to intervene in Libya shows there is no soggy consensus.
  • The content combines expertise, news, and a high degree of snark.

Taken together, this is the community of Securitweebs.

Two things made us write this article. A few weeks ago Stephanie posted a request for information about NGOs and landmines in the 1980s and got back really useful information from several tweeters, including @theHALOTrust – who also put her into contact with other organizations. Meanwhile down the hall, Ben was putting together a talk about how to identify and map ‘influencers’ in social media in order to shape what narrative spreads about Afghanistan or Syria. Is it possible to influence the narrative spreading among the Securitweebs? And can the Securitweebs as a whole control the narrative spreading beyond? There are nodal players within the Securitweebs, but the Securitweebs are a node within international public affairs.

The Securitweebs are an epistemic community: a network of experts who produce what counts as the truth about an issue. Mainstream media will come to them when the issue becomes a breaking story. Policymakers may solicit their leading figures of the moment, who will channel the collective wisdom of the network (and Tweet back to the network while being consulted, in close to real time, possibly adding a snarky comment).

Epistemic communities have long existed. What difference does existence through Twitter make? It is too soon to tell, but we would present a few observations:

  • Posting a question and receiving useful Tweets back makes it easy to survey a field, find hard-to-locate information, or even find new possibilities for collaboration. This is expertise harnessing crowd wisdom.
  • In addition, the network effects mean the connectivity of the most followed make it possible for anyone to produce content that becomes widely disseminated very quickly.
  • However, there is the obvious danger of groupthink; there is a consistent style and perspective as well as a shared interest, and that style and perspective is likely to attract the like-minded.
  • It’s interesting to conceive of how “nodes” work in this network. While there are many with thousands of followers (@abumuqawama and @afpackchannel for example), there are others with only a few hundred – but are well connected enough that their tweets, when picked up by this dense network, may have a substantial impact. Does this mean the network is essentially a multiplier?

Does the Securitweeb network differ from other communities? Do Securitweebs engage in more self-promotion than, say, the experts Tweeting about climate science? Does the level of political literacy or historical awareness or systemic sexual promiscuity differ from levels in the development community? Does the Securitweeb have more influence over security policy than Economistweebs do over taxing and spending? How does this network differ from a network about cupcake enthusiasts?

So what do Duck Readers think about this interpretation of the discussion of security/human security in the twittersphere? +1 or #fail?

@Ben_OLoughlin @StephanieCarvin

Share

Cana-dammerung: A belated final post on the Canadian Election

Cry the beloved country.

Well it’s been just over two weeks since the Canadian Election – and I am much overdue for the long promised third installment of the snoozefest series that I started. In some ways I’m glad I waited to write my reply: first, because I was contemplating throwing myself off of Tower Bridge. In a moment of panic on the morning after the election I formed the Government of Canada in Exile (please join!) but I think I have calmed down now and have a new appreciation for the UK visa renewal process. Second, because I wanted to actually spend some time thinking about the implication of Canada’s first majority government since 2006.


So, what did I think?

Basically nothing. I actively ignored it. I’ve been bogged down with exams, international affairs (that OBL thing) and not quite willing to face up to the fact that Canada just handed this guy a majority mandate.

So, what am I making up off of the top of my head?

Lots!

Canada before/after 2011 election

(For the too long/didn’t read crowd, this graphic should sum up everything up nicely.)

As a re-cap (just in case you were, for some reason, more interested in the bin Laden shooting) The centre-right Conservatives (Tories) got a solid majority government. The Liberal Party of Canada, lead by academic/public intellectual/did-not-come-back-for-you carpet bagging Michael Ignatieff, had its worst showing in its party history with only 40 seats. By comparison, in 1993, the Liberal Party had 177 seats (177!). Canada was one big red party. Instead, the New Democratic Party, lead by Mustachio-in-Chief Jack Layton, is now the leader of the Opposition which has never happened before and giving unfortunate choices in facial hair a new lease on life.

Finally, and perhaps the best news for Canadian nationalists since “money and the ethnic vote” helped keep the nation together, the Bloc Qubecois were completely decimated – going from 54 to 4 (FOUR!) seats. My extremely superficial comment on this would be that you can only be a one trick pony for so long, BQ; People want other things too.

Oh, and Elizabeth May, (a Yankee!!!)  the leader of Canada’s Green Party, won a seat , but the party did not do well overall as progressives apparently lined up to vote for the NDP instead.

A couple of interesting things here

Our new Official Opposition

  1. Harper won his majority government with 40% of the vote. The split ‘left’ vote (now into three parties: Liberal – though there are centre-right Liberals as well – NDP , Green) may mean that Conservatives will have an advantage to come…
  2. …so long as Harper can keep his party together. While he did not have a majority, he had an excuse not to move on socially conservative legislation. We’ll see if he does now. Certainly, I think we can expect foreign funding for issues that social conservatives do not like (birth control, abortions, etc) to be cut further as a pacifying measure. However, last week there was a large demonstration against abortion rights on Parliament Hill (admittedly an annual event). To what extent will Harper listen to these individuals (many from the west) in his caucus? An article in the Globe and Mail pointed out that Harper now has more MPs from Ontario than Alberta – will he have to take (more libertarian) Ontario more seriously now?
  3. Many of the new NDP candidates are just as surprised to be elected as many Canadians are to see them. It seems quite clear that many figured they did not really stand a chance in the election – particularly in Quebec. Yet, with the “Layton surge”, they have found themselves wisked into the House of Commons with some interesting results:
    a) Several of the candidates are university students (some who have been taught by co-Duck blogger Steven Saideman at McGill). Canada just elected its youngest MPs – it will be the first time that those under 25 will be so well represented… although all in the Opposition benches.
    b) To show you how bizarre the situation has become, we have the story of Ruth Ellen Brosseau. Don’t let the French name fool you! Despite the fact that she represents what seems to be an entirely francophone district, she doesn’t actually speak French. She may actually have never been to the ridding (electoral district for you who keep asking me what a ridding is and saying “that’s so cute”. >:-( ) and she spent much of the election in Las Vegas. While she’s already been a focal-point of criticism, I think this story implies much that might happen in the next Parliament…
  4. It’s Amateur Hour. And that might be a good and bad thing. The bad is obviously that the NDP has never had to be ‘responsible’ before in a national government. They’re not going to know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the system in the same way that, say, the Liberals do. They have many new people and Layton is going to have to organize a shadow cabinet for the first time that represents Canada. There are going to be a lot of mistakes made. That being said, the good is that these new individuals are going to be full of enthusiasm. They are not career politicians, but fresh faces of people who were hopefully motivated for the right reasons. Perhaps this means that they are going to do a good job of holding the government to account. While experience is valuable, things can also get stale.
  5. The long and painful Liberal demise. I don’t have enough time, space, hair-to-pull-out to go into a lengthy discussion here. (Check out Taylor Owen and Dave Eaves on this, he’s had some earlier op-eds too.) Needless to say, the party needs to find a balance between starting from ground zero and drawing on past traditions that have brought the party success. Good luck with that.
For those of us who are (admittedly) anti-Harper (I’m guessing you’ve already figured that out), it may not be as bad as it seems. There was a lot of speculation that Harper might calm down once he got the majority government he craved. (This was the opinion of the Economist, and Globe and Mail.) He might. Apparently we’re back to calling the government the “Government of Canada” rather than “the Harper Government”. That’s nice. I hear Mubarak-style branding ain’t going very well anyways.

Additionally, beside the NDP, the Tories elected some new and interesting MPs – in particular Chris Alexander, the former UN-Representative and foreign affairs wunderkind. I only briefly met him once when he gave a talk in London, but those who know him better than I say very good things about him.

Yet after yesterday’s cabinet was unveiled, it’s clear that Harper has just kept pretty much everyone in the same place. Including – shockingly – Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda in place. (Not much space here to go into the story – suffice to say she was found guilty of lying to Parliament, political interference into an evaluation process and really just being terrible.) Given that he has elected talent like Alexander, I find this HUGELY disappointing. My only hope is that he wants to get Alexander warmed up in his job as MP before he receives a government position in the next shuffle, probably in 12-18 months.  

As for the one of the only big changes: John Baird, the Tory rabid-seal-insta-shout-hack-attack-machine-on-two-legs, you can read my hysterical reaction here. Poor DFAIT. Pity the workers there, my internet friends. The only hope here is that Baird’s good relationship with Harper means that we might actually get something of a coherent foreign policy – a much neglected portfolio

In effect, all of this means that he’s opted for continuity (and I would say incompetence) rather than change.

More griping to come, I’m sure. In the meantime, I will probably keep most of my Cana-blogging over at the Cana-blog while the drinking struggle continues. 
Share

Reciprocity and International Law: A reply to International Jurist

On Wednesday, Xavier Rauscher at International Jurist posted his response to the hullabaloo over international law and the death of bin Laden. I’ve said my piece on it here and I’m getting tired of the issue, but Rauscher’s post is interesting because he tries to look at the “big picture” – noting that the manner in which bin Laden was killed has thrown more fuel on the fire over the “war on terror” vs “law enforcement” debate.

He also notes the commentary surrounding the fact that the debate over the issue seems to highlight the fact that within international politics we now seem to have two incompatible understandings of what international law is. Rauscher quotes American University Law Professor Ken Anderson who blogged at The Volokh Conspiracy on this point:

…what we call international law has been fragmenting for some time now into different “communities of interpretation and authority” as I somewhere called it. (…) Those communities have moved sufficiently far apart that they no longer share a common basis for authoritative interpretations of international law.


While disagreeing with the “conservative” tone, Rauscher responds:

It is important that the doctrinal debate on applicable international law does not lose touch with existing State Practice and more specifically States’ security concerns, lest international law becomes less relevant and hence loses its already relatively weak authority. While I am not arguing that international lawyers need to cave in systematically when confronted with a powerful State’s slightest whim, we must be always careful to address the security needs of States and offer credible and effective solutions to such issues. In the great scheme of things, international law should always be presented as a toolbox of solutions, not problems that may be negatively perceived not only by the States, but public opinion as well.

I agree with this sentiment very much.

However, I do have one major concern about the argument that Rauscher seeks to put forward:

The reason for the urgency is something that people like Kenneth Anderson completely miss in their discourse: that international law, and the international system as a whole, is founded on a fundamental principle that is reciprocity. To claim the right to invade “rogue States” for murky security reasons, to indefinitely detain “enemy combatants” in a never-ending conflict, or to send drones to kill terrorist suspects all over the world is one thing when you are the United States and believe you are a force for good – but it’s a whole other thing when other States, with perhaps less honorable goals, build their own policies on such dangerous precedents to the disadvantage of international peace and security.

There is a danger lying here in invoking reciprocity and I think the implications of it may take Rauscher to a place he may not want to go. Effectively, the principle reciprocity is what neo-conservatives in the United States have put forward as the reason to deny Guantanamo detainees any rights whatsoever. They don’t play by Geneva’s rules (or any rules, really), therefore they don’t have the right to expect treatment by the rules in turn. For example, as Alykhan Velshi and Howard Anglin have argued:

The Geneva Conventions are by no means anachronistic; they remain the proper legal framework for waging a conventional war against a regularly constituted army. But applying the strict letter of the Geneva Conventions to Islamist militants is like applying the Queensbury Rules to a donnybrook. When terrorists have shown no interest in abiding by the Geneva Conventions, it is naïve to think that we can shame them into doing so by treating them as though they have. The best way for the United States to honor the Geneva Conventions is to enforce the principle of reciprocity and deny Geneva protections to those who scorn them.

There are many other sources one could point to hear as well.

Part of the issue here is that the role of reciprocity in enforcing the law of armed conflict is not clear. The ICRC categorically rejects the idea that it plays a role in the enforcement of the laws of war (citing the first two common articles to the Geneva Conventions). However, whether or how this take on reciprocity applies to the full spectrum of war law is unclear. Keeping with Rausher’s point about state practice, I think it is fair to say that no state will constantly agree to suffer such grievances forever. As Yoram Dinstein maintains in his book on the law of armed conflict, expecting a state to do nothing in a cases involving a blatant and persistent violation of the laws of war is not reasonable and that the laws of war should not be based “on the unreasonable expectation that, when struck in contravention of LOIAC, the aggrieved State would turn the other cheek to its opponent. This sounds more like an exercise in theology than in the law of war.” (p.26)

I find myself agreeing with Dinstein,that there is still a basis for reciprocity or reprisals in the enforcement of law. However, at the same time, I would say that international law is pretty categorical on the prohibition of reciprocity against individual victims. One needs only look at Common Article 1 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions: “The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.”

So we need to be cautious when we invoke reciprocity, particularly as it relates to the War on Terror. But despite the lack of a precise agreement over the concept, arguing that the fundamental basis of international law is reciprocity full-stop, particularly when it comes to the laws of war, is potentially very flawed. It may be fairer to say that “what goes around comes around”, or warn of the danger of precedent, but the way that Rauscher states it is probably not legally correct (although I stress that he is the actual lawyer and I am the fake one). Worse, it’s an argument that has been used to justify many of the things that Rauscher is warning against.

Share

The bin Laden Killing and Assassination Explained in 4 Paragraphs Not By Me

At the risk of beating a dead terrorist horse, I want to cite W. Hays Parks (former Special Advisor to the Office of Legal Counsel on Law of War Issues at DoD, JAG and possible stand in for Clint Eastwood in that Grand Torino movie) on the Osama bin Laden assassination/murder/killing debate that has kind of been driving me nuts.

In a response letter in the Washington Post, Parks writes:

The May 2 lead story by Scott Wilson and Craig Whitlock on the death of Osama bin Laden was well written and reported. But on the continuation, the story referred to the deadly attack as an “assassination.” It was not.
Executive Order 12333 prohibits but does not define assassination. In 1988, as a civilian attorney in the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Army, I researched the issue to define assassination. I coordinated my draft opinion with the judge advocates general of the Navy and Air Force; the general counsel of the Defense Department; the general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency; and the legal adviser of the State Department. In 1989, the Army’s judge advocate general signed an unclassified memorandum defining assassination to provide clarity to the prohibition. It was provided to the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees and was published in the State Department’s volume of significant international law documents.
Assassination is murder committed for political purposes. The killing of enemy military personnel in time of armed conflict is not assassination.
Nor is it assassination to attack the leadership of armed non-state actors such as Osama bin Laden who have been and remain engaged in planning and executing armed attacks against a sovereign state. Because bin Laden was a lawful target, the attack was neither murder nor assassination.

I think this pretty much sums it up for me. Well that and this line from Roger Cohen:

If there is greater fatuity than second-guessing the split-second decisions of commandos confronted by gunfire, knowing the compound may be wired to explode, and hunting a serial mass murderer unwilling to surrender, then I am unaware of it. Let post-modern, pacifist Germans agonize, and whoever else wishes to writhe on a pin. The rest of us can be satisfied.

Me, and my fake-lawyer self could not care any less about this issue, unless it somehow involved the Royal Wedding.

Share

Blegging: Did no one complain about the Soviet Use of landmines in Afghanistan from 1979-1989?

I am trying to find examples of humanitarian organizations that spoke out against the use of landmines by the Soviet Union during its invasion of Afghanistan from 1979-1989.

Landmines were big as one of the weapons issues put up for debate in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the UN General Assembly. The first specific legislation against them was Additional Protocol II to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons. (A regulatory treaty as opposed to a banning treaty.)

Even if the original APII was pretty weak (it was amended in 1996 which greatly strengthened it) there is no question that the Soviet Union, who ratified the CCW in 1982, was violating the crap out of it. In particular the “butterfly landmines” it used were particularly horrendous.

However, until the series of reports by the UN Human Rights Committee from 1985-1990, I cannot find any evidence that humanitarian organization spoke out about the landmine issue until the 1990s. I have a couple of guesses as to why this would be the case (one being the fact that the ICRC was kicked out of Afghanistan in 1980, allowed to resume limited operations in 1987 but then kicked out again until the end of the war. This would obviously make it hard to monitor the situation.)

Yet, while speaking out about the sue of these weapons, the Human Rights Committee report does not invoke the 1980 CCW?  Did no one else speak up about the treaty (or landlines, or incendiary weapons, etc)?

Edit: There seems to be a certain amount of news coverage of the weapons issue in Afghanistan, but the NGO response still seems underwhelming. MSF held a press conference in 1982, but it isn’t until around 1988 that we start to see NGOs (like the ICRC) really highlighting the problem in the press.) Additionally, it seems that in 1986 a UN official actually tried to cut out some of the criticism in the Human Rights Committee report – allegations of the use of chemical weapons, for example – that made the Soviets look really bad.

Share

The 2011 Canadian Election: Lessons Learned and Mindless Amateur Speculation

Canadian democracy rests in this man’s hands.

Yesterday I provided a fully superficial background and survey of developments regarding the 2011 Canadian Election. The short version is 1) We’ve had a series of minority governments. 2) Stephen Harper probably thought he could get a majority, and now that does not seem likely though it is still possible. 3) The NDP has ‘surged’, probably at the Liberal’s expense, but also very much at the expense of the Quebec nationalist/separatist Bloc Party and possibly even that of the Tories (who may have expected disappointed Liberals to flock right rather than left.)

In other words – no one has any idea what is going to happen. ThreeHundredandEight has a post on what would happen if the parties achieved their ‘vote ceiling’ ie) how many seats they would get if everyone who says they are going to vote for them actually does. So a majority government for the Tories is still possible (they have a pretty dedicated party followers. One might say rabid, but that is unkind. Just don’t date any…)

So, based on the fact that we are in electoral terra incognita if the polls are right, what can we possibly say we have learned from the election?

This is a horrible lie.
  1. As I have been periodically moaning about, (and is most important for Duck readers) foreign policy does not matter in elections in Western democracies unless something has gone, really, really wrong. I posted a list of 12 questions I would like to see answered by the parties – and that still stands outside of an election. Let’s see what’s in the new Speech from the Throne (which is the government agenda which sets the tone for all policies). My fellow blogger Steve Saideman has some speculation here as to what might happen in the future. Also, James Joyner at Outside the Beltway wrote a good response to my post. 
  2. The Liberals have not been able to present themselves as a good alternative to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. This is rather obvious considering the position they are in. But the point is that they have not really presented themselves as anything other than a less-right-wing version of the Tories. And Ignatieff has simply not been able to convince individuals that he would make a good leader. I think suspect that Iggy will be exiting stage-right (left? centre?) from Canadian politics in a few days.
    I wonder why this didn’t work out? I have a few ideas – the damage of a decade of political in-fighting to be sure. Additionally the Liberal Party is broke and does not have a lot of money to draw on to fight – and it has had to fight three times in the past five years. It just doesn’t have the resources to launch a massive against the Conservative electoral machine (affectionately known as the ‘war room’). A lot of it may have been Iggy’s inability to fight a characterization of him as a carpet-bagger or (*shock*) intellectual.
  3. Do Canadians like intellectuals? This is more of a question than a lesson learned. I had always thought that Canadians were more open to “smartypants” than their neighbours to the south, but this may be a mischaracterization on both fronts. For instance, a few years ago I had a (very partisan) Tory friend tell me that unlike that over-educated professor (I forget if it was Dion or Ignatieff – both have PhDs), Stephen Harper was a ‘real’ Canadian who could identify with him and his problems. I did have to point out to said friend that Stephen Harper has two university degrees and is writing a book on the history of hockey in his spare time. It ain’t exactly clearing brush in Texas. Yet it’s only recently that Harper has been portrayed by the Tories as a ‘trained economist’ that can help Canada grow. Harper is a smart, smart man. He may not openly pontificate like Ignatieff, but he’s clever and well educated. Why hide that fact?
    Perhaps I’m reflecting wrongly on the nature of Canadian Prime Ministers, or the legacy of Pierre Trudeau, our “philosopher king” who was a very long serving Prime Minister. I always thought his persona as an intellectual added to his mystique, which seemed very good at getting him elected over and over and over. Maybe Canada is tired of Trudeaus? Maybe not? It will be interesting to see how this pans out. As a final note here, I would just argue that I do not detect much presentation of Layton as an ‘intellectual’ in the NDP campaign. He’s running on experience, and as a career politician, he has lots of it – though not much in actual power…
  4. Canadians do not seem to care about the mis-management of government. I made this point yesterday. But the point stands. There have been so many government scandals in the past five years that I have lost track. The Tories were elected back in 2006 on the idea that they would bring transparency and ethical behaviour back to government after the sponsorship scandal affected the Liberal Party. So much for that! Yet it does not seem to bother many Canadians. How else can you explain Harper’s leadership ratings? Or the fact that despite the fact that he has literally been held in contempt of Parliament, his ministers have been caught in bare-faced lies (yet not forced to resign) and he continuously shuts down any independent monitoring of his government actions (not to mention it would appear that the G20 summit funding went insanely out of control) that his party will still likely be the government next week.
  5. Finally, there are Maclean’s writer Paul Wells’ Rules of Canadian Politics
    1. For any given situation, Canadian politics will tend toward the least exciting possible outcome.
    2. If everyone in Ottawa knows something, it’s not true.
    3. The candidate in the best mood wins.
    4. The guy who auditions for the role of opposition leader will get the job

Of these four rules, I would say number one is definitely out – I haven’t been this interested in AGES. Number two is probably true but doesn’t apply. Number three seems to be where it’s at. Is Harper in the best mood? No. Smiling would break the man’s face. Layton is in the best mood (and why wouldn’t he be? His party is doing better than it EVER has. He may not win, but he is winning.

As for number four – I’m not even sure that Michael Ignatieff is going to get that job.

Michael Ignatieff after Monday.



Finally – What We May Speculate Uselessly and Far Removed From the Situation

First, of our four national parties, three will have new leaders by the end of the year – IF:

  1. The Tories get a minority government with less seats than they presently have (possible)
  2. The Bloc fair horribly in Quebec (seems likely)
  3. The Liberals fall to third place (very possible. Likely even.)

Second, some controversial thinking: Will the NDP be like the LibDems in the UK? Possibly. I speculated a bit about this on Twitter – and got a mixed response. But I think there are a lot of similarities:

a. Popular leaders of national parties that can attract a lot of soft-left votes
b. Ability to present the party as an alternative to the mainstream
c. Will likely be responsible for a Conservative government shy of a majority.

What’s the difference here? The LibDems made the fateful decision to actually enter into power with the Conservatives. I’m pretty sure this will not be possible in a Canadian scenario – the Conservatives and NDP are very far apart on a number of issues. They are on opposite sides of the admittedly (narrow) political spectrum. And I think most NDP supporters would just rather stab their eyes out with a rusty spoon.

This leaves two options: the Liberals could form a coalition with the Tories – which would be hilarious, awful and INSANELY hypocritical concerning all of the campaigning Harper did against (perfectly legitimate) coalitions. Or the Liberals and the NDP, if they have enough seats, may try to form a coalition (or understanding) without the Bloc (who seem destined to do badly, unless they get their supporters out in a BIG way). This is what the Tories have warned though – and considering that the Liberals would (humiliatingly) be the junior partner, I think they would sit this dance out. But it’s not certain….

There have been some stories in the press that Harper will not comment on what he will do if his party does not have a majority, or if the NDP and the Liberals do decide to form a coalition. There has even been some speculation that he will not re-establish the government back to Ottawa. Given the fact that he is willing to prorogue parliament – twice – to stay in power, I think this is a possible outcome. But ultimately, I’d like to think it is an unlikely one. We don’t need Canada turning into Belgium. And I would hope that the man who puts so much emphasis on his ability to lead a ‘stable’ Canada would not do anything so foolish.

Next post on Tuesday: The fall out. Things be changing? Maybe? Possibly?!

Share

The 2011 Canadian Election: I don’t even know

Last year I was much better at blogging about the UK General Election. I thought it was going to be incredibly boring, but then there was the rise of a third party in an unexpected way which changed the balance of power.

This year with Canada’s turn to re-stack the deck, I thought the election was going to be incredibly boring, but then there was the rise of a third party in an unexpected way which very well may change the balance of power.

It’s always a bit hard for me to gage the interest/reaction of Duck readers about the election. Apparently about 4.6% of the hits to the Duck are from Canada. So I don’t know if people know or care. Even the venerable Dan Drezner managed to tweet out “FT headline “Crowds Cheer Royal Newlyweds” rivals “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative” in its sheer banality” to which all I can say is, take off, eh?!

Over three posts I am going to reflect on the Canadian election: 1) the set up 2) what we have learned 3) the result (after the result on 2 May). Let the mindless speculation begin!

If you are familiar with Canadian politics, please skip the next two paragraphs.

The ground rules are this: Canada has a parliamentary system like that of the UK. We have a number of different political parties (also like the UK). The major parties are: the Conservative Party (the right-ish party) who has most recently formed minority governments for five years; the Liberal Party (the centrist party) who had governed the country 13 years before that but has sputtered under a series of leaders since 2005; the New Democratic Party (the left party – we’re talking VERY PALE PINK compared to Europe) who has never been in power; the Bloc Quebecois (the Quebec Separtist party) that has dominated Quebec-national politics since the 1990s. There is also a Green Party (environmentalists, more left-ish) which does not currently hold any seats.

Results of 2008 Election.
We be divided, yo.

Increasingly, Canadians have voted regionally. Major urban cities (Vancouver, Toronto) vote Liberal, the country and Alberta tend to vote conservative (our ‘Red States’) and Quebecers tend to vote for the Bloc (not necessarily because they are separatist, but because they believe that a party that is dedicated to Quebec interests will do the best job of representing them.) The end result is that since 2006 we have had a series of minority governments.

You can read now Canada-philes.

So what have we learned from this election?

Well, it’s all gone a wee bit crazy. Actually, a lot crazy. I leave the country and look what happens?! Black is white. Day is night. People are putting motor oil on their pancakes and then using maple syrup to lubricate their engines. People are contemplating electing a third party (which has not really ever gone beyond 15-20% in national popularity) to the Official Opposition, if not government. For the first time ever, the lefti-ish NDP looks like it will play a major role in government.

This rise has come at the expense of the Liberals – who have not been able to find their voice now for nearly a decade. I admit that I had hopes for Michael Ignatieff – but Canadians (like my parents, for example) never took to him; they don’t know who he is and never bothered to get to know him. The Liberals were simply unable to introduce him and unsuccessful in countering the pretty nasty paintbrush the Conservatives painted him with. (“He didn’t come back for you!!!) As such the Liberals are preparing for their worst showing in Canadian history (since 1867 as were sorting this ‘responsible government’ thing out.)

But if this has come at the expense of the Liberals, it has also come at the surprise of the Conservatives – if not also their expense. This was supposed to be the election where Stephen Harper got his majority and you can understand why he felt this way.

  1. The vote on the centre-left is split in such a way that has allowed the Conservatives to dominate the political scene. (It was quite the opposite in the 1990s when two centre-right parties split the right vote between them, allowing the Liberals to govern. This eventually allowed for a ‘unite the right’ movement which brought us the current Conservative Party.)
  2. Canadians are apathetic. Harper quite literally shut down the government when he didn’t like what was going on. He shut down a democracy because he thought he was going to lose power not once – but twice. And Canadians simply didn’t care. His government has shut down watchdogs, silenced critics (internal and external). I could give you a list of scandals but it would take up a LOT of room. But Canadians, really, really, really don’t care. Why? Things are kinda good. Our economy is relatively okay and Harper has yet to really go for the social issues that would really anger a lot of people. (Abortion – apparently off the table, gay marriage, etc.) So why should Canadian’s care if Harper ‘prorogues’ parliament – when they probably don’t even know what that means. The bills are paid, their gay son will have a fabulous wedding and there’s an all night marathon of 87 Kids and Counting on TLC.
  3. Harper has managed to successfully convince Canadians that a coalition of parties forming the government is an undemocratic and bad thing. This is a horrible indictment of the knowledge of Canadians about their own system of government – but it’s something that the Conservatives have taken advantage of. He has painted such a move (perfectly legitimate in a parliamentary democracy as we see in Europe) as reckless and dangerous. As such, every campaign speech has not been about what the Conservatives are going to do, but rather about STOPPING THE COALITION – which so far doesn’t actually exist.

So, painting himself as the safe and stable choice – “CHAOS IS LAPPING AT OUR SHORES”. (LAPPING!) Harper was in a reasonable position to believe that a majority government was in his grasp. When his government fell at the end of March (we do that – governments can be voted down in the House of Commons if they don’t have support, but elections must be held every 5 years at a minimum) I’m sure he wasn’t feeling so bad. His party was doing well in the polls and his party’s main rivals, the Liberals, were weak. The stage was set for the Conservatives to make a large break-through in traditional Liberal strongholds (Toronto, but especially its surrounding suburbs). As such, Conservative fire was aimed squarely at the Liberals.

May be it was too effective?

Don’t trash the ‘stache?

Sure, Canadians have been dumping the Ignatieff Liberals, but so far it seems they have turned not to Harper, but to Jack Layton – the very likeable and moustachioed leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) – which has SURGED in the polls. This leads me to believe that Canada is the only country in the world where someone with a moustache can be elected as a viable candidate. (Pre-1920s American leaders do not count.)

The polls (as of 29 April) have Layton’s party somewhere between 33-36% compared to Harper’s 35-38%. And the strange thing is that this ‘surge’ has come from Quebec of all places – as apparently they are sick of the other three parties which have dominated their province for decades and they are looking for something new. There has been some controversy over the way Jack Layton has courted the vote there (it gets way too complicated to explain at the end of an already long blog post – read this if you care) but regardless of strategy, the NDP have become the new alternative to the Tories. And apparently the Liberals and Bloc.

This is what I think Michael Ignatieff is
probably feeling like right now.

The Conservatives, for their part, have struggled to turn the ship around and aim fire at Layton. We started to see that this week with talk about how NDP carbon policies would increase gas prices by 10 cents per litre (Although gas prices have pretty much doubled already under Harper?) And now the scummiest story of the election. But it’s late in the day – many Canadians have changed their minds and with only two days left to campaign, Canada could be in for a real electoral shake up. If it pans out the way ThreeHundredAndEight (don’t laugh Nate Silver) says it will, Harper will not get his majority government, the NDP will form the official opposition and the Liberals are going to be very sad pandas indeed.

I honestly can’t wait to see what happens. Has Canada found its white moustachioed Obama? Apparently, “We Can Do This”.

Share

Shabby Sheik: Gaddafi’s ‘fashion’ and cultural property

As much as the proposal to put Mummar Gaddafi’s outfits up for display at the Costume Institute of New York should be true in a fully just world, I would imagine that it isn’t.

Alas, the West shall be deprived of “four decades of Colonel Gaddafi’s superior dress sense”. And we are weaker for it.

However, this did get me thinking. Could Libya make a plausible case that Gaddafi’s outfits (which have been out-Gaga-ing Lady Gaga since well before she was born this way) are in fact ‘cultural property’ under the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention?

According to Article 1 of the treaty:

For the purposes of the present Convention, the term “cultural property” shall cover, irrespective of origin or ownership: (a) movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular; archaeological sites; groups of buildings which, as a whole, are of historical or artistic interest; works of art; manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest; as well as scientific collections and important collections of books or archives or of reproductions of the property defined above;

And how could you argue that this isn’t a “work of art”?

If a plausible argument can be made there are some serious targeting implications for NATO. (Provided, of course, the Libyans first mark off where the outfits are with the appropriate sign.)

Article 4 states:

1. The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect cultural property situated within their own territory as well as within the territory of other High Contracting Parties by refraining from any use of the property and its immediate surroundings or of the appliances in use for its protection for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict; and by refraining from any act of hostility directed against such property.
2. The obligations mentioned in paragraph I of the present Article may be waived only in cases where military necessity imperatively requires such a waiver.
3. The High Contracting Parties further undertake to prohibit, prevent and, if necessary, put a stop to any form of theft, pillage or misappropriation of, and any acts of vandalism directed against, cultural property. They shall, refrain from requisitioning movable cultural property situated in the territory of another High Contracting Party.
4. They shall refrain from any act directed by way of reprisals against cultural property.
5. No High Contracting Party may evade the obligations incumbent upon it under the present Article, in respect of another High Contracting Party, by reason of the fact that the latter has not applied the measures of safeguard referred to in Article 3.

You know, everything that didn’t happen in Iraq.

Of course there is also “immunity from seizure,capture and prize” – so none of the European military advisors on the ground will not suddenly be wearing lots and lots and lots of gold braid.

Oh – and even if the Libyan conflict is not of an international character (Certainly the NATO campaign is, but the civil war might not be!) there are still fundamental guarantees under Article 19:

1. In the event of an armed conflict not of an international character occurring within the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the provisions of the present Convention which relate to respect for cultural property.
2. The parties to the Conflict shall endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
3. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization may offer its services to the parties to the conflict.
4. The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the parties to the conflict.

For the sake of humanity, will no one think of the Paco Rabanne sunglasses?

Share

Presidential Reading List: (After you probably get through the ones with ‘Bacevich’ on the cover)

Dan Drezner has issued a call to arms!… or to your library card:

“I therefore call upon the readers of this blog to proffer up their suggestions — if you had to pick three books for an ambitious U.S. politician to read in order to bone up on foreign affairs, what would they be?”

I have a gut feeling that all of the answers are going to be grand strategy, grand strategy and some war on terror/Afghanistan. (Although, maybe I’m not being generous enough… but looking at the comments on Drezner’s post, I don’t think so.) So I’m going to suggest three books that touch on issues presented by ethical and political leadership as well as the war on terror, with a little bit of history thrown in on the side. Oh yeah – they’re all very good reads – Senators are going to be reading these things on planes, right?

(And for comparison, with an American IPE guy, Kindred Winecoff’s take is here.)

1. Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea.

I think this book actually deserves its own post, let alone a mention here. It won (and very much deserved) the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize in 2010. Basically Demick interviews North Korean defectors who now live in South Korea about their experiences north of the 38th Parallel. But it’s not just a book about North Korea – most of the individuals in the book lived through the famine that struck the country in the 1990s. And gradually, as the story of the expats unfold, you learn what it is like to live through a famine – bonuses slowly disappear, soon the shelves aren’t stocked, and people begin to sell off their possessions to buy food on a dangerous black market. It gets worse – seeing increasing numbers of abandoned children at the train station, walking overtop of people literally starving to death – but in such a way that you’ve become numb to the suffering, so as to not be overwhelmed buy it. And eventually to see your family and friends die.

“From the outside, Chongjin looked unchanged. The same gray facades of the Stalinist office buildings stared out at empty strtches of asphalt… But Mrs. Song knew better. It was a topsy-turvy world in which she was living. Up was down, wrong was right. The women had the money instead of the men. The markets were bursting with food, more food than most North Koreans had seen in their lifetime [in the black markets], and yet people were still dying from hunger. Worker’s Party members had starved to death; those who never gave a damn about the fartherland were making money.” (p. 157)

It’s a powerful book and a brilliant insight into a country which we know little about. In short, learn about North Korea, but also what it is like to live through starvation and suffering and how people cope and survive. And I’m sure there’s a lesson in there for dealing with North Korea for the aspiring policy maker.

2. Peter Hennessy, The Secret State: Preparing for the Worst 1945-2010

This is a book by one of the UK’s foremost historians of the Cold War. Effectively, it is about how governments counter threats – whether it is through intelligence agencies or nuclear deterrence. It is on this later topic, nuclear weapons and nuclear politics where Hennessy’s book is really chilling. How would a society cope with the ultimate worst case scenario – nuclear war? How can governments plan for the unthinkable? One of the most unsettling chapters is about Exercise INVALUABLE – a simulation for UK government officials in 1968 of a weeklong countdown to WWIII. According to the exercise at 1200 hour ZULU:

“Today’s newspapers give particular prominence to Soviet advances into West Germany and of the fighting in Northern Norway and on the Jugoslav/Italian border. Radio programs were interrupted this morning to report the amphibious attack against the Danish Islands. In leading articles, the ‘Times’ and the ‘Guardian’ urge that the West should not initiate a tactical nuclear exchange.”

Beyond this, it is a useful look back at how government looked at ‘subversive’ organizations, managed intelligence and threats to the nation. It’s a useful reminder of where we’ve been with regards to national threats that provides good insight as to where we might be going.

3. Conor Folely, The Thin Blue Line: How Humanitarianism Went to War

An excellent book by a former (recovering?) humanitarian. In short. Folely looks at the real consequences of good humanitarian intentions. How, for example, the international community’s intervention in East Timor completely distorted their economy – raising prices in local communities; and how the Timorese saw little of the billions of dollars spent on the peacekeeping mission there.

“A sudden, large influx of resources will invariably distort the local economy and the arrival of an international mission will have a destabilizing effect. However well-intentioned, the intervening participants will almost always be inadequately informed regarding specific local politics and culture. Even the worst-paid international aid workers are likely to earn several times more than the average local salary. …” (p. 143) 

Or while the intervention in Kosovo helped to protect the Kosovar Albanians, it failed to preent a reverse population expulsion as the Serbs were forced to leave Kosovo. It’s a very good critique – and a useful reminder that every humanitarian action seems to have an equal and opposite reaction. Additionally, it’s a useful examination of what happens when bodies established to alleviate human suffering and put an end to war end up making a case for just that.

So there you are – three books that have done well in the UK which may have some lessons for US policy makers (and none with Bacevich on the cover!)

Cheeky honourable mention: I realize that I have no IPE on this list. Not my area – but I like the writings of Michael Lewis. I’ve just started The Big Short and I’m looking forward to Boomerang.

Share

Quick Gitmo Post

Regarding the revelations in the latest diplo-document-dump, there are some good questions to be asked. Charli is wondering who actually did the leaking and Ben Wittes is concerned about the effect that this will have on not only the government, but the detainees themselves:

Should it most upset the government, for whom the story represents yet another devastating failure to keep important secrets? Or should it most upset detainee counsel, for whom this trove means the public release of huge amounts of unsubstantiated speculation about clients who have not been charged and against whom it is far easier to write down disparaging information in intelligence reports than it is to prove such allegations in court. For both intelligence and civil liberties reasons, there are very good reasons a lot of this material has not been made public.


I’m just going to say that there’s not a lot new here. As the New York Times itself writes:

The Guantánamo assessments seem unlikely to end the long-running debate about America’s most controversial prison. The documents can be mined for evidence supporting beliefs across the political spectrum about the relative perils posed by the detainees and whether the government’s system of holding most without trials is justified.

Basically, the story in the Times just highlights the already known facts: that many individuals are at Guantanamo because of shoddy evidence but cannot be returned to their home countries because they are either considered to be dangerous, whatever evidence was held against them was gained through torture, or there is a substantial chance that their home governments would torture them upon return. It also highlights the fact that the methodology/process for sorting out who should be sent to Guantanamo was flawed, at best.

Again, these are already things that were well known. The documents just seem to shed some light as to who is actually there. It really doesn’t offer us much information as to what to do with the hard cases of individuals like Khalid Sheik Mohammed who would seem to be guilty of major terrorist crimes, but who has been handled so poorly as to make a fair trial nearly impossible.

Right now, the only good I can see coming of this is reminding people that Gitmo is still there, that there are still people in it and that no one seems willing to do anything about it. But really, you have to wonder whether the ‘big issue’ here will be that of Gitmo  itself or that the documents were leaked in the first place. Right now I’m going to put my money on the later.
Share

Standing Up for Multiculturalism? or “Where I find myself agreeing with the Prime Minister of Canada and that the dirt won’t come off.”

I am very, very ethnic.

For those of you who weren’t following Canadian politics this week (I’m assuming that’s 98% of the Duck audience) the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC or “Tories”) took a lot of flack this week for calling up supporters and asking them to wear “ethnic” costumes. This is, of course, to make the Tories look more diverse and possibly have another colour of hair in their audience than white. The flack, in my opinion, is well deserved – minorities are not well staged photo-ops. They are, however, a group that all political parties have tried to reach out to.

Liberals have traditionally had much success in the Greater Toronto Area, and other major urban zones by promoting immigration (or at least seeming to) such as policies which reuniting families when one member has come over. But, at the same time this has caused a certain amount of concern and resentment among Canadians (I’m referring especially to Anglo-Canadians, Franco-Quebeckers in a moment) who see “ethnic” communities being established that do not integrate, want to change Canada or, at worst, support illiberal policies and groups.


In particular, there is a certain Tory electoral base who resent multiculturalism and feel that immigrants should become “Canadian” (whatever that might be.) In Quebec, this is even more so – and the government has put a lot of resources into not only trying to attract highly-skilled immigrants, but then also offer them French lessons, courses on liberal values, etc. The dark sides of this, at least in my opinion, were the farce that was the Bouchard-Taylor Commission (on the accommodation of minorities) in 2007-8 and the bill to ban the niqab. (One can tolerate a niqab without approving of it. It’s not that hard!)

I would not consider myself an expert on multiculturalism – although I have blogged about it before. The UK (where I live) is in the throes of a debate over the concept, with the Prime Minister coming out strongly against it – but not actually articulating an alternative policy, other than an undefined “muscular liberalism”. (Hey look – someone made a blog about it! Although it seems to be a pretty white crowd? ) The concept seems to be unpopular in the UK because many seem to see multiculturalism as the reason why the UK has Islamic extremism, ghettos, violence, etc. Multiculturalism is that which has, in British eyes, allowed communities to insulate themselves as opposed to integrate themselves.

As such, British governments under Blair, Brown and now Cameron seem to want to assert “British values” but they have never been able to agree as to what those are – at least since I’ve been in the country, and that’s going on ten years.

My concern is that I think many misunderstand the potential of the concept and I think the UK denigrates the concept at its own risk. For me, multiculturalism is not about “living and let living” without question. That’s a ridiculous kind of pluralism. Rather, I’ve always seen it as an exchange of tradition and culture – with emphasis on the exchange. Insulation is not multiculturalism.

So colour me very surprised when I read a column by Haroon Siddiqui in the Toronto Star who, reflecting on the recent leader’s debate in Canada, praises the Prime Minister’s take on multiculturalism in the debate and, dare I say it, his defence of the concept. (It’s worth quoting Siddiqi’s take on the debate at length).[Quick Canadian politics primer – Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister and Gilles Duceppe is the leader of the nationalist/separatist Bloq Quebecois who have taken a pro bi-lingual/bi-cultural and anti—multicultural stance in the party platforms]

Harper, speaking last in that exchange, eschewed personal sentimentality and got straight to the heart of the matter:

“We favour multiculturalism.

“What Canadians need to understand about multiculturalism is that people who make the hard decision to … come here, they first and foremost want to belong to this country … They also at the same time will change our country.

“And we show through multiculturalism our willingness to accommodate their differences, so they are more comfortable.

“That’s why we’re so successful integrating people as a country. I think we’re probably the most successful country in the world in that regard.”

He went to defend the record levels of immigration under his watch.

“We are the first government to maintain a vigorous and strong and open-door immigration policy during a recession, because we’re focused on the long-term interest of Canada and the Canadian economy.”

Other exchanges followed. In his third turn at the topic, Harper challenged Duceppe more directly:

“Let me just also question what you keep saying, that somehow multiculturalism is incompatible with being a Quebecer.

“You know, there’s lots of people in this country who speak English who don’t come from an English or a British background.

“One can retain their culture and their cultural identity and still integrate into the mainstream language of the community, which is French in Quebec, and English in most of the rest of the country. That’s what we do and that’s why we support these policies.”

Duceppe said: “But we don’t want to create ghettoes …”

Harper shot back that “Canada is not creating ghettoes. It is the most successful integration policy in the world. It has helped Canadians retain their culture while being part of the broader community. That’s what we are so proud of. I know the Bloc Québécois wants to break up the country, and you don’t think new Canadians are going to support that objective.”

Harper may not have been very poetic in all this but he got the gist of it just right, thusly:

High immigration is essential to our economy. The assumption that multiculturalism undermines integration is false. Keeping one’s culture and identity is not an impediment to integration. Immigrants want to integrate and do. Yet they also change Canada. This is the most successful model of integration in the world.

And now I find myself actually supporting something the Prime Minster said. Just when I thought the Canadian election debates could not have gotten any more annoying.

I don’t think the Tories have it right on immigration. I also think they have been pandering to the ethnic vote, and it’s clear that they somehow believe that people in “ethnic” dress are going to help them win elections. Additionally, as Siddiqui points out, Harper is a politician who is “forever courting his right-of-centre constituency, a base that routinely maligns multiculturalism and grumbles about high levels of immigration.”

But I do find this at least somewhat encouraging. And maybe I will be stupid enough to take him at his word on this issue. Let’s see if the Tories stick to it – a dubious proposition.

Share

More blogfare on lawfare

In my Friday post I forgot to give a shout out to Ben Wittes and the Lawfare Blog who have been writing about this since last fall. In particular, they had an excellent series of posts on the concept (but way of a discussion of the Rule of Law in by Brigadier General Mark Martins (in Centcom and apparently in Afghanistan) on the concept here, here and especially here. (He offers his own interpretation of “lawfare as COIN”). It’s a very interesting discussion and highly relevant for those interested in these issues. (Although late to the party, I do mean to write my own response to this – although he lawfare blog has that too.)

However, I’m here because my mortal enemy Charli Carpenter has an excellent post in an ongoing discussion of lawfare. Rather than more speculating over the meaning of “lawfare”, she resorted to asymmetric tactics and just went and asked Charles Dunlap, originator of the term. (While I’m inclined to believe that this was a distinctly unfair advantage, unlike war, all is fair in love and blogging.)

Now, since it just so happens that I’m sitting next to Charlie Dunlap at this bombing workshop, so I’ve had time to ask him directly about where he sits in all this and what he meant by the term. He tells me he agrees that the term has generally been misused and over-conflated. But his own understanding of lawfare is a little broader than the one I’ve put forward at the Duck, though significantly narrower than Stephanie’s or Eric Posner’s. In short whereas I read Stephanie as arguing that “lawfare” should refer to all efforts to hold states’ accountable to the law, Dunlap refers to the ways in which law is used as a weapon in war by belligerents.
However I was wrong in thinking that he primarily refers to the near-perfidious use of the law by insurgents who, for example, are known to surround themselves with civilians simply because they know it makes ISAF troops less likely to target them. Dunlap also considers it “lawfare” when law-abiding states use their own adherence to the law to their own advantage – when ISAF, for example, advertises its civilian protection policies to win hearts and minds. So it’s a belligerent-focused concept, not necessarily one that focuses only on perversions of the law. This is quite distinct however, from the argument that “lawfare” is being waged by non-belligerents (NGO advocates and such) by definition when they call states to question for violating war law.

If you have any interest at all in this topic, I highly suggest that you read it.

In my defence, I just want to make clear that my points in my original post were:

  • Everyone uses the term differently and it’s being used to describe entirely different phenomenon.
  • I’m therefore not sure how useful the concept is. Maybe it just refers to the political battles over the law which have always existed, but intensified after the Cold War.

So I don’t/didn’t think lawfare should just refer to all efforts to hold states’ accountable. I definitely do not agree with Posner’s position. It’s not just academics criticizing states to score political points, but it’s also states using the law to score their political points. I basically saw it as a point scoring exercise by everyone.

But I would concede that this is, perhaps too large of a definition.

Dunlap’s comments on his use of the term – as a way to get states to take IHL seriously (which until the mid-1980s was taking a bit of a beating in the wake of Vietnam) – meshes pretty well with my research on attempts of US military lawyers to do just that.

So, given the above discussions and further thought, I guess I will forward my own modified, particular, super basic and no-doubt flawed interpretation of lawfare as “the use of law as a tool as relates to the conduct of military operations”. This would be the use of law to achieve an aim, whether it is to sharpen the sword, blunt it (or just getting your superiors to take you seriously.)

How’s that? (Seriously – I’ve really enjoyed the feedback on this.) Unfortunately, I don’t have Dunlap to ask – but, um, my Dad thought that sounded good. So there!

Share

How fares “lawfare”?

There has been so much going on with the international law front, it’s kind of hard to know where to begin. In sum:

Oy. No shortage of things to blog about. So let’s go meta, shall we? (With the hope that they’ll be a chance to return to some of these in the next couple of days.)

International law is still hot. It’s the old and new black. We’re getting our law on. I-Law is in the hizz-ay.

In short, based on the above list, it’s clear that law is being used to justify the use of force, to criticize the use of force, to question the use of force and to help us think about the use of force in general.

I make this (somewhat obvious point) in thinking about Charli’s post earlier this week about “Lawfare” where she takes to task Eric Posner’s editorial on the concept. I liked the post, but I think “lawfare” is a far more complicated phenominon than what her argument suggests (although I think Charli was more interested in talking about Posner’s argument than exploring what “lawfare” actually is.)

There seems to be general consensus that the term was created by Charles Dunlap who described it as “the use of law as a weapon of war”. Yet, beyond this, there seems to be little agreement as to what this implications of this means – except everyone seems to use the concept derisvely. Some, like Posner use the term to mean the use of law by NGOs to try and restrict military operations by powerful (particularly Western) states. Some, like David Kennedy suggest it is the manipulative use of law by states to justify violence.

Alana Tiemessen has usefully pointed out the different meanings of the term that were pointed out by the participants at a conference on the term at Case Western University last year:

Despite the speakers frequent lamentations that after much discussion we still don’t know what lawfare is, it origins and conceptual boundaries are as clear as any contested concept can be in the study of law and politics.

For most, the concept of lawfare came to the fore with Charles Dunlap’s initial definition (2001) of lawfare as “the use of law as a weapon of war.” He subsequently expanded the definition to be “the strategy of using – or misusing – law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective.” Empirically, lawfare has since been applied as an accusation with respect to the detainees in Guatanamo, the Goldstone Report, tactics in the War on Terror, and yes, to question the legitimacy of international criminal tribunals.

With so many different ways to understand the concept – I wonder if “lawfare” is really just a trendy way of describing the politics of international law? And if so, is it really that useful?

I think an argument for “lawfare” being useful could be based on it being understood as a phenomenon: although international law has always been political, the way that non-state actors engaged with it changed in the 1990s (with the classic case being the 1997 Ottawa Landmines Treaty.) And since the 1990s there has been a flourishing of international humanitarian/human rights organizations which monitor international law in armed conflict. International law is being discussed in ways that it never has been before – whether its is because of the media (which makes watching and reporting alleged violations easier), the internet (which makes it easier to research and find) or changing expectations in populations (which demand that wars fought by democracies are fought in ways that reflect democratic values.) So should lawfare refer to this of hyper-discussion and awareness?

The problem with this (at the risk of having set up a straw-man) is that international law, particularly the laws of war, have always been political. Not even the participation of non-state actors is particularly new. ICRC aside, in the 1970s national self-liberation movements (such as the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the African National Congress) demanded and sometimes recieved the right to participate in IHL conferences (such as the Geneva Diplomatic Conferences which wrote the Additional Protocols). And both the United States and Soviet Union (and their client-states) were willing to use international law to score their political points (such as North Vietnam insisting that downed US navy pilots were “war criminals” rather than prisoners of war.)

It’s obvious that discussions and heated debates on international law related to armed conflict will not be vanishing anytime soon, especially as states continue to feel obligated to justifiy their actions in terms of international law and NGOs continue to push for more and more restrictions on weapons. Whether or not we choose call it “lawfare” (however defined) will make little difference.

Share

Why we need to debate foreign policy in elections: Lessons from the UK 2010 General Election

FYI: I am blogging on Canada-related issues at the Cana-blog. It basically satiates my desire to engage with Canadian issues without boring Duck readers to death about our various neuroses from North of the 49th Parallel. Do check it out though, eh?

Last year I blogged about the UK General Election as a “Johnny Foreigner”. I thought it would be a very dull affair, but it ended up being pretty interesting with the first televised election debates, “Cleggmania” and the subsequent coalition discussions. What didn’t the election have? Foreign policy.

In fact the only foreign policy-related items that really featured at all were brief disagreements over relations with Europe (more about the transfer of Westminster powers), climate change and a really, really dispiriting debate on immigration (especially if you are said Johnny Foreigner).

Depressing immigration debates aside, this makes sense. The UK was hit hard by the recession and the debate was largely about the economy. Foreign policy, seldom a popular topic in elections anyway, was even less important. It’s the kind of thing that won’t help you win an election – only lose one.

Lo and behold, it’s 2011 and Canada finds itself in a national election. And what’s not on the agenda? Foreign policy. Why? The economy. And healthcare (which always ranks as important in Canadian elections).

Foreign policy has not and will not play a large role – even if Canada is in Afghanistan and helping to lead the NATO mission in Libya. (Although, to be fair, Carl Meyer at Embassy Magazine has a good article on the ways that foreign policy may feature in the election.) In this sense, there is a certain amount in common with the UK 2010 General Election – at least in terms of the downplaying of foreign policy issues to domestic ones.

But is this something that us IR-wonks should learn to live with? Is there anything we can learn from the UK experience?

In short: yes. After the UK foreign-policy-free election, the coalition has made major and significant policy decisions which affect foreign relations. Some of the significant ones include:

There was no debate on any of these issues. For Afghanistan, all that the leaders spoke of was their trips there and meeting the troops. It could not be said that there was a major debate about the scale, scope and vision of the mission. So should there have been a debate on the UK’s foreign policy priorities and its role in the world? And why wasn’t there one?

There are a number of factors which may have prevented a foreign policy debate.

First, quite frankly, it may have been something that the political parties just didn’t want to confront. It’s not an easy question and, as argued above, it was simply not a priority for them or the voters. Additionally politicians may want to avoid saying anything inflammatory about allies or policies during the election which may come back to haunt them later.

Second, in the parliamentary system, where cabinet ministers sit in the legislature (and owe their position more to patronage and party balancing than expertise), there were not necessarily any obvious foreign policy spokespersons. Certainly there were politicians with interest (such as Rory Stewart). But while positions are fluid and unclear, it’s not obvious that there were any obvious persons to debate the issue.

Third, foreign policy events are unpredictable. While some things are constant – NATO, the EU, relations with the United States – no one could have possibly predicted the uprisings in the Middle East or the fact that NATO would be bombing Libya as some kind of R2P operation. So, for example, while Bush and Condoleezza Rice wrote about not using the 82nd Airborne for nation building in 2000, he ended up spending most of his presidency doing just that. Events may distort or even dictate policies – and this is why they are not carefully outlined (other than broad, vague ideas at best) in elections.

Finally, foreign policy is just something that politicians feel that international affairs are best debated in Parliament rather than on the campaign trail. (Although the debates may sometimes be lacking as well.)

But there is a lesson here for Canada (and other democracies) that tend to not debate foreign policy in elections: governments are going to have to deal with foreign events, and without some kind of guidance, or debate or understanding of what our interests are and what our priorities should be, then there can be major surprises later on.

Even if it must take place in terms of vague generalities, a foreign policy debate is worth having. It is worth knowing where political parties stand on R2P, development, the United Nations (and UN Security Council) international organizations, etc. Broader ideas and goals should be outlined even if, inevitably, events cause change and reversal later on. While I do not anticipate huge cuts to Canadian defence spending nor a major change on our alliance policies, it would be nice to know what the Conservative (UK and Canadian) line on “the Responsibility to Protect” is – since we seem to be doing a lot of it lately.

EDIT: James Joyner has a great post on the US take on this at Outside the Beltway.

Share

Morality, R2P, the nature of conflict and the emerging “Obama Doctrine”

There’s been some really interesting posts here on R2P in the last few days. At the risk of kicking a dead horse – although I hardly think this horse is dead – I’d like to raise a few points. (I’ve actually been writing this post over the past few days, and was going to post it later in the week, but Obama’s speech tonight made me want to post it earlier. You know, because hasty blogging is always a good thing.)

Most of my thinking has been on the issue of consistency/inconsistency with regards to R2P. I think I agree with Charli, there is no consistency requirement when it comes to R2P. For better and for worse, the case presently being made for R2P in Libya is that the international community is acting where it can when it can. The better part of this is that it’s relatively easy to protect civilians from conventional military forces (tanks, planes, etc) and this is why I think we see the action in Libya. Boots on the ground are not required, and if they were, it’s clear that they’re probably not coming. As Obama said tonight, boots on the ground would entail a situation where the “dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs, and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.”

The worse part of this, as implied by Obama’s speech, is that it is still very hard to end civil wars/ethnic strife (such as that of Rwanda – which provoked so much soul-searching about humanitarian intervention in the first place). And this is why we aren’t really seeing any intervention in Côte d’Ivoire – because everyone knows it would be a hot mess.

This is unfortunate. As the International Crisis Group has indicated in a letter to the UN Security Council today specifying that things are going very badly, very quickly in Côte d’Ivoire.

The security and humanitarian situation in Côte d’Ivoire is rapidly deteriorating. Civil war in the country has been reignited; we are no longer warning of the risk of war, but urging swift action to halt the fighting and prevent ethnic cleansing and other mass atrocity crimes.
… the Security Council should immediately authorise military action to ensure the protection of the population by UNOCI or other authorised forces and to support President Alassane Ouattara and his government in exercising authority over the armed forces and ensuring the territorial integrity of the state….
According to the UN, 440 people have been killed and 500,000 have been forced to flee their homes. This toll is still growing. There are reports of sexual violence, summary execution and individuals being burnt alive. Gbagbo’s militias continue to perpetrate violence and organise road blocks controlled by armed men, and elements in the Ouattara camp have also been implicated in targeting civilians.

I think this situation answers the question that Jon raises in his post as to whether a threshold to act has been crossed. (Incidentally, I also agree with his conclusions on Libya, that it was likely a mass-atrocity by Gaddafi forces was about to be raised.)

So how can we morally defend the inconsistency of intervening in Libya and not Côte d’Ivoire? Is Obama’s pragmatism really a sufficient answer?

Well, as suggested above, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire are very different conflicts. Libya has been determined to be a conflict that can be solved from 10,000 feet. This is something that Western militaries are far more comfortable with because it clearly is much less of a risk to them AND they can avoid the very bad and messy pictures of boots on the ground which lend themselves to critiques of imperialism – if not just more images of western troops in another Middle Eastern country.

But I wonder if this means that R2P only lends itself to this kind of conflict? That we’re good to go for interventions where western forces can effectively bomb a conventional army into oblivion, but conflicts that require more direct and inherently risky intervention become an entirely different proposition. I think this is an obvious point – but it does point to the fact that anyone who seeks to make R2P a consistent norm is basically out of luck? That our inclination to “prevent, respond, rebuild” is going to be determined by the nature of the conflict rather than the need on the ground?

Certainly this is a concern that Obama alluded to and sought to answer in his speech:

In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all – even in limited ways – in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing concerns here at home.
It is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country – Libya; at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Gaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground…

The question is whether or not this then jeopardizes the morality of the norm. Obama’s pragmatism suggests that we have a responsibility to protect, but only where it’s convenient. Only where (American) lives are not at stake. What kind of norm is that? As one commenter argues:

If the “responsibility to protect” is a sacred principle, shouldn’t it be applied everywhere? What about those peaceful demonstrators who are being shot at by the Syrian army? What about the civilians threatened by the fighting between partisans of Alassane Ouattara, the opposition leader who was elected president of Ivory Coast in November, and those of Laurent Gbagbo, who lost the election but refuses to leave? What about the Shia majority in Bahrain whose aspirations to social equality are brutally repressed by a Sunni dynasty with the help of Saudi Arabia?

In this sense, I think many of our (their) hesitations about R2P are about consistency. We worry about consistency because we like check-boxes. We like certainty. Perhaps it offers predictability. Or, as guest-Duck blogger Chris Brown has written (in his collection of essays) “one of the reasons why so many people look to developing rules that will constrain action is precisely because they do not trust the judgment of those who hold the great offices of state in the Western democracies” (adding that after Iraq, there are understandable  reasons for this mistrust.)

Worries about inconsistency suggest that we’re actually really worried about something different – than rather than circumstances, R2P occurs because of different motivations. Libya has oil and Côte d’Ivoire has cocoa. It’s not surprising that there are accusations of something fishy going on here.

I’m not sure what to say – is this a sorry comfort kind of post? We can only intervene where we can be responsible; only where it’s pragmatic. Sub-Saharan Africa, you’re probably out of luck. Fans of Obama and R2P are going to have to work out the very difficult morality of that.

Ultimately, for me, just because no one is likely to do anything in Côte d’Ivoire doesn’t mean Libya is illegitimate. However, the fact that another bloody and brutal war is clearly getting underway in another poor African country is also reminder of the very real limits of R2P, which neither compels states to act nor solves many of the central problems of HOW, WHEN and WHY we carry out humanitarian intervention. And that such interventions are never going to be consistent.

Share

Since there is nothing else going on in the world, let’s talk about Canada!

International politics is such a bore these days, right? Good thing we have Canada to spice things up for us!

There were two interesting developments yesterday for those living in the northern end of North America. First, it was announced that a Canadian, Maj. Gen. Charles Bouchard, will be heading up the NATO mission in Libya. My first thoughts about this were that the choice represents an interesting compromise. Canada, the (French?) vanilla ice-cream of the Western alliance (normally boring, but safe and reliable) represents a non-American and non-European choice. Yet, since the Americans clearly did not want a high-profile position on the mission, this seems to have settled a rivalry between the UK and France. I suppose Bouchard, who represents a country of both English and French sensibilities (and an ability to speak both languages) was an even better compromise then.


As Olivia Ward at the Toronto Star describes it:

A government source told The Canadian Press that a British general was touted for the job at one point, but added that the United States wanted to see a face that nervous allies — particularly the Turks — trusted. The tipping point came when the French got behind the appointment, senior Canadian officials told CP.
In spite of Washington’s reluctance to front the operation, close ties with the American military may have helped to decide Bouchard’s appointment. Already stationed at NATO’s main command centre in Naples, he has played leading roles at the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

So a chance to lead AND help solve internal NATO power struggles – what could better make for a Canadian’s day? Seriously. This is the kind of stuff that our diplomats dream of when they snuggle under their flannel sheets at night.

There is the larger question as to what Canada will get out of this, of course. Some have argued that the commitment of six F-18s (apparently being referred to in some circles as the Canadian ‘six-pack’) and one warship to the mission is more symbolic than significant contribution. We have been running some air strikes, but clearly this is still an American show (no matter how much the Americans want to deny it.) However, since we’re in Afghanistan, I’m pretty sure we’re a bit stretched right now.

But there is some clear appeal for the government. The first rule of thumb of Canadian military action is that we generally feel safe and happy in a coalition. So check that multilateral box off. This will also give us some international recognition – so that’s also a huge plus. But there are other benefits.

First, I wonder to what extent the government, currently (and controversially) arguing that it needs to spend BILLIONS of dollars on new F35 planes, will use this mission to justify the expenditure? I have not seen a lot in the media arguing this point so I’m not sure. The debate over the F35s may still be tied to a larger discussion over Canada’s role in the world (with this serving as an example).

Second, Canada and the UAE have not exactly been getting along lately. (I’m sure that air base Canada just lost in that country would have been pretty useful right about now.) In this mission over Libya, they will be flying (literally) under the same banner. Apparently everyone is letting bygones be bygones for now:

But this unpleasantness has apparently now been put aside, at least temporarily. Fighter pilots from the two countries may fly combat missions in the same theatre of operations as part of a UN-sanctioned coalition that has ostensibly been designed to protect Libyan civilians from Moammar Gadhafi’s military.

Third, as noted in this editorial, Canada is going to be playing a large role in the mission, despite the UN Security Council snub it received last year. In other words,

The quick decision to provide military support lends credibility to not only the mission, but to Canada itself. In facing down the cruel dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Canada is putting words into action in defence of Libyans fighting for their freedom. Along with other nations, Canada is living up to its responsibility to protect innocents from a brutal regime.

I think this may be making Canada out to be slightly too magnanimous – but there is a point here. We’re engaged in nation building on the ground in Afghanistan and now leading the Libya mission while Portugal, who beat us in the race to the UN final 15, is being pulled into a small dark corner by the European Union and being forced to take a bailout package, in the middle of a government crisis. Right.

As for the second interesting development – while Canada is busy trying to help promote democracy in the Middle East, our own government fell. Election time! This has lead to James Joyner at Outside the Beltway noting that “Canada is leading the operation in Libya but no one is leading Canada.” Precisely. And more on that to come, no doubt.

Edit: See Saideman’s good take on this here.

Share

International Women’s Day Film Fest: The lady characters helping and hindering the cause.

The 15th Century take on Shrek

A friend of mine linked to a fabulous post by Lindy West at the Guardian “The Five Most Pathetic Female Film Characters of All Time”. Okay, not the most inspiring International Women’s Day post. But if I’m honest with you, I think she’s spot on with her list (although I haven’t seen Twilight so I can’t really judge that… but it seems to confirm everything I’ve heard about Bella.)

There is nothing worse than a horrible female companion/character/lead in a film. I find it like being on a long car ride with a whiney companion. And that’s the very least damage they do. At worst, they confirm stereotypes and just simply send the wrong message to young girls or women about what they need to do to be saved by some moronic hero.

At the end of her post West invites readers to list the characters that are letting down the female gender. So I thought that I would make a quick list (in no particular order) in between marking essays. Since I think today needs to be about empowerment, I’ve also listed those women at the end that I think are relatively kick-ass and do their thing for the cause.

It’s an interesting thought experiment (or at least a fun distraction) to think about what makes a good female character. I’m not sure I have a definitive list, but I would certainly want a certain degree of self-reliance, an ability to think under pressure (and not, say, faint), an ability to work well and communicate with others and not be overly whiney. I don’t think women have to be violent in order to be awesome, just have some witty talk and a normal freaking brain.

Also – I’m sure I could come up with more on both sides, but here are a few that pop into my mind (from the world of film at least – I’m well aware that several Duck contributors would find the lack of Buffy on this list to be disturbing.) I would be interested in hearing other people’s lists. Or perhaps other ideas of what makes a good female role-model.


Lady Losers (Boo!)

Dale Arden – Flash (AH-AAA!!!) Gordon


The fact that this woman could walk and breathe at the same time, let alone with that gigantic 80s hair astounds me. Pathetic dialogue and ‘cheerleading ‘ while your paramour is trying to football fight his way through Ming’s army of doom IS NOT HELPING.
Having seen only clips of the series, I’m not sure if any of the other Dales were any good, but I have my doubts. If I was Flash I probably just would have stuck with Ming’s daughter.

Okay, this poster is rad.

Barbarella


Okay – I’m certain that this is going to be the most controversial one up here, but seriously, she is a total let-down. It’s like the adventures of naked, sexy Pearl Heart in space. Maybe it’s because I watched it for the first time n the 1990s, but I was expecting a lot more from “The Queen of the Galaxy”. Sure, I get that the was about free love and seeing Jane Fonda naked in the 1960s, but really.

Mareen O’Hara as Lady Margaret in the Black Swan.

O’Hara did work the beach curls.

Maybe it’s because I can’t stand a film of Sabatini novel without, as a minimum, Errol Flynn or Olivia De Havilland in a starring role, but I just thought this film was pretty bad. Captain Blood is all kinds of awesome – and De Havilland manages to put some kick into an otherwise kind of flat character (although movie enhances her character’s role). But this film is just kind of creepy and rapey. And despite O’Hara’s attempts to be feisty, she comes off as lame. Her character is helpless and annoying. Or maybe I just can’t the fact that no one even bothered trying to put on a British accent.

Clever, but not clever enough to avoid silver lamé!  .

Olivia De Havilland as Maid Marian – Robin Hood

The 1936 film takes a character that has plenty of potential to be useless and turns it into someone who was pretty kick-ass for the Great Depression. She bests Robin at conversation and masterminds his escape when his ‘Merry Men’ can’t get it together. She doesn’t swoon, faint or cry. She changes her mind through reason and debate. When she spends a little while in the dungeon, she remains stoic and determined. Sure she’s not fighting her way out with a broadsword, but I’m going to give her my pre-1945 award for being pretty kick-ass.

Eowyn – Lord of the Rings

Sure she’s kind of winey and moany and in love with a guy who is going for the hot elf princess. (Isn’t that always the way?) But she WANTS to kick ass. They literally have to forbid her from going out to fight. And she STILL manages to go out and kill the King of the Nazgul. Basically this woman is all kinds of awesome – and she gets Faramir in the end. Niiiice.

Princess Leia – Star Wars 

I feel that I almost have to put this up out of obligation – although I thought she kind of got wussified by Return of the Jedi. However, she is an amazing character in the first film. She’s a career woman (diplomat), rebellion leader and pretty gung-ho. She withstands torture and only gives up information when the lives of others are threatened. And she can pull off that hair-bun look while shooting-up some baddies.

EDIT: Looking at this list, I think most of my heroines could safely be described as liberal feminists (well, 12th Century liberal feminists for Marian). Could film ever produce a critical/stand-point feminist? Maybe I just haven’t seen enough ‘good’ movies. Anyone have any ideas on this?

Share

New Executive Order on Detainees: Guantana-No, but action on the 1977 Additional Protocols (kinda)

Not so much.

Lawfare blog has a post on today’s Executive Order on Guantanamo Bay. (Link to the Obama administration’s fact sheet PDF here). Lawfare tends to be more conservative than most international law blogs, but it’s excellent and an absolute must-read for keeping up-to-date on all things law, national security and the war on terror. (Or as I like to call it, Saturday night!) There’s some good commentary on the refusal of Congress to help fund any progress on Guantanamo and some discussion of the return to military commissions.

More interesting for me is the section at the end of the Fact Sheet titled, “Support for a Strong International Legal Framework”. In it, the administration is basically stating that it is going to push for ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol II to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and that it formally sees Article 75 of Additional Protocol I as customary international law. (Article 75 lists the “fundamental guarantees” in the Protocol for those “persons in the power of a party to a conflict”.)

The section says:

Because of the vital importance of the rule of law to the effectiveness and legitimacy of our national security policy, the Administration is announcing our support for two important components of the international legal framework that covers armed conflicts: Additional Protocol II and Article 75 of Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
Additional Protocol II, which contains detailed humane treatment standards and fair trial guarantees that apply in the context of non-international armed conflicts, was originally submitted to the Senate for approval by President Reagan in 1987. The Administration urges the Senate to act as soon as practicable on this Protocol, to which 165 States are a party. An extensive interagency review concluded that United States military practice is already consistent with the Protocol’s provisions. Joining the treaty would not only assist us in continuing to exercise leadership in the international community in developing the law of armed conflict, but would also allow us to reaffirm our commitment to humane treatment in, and compliance with legal standards for, the conduct of armed conflict.
Article 75 of Additional Protocol I, which sets forth fundamental guarantees for persons in the hands of opposing forces in an international armed conflict, is similarly important to the international legal framework. Although the Administration continues to have significant concerns with Additional Protocol I, Article 75 is a provision of the treaty that is consistent with our current policies and practice and is one that the United States has historically supported.
Our adherence to these principles is also an important safeguard against the mistreatment of captured U.S. military personnel. The U.S. Government will therefore choose out of a sense of legal obligation to treat the principles set forth in Article 75 as applicable to any individual it detains in an international armed conflict, and expects all other nations to adhere to these principles as well.

My first quick thoughts on this are that this is a big deal and not a big deal.

The United States has signed, but not ratified, the two Additional Protocols. In the 1980s political appointee lawyers, such as Doug Feith (who declared the Protocols to be “law in the service of terror”) worked to undermine efforts to have the US ratify them. (Although, to be fair, this was a position that was supported by the New York Times during this period.) They were successful, and in 1987 President Reagan declared to the Senate that he would not send API to them for ratification, but that he would send (the much more limited) APII through. However, the Protocol has been languishing there ever since.

So in some ways, this can actually be seen as fulfilling an old Reagan administration policy.

However, I think the clear and strong support for Article 75 is important, and will probably be welcomed by many in the international legal community, perhaps at least as a small comfort for the general sense of disappointment that Guantanamo is still around.

Also, while I feel it is a good thing that the administration has formally declared Article 75 to be customary, I think this may be bad news for API advocates overall. The policy is likely a result of the fact that the administration believes that ratification of Additional Protocol I is still a long way off – particularly with Congress’ attitude towards international law, Guantanamo and the war on terror. Additionally, the fact that the administration states (not entirely unreasonably) that it has “significant concerns” over Protocol I (no doubt related to the controversial provisions in Aricles 1(4) and 44(3))  suggests that the overall sentiment towards API has not really changed that much.

Finally, and related to the above point, I would argue that this “fact sheet” seems to confirm a pragmatic Obama policy of trying to work with international law within the constraints imposed by a hostile Congress. While it may not be able to ratify all of the treaties that it (and many in the international legal community) would (probably) like to, it will seek to at least cooperate and work with the international legal institutions and regimes where possible.

QUICK UPDATE – The always interesting and occasionally controversial Ben Wittes gives his take on it here. Short version: Good policy, but too bad that the President and Congress can’t work it out.

QUICK UPDATE 2: (Geeze this is moving quick!) State Department statement on these developments here.

Share

UNSC Resolution 1970: Wait, did the UN just kinda do what it was supposed to?

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 is a pretty amazing document. Over the last few days I’ve found myself trying to decide if this a rare example of the UN Security Council doing what it was originally designed to do – or an example of an international organization working because there is a relatively powerless state with no allies involved. I suspect it’s probably both.

Still, I’ve been following The Multilateralist blog over at Foreign Policy and I think David Bosco has it just about right:

Last night, the UN Security Council passed unanimously a resolution imposing an asset freeze and travel ban on Libya’s ruling elite, and also referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. None of these measures is unprecedented: the Council has used asset freezes and targeted sanctions with increasing frequency in recent years, and it referred the case of Sudan to the ICC in 2005. But the scope, speed and unanimity of the resolution are remarkable.

I think this last line is a very significant point – even if it’s about a relatively straightforward situation in Libya, 1970 is a comprehensive resolution that was passed quickly and unanimously. Even more remarkably, China, Russia and the United States voted for it (no abstentions) even if it has the power to potentially put Gaddafi on trial at the ICC – an institution they’re not all entirely chummy with.

Clearly this will not solve all of the problems in Libya, but I also don’t believe it is merely an impotent angry-worded letter that critics often speak of. And there are a few things in here that I think are interesting and worth highlighting…


First, the ICC referral. On the surface this isn’t unique, but (as I mentioned above) it is still rather interesting that ALL states on the UNSC agreed to it. The operative clause goes that the UNSC….

4. Decides to refer the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya since 15 February 2011 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court;

But the reasons why China, Russia, the US, India, (etc) probably found this acceptable can be found in the 6th clause of the resolution:

6. Decides that nationals, current or former officials or personnel from a State outside the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that State for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to operations in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya established or authorized by the Council, unless such exclusive jurisdiction has been expressly waived by the State;

In other words, if a citizen of the US, Russia, China, India (etc) is somehow involved in crimes against humanity, the ICC will not have jurisdiction over them (or any non-ICC national.) It will be interesting to see if this results in anyone getting away with some nasty stuff.

Additionally, Bosco makes an interesting observation on this point:

But it is notable that the resolution references (although in a non-operative paragraph [ed: this means in the preamble, before ‘Action under Chapter VII]) Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which gives the Council the power to suspend ICC investigations if it believes doing so would advance peace and security. It’s not immediately obvious to me why a resolution referring a situation to the court would emphasize this provision. It’s possible that China, the United States and others particularly skeptical of an untethered ICC simply wanted to emphasize the Council’s power to reel in the court. But it could also be a signal that the Council would consider stopping the ICC process in exchange for the peaceful transfer of power.

This is interesting. There has been some criticism of the ICC that its activities in Africa are actually hindering rather than helping resolve conflicts. So would the threat of a prosecution actually give any incentive for Gaddafi to surrender? And would ICC advocates be satisfied if such a deal was made – transfer power peacefully and we’ll leave you alone? I have my doubts.

Then again, if I was Gaddafi, I’d probably rather have my fate decided in sombre environment of The Hague than at the armed and rather angry mob that is headed his way. (If nothing else, surely this would give him another platform for crazy speeches and more elaborate hats?)

Second, there are references to “The Responsibility to Protect” in the preamble of the resolution, and in the comments of the representatives of those who voted on it, but not in the ‘meat’ of the resolution. This is not a big surprise, given how rather toothless the concept has become since 2005’s World Summit Outcome Document (see articles 138 and 139). However, this kind of does seem the ideal time, if ever there was one, to invoke the principle.

Finally, the voting and accompanying statements. According to the press release, when speaking on the Resolution, the Chinese representative said the following:

LI BAODONG ( China) said that China was very much concerned about the situation in Libya. The greatest urgency was to cease the violence, to end the bloodshed and civilian casualties, and to resolve the crisis through peaceful means, such as dialogue. The safety and interest of the foreign nationals in Libya must be assured. Taking into account the special circumstances in Libya, the Chinese delegation had voted in favour of the resolution.

Three points here: First, it’s clear that China agreed to the resolution because of “special circumstances” rather than suggesting it was something they would normally support.

Second, it’s also clear that he is against an armed humanitarian intervention and is not alone on the Council. The Russian representative, while supporting the 1970, spoke out against “counterproductive interventions” that other states might be tempted to engage in.

Third, when Russia and China are voting for sanctions against you AND supporting an ICC investigation in your country, it goes to show you just how freaking isolated you are. I suppose at this point it might be the result of neither country having substantial material interests in Libya and realizing they had nothing to lose (and potentially something to gain in terms of UN ‘street cred’) if they voted for it. (Certainly a sentiment, along with hypocrisy, expressed in this cartoon in the Economist.)

Ultimately, it’s a very interesting resolution and I’ve been using it in my teaching all week. Is it a rare example of the UN doing what it was designed to do in the first place? Even if not, I suspect that scholars will be interested in the reasons for the content of the resolution, the speed at which it was passed, and the effect it eventually has on the crisis – if any.

PS: Oh and I see that the UN has now thrown Libya off of the UN Human Rights Council. Way to act, guys! 

Share

Guest Post: What way will the guns point in the Middle East?

Building on Dan’s observation this past week, Theo McLauchlin is a PhD student at McGill University offers us some insights on the role of the military in the various Arab revolutions we’re witnessing. He works in the area of military defections and civil wars.

Which Middle Eastern regimes seem liable to fall? That’s a popular question these days, and an important answer, as Dan Nexon points out, is that it depends on each country’s armed forces. But what they are likely to do is something most people don’t seem inclined to speculate about. That caution is warranted, as I’ll argue below. But what can we say? What ideas do we have at our disposal for thinking through what militaries will do?

One important factor might be professionalization. Lucan Way notes that in comparison with the rest of the Middle East, Tunisia and Egypt seemed to have relatively professional, depoliticized armed forces, able and willing therefore to act in concert to say “enough”. The regimes lacked the “coup-proofing” techniques that, according to a quite extensive literature, have helped prop up authoritarian regimes across the Middle East. You promote your friends, marginalize your adversaries, and don’t trust anyone too much. Multiple different internal security agencies, for example, keep an eye both on officers and on each other. If an officer is plotting a coup, he stands an awfully good chance of being reported by someone else eager to curry the dictator’s favour. These techniques really do seem effective at preventing coups.

Despite some confusion about how to think about Egypt–John Barry and Christopher Dickey argue that it was in spite of Mubarak’s coup-proofing that he fell, not because he didn’t do it enough–there’s a lot going for this approach. But it shouldn’t be taken too far. It is not as though heavily politicized armies have a great overall track record of defending regimes. For example, in comparing China in 1989 to Indonesia in 1998, Terrence Lee finds quite the opposite: China’s more professional army stood by its regime while Indonesia’s more heavily politicized armed forces fell apart.

Lee makes the point that coup-proofing isn’t necessarily meant to deal with massive popular uprisings. The threat of punishment for defection depends on the willingness of others to inflict it. It’s rational for an officer do the regime’s bidding as long as, but only as long as, he expects the regime to survive. When officers have good reason to believe that the regime will fall, they have heavy incentives to make sure they’re not backing a losing horse. And popular uprisings can throw a previously stable expectation out the window. As I argued in a paper last year, an external rebellion can provoke a cascade effect within the military. Timur Kuran’s insights about the tipping point in Eastern Europe in 1989 can apply to armed forces too. This is how it’s possible for officers and soldiers to defect from a dictator despite fearsome coup-proofing systems.

The trouble for the analyst is, as Kuran argued, that this implies that prediction is extremely difficult if not impossible. Everyone has a strong incentive to keep their preferences and their likely actions a secret–from the dictator and, necessarily, from us.

But in my paper I also tried to develop some limits to these revolutionary cascades. In particular, some regimes are governed by minority groups that are given heavy preference–especially within the military. Jordan, Syria and Bahrain are important examples. This means that opposition tends to rally among out-groups–and, in consequence, the loyalty of the in-group gets reinforced. Essentially, over time, a stable expectation can develop, associating some groups with the regime and others with the opposition. In rebellions, they have little other choice than to stick with the regime. An East Bank officer in Jordan in 1970 was not likely to do well out of a PLO victory, nor an Alawi officer in Syria in 1982 from a Muslim Brotherhood victory. Palestinian and Sunni officers, respectively, were more likely to defect. While this makes regimes vulnerable to out-group opposition, it can be a perverse strength, because it gives regimes a relatively stable core of support to count on. You get a core of strong support at the cost of encouraging continuous, low-level unrest. It’s loyalty on the cheap.

One interesting consequence of this approach is that the regimes that look the least stable–Jordan in 1970, Syria in the late 1970s–can have a better chance of surviving a rebellion than regimes that look lots more solid, like Iran’s before 1978.

Is all this any help in understanding the Middle East today? It suggests attention not so much to professionalism vs. non-professionalism, but rather to how much of the army is closely identified with the regime. The answer in Egypt, by all accounts, is: not much. This helps explain why basically none of its army was willing to defend Mubarak to the hilt, unlike in Libya. It also helps explain why the army’s command had the flexibility to declare, early on, that they would not fire on unarmed protesters. They were able thereby to keep their own credibility with the opposition. And, given that many soldiers looked likely to disobey such an order, it’s unclear that the regime would have lasted anyway, even if the top brass had tried to crack down.

In Libya, more of the armed forces seems closely identified with the regime. More have therefore stayed with Gaddafi, with bloody consequences. Part of this has to do with Libya’s now-famous tribal divides. According to Hanspeter Mattes , Gaddafi’s own Gadhadhfa tribe, along with the Warfalla and Maqarha, have dominated the armed forces. However, both the Warfalla and the Maqarha have had a chequered history with the regime; Warfalla officers rebelled against Gaddafi in 1993 and picked up the support of some Maqarha officers (see this free but gated article). The Warfalla and Maqarha tribes have defected. I suspect, as do others, that the Gadhadhfa tribe will stick with the regime out of fear of what happens if they don’t. In this context I note that Gaddafi’s resort to bombing civilians might not just be because he is horrible and callous (though of course it has a lot to do with that, too). It may also have something to do with his tribe’s dominance in the air force. It reminds me that Hafez al-Assad used the Alawi-dominated air force and artillery at Hama in 1982 to awful effect. That is not a pleasant thought.

I could well be wrong, and I hope I am: one of the pilots who deliberately crashed his plane rather than bomb civilians was a Gadhadhfa tribe member.

More broadly, communal politics should provide a bulwark to the regimes in Syria, Jordan, and Bahrain. It’s in the latter where the protests are strongest at the moment. And there, the opposition has attempted to cut across the Sunni/Shi’ite divide, but the regime seems to know where its strengths are: it’s been specifically targeting Sunni protest leaders. (I’m not sure this applies to Yemen’s north/south divide; the fact that the south seems to aim at secession rather than a government takeover suggests it’s not so easy to blame for protests in Sana’a.) Every regime tries to delegitimize its opposition, with Gaddafi’s Bin Laden conspiracy theory only the most absurd attempt so far. In Bahrain, the regime has more to work with.

My approach fully accepts the extreme difficulty of making predictions where there aren’t communal divides. I don’t think either Tunisia or Egypt (or Algeria, or Morocco, or Saudi Arabia) was really a foregone conclusion. We can try to understand both in retrospect, but I don’t claim that we could have predicted the fall of either regime terribly easily. It is still just as amazing as it ever was.

Share
« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2020 Duck of Minerva

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑