Archive for the Intl Relations Category

David Davenport

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced today that it would not pursue an investigation of Israel for “acts committed on the territory of Palestine since 1 July 2002.” This closes off, for now, an attempt by
Palestine to draw the Court into its dispute with Israel over alleged war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09.

But there is an even larger story here about whether the relatively young Court (established in 2002) would seek to expand its jurisdiction and play a role in deciding whether Palestine is already a state. To that the answer is “no, for now.”

The Minister of Justice of the Government of Palestine filed a submission with the Court in January, 2009, asking the Court to take jurisdiction of the matter and open an investigation. But the Court’s own rules limit submissions to “States,” so from the beginning the key question was whether Palestine was a state for this purpose.

The Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, seriously entertained the question for three years, following a remarkable prosecutorial process of inviting outside submissions, posting briefs on the Internet, and hosting roundtable arguments in his offices in the Hague. He seemed open to the possibility that the definition of “State” for purposes of the ICC might be different than a “State” in international law generally. He spent three years looking at arguments that Palestine possessed this or that mark of statehood. One sensed that he was under political pressures to open the doors of the Court more widely to take this case.

In the end, the Prosecutor said it was really up to the United Nations to decide what is a “State” and that, so far, Palestine was only treated there as an observer. It thus becomes a political decision for the U.N., rather than a legal decision for an international
court, which was surely the right answer all along. The lengthy process for what should have been a straightforward decision reminds us of the dangers of these politicized and expansionist international courts.

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David Davenport

For three years, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague has been trying to decide whether he had jurisdiction over Israel for alleged war crimes in Gaza. Even though the legal answer (“NO”) seemed obvious from the start, both politics and the inevitable expansionist agendas of international courts kept the question alive and Israel potentially subject to the Court.

Finally this week the Prosecutor announced that he would not pursue the investigation of Israel “for acts committed on the territory of Palestine since 1 July 2002.” For now, this closes off yet another legal front of attack on Israel, and also thwarts another end-run by Palestine around the path by which Palestinian statehood is supposed to be resolved; namely the Middle East peace process and the United Nations.

The interesting question is why it took so long for the Prosecutor to reach what seemed like a no-brainer outcome from the start. In January 2009, the Palestinian Minister of Government filed a submission with the ICC asking the Court to take jurisdiction over Israel’s actions in Gaza. But the Court’s own rules require that any matters submitted must come from a “State.” Since Israel is not a party to the treaty creating the Court (nor is the U.S. and 70 or so other nations), and since Palestine is neither a party nor a State, it seemed obvious to most international lawyers that the ICC had no jurisdiction over the matter.

Continue reading David Davenport…

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Kori Schake

Slow waltz on Syria

The U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, former Secretary General Kofi Annan, reported to the Security Council yesterday that the government of Bashir al-Assad has agreed to a cease-fire commencing April 10th. Annan also reported there has been no abatement of the violence by the government of Syria against its citizens. Assad’s government is estimated by the U.N. to have killed more than 9,000 people in the past year, when Syrians began demanding the rights we Americans consider universal.

In that year, the Obama administration has gingerly moved away from defending Bashir al-Assad. When thousands of people had already been victims of murder by their own government in Syria, Secretary of State Clinton described Assad as a "reformer" who should be supported by the United States. Astonishingly, she contrasted him with Arab despots we supported protests against.

While Obama administration policy has improved somewhat with the advance of revolutions in the Middle East, it continues to chase rather than positively affect change. Our president now concedes that Assad should step down, but endorses a U.N. peace plan that would leave the murderer of nine thousand in power. Moreover, the Obama administration considers itself restricted from intervening in Syria because Vladimir Putin shields a fellow despot with Russia’s vote in the U.N. Security Council.

Continue reading Kori Schake…

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Kori Schake

It’s been a discouraging several weeks in the Afghan war, but we absolutely should not speed the pace of our withdrawal. All of the evidence suggests that if we walk away from Afghanistan without securing it, terrorists will return it to what it was in 2000 (or worse), their narratives about American decadence will be reinforced, and America’s trustworthiness as a partner to struggling societies will be badly compromised.

Counterinsurgency wars are difficult to win: they take a long time, rely on the indigenous government to develop the capacity to achieve our aims, and on our ability to persuade a war-ravaged society that we are better than our enemies — to trust us and not them. It’s difficult to see progress even when it’s occurring. But there’s a reason our enemies force us to fight this way: if they fought to our strengths, they would lose decisively and quickly. The
only way the states and organizations we are worried about can defeat us is by eroding our will to prosecute the war. And they are currently succeeding.

Continue reading Kori Schake…

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Diana Schaub

The U.S. Constitution is, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has recently reminded us, “a rather old constitution.” In her parlance, old does not mean venerable or worthy of imitation. Speaking on Egypt’s Al Hayat TV, she advised constitution-drafting Egyptians to look to newer models; she singled out the Constitution of South Africa (1996), Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982), and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).

Admittedly, the oath she swore to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the U.S. Constitution does not require Justice Ginsburg to recommend its adoption by all and sundry. There might be good reasons—rooted in history and circumstance—why a constitution suited to one people is not suited to another. Laws ought to be in accord with the general spirit of a nation, as Montesquieu, the great theorist of modern constitutionalism, argued. This was not the Justice’s point, however. She thinks there are blueprints worthy of export, just not the one ratified by Americans in 1787.

Her opinion is the fashionable one. A forthcoming article in the New York University Law Review confirms the declining influence of the U.S. Constitution. The reason?—“it is increasingly out of sync with an evolving global consensus on issues of human rights,” authors David S. Law and Mila Versteeg argue. This focus on rights (the more, the better) is evident in the documents Ginsburg endorsed. Two of them aren’t even constitutions in the usual sense of a plan of government. Instead, one is a supranational convention about human rights; another is a national charter of rights (added to the Canadian Constitution of 1867 when Canada, in 1982, finally became fully independent of the British Parliament).

Continue reading Diana Schaub…

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Paul Gregory

Yesterday I caught the tail end of  an MSNBC commentator saying something to the effect: "Now that the Euro crisis is over…." This caught me by surprise. Yes, bankrupt Greece received a tranche of rescue funds (and was declared officially bankrupt). These funds were given on the condition that Greece stick to the austerity measures promised by its two major parties. The conservative government in Spain is apparently amending bit by bit its austerity measures. In France, the socialist candidate currently stands to beat Sarkozy in a run off election. In Spain and Portugal there are almost daily demonstrations and riots. Yes, Germany apparently agreed to increase its contribution to the stabilization fund to the outrage of German voters. Newspaper accounts inform me that few Irish are paying their property taxes.

The Euro crisis is far from over. Imagine that the two major Greek parties lose to the nationalists and communists, the Spanish conservative government dilutes austerity, and the stimulus-inclined socialists win in France. Those saying the crisis is over would be proven fools.

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Peter Berkowitz

Reconsidering the Arab Spring

President Obama entered the White House determined to overcome what he and his supporters regarded as the Bush administration’s poisonous legacy in the Middle East. And yet, though loath to acknowledge it, since the advent of the Arab Spring in Tunisia in December 2010 and January 2011 and its rapid spread throughout the region, the Obama administration has been struggling to formulate and implement its own version of the Bush Doctrine, according to which it is in the interest of the United States to promote freedom and democracy in the Arab world.

This unacknowledged reversal came at a time in which the president’s major policy initiatives in the Middle East were in disarray, in significant measure because they were ill-conceived and clumsily executed. Touting engagement with the Iranians, Obama’s smart diplomacy went nowhere. Tehran mocked him, flouting deadline after deadline set by the president for ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program was limited to civilian purposes by subjecting it to international supervision. And while the United States was reduced to silently observing the carnage, Iran brutally suppressed large public demonstrations against the corrupt presidential elections of June 2009. Having lost two years in fruitless efforts to sweet talk the Iranians, the Obama administration has over the last year expanded and intensified sanctions imposed by the Bush administration. By the president’s own secretary of defense’s estimates, Iran is on a path to developing the capacity to make a nuclear weapon within a year.

Continue reading Peter Berkowitz…

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David Davenport

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced today that it would not pursue an investigation of Israel for “acts committed on the territory of Palestine since 1 July 2002.”  This closes off, for now, an attempt by Palestine to draw the Court into its dispute with Israel over alleged war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09.

But there is an even larger story here about whether the relatively young Court (established in 2002) would seek to expand its jurisdiction and play a role in deciding whether Palestine is already a state.  To that the answer is “no, for now.”

The Minister of Justice of the Government of Palestine filed a submission with the Court in January, 2009, asking the Court to take jurisdiction of the matter and open an investigation.  But the Court’s own rules limit submissions to “States,” so from the beginning the key question was whether Palestine was a state for this purpose.

Click to read more.

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Victor Davis Hanson

The New Anti-Semitism

Not long ago, the Economist ran an unsigned editorial called the “Auschwitz Complex.” The unnamed author blamed serial Middle East tensions on both Israel’s unwarranted sense of victimhood, accrued from the Holocaust, and its unwillingness to  “to give up its empire.” As far as Israel’s paranoid obsessions with the specter of a nuclear Iran, the author dismissed any real threat by announcing that “Iran makes an appealing enemy for Israelis,” and that “Israelis have psychologically displaced the source of their anxiety onto a more distant target: Iran.”

It is hard to fathom how a democracy of seven million people by any stretch of the imagination is an “empire.” Israel, after all, fought three existential wars over its 1947 borders, when the issue at hand was not manifest destiny, but the efforts of its many enemies to exterminate or deport its population. I would not otherwise know how to characterize the Arab promise of more than a half-century of “pushing the Jews into Mediterranean.”

While it is true that Israeli forces stayed put on neighboring lands after the 1967 war, subsequent governments eventually withdrew from the Sinai, southern Lebanon, and Gaza—areas from which attacks were and are still staged against it. The Economist’s choice of “appealing” is an odd modifying adjective of the noun “enemy,” particularly for Iran, which has both promised to wipe out Israel and is desperately attempting to find the nuclear means to reify that boast.

Continue reading Victor Davis Hanson…

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