Wednesday, March 29, 2006

House of War

On Monday, James Carroll's column previewed his new book, House of War. It's another one I'll have to add to my reading list.

Why I Teach

Last night was not the usual weeknight at my place. But that was a good thing.

Two recent graduates--Diana Rozendaal and Andrea Docherty--returned to campus on Monday. Both were very active in human rights work while at Pepperdine and so were near and dear to my heart. They know each other well, but the timing of their return to Malibu was coincidental, so I decided to invite them to dinner last night so they could visit with each other and I could visit with both of them. I also decided to invite three kindred spirits just a month away from graduation--Melissa Mayes, Ben Young, and Heidi Laki--to join us. So, sitting around my table last night--with a vegan meal that Stephen and I prepared in spite of our own fondness for meat--were five extraordinary young people: one just back from doing medical work in Kazakhstan, one on a college tour on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, one planning to marry this summer and work for Upward Bound in Colorado, one keeping fingers crossed about a pending application to work in the developing world with Samaritan's Purse, and one heading for the Republic of Georgia to work with the Peace Corps. It was an inspiring evening for me and, I think, for my 15-year-old son as well.

And that's an important part of why I teach: It's not so much to inspire (although it's nice when I can do that) as it is to be inspired. Last night I was inspired.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dying to Read

P. J. O'Rourke said, "Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it." That is, I think, pretty good advice.

I've lived through some pretty good books lately, among them Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy by Moisés Naím, The Renaissance by Paul Johnson, and War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges.

Here are a few titles I'd like to read--all the way to the end, if possible:

  • American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips
  • Soldier Dead: How We Recover, Identify, Bury, and Honor Our Military Fallen by Michael Sledge
  • The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World's Government in the Twenty-first Century by Michael Mandelbaum
  • The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050 by MacGregor Knox
  • The Limits of International Law by Jack L. Goldsmith and Eric A. Posner

I'm alway open to recommendations.


It is a glorious thing to 'stablish peace, and kings approach the nearest unto God by giving life and safety unto men.

William Shakespeare, Edward III, Act V, Scene I

Monday, March 27, 2006

Best of the Decade

Q: According to the International Studies Association, what's the best book in the area of international studies published in the last decade?

A: Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics

A Protest Opportunity

Jon Kyl (R-AZ), one of the main sponsors of the Senate's version of anti-immigrant legislation, is scheduled to be the commencement speaker for the School of Right-wing Public Policy's graduation on April 21, 2006. Perhaps some of the half a million people who marched in Los Angeles over the weekend should be invited to Pepperdine for the occasion.

May the Farce Be with You

Over 70,000 people (0.37 percent of the population) listed "Jedi" as their religious preference in the 2001 Australian census. Apparently most did so in response to an e-mail hoax that said the Star Wars faith could be recognized as an official religion in Australia if enough people expressed a preference for it.

This, of course, is very old news, but I just learned of it today while reading an article in USA Today about another modern religion: Pastafarianism, or worship of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Yeah, I know. This ranks right up there with my recent post about the computer virus spreading to humans. (Incidentally, a technically astute person explained to me today how that might actually be possible. Bottom line: Make sure you've got up-to-date virus protection if you ever have a programmable pacemaker implanted.)

But at least there's a Pepperdine connection here. Mark Coppenger, father of 2005 grad Chesed Coppenger, is quoted in the USA Today story.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Massive Protests

An estimated 500,000 people marched in Los Angeles yesterday to protest the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Immigration Control bill that is scheduled to be taken up by the Senate this week. According to the Los Angeles Times, the protest may have been the largest in the city's history.

The immigration bill, which would subject illegal immigrants to criminal penalties as well as deportation, calls for 700 miles of fence to be constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border. It also makes it a crime to assist illegal immigrants.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, has said he would instruct priests within his diocese to disobey the law if it enters into force. On Wednesday, Mahony published an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune to explain his views. As Mahony notes, "Part of the mission of the Roman Catholic Church is to help people in need. It is our Gospel mandate, in which Christ instructs us to clothe the naked, feed the poor and welcome the stranger."

Meanwhile, the City of Los Angeles has passed a resolution opposing the federal legislation and the city council in Maywood, California has declared the community a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

International Studies

If I were a more diligent blogger, I would have been live-blogging from the International Studies Association annual meeting in San Diego this past week. But I'm not, and so I didn't. Still, there were a few things worth noting from the conference.

First, pirates are finally getting their due. A panel on Saturday was titled "The Pirate: Historical and Theoretical Aspects of Piracy as a Recurring Feature of North/South Division." Three of the four papers on the panel were by scholars from the London School of Economics, so apparently LSE has become pirate central in the academic world. My favorite title from the panel was this one: "Taking the 'Arr' out of IR: Private Security Responses to Piracy and Waterborne Non-State Political Violence." (I wonder about the sub-title, though, since piracy is "waterborne non-state political violence." Nonetheless, those who recall this post will know why I like the title.)

Second, I learned that Rowman & Littlefield has an edited volume coming out in May entitled Harry Potter and International Relations. One of the editors, Daniel Nexon, blogs at The Duck of Minerva.

Third, Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars continues to inspire reflection and debate. A panel I attended on Thursday--"The Moral Foundations of World Order"--invoked Walzer repeatedly.

Fourth, feminist IR is alive and well. J. Ann Tickner, a pioneer in the field, is the new president of ISA. Her presidential address drew heavily on the insights of feminists working in the field.

As I have time, I'll try to comment more on what I learned at ISA.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Thomas Lubanga

On Friday, Thomas Lubanga was turned over to the International Criminal Court by the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to stand trial for war crimes. Lubanga, founder of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC), becomes the first person to be turned over to the ICC for prosecution.

The ICC issued warrants for the arrest of five members of the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group, in July of last year. There is also an investigation into the situation in Darfur ongoing by the ICC.


Last night I saw Tsotsi, the South African film that won the Academy Award for "Best Foreign Film." Based on the 1989 novel by Athol Fugard, it's a powerful story that shows the enormous gulf separating rich and poor--Jo'burg and Soweto--in modern South Africa.

How Many More?

We've already learned many of the disgusting details of torture perpetrated by Americans in Guantanamo, the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Now we learn about a special interrogation facility in Baghdad called Camp Nama. Eric Schmitt and Carolyn Marshall write in today's New York Times,

As the Iraqi insurgency intensified in early 2004, an elite Special Operations forces unit converted one of Saddam Hussein's former military bases near Baghdad into a top-secret detention center. There, American soldiers made one of the former Iraqi government's torture chambers into their own interrogation cell. They named it the Black Room.

In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball. Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations.

How many more stories like this one are out there waiting to be discovered? Or consider this question from Marty Lederman, former Attorney Advisor in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel: "How many stories such as this must be published before the rest of the world justifiably views the U.S. as one of the world's principal purveyors of torture and inhumane treatment?"

Three Years On

The war in Iraq is now moving into its fourth year. General George Casey, who last July predicted there would be significant reductions in the number of American forces in Iraq beginning this spring or summer, has stated that those reductions will now have to wait until late this year at the earliest.

Meanwhile, former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi is less optimistic, according to the Guardian (London):

In London, Mr Allawi told BBC 2's Sunday AM programme: "We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

Britain's defence secretary, John Reid, rejected that assessment. In Baghdad's green zone, he said that most of Iraq was under control: "There is not civil war now, nor is it inevitable, nor is it imminent".

In Washington, the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, also appeared on television to play down ideas of civil war. He told the CBS programme Face the Nation that the surge in attacks aimed at fomenting sectarian conflict simply reflected the insurgents' "state of desperation".

The remark echoed a similarly optimistic phrase used by Mr Cheney in March last year, when he claimed the insurgency was in its "last throes". Yesterday, he maintained that that description was still "basically accurate".

Three years on, and Vice President Cheney remains clueless. The very fact that there's even a debate about whether a civil war exists should tell him something. Indeed, it should tell all of us something.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cyber Threats Meet Biological Threats

Every once in a while, I'm tempted to buy one of the tabloids I see while standing in the supermarket checkout line. Tonight I saw this headline on the front page of the Weekly World News: "Computer Virus Spreads to Humans!" It was, of course, accompanied by a photo of a woman sitting in front of a computer blowing her nose--visual proof of the headline's veracity!

In Seeking Security in an Insecure World, Dan Caldwell and I placed considerable emphasis on the fact that many of the security threats we face today are interconnected. I have to confess, though, that we failed to anticipate the possibility that computer viruses might become the next biological threat.

(Incidentally, if you click on that Weekly World News link, I'm pretty sure you'll lose points off your IQ.)


In Chris Hedges' War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning (a book I highly recommend), there is this anecdote from the post-Napoleonic period, drawn from the London Observer, November 18, 1822:

It is estimated that more than a million bushels of human and inhuman bones were imported last year from the continent of Europe into the port of Hull. The neighborhood of Leipzig, Austerlitz, Waterloo, and of all the places where, during the late bloody war, the principal battles were fought, have been swept alike of the bones of the hero and the horse which he rode. Thus collected from every quarter, they have been shipped to the port of Hull and thence forwarded to the Yorkshire bone grinders who have erected steam-engines and powerful machinery for the purpose of reducing them to a granularly state. In this condition they are sold to the farmers to manure their lands.

I have not previously read or heard this grim account of the Napoleonic Wars' aftermath. Has anyone seen other descriptions of turning human bone into fertilizer following these, or any other, wars?

A Clash with Pirates

Two U.S. warships were involved in a clash with suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia early this morning. Sailors aboard the USS Cape St. George, which was patrolling in the Indian Ocean along with the USS Gonzalez as part of a Dutch-led maritime security operation, fired on a fishing boat in international waters after men aboard the boat brandished a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and fired on the American vessel. One suspect was killed, five were wounded, and twelve others were taken into custody.

This is the second encounter between U.S. Navy ships and suspected pirates this year. Last November, a luxury cruise liner was attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The cash-strapped Somali government signed a $50 million contract with an American company late last year to provide protection against pirates, but it is not clear what, if anything, the American company is doing about the problem.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Immigration Reform and Reality

Rosa Brooks, writing in today's Los Angeles Times, has a good idea for a new reality show:

Call it "Aliens." The contestants will be drawn from the U.S. Congress. To start, they'll have their credit cards, cellphones, computers and cars confiscated. Next, they'll be sent--with their families--to live in rural villages and urban shantytowns in poor countries. Each will be assigned a menial job in his new home, for which he will receive a dollar a day.

Most members of Congress won't last more than a few episodes, of course. Their kids will quickly lose the puppy fat that comes from a hearty American diet and instead gain the bloated tummies that characterize children with nutritional deficiencies. This development will frighten off the faint of heart.

The remaining contestants will be given the opportunity to compete in an even tougher game. They'll be instructed to make their way to a distant country, but they won't be provided with money, a passport or transportation. Hardships along the route will include fording flood-prone rivers, crossing dangerous deserts on foot and evading the armed gangs of smugglers and traffickers who will attempt to rob, rape and kidnap them.

Contestants will then have to covertly cross a border into a country guarded by armed agents.

Those who make it will then have to find food, shelter and employment in a place where they don't know the language and are in constant danger of being detected, detained and deported by the authorities. The only jobs available to them will be low-paying and often backbreaking labor.

What's the prize, you ask? Any contestants who manage to survive a full season will be offered the opportunity to draft a new immigration reform bill for the United States.

Or we could just build a fence along 2,000 miles of border like this wacko suggests, also in today's Los Angeles Times.

The New Human Rights Council

I am slow posting about this, but the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday voted 170-4 (with three abstentions) to create a new Human Rights Council. The United States, along with Israel, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, voted against the resolution creating the new Council.

Human Rights Watch summarizes some of the key features of the new Human Rights Council:

  • The council will meet at least three times a year for ten weeks--an improvement on the commission’s single annual six-week meeting--with a right for one-third of the council members to call additional sessions “when needed.”
  • The old commission’s system of independent “special rapporteurs” and other special procedures, which is one of the great strengths of the U.N. human rights system, will be retained, as will the tradition of access for human rights NGOs.
  • Members of the council are committed to cooperate with the council and its various mechanisms--an improvement on current practice, in which some members of the commission refuse to grant unimpeded access to U.N. human rights investigators.
  • The right of the council to address serious human rights situations through country-specific resolutions is reaffirmed.
  • A new universal review procedure will scrutinize the records of even the most powerful countries--an important step toward redressing the double standards that the commission was often accused of applying.

For more, see the Washington Post story here. The Amnesty International USA news release, which emphasizes the need for states that respect human rights to be elected to the 43-member Council, is available here.

Abu Ghraib: 279 Photos has posted 279 photos and 19 videos from Abu Ghraib. The images and accompanying documentation come from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, which first investigated the scandal on the basis of materials provided by Spc. Joseph Darby.

The introduction to the collection of photos and videos is well worth reading for context and commentary. It concludes with these words:

Finally, it's critical to recognize that this set of images from Abu Ghraib is only one snapshot of systematic tactics the United States has used in four-plus years of the global war on terror. There have been many allegations of abuse, torture and other practices that violate international law, from holding prisoners without charging them at Guantánamo Bay and other secretive U.S. military bases and prison facilities around the world to the practice of "rendition," or the transporting of detainees to foreign countries whose regimes use torture, to ongoing human rights violations inside detention facilities in Iraq. Abu Ghraib in fall 2003 may have been its own particular hell, but the variations of individual abuse perpetrated appear to be exceptional in only one way: They were photographed and filmed.

[Via Body and Soul.]

Monday, March 13, 2006

Workers without Rights

What's it like to be a Latino day laborer in the United States? This article in yesterday's Washington Post profiles Daniel Rodriguez, a day laborer from Nicaragua who lives and works in the Washington metropolitan area.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Genocide Continues

Our attention has wandered. We (most of us, anyway) were never very focused on Darfur, but the focus we once mustered seems to have disappeared. And yet the genocide continues.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times continues to press Americans to focus on what is happening in Darfur and now, increasingly, in neighboring Chad. Last month, writing in the New York Review of Books, he recounted some of what he has seen:

On one of the first of my five visits to Darfur, I came across an oasis along the Chad border where several tens of thousands of people were sheltering under trees after being driven from their home villages by the Arab Janjaweed militia, which has been supported by the Sudan government in Khartoum. Under the first tree, I found a man who had been shot in the neck and the jaw; his brother, shot only in the foot, had carried him for forty-nine days to get to this oasis. Under the next tree was a widow whose parents had been killed and stuffed in the village well to poison the local water supply; then the Janjaweed had tracked down the rest of her family and killed her husband. Under the third tree was a four-year-old orphan girl carrying her one-year-old baby sister on her back; their parents had been killed. Under the fourth tree was a woman whose husband and children had been killed in front of her, and then she was gang-raped and left naked and mutilated in the desert.

Kristof also provided both some important information about the background of the genocide and some suggestions for what should be done. He pointed readers in the direction of an aid worker's blog, Sleepless in Sudan (now closed, but still well worth reading), and two recently published books: Darfur: A Short History of a Long War by Julie Flint and Alex de Waal and Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide by Gerard Prunier.

Read Kristof's NYRB essay here and then look for the December 5, 2005, entry in Sleepless in Sudan to see what we should be doing.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


One of the most important trials in the history of international criminal law has ended with the death of the defendant, apparently of natural causes. Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader who engineered ethnic cleansing campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990s, had been on trial for crimes against humanity since 2002 before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. He was found dead in his jail cell last night.

Today's New York Times story on Milosevic's death notes,

Mr. Milosevic was the first former head of state to stand trial for genocide before an international tribunal, and its proceedings, which began in February 2002, had already produced the longest war crimes trial in modern history. His death came as the trial was drawing to a close: he was in the final weeks of his defense, and his concluding statement was expected in late April or May. The judges' verdict was expected by the end of this year.

For more on Milosevic, see this obituary, this news analysis by Roger Cohen, and this brief statement by Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the ICTY.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Double Standards

The State Department released the 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices today. In the section on Saudi Arabia, we find the following statement:

Ministry of Interior (MOI) officials were responsible for most incidents of abuse of prisoners, including beatings, whippings, and sleep deprivation. In addition, there were allegations of beatings with sticks and suspension from bars by handcuffs. There were allegations that these practices were used to force confessions from prisoners.

Compare the State Department’s criticism of Saudi Arabia to this report from the Observer (London) dated January 2, 2005:

A British detainee at Guantanamo Bay has told his lawyer he was tortured using the 'strappado', a technique common in Latin American dictatorships in which a prisoner is left suspended from a bar with handcuffs until they cut deeply into his wrists.

People in other countries pay attention to these inconsistencies. Americans, by an large, seem not to.