Dean Starr's work for Blackwater appears to be limited to "forum shopping"--that is, trying to convince the U.S. Supreme Court that this case belongs in the federal courts rather than in a state court, but nonetheless he's on the wrong side of a very significant issue.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Sunday, October 29, 2006
My unannounced break from the blog coincided with a trip to Tucson, Arizona for the 2006 ISSS/ISAC Conference. (ISSS is the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Assocation while ISAC is the International Security and Arms Control Section of the American Political Science Association.)
The conference featured over fifty papers on seventeen panels. Terrorism, homeland security, and nuclear proliferation were among the most common topics addressed. Dan Caldwell and I presented a paper (soon to be published in International Studies Perspectives) entitled "Jus Post Bellum: Just War Theory and the Principles of Just Peace."
As time permits over the next few days, I hope to be able to share a few of the more interesting ideas I gleaned from the conference. I'll also describe my "field trip" to a deactivated Titan II missile silo.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
"There is no hope. But I could be wrong."
In 1837, Tennyson penned a poem entitled "Locksley Hall." Paul Kennedy uses the following passage (minus the last two lines I've quoted) as the epigram for his recent book on the UN, The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations.
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.
Tennyson's vision of a "parliament of man" was certainly idealistic. No less idealistic was the vision of those who framed the UN Charter. But such visions can change the world, even when they are not fully realized.
Kennedy writes (pp. 45-46):
What is incontestable is that the UN's founders had, in some way, created a new world order. The structure of international politics after 1945 was different from that after 1648 and 1815; different even from that after 1919, because it now brought all of the Great Powers into the tent (even the difficult United States) and had given the new international entity a broader remit to address the economic, social, and cultural reasons that it believed drove people toward conflict.
Monday, October 23, 2006
For baseball fans, October is the World Series. But it's also the month when the winds turn cold and trees begin to lose their leaves (or so I recall from my days in Virginia and Missouri and Texas).
James Carroll sees in October a reminder of our mortality: "In October, a feeling for the end of things imposes itself on normalcy. Foliage flags the passage of time, a rude interruption of the dominant assumption that life goes on forever." The reminder we get each October, Carroll suggests, could explain why this month has often been a time of reckoning and a time of turning toward peace:
When we humans are in touch with the common fate that awaits us all, the bond among us becomes unbreakable. Not only that each one of us will die, but also that each one knows it. That knowledge, once claimed, is the source of our inevitable compassion, and is the ground of the communion that is our species' natural condition. War, therefore, is not the normal state, but the aberration. On that bond of common fate and common knowledge rests every hope for peace.
Carroll's complete rumination on the meaning of the month is available here.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Friday, October 20, 2006
This would be comical if it didn't involve a war that has (1) taken thousands of lives and (2) turned into the greatest U.S. foreign policy failure of this generation. Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, in a debate with Democratic Senate candidate Jon Tester on Tuesday night, said President Bush has a plan for winning the war in Iraq. But, he said to Tester, "We're not going to tell you . . . because you'll go out there and blow it." According to the Billings Gazette, the audience laughed at Burns.
But don't take the Billings Gazette's word for it. You can see it for yourself here.
It's an embarrassing performance by a third-term senator. And it's precisely why smart Republicans are no longer trying to defend the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq.
The week ended with no winner in UN General Assembly voting for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States seat on the Security Council. After thirty-five rounds of voting (the last thirteen on Thursday), Guatemala and Venezuela remained deadlocked.
According to the Washington Post, "The drawn-out defeat in [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez's top 2006 foreign policy goal came despite months of canvassing for votes with foreign trips, subsidized oil sales from Venezuela's large reserves and pledges to spearhead a global anti-U.S. alliance."
Voting is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
(Vote totals for Thursday's rounds are available here.)
Thursday, October 19, 2006
At the Second Intergovernmental Review Meeting (IGR-2) of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities in Beijing, scientists reported that there may now be as many as 200 "dead zones" in the world's oceans. "Dead zones" are areas of the ocean environment in which oxygen depletion makes it difficult to sustain the normal diversity of marine life. As a press release from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) puts it,
De-oxygenated zones are areas where algal blooms, triggered by nutrients from sources including fertilizer run off, sewage, animal wastes and atmospheric deposition from the burning of fossil fuels, can remove oxygen from the water.
The low levels of oxygen in the water make it difficult for fish, oysters and other marine creatures to survive as well as important habitats such as sea grass beds.
The Gulf of Mexico, which receives large inputs of nitrogen from agricultural lands in the Mississippi River Valley via the Mississippi, contains one of the best known "dead zones."
Meanwhile, here in Malibu there are concerns that faulty septic systems may be the cause of chronically contaminated ocean water. Los Angeles County officials plan to use DNA testing to determine whether the waste washing into Santa Monica Bay from area streams is human or animal. If human, inspection of septic systems will likely follow in an effort to pinpoint the sources of Malibu's marine pollution.
Are you in the market for a helicopter loaded with firepower? Take a look at this video ad for two Russian-made helicopters over at Coming Anarchy.
Who's buying? Venezuela, among others. (The Venezuelan air force, which still flies American-made F-16s and C-130s, has been looking for other suppliers since relations with the United States began deteriorating.) The Venezuelans bought 53 helicopters from Russia last summer (along with 24 Su-30 fighter jets) and are reportedly buying another 50 Russian helicopters now.
The UN General Assembly has taken four more votes today in an effort to fill the remaining seat on the Security Council, bringing the total number of votes to 26. Guatemala continues to lead Venezuela in the voting, but remains far from the necessary two-thirds majority.
In 1979-80, the GA voted 155 times before giving Mexico the necessary two-thirds majority to win a two-year term on the Security Council.
The UN General Assembly returns this morning to the task of trying to elect a member of the Security Council to represent the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.
After twenty-two rounds of voting in the General Assembly on Monday and Tuesday, neither Guatemala nor Venezuela was able to win the two-thirds majority necessary to secure a two-year term on the Security Council.
Guatemala, which is being supported by the United States solely in an effort to block the aspirations of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, has led consistently in the voting thus far, but many observers believe the GA will be unable to muster enough votes for either party to win in future rounds. In that event, a compromise candidate would have to be put forward by the Latin American and Caribbean Group.
Support for Venezuela's candidacy seems to be based on a combination of promises of support from Venezuela (a state currently awash in petrodollars) and a desire among some states to punish the United States for its overbearing attitude at the UN. Chavez probably lost many potential votes for Venezuela, however, with his undiplomatic speech to the United Nations in September.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone "hostile to U.S. interests."
The document, the first full revision of overall space policy in 10 years, emphasizes security issues, encourages private enterprise in space, and characterizes the role of U.S. space diplomacy largely in terms of persuading other nations to support U.S. policy.
The new document, released last Friday afternoon in advance of a three-day weekend, contains much that was in the 1996 U.S. National Space Policy (NSP) drafted by the Clinton administration, but there are some differences that, not surprisingly, indicate a subtle move by the Bush administration away from accepted principles of international space law and toward a more unilateral approach. For example, the Clinton administration's 1996 document stated:
The United States considers the space systems of any nation to be national property with the right of passage through and operations in space without interference. Purposeful interference with space systems shall be viewed as an infringement on sovereign rights. (Emphasis added.)
The new NSP states:
The United States considers space systems to have the rights of passage through and operations in space without interference. Consistent with this principle, the United States will view purposeful interference with its space systems as an infringement on its rights.
Under international law, outer space is considered res communis. That is, it is not subject to the control of any state. The 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies--better known as the Outer Space Treaty--provides the basic legal framework governing activities in space. (And, yes, the United States is a party to the treaty.)
The first three articles of the Outer Space Treaty are worth quoting in their entirety:
The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.
Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.
There shall be freedom of scientific investigation in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and States shall facilitate and encourage international co-operation in such investigation.
Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.
States Parties to the Treaty shall carry on activities in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international co-operation and understanding.
Technically, the Bush Administration is within the law to "view purposeful interference with its space systems as an infringement on its rights." But this formulation makes the rights sound as if they're grounded in U.S. sovereignty--or at least U.S. military might. In fact, the rights being asserted are multilateral and non-exclusive. Outer space is "free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind" (in the words of the Outer Space Treaty).
Other states take note of U.S. policy pronouncements like the one embodied in the new NSP. They also notice the changing tone of American policy.
If you're interested in more information, the Center for Defense Information provides an assessment of the new NSP here. Michael Katz-Hyman of the Henry L. Stimson Center provides a very useful side-by-side comparison of the 1996 NSP and the 2006 NSP here. To read the complete text of the NSP itself, go here [.pdf]. Finally, the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs is located on the Internet here.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I don't know who all the readers of this blog are (although the readership is small enough that it probably wouldn't take long for me to shake hands with everyone), but someone logging in from Wartburg College in Iowa last night was the 20,000th visitor.
Thanks to all of you who stop in from time to time--especially those of you find your way here deliberately.
And if I knew who Visitor #20,000 was, I might have to send him or her some sort of prize--unless he or she turned out to be the person who called me on the phone two weeks ago to berate me for being a "liberal twit." (Really!)
Sunday, October 15, 2006
There is an excellent article on nuclear weapons proliferation ("Restraints Fray and Risks Grow as Nuclear Club Gains Members") on the front page of today's New York Times. William E. Broad and David J. Sanger provide some of the history of non-proliferation efforts and note that, in addition to the nine existing nuclear weapons states, "as many as 40 more countries have the technical skill, and in some cases the required material, to build a bomb."
Broad and Sanger generally concur with the pessimistic views regarding the future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime that I heard expressed two weeks ago at the ISA-West meeting by Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., former general counsel and acting director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Dr. William C. Potter, director of the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and Mary Beth Nitikin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Broad and Sanger write:
In March 1963, President John F. Kennedy said, "I am haunted by the feeling that by 1970, unless we are successful, there may be 10 nuclear powers instead of 4, and by 1975, 15 or 20." That timetable proved to be inaccurate. But in recent years there has been a sense around the globe that President Kennedy's prediction is about to come true, three decades late.
Unfortunately, the failure of the international community to head off North Korea's nuclear test or to impose costs on Pakistan for the actions of the A. Q. Khan operation has brought us to the point at which the benefits of acquiring nuclear weapons may be perceived as outweighing the costs.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Yunus, who earned a Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt University, began making microfinance loans to poverty-stricken families in his native Bangladesh in 1974 during a devastating famine. Soon thereafter, he decided to conduct a test of microfinance by establishing Grameen Bank ("Bank of the Villages"). The idea was to make small loans to families who otherwise would be unable to get credit in an effort to help them establish home-based businesses.
As of May 2006, Grameen Bank had 6.61 million borrowers with branches providing services in over 70,000 Bangladeshi vilages. Ninety-seven percent of borrowers are women. In 2005, the average loan balance per borrower was $85. In spite of the small average balance, Grameen Bank has loaned almost $6 billion in the thirty years since its establishment. Its loan recovery rate is an astonishing 98.85 percent and, since 1995, the bank has operated without donations.
Grameen Bank, which has earned a profit every year except 1983, 1991, and 1992, has a program of interest-free loans for the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh. The "Struggling Members Programme" has 81,000 members who repay their loans at a rate as low as 4 cents per week.
What does any of this have to do with peace? In the conclusion of Seeking Security in an Insecure World, Dan Caldwell and I note (pp. 186-87) that "security today is indivisible" so that even "a narrowly self-interested security policy cannot be narrowly self-interested."
Everywhere we look, we see connections between various sources of insecurity. Economic insecurity may lead to slash-and-burn agriculture, with deforestation (and environmental insecurity) as a result. The devastation of an ecosystem may, in turn, create a refugee crisis that leads to ethnic conflict. An intrastate war may generate a market for arms traffickers. Trafficking in small arms and light weapons may then open up a network through which chemical, biological, or even nuclear materials are traded. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction may make it possible for terrorists to acquire a nuclear device. And so on.
Poverty alone does not generate conflict. The vast majority of the world's poor suffer quietly. But poverty is an underlying factor that can lead to instability. Even the Bush administration, in the most recent iteration of The National Security Strategy of the United States acknowledges this fact, calling assistance to the poor "a strategic priority" and stating that "America’s national interests and moral values drive us in the same direction: to assist the world’s poor citizens and least developed nations and help integrate them into the global economy."
In 2004, the Nobel Committee recognized the connection between environmental security and peace by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Wangari Maathai. This year, the Committee has recognized the connection between economic security and peace.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Richard Horton, editor of the respected British medical journal that has just published the much-discussed Johns Hopkins study of civilian casualties in Iraq, describes the methodology of the study and draws pertinent lessons in a commentary available here. The entire piece is well worth reading, but here are two key paragraphs:
Why is this Lancet estimate so much higher than the figures put out by President Bush or the Iraq Body Count website? They put the number of casualties in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands. To be fair, Iraq Body Count does not claim to publish accurate absolute numbers of deaths. Instead, their figures are valuable for measuring trends. But the reason for the discrepancy between these lower estimates and the new figure of 650,000 deaths lies in the way the number is sought. Passive surveillance, the most common method used to estimate numbers of civilian deaths, will always underestimate the total number of casualties. We know this from past wars and conflict zones, where the estimates have been too low by a factor of 10 or even 20.
Only when you go out and knock on the doors of families, actively looking for deaths, do you begin to get close to the right number. This method is now tried and tested. It has been the basis for mortality estimates in war zones such as Darfur and the Congo. Interestingly, when we report figures from these countries politicians do not challenge them. They frown, nod their heads and agree that the situation is grave and intolerable. The international community must act, they say. When it comes to Iraq the story is different. Expect the current government to mobilise all its efforts to undermine the work done by this American and Iraqi team. Expect the government to criticise the Lancet for being too political. Expect the government to do all it can to dismiss this story and wash its hands of its responsibility to take these latest findings seriously.
At the end of the commentary, Horton offers this conclusion that sounds much like one of the points that Dan Caldwell and I made in Seeking Security in an Insecure World:
We can truthfully say that our foreign policy--based as it is on 19th-century notions of the nation-state--is long past its sell-by date. We need a new set of principles to govern our diplomacy and military strategy--principles that are based on the idea of human security and not national security, health and wellbeing and not economic self-interest and territorial ambition.
"Long past its sell-by date." I like the way he puts it.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Let us assume that the new study from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University--the one that puts the number of Iraqis who have died violent deaths since the U.S. invasion at over 600,000--is way off. Let's assume the sampling techniques were flawed, that respondents lied to those who gathered the data, that in the absence of bodies there can be no meaningful estimates of the number of deaths in a chaotic place like Iraq. What are we left with if we assume that the number is significantly lower--say, one-tenth the Johns Hopkins researchers' estimate?
We are left with the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people in what began as a war of choice, not of necessity. We are left with a fiasco that brings a flood of headlines like these drawn from a quick Lexis-Nexis search:
- "110 Bodies Found in Baghdad in Two Days" (Oct. 10)
- "Bomb Kills 14 in Iraqi City that Bush Had Lauded as Safe" (Oct. 8)
- "4,000 Iraqi Police Killed in 2 Years, U.S. Official Says" (Oct. 7)
- "Baghdad Blast Kills 35 Waiting for Fuel" (Sept. 24)
- "Attacks in Iraq Leave 23 Dead as Talks Lag on Autonomy" (Sept. 19)
- "Blasts in Kirkuk Kill 23; 36 Die Elsewhere in Iraq" (Sept. 18)
- "Nearly 100 Killed in Baghdad Over 24 Brutal Hours; Scores of Corpses Dumped in Streets" (Sept. 14)
We are left, in short, with a reminder of why war must always be a last resort. Michael Walzer asks, and promptly answers, the key question in Just and Unjust Wars (p. 22):
Why is it wrong to begin a war? We know the answer all too well. People get killed, and often in large numbers. War is hell.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Like other films that portray grave human rights abuses--Schindler's List, Hotel Rwanda, and The Killing Fields come to mind--The Last King of Scotland is difficult to watch. But, like these other films, it has an important message and deserves a large audience.
The Last King of Scotland follows Idi Amin's rise and fall in Uganda during the 1970s through the eyes of a fictional young doctor from Scotland, Nicholas Garrigan. Amin, an uneducated Ugandan army general, ousted President Milton Obote in a coup in 1971. His charisma and his willingness to stand up to former colonial powers initially made Amin very popular in Uganda, but he quickly became more and more paranoid, repressive, and brutal. By the time he was ousted in 1979, Amin had established one of the most abusive regimes in Africa's post-colonial history. It is estimated that 300,000 Ugandans were killed during his bloody reign.
In its broad outlines, The Last King of Scotland offers a solidly historical portrayal of Idi Amin's Uganda. As most critics have noted, Forest Whitaker does an outstanding job--Oscar-quality, perhaps--of capturing Amin's charisma and his paranoia. (For more on Amin, including speculation that he may have suffered from dementia brought on by syphilis, see this obituary that appeared in the Guardian shortly after his death in exile in 2003.)
The main fictional character, Dr. Garrigan, seems in some respects to be unnecessary--Amin's rise and fall is morbidly fascinating even without making the central character an idealistic young white man whom Amin will befriend and then torture--but it's a type of character that filmmakers tackling subjects like this one often rely on. It's an "empathy character"--someone with whom white American and European movie-goers can identify. When director John Boorman tried to tell the story of Myanmar's military dictatorship in the 1995 film Beyond Rangoon, he used an American woman visiting the country (played by Patricia Arquette) as the eyes through which the audience would see the unfolding events. When director Roland Joffe depicted Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia in the late 1970s in The Killing Fields, he focused on New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg (played by Sam Waterston) and his perspective on what happened. Even director David Lean's majestic Gandhi employed various British and American characters (Rev. Charlie Andrews, a reporter named Vince Walker, and the photographer Margaret Bourke-White) to offer Western views of non-Western events.
It is unfortunate that the boundaries of our empathy require filmmakers to tell every story using characters who look like the whites in their audiences. But at least stories like this one--the tragedy of Uganda under Idi Amin--are actually told occasionally so that some moviegoers will be forced to confront unpleasant events of the not-too-distant past. But more people need to see films like The Last King of Scotland.
(If you've seen The Last King of Scotland, I'd like to know what you thought of it.)
Monday, October 02, 2006
If the vote taken today by the UN Security Council holds up, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea will be the next secretary general of the UN.
Ballots in the Security Council at this stage in the election process "encourage," "discourage," or "express no opinion" on candidates. Ban was "encouraged" by fourteen of the Council's fifteen members. One member, not identified, expressed no opinion.
An informal norm at the UN requires that the secretary general's position be rotated among the different regions of the world. The last Asian to serve as secretary general was U Thant of Burma, who occupied the post from 1961 to 1971.
I apologize for the long gap between posts. Part--although not all--of the explanation lies in my trip to Las Vegas this past weekend for the International Studies Association-West annual meeting. It was my first trip to a regional ISA meeting and I have to say I'm sorry I waited so long.
There were a number of very good papers presented at the conference. Some of the papers are available in an online archive located here. Here are my personal recommendations:
- Christian Enemark, "'Non-Lethal' Weapons and the Occupation of Iraq: Technology, Ethics, Law and Medicine"
- Rebecca Glazier, "Just Intervention in Genocide: Extending the Theoretical Applications of Just War Theory"
- John Barkdull, "From International Ethics to Global Ethics"
- Francis Harbour, "The Just Soldier's Dilemma"
The paper I most want to read (without having heard it being presented at the conference) is one by Laura Sjoberg and Caron Gentry entitled "Mean Girls: The Theoretical Significance of Women's Violence in Global Politics."
If I can find the time, I'll try to comment further on the conference--and on my visit to the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas.