The New York Times has just published a report on a threatened attack by Anonymous on the Domain Name System and the countermeasures that have been taken to thwart it. The story provides a good look at what goes on behind the scenes (and the screens) of the Internet on a regular basis.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Reuters is reporting this morning that two French judges have sought an international warrant for the arrest of Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the playboy son of Equatorial Guinea's dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. According to the story, "The two judges, Roger Le Loire and Rene Grouman, consider there are grounds to suspect that Teodorin Obiang, who is agriculture minister in the small oil-rich central African country, acquired real estate in France by fraud."
The story cites an unnamed judicial source.
Le Loire and Grouman are the investigating judges in the BMA case that has targeted corruption in Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Congo-Brazzaville. In 1998, Le Loire issued an international arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and in 2001 he issued a summons tor Henry Kissinger, then visiting Paris, to testify in court about American involvement in Operation Condor. (The summons, delivered to Kissinger at his hotel, was ignored as the U.S. State Department suggested to the French that such requests should be submitted through official channels.)
Friday, March 16, 2012
Georgetown University Press has just published Ethics Beyond War's End, a book based on papers presented at a conference hosted by Georgetown in April 2010.
The book, edited by Eric Patterson, includes contributions from a number of leading just war theorists including Michael Walzer, James Turner Johnson, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Brian Orend. My own chapter--"A More Perfect Peace: Jus Post Bellum and the Quest for Stable Peace"--begins with Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's observation that "the legitimate object of war is a more perfect peace." Sherman's statement, which echoes the emphasis that both Aristotle and Augustine placed on ending wars in a way that would secure peace, should prompt us to rethink the idea of a war to end all wars. It is not a utopian objective. World War II, after all, was the war to end all wars in Western Europe, thanks in part to the careful steps taken to create "a more perfect peace" than that which had been created after World War I. Notwithstanding talk of intervention in Syria or a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, the great goal of laying interstate war to rest actually seems to be within reach. Getting the peace process right when wars do occur is, I believe, an important part of ending not just particular wars but war in general.
Over the course of the past decade, the concept of jus post bellum has gone from being a possibility broached by a few isolated thinkers to a widely accepted element of just war theory that has attracted the attention of a broad spectrum of scholars and practitioners. Ethics Beyond War's End makes it clear that thinking about justice after war is essential, but that no consensus yet exists on the ethical principles that should guide that process.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the leader of a Congolese rebel group who stood accused in the International Criminal Court of recruiting and deploying child soldiers, has been found guilty. Lubanga was the first suspect taken into custody by the ICC, in 2006, and now becomes the first to have a verdict rendered. This is also the first time an individual has been tried before an international court for war crimes involving the use of child soldiers.
This brief film produced by the Open Society Justice Initiative and WITNESS offers an overview of the case against Lubanga and the trial prior to the rendering of the verdict, which occurred today at The Hague.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur for torture, has concluded that the United States subjected Pfc. Bradley Manning to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment. Manning is the soldier who was arrested on May 29, 2010, in Iraq and accused of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks. According to Mendez, Manning's solitary confinement for 23 hours a day over the course of the11 months after his arrest constituted a violation of Article 16 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The article states:
1. Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article I, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture of references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
2. The provisions of this Convention are without prejudice to the provisions of any other international instrument or national law which prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or which relates to extradition or expulsion.
Mendez indicated that Manning's treatment might have constituted torture, but this could not be determined with certainty without an interview with Manning in private, something the U.S. government refused to permit.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Two weeks ago, the name didn't mean anything to most people. Now it does--at least among those who are engaged with social media in some way. And while there are many reasons one could criticize Invisible Children or the "Kony 2012" video--inefficient use of donated funds, inaccurate or misleading information in the film, general naivete--it is impossible to argue with the tremendous success the film and the organization have achieved in getting people to talk, post, tweet, and think about an indicted war criminal who remains at large in Central Africa. As I write, the number of views on YouTube is over 74 million--almost 4 million more than when I checked yesterday; a Google search for "Kony" returns over 4 million web pages; and the film has been mentioned by White House press secretary Jay Carney, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, and ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo--not to mention many celebrities. Let's be clear about one thing: the most exacting scholarly research, the best-written books or journal articles, the most compelling television news pieces, and the most important court filings don't get this kind of attention--especially not in the demographic the Kony 2012 campaign has targeted.
Rather than add to the outpouring of commentary, I simply want to provide links to a few items, some of which are critical and some of which are laudatory. All, I think, make valid points.
Michael Wilkerson, blogging at foreignpolicy.com, offers a number of criticisms of the Kony 2012 campaign and concludes by hoping the repressive government of Yoweri Museveni in Uganda isn't strengthened by anti-Kony efforts.
Robert Mackey's post on "The Lede," a New York Times blog about the news, reports that many Africans have concerns about the campaign, including Teju Cole's suggestion that it represents another instance of the "White Savior Industrial Complex."
Alex Abad-Santos, on the Atlantic Wire, looks at Invisible Children's finances.
Nina Wegner, on the Huffington Post, focuses on what's good about Kony 2012.
Sean Carton, on the marketing site Click Z, avoids the policy and financial questions, stating, "'Kony 2012' is probably the best primer on how to use social media to raise awareness ever created." He goes on to analyze what has made the campaign so successful.
Friday, March 09, 2012
Former Texas agriculture commissioner, author, lecturer, activist, and raconteur Jim Hightower often says "you can put earrings on a hog, but it won't hide the ugliness." Teodoro Obiang, dictator of Equatorial Guinea for the last three decades, has expended considerable time and effort--not to mention millions of dollars--to burnish his image. After four years of controversy, part of the effort succeeded yesterday as the executive board of UNESCO voted 33 to 18 (with 7 abstentions) to accept a donation from Obiang to establish the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences.
Supporters of the award on the executive board included representatives of African states, China, India, Russia, and Brazil. European members, the United States, and others voted "no" on accepting the donation for the award. Representatives from Europe and the United States have consistently opposed the award on the grounds that (1) the money being donated is apparently from Equatorial Guinea's public treasury, in spite of the fact that the country has serious unmet public sector needs, and (2) the abysmal human rights record of the Obiang regime makes it inappropriate for a UN body to accept such a donation.
Earlier this week, the UNCAC Coalition, a network of over 300 NGOs, issued a letter to UNESCO on the subject of the prize. In part, the letter reads:
The UNCAC Coalition strongly opposes the establishment of this award, funded from the public treasury of Equatorial Guinea and yet named after its long-term head of state. As we already communicated in 2010, we believe that the award and its endorsement of Mr. Obiang are fundamentally contrary to the spirit and principles of the United Nations, as well as to UNESCO’s constitutional goals. President Obiang heads a country that has been ranked by Transparency International as among the most corrupt in the world, whose government is known for well-documented brutality and whose citizens live in poverty despite the country’s oil riches. In more than 30 years of government, Mr. Obiang has missed the opportunity to use oil revenues, and other sources of government income, to improve the life of the people in Equatorial Guinea or even to make transparent what those revenues are.
Freedom House, which has named Equatorial Guinea among the "Worst of the Worst" in terms of civil and political rights, opposed the award, as did a coalition of seven civil society organizations including the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España, Association Sherpa, the Committee to Protect Journalists, EG Justice, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch, and the Open Society Justice Initiative. Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “The UNESCO-Obiang prize is irreversibly tainted by its association with the repression and high-level corruption of President Obiang’s government.”
Obiang seems to have overcome the pressure exerted by Western democracies and human rights NGOs by framing the issue as a matter of Africa against the West. The New York Times quoted Zimbabwe's UNESCO representative, David Hamadziripi, to this effect: “We believe that the decision we’ve just taken will send a very important message, that a lot of good comes out of Africa, and that Africa can and does contribute in international cooperation and is not just a recipient of the good will of others.”
Score one for the dictators.
Thursday, March 08, 2012
Rushworth M. Kidder, long-time reporter and columnist for the Christian Science Monitor and founder of the Institute for Global Ethics (IGE), died on Monday. He devoted much of his life to ethics education.
My primary connection to his work came through a slender volume he published in 1995 called How Good People Make Tough Choices. Even though it was not geared toward foreign policy debates, its simple framework for working through ethical dilemmas provided a solid introduction to ethical decisionmaking for my Ethics and International Politics course. Kidder argued that an ethical dilemma involves a "right vs. right" choice, in contrast to what he called moral temptations that involve choices between right and wrong. Ethical dilemmas, he believed, tend to fit one of four paradigms: truth vs. loyalty, individual vs. community, short-term vs. long-term, or justice vs. mercy. He classified the options for resolving ethical dilemmas using three categories: rules-based ethics, ends-based ethics, and care-based ethics. Simple, certainly, but helpful for that very reason.
For a more complete obituary, see the Bangor Daily News article here.
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
During the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, world leaders agreed to a set of objectives to be met by 2015. These Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were designed to address seemingly intractable development and human security issues. In spite of the global economic recession that began in 2008, the goal of cutting in half the number of people living in extreme poverty has been met ahead of schedule,according to new data from the World Bank.
For the first time since the World Bank started keeping statistics in 1981, poverty fell in every region of the world on a three-year timeframe. In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty fell below 50 percent for the first time. And between 1981 and 2008, poverty fell to just less than a quarter of the developing world’s population from more than half.
Another of the MDGs--cutting in half the number of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015--has also been met according to data jointly reported by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
In his 1940 essay "Why the Christian Church Is Not Pacifist," Reinhold Niebuhr argued that one of the problems with pacifism is that by avoiding the anarchy of war it gives those, like Hitler, who would impose tyranny through war (or the threat of war) a free pass. Those concerned with justice, Niebuhr suggested, must oppose both anarchy and tyranny. "The political life of man," he wrote, "must constantly steer between the Scylla of anarchy and the Charybdis of tyranny."
Niebuhr's essay appeared as Nazi Germany was extending Hitler's tyranny over vast stretches of Europe. Britain was enduring an aerial assault and the United States was, as yet, committed only to the sale of weapons to anti-Nazi forces. Niebuhr's concern, at least in this essay, was for international anarchy--war--and international tyranny--conquest--rather than for internal manifestations of anarchy and tyranny. But his observation about steering between the two extremes seems especially relevant, in a world moving beyond war, to the problems that remain within states.
The state, it seems, is a difficult thing to get right. It must ensure order, on the one hand, while protecting freedom, on the other. Put differently, it must apply sufficient constraints--that is, it must be strong enough--to eliminate anarchy without going so far as to impose tyranny. In our time, Somalia has been the prime example of a state incapable of governing its own territory effectively so as to eliminate anarchy. But it is not the only one. Following soon after the end of the Cold War, the phenomenon of state failure appeared so widespread that some began to separate the cases into the categories of weak states, failed states, and collapsed states.
At the other end of the spectrum lies North Korea, which is likely not only the most secretive but the most repressive contemporary state. Anarchy is hardly the problem in North Korea, but life is no better there--and perhaps much worse for many people--than it would be in a collapsed state.
Human rights are possible only in the passage between "the Scylla of anarchy and the Charybdis of tyranny." Democracy, in fact, appears in the middle, although not at a single, fixed point between anarchy and tyranny. States that allow for a full range of human rights appear at various points along the spectrum of state authority, but are never too far from the center.
Perhaps we can call this "the Goldilocks problem" in international politics. Some states are too hard, some are too soft, but others are just right. Or at least close enough to "just right" for human rights to flourish.
Labels: human rights
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
From Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times today:
You want to analyze the cost and consequences of war before you go to war?
Such a snob. Such a green eyeshade rejection of the red-hot Bush doctrine.
What’s wrong with bomb first and think later? That worked fine in Iraq. Or not.
After last night's nightmare involving metal scraping against bones--yes, I got my teeth cleaned yesterday--I probably didn't need to start the day with a video of small drones teaming up to play the James Bond theme. (It's the third video embedded in the article--the one labeled "Vijay Kumar: Robots that fly . . . and cooperate.")
This--the use of autonomous drone swarms--is one of the more important new developments in military robotics. And by that I don't mean we'll soon see military bands replaced by quadrotors playing specially modified musical instruments at inaugural balls. Instead, consider the current challenge posed for the International Aerial Robotics Competition: Teams must design a flying robot capable of silently entering a building through a window, finding a designated office inside, locating and taking a USB flash drive from a desk, and replacing the flash drive with another that looks like it.
That's what I'd call a practical application.
Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court issued a new order in the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, which was heard last Tuesday. The order requires that new briefs be filed by both sides on this issue: "Whether and under what circumstances the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, allows courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States." The case will be reargued in the 2012-2013 term.
This unusual step by the Court raises the possibility that cases arising under the ATS could be limited to those occurring on the territory of the United States or in nonsovereign spaces (res communis), such as the high seas. This, in turn, would essentially mean the end of international human rights litigation in U.S. federal courts.
Labels: Alien Tort Statute
Monday, March 05, 2012
Amid increasing pressure to draw "red lines" that would trigger an American military response to Iran's nuclear program, President Obama yesterday addressed AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee). While affirming the strength of U.S.-Israeli ties and his commitment to preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons, the president pushed back against Republican presidential candidates who have argued for a more aggressive policy toward Iran and against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts to get the United States to promise military action if the Iranians fail to meet certain preconditions.
Here are the key paragraphs from the speech:
Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.Amir Oren, writing in Haaretz, said this of President Obama: "No one who knows Washington and its ways could mistake the subtext of his words. A strong commitment to Israel? Assuredly. Capitulation to the dictates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Not a chance." For his part, Prime Minister Netanyahu, in Canada to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper before continuing to Washington for today's meeting with President Obama, praised the president's statements asserting support for Israel's right to defend itself and opposition to Iran's efforts to build nuclear weapons.
Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues; the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster. Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built. Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly; carry a big stick. And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve, and that our coordination with Israel will continue.
Tom McCarthy of The Guardian describes how American electoral politics complicates the tense relationship between Obama and Netanyahu:
If Netanyahu decides he doesn't need Obama to hit Iran--or that the threat to Israel is too great to wait--then all bets suddenly are off. What if instead of Mitt Romney the president suddenly faces a reelection fight involving a new war in the Middle East, expensive gas, U.S. casualties and a new economic dive--plus Mitt Romney (or Rick Santorum)? Netanyahu knows that Obama knows that Netanyahu knows this.
Sunday, March 04, 2012
I don't remember exactly when I first read the late John H. Yoder's Nevertheless: The Varieties and Shortcomings of Religious Pacifism, but it was either sometime in the early 1980s or maybe a little later in the decade when I first began teaching a course called Ethics and International Politics. The book made an impression--so much so that a quarter of a century later I sought out a copy of the book, read a few chapters, and decided to include it among the required texts for this semester's iteration of the Ethics course. On Thursday we'll take up Nevertheless, along with Reinhold Niebuhr's 1940 essay, "Why the Christian Church Is Not Pacifist" and Michael Walzer's afterword to Just and Unjust Wars, in which he comments on the theory of nonviolence. I approach this discussion with the hope that my students will appreciate not only the tremendous power of these three intellects but the gravity--and the extraordinary durability--of the debate in which they have engaged. War, after all, seems to be a truly perennial problem, not to mention one of humanity's most terrible and unconquerable vices.
Or is it? One of the reasons I found myself drawn to pick up Yoder's Nevertheless last fall was a sense that the world is catching up with the wisdom of those who, like Yoder, have long argued that violence offers no more, or better, guarantees for those concerned with justice than the nonviolent alternatives. John Mueller's Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War, which appeared over twenty years ago, argued that war, like slavery and dueling, is an idea that people have come to regard as wrong because it is both immoral and dysfunctional. The data show that interstate war is very much in decline, a point that Americans tend to miss thanks to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the quasi-war in Pakistan. Charles Kupchan has recently attempted, in How Enemies Become Friends, to illustrate the ways that what may have appeared to be permanent enmities between states can be, and actually are, overcome. Kathryn Sikkink, in The Justice Cascade, argues that prosecutions of serious human rights abuses are having a discernible deterrent effect. Ruti Teitel's book Humanity's Law traces a transition in the international legal system away from the traditional emphasis on national security toward an emphasis on human security, a transition that moves us away from international politics as usual. And Harvard psychologist Stephen Pinker, in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, asserts that violence at all levels of human interaction--from the interpersonal to the international--is at historically low levels. War is neither as common as it once was, nor as acceptable.
The long span of history through which war has been a constant in many (but by no means all) societies makes it difficult to discern some important changes in humanity's attitude toward war. One of the most important of these attitudinal changes took place as a consequence of what, before an even greater war occurred, was called the Great War. Before World War I, war was commonly (although by no means universally) regarded as a rousing and ennobling experience. Afterward, war was considered brutalizing, wanton, and even stupid. (The change is exemplified by two World War I poems: "Pro Patria," by Owen Seaman, and "Dulce et Decorum Est," by Wilfred Owen.) Even if it oversimplifies, one can argue that war, in the collective conscience of humankind, went from being a good thing to being a necessary evil. It might be necessary for the British and French and others to fight the Germans again in 1939, but it would be a relative good (or a necessary evil) rather than an absolute good as some had regarded it in 1914. Today, war is still defended as a necessary evil (rather than an absolute good), although even this justification is wearing thin. What has sustained the idea that war is a necessary evil has been consequentialist reasoning that, in the end, has often been proved wrong. The most obvious recent case is the Iraq War, justified by the Bush administration by reference to what might happen if Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, which he didn't have, were allowed to fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda (with which he had no real connection).
Yoder commented in Nevertheless on the fallacy of consequentialist justifications for war. He did so using one of the articles of faith in Reinhold Niebuhr's Christian realist worldview for support. Given Niebuhr's opposition, at least from World War II on, to almost every form of pacifism that Yoder defended, Yoder's ability to appeal to one of Niebuhr's masterpieces, The Irony of American History, for support is especially noteworthy. Yoder noted a problem with "prudential calculation," which is the summum bonum of the political realist and the central ethical responsibility of the just-war theorist: "The good which is predicted does not come as a result of the war; evils which were not foreseen do actually arise." Or, as Donald Rumsfeld put it when the U.S. invasion of Iraq proved not to be the cakewalk that had been predicted, "Stuff happens."
This is where Niebuhr's view of the irony of history comes in to bolster Yoder's argument. Yoder, in fact, seemed to take a little dig at Niebuhr--at least if we pause to interpret the quotation marks deployed in the following passage:
Reinhold Niebuhr has described as "irony" this characteristic of the historical process which generally produces results different from those by which decisions were thought to have been justified. That events should be impossible to predict with such certainty that moral choices can be made by reasoning back from the predicted outcomes, only stands to reason in a universe in which the centers of decision-making are multiple. When the historical process is conceived as a model machine where one person pushes the buttons or even as a nation with a single capital, then to make decisions on the grounds of the simple choice between ultimate outcomes has a certain logic, even though already here it pretends to a utopian degree of omniscience. But when multiple other decision-makers are trying to do the same thing, each with a different set of goals, a different set of assumptions about the rules of the whole game and a different set of expectations about how they expect the other partners of the game to play, it is a mathematical certainty that none of the options among which we claim to be choosing can come to pass.
"Irony" indeed. What is also ironic is this: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have obscured the broad and unmistakable global trend away from war, have further undermined the primary remaining justification for war. It is more difficult--but certainly not impossible--in light of the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts to sustain the belief that war may be a necessary evil. In both cases, predictions about the good to be achieved and the evil that might result were seriously off the mark. What Barbara Tuchman called "the march of folly" (defined as "the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests") will no doubt continue to produce wars, but with declining levels of credulity in response to claims that those wars are necessary evils.
Friday, March 02, 2012
According to a report by RFI, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, whose Paris residence was raided last month by French authorities as part of the biens mal acquis investigation, plans to sue Daniel Lebègue, president of the French branch of Transparency International. TI in France and a second French NGO, Sherpa, played key roles in pursuading the government to undertake the biens mal acquis investigation that is targeting French assets of the ruling families of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Cameroon. Obiang alleges that Lebègue has libeled him by publicly accusing him of stealing money from the public treasury of Equatorial Guinea.
RFI reports that French police took 200 cubic meters worth of objets d'art from the Obiang estate on Avenue Foch. Equatorial Guinea claims that the building was used for diplomatic purposes, making the French seizures a violation of diplomatic immunity, and that the lavish furnishings were appropriate expenditures given the diplomatic function. French authorities counter that the estate contained a nightclub, a hair salon, and other rooms not normally found in diplomatic properties.
If the suit against Mr. Lebègue proceeds, Transparency International and other NGOs will no doubt relish the opportunity to prove in a court of law that the Obiang family is using Equatorial Guinea's petroleum income for private purposes. This, in fact, is what they have fought to have happen since 2007.
Thursday, March 01, 2012
This op-ed from last Sunday's Los Angeles Times speaks eloquently to the need for corporate liability in international human rights cases. In it, Ka Hsaw Wa, the executive director of EarthRights International, describes the human rights abuses committed by Unocal and the Burmese military that prompted the Doe v. Unocal suit settled in 2005 following almost a decade of litigation.
Also, the LA Times editorial board gets it right in this editorial, which concludes, "As long as U.S. courts are open to such [human rights] suits, there should be no distinction between individual and corporate defendants."