Sunday, April 29, 2012

The New Ethics & International Affairs Blog

A new blog connected to Ethics & International Affairs, the journal of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, has launched.  We can expect links to book reviews and selected full-text articles from the journal, announcements, and broad, informed discussions of the kinds of ethical issues that fill the pages of the journal.  Be sure to check it out.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Charles Taylor Verdict

Charles Taylor, a former warlord who was president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, has been convicted on eleven counts of war crimes by the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in The Hague.  In a trial that began in 2006 and that, over the years, included lengthy testimony from Taylor and over a hundred other witnesses concerning conflict diamonds, amputations, and cannibalism, prosecutors sought to link particular war crimes in Sierra Leone’s civil war to Taylor without written orders or testimony putting him at the scene of the crimes.  They were able to do so using intercepted communications and testimony from Taylor’s radio operators.

Taylor was a high-ranking member of Samuel Doe’s government in Liberia following the 1980 coup that toppled William Tolbert.  In 1983, he was dismissed from the government and charged with having embezzled Liberian government funds.  He fled to the United States where, on May 24, 1984, he was arrested and charged with laundering the funds that had been embezzled through an American bank.  He escaped from prison sixteen months later—with help from the CIA, according to his own testimony at trial—and made his way to Libya where he gained support from Muammar Gaddafi.

Eventually Taylor traveled to Cote d’Ivoire where he formed the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and attacked Liberia in an effort to unseat Doe.  A rival organization eventually deposed Doe, but the civil war continued in the form of an ethnic conflict wrapped up in a struggle to control natural resources.

Elections were held in Liberia in 1997 following the conclusion of the war a year earlier.  Taylor won the election with 75 percent of the vote (using, among others, the campaign slogan “he killed my Ma, he killed my Pa, but I will vote for him”).  As president of Liberia, he supported the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel force in the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone, allegedly by supplying arms for diamonds.  It was his engagement with the RUF that prompted his indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Sentencing in the case has been set for May 3.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Security Paradox

Speaking at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government last week, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described changes in the security environment and how these are affecting defense planning.  Of particular note in the speech was his description of what he calls the "security paradox," which is the notion that although war has become less likely, "destructive technologies are available to a wider and more disparate pool of adversaries," including individuals and other non-state actors.  The result, he concludes, is that our more peaceful world is also more threatening.  In this and other respects, Gen. Dempsey's analysis echoes many of the points that Dan Caldwell and I make in Seeking Security in an Insecure World.

Gen. Dempsey began by noting the importance of the way we conceptualize the security environment.  "How we think about security, about the security environment, carries important consequences for our nation and for me, particularly for how we build our military."  This, it seems to me, is a far cry from the more traditional assumption that there are objective facts--about power, geography, and national interests, for example--that guide policy in the realm of national security.  Carrying the point further, Gen. Dempsey said, "Our own inertia can blind us to new truths standing right before our eyes. Our preconceived notions can obscure the weak signals of impending change and those are the most important signals."
Addressing the "security paradox," Gen. Dempsey noted that ballistic missiles have become part of the arsenals of mid-level powers, that bombs made of fertilizer can destroy mine-resistant military vehicles, and that cyber attacks capable of crippling a society can be launched by an individual.  "What truly concerns me as chairman is that these lethal and destructive technologies are proliferating in two directions.  They're proliferating horizontally across advanced militaries in the world, and they're proliferating vertically, down to non-state actors, especially insurgents, terrorist groups and even transnational organized crime.  As a result, more people have the ability to harm us or deny us the ability to act than at any point in my life.  And that's the security paradox."

(A video of Gen. Dempsey's talk is available here.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An Arrest Warrant for Teodorin

Reuters reports that a French prosecutor has approved the request of two investigating magistrates for an international arrest warrant targeting Teodorin Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea's long-time dictator.  Obiang is accused of corruption in connection with his ownership of a lavish estate and millions of dollars worth of luxury goods in Paris.

Obiang's father told an interviewer this week that his son, the country's minister of agriculture and forestry, has earned his money from the forestry and road-building enterprises he owns.  Teodorin's spending, however, has been more in line with what one would expect from involvement in Equatorial Guinea's much more lucrative oil industry.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Arms Control: History, Theory, and Policy

Arms Control:  History, Theory, and Policy has just been published by Praeger Security International, an imprint of ABC-Clio.  The two-volume work contains thirty full-length essays by twenty-nine different authors including some of the most noteworthy experts in the field.  There are also thirteen biographical sketches of individuals who have made significant contributions to disarmament and arms control efforts, from Bertha von Suttner to Thomas C. Schelling and Jody Williams.

Among the essays are "Strategic Arms Control since World War II" by Jeff Larsen, "NGOs, Social Movements, and Arms Control" by Jeff Knopf, "Israel, Iran, and the Arms Control Paradox in the Middle East" by Brent Talbot, and "Dilemmas of Arms Control and Cybersecurity" by Chris Demchak.  My own contributions are an introduction entitled "Arms Control's Third Era" and an essay on "Arms Control and International Law."  My co-editor Paul Viotti contributed essays entitled "A Template for Understanding Arms Control" and "Arms Control and European Security During the Cold War."

For more information, click on the book cover beneath the blog archive on the right.