Archive for the ‘International Law & Organizations’ Category

17
Sep

Europe cannot decide the course of the Arab spring, but it still matters

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After the butchering of soldiers in the first world war and of civilians in the second, one should not be too hard on Europeans—especially Germans—for losing their love of killing. Post-war Europe is, increasingly, past wars. To judge from the parliamentary vote in Britain and the debate in France over military action in Syria, even the more martial countries are now less warlike. Yet pacifism can be too much of a good thing. When news of the chemical-weapons attacks in Syria broke on August 21st, European foreign ministers were holding an emergency meeting in Brussels. The gassing of civilians was barely discussed; the topic of the day was the military coup in Egypt. Eurocrats claimed that information was too scant; cynics said many ministers wanted to ignore the horror lest they were forced to act.

The European Union only formally got around to Syria on September 7th, at a long-planned meeting in Vilnius, after an embarrassing flip-flop by Germany. The day before the Germans had refused to sign a declaration by Western leaders at the G20 summit demanding “a strong international response”. They reversed course when a softer version, with an exhortation for UN action and peace talks, was agreed on in Vilnius. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, clearly did not want a repeat of 2011, when she was isolated among Western leaders in rejecting military intervention in Libya. But nor did she want, just before a German election, to allow the Social Democrats to repeat their feat of 2002, when Gerhard Schröder came from behind to win the election partly by strongly opposing military intervention in Iraq. The odd thing is that nobody has even asked Germany, or most other Europeans, to take part in strikes against Syria. Only Britain and France have the wherewithal to fire cruise missiles from a safe distance. There was no pressure to arm the rebels, a cause of previous divisions. Yet still the Europeans havered.

All of which raises questions about Europe’s declared wish to be a “global player”. The Arab world is where the EU should make its influence felt. Thanks to its growing energy independence America may one day feel less burdened by the region. Not so Europe: the Middle East is next door. France and Britain took the lead in Libya (with much American help). But for Jan Techau, director of Carnegie Europe, a think-tank in Brussels, the vacillation over the chemical attacks in Syria shows that “the Europeans have never been able to get out of the passenger seat to become the driver—and silently they are quite happy with that.”

For decades the Middle East has been a region where, as an old cliché puts it, “America plays, Europe pays”. This remains true in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The EU is a huge financial supporter of the Palestinian Authority. But it was the Americans who got the two sides to start talking again. Now the EU stands accused by Israel of prejudging the talks by issuing formal guidelines to prevent any funding of projects in territories that were occupied by Israel in 1967. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on September 14, 2013 (from the print edition).

16
Sep

By William J. Broad and David E. Sanger

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Workers under the supervision of United Nations inspectors in 1996 destroyed growth media that could be used to produce biological weapons in Iraq.

When Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had to convince the world 10 years ago that he was serious about giving up his chemical weapons, he dragged warheads and bombs into the desert and flattened them with bulldozers.

When Saddam Hussein, defeated in the Persian Gulf war of 1991, had to demonstrate that he was giving up his chemical arsenal, Iraqis protected by little more than tattered cloths over their faces poured some of the agents into ditches and set them on fire — to the shock of inspectors watching in heavy “moon suits.”

Weapons experts and diplomats say that if President Bashar al-Assad is serious about complying with the landmark agreement announced in Geneva on Saturday, he will have to take similarly dramatic action in the coming weeks. Anything short of an immediate demonstration of willingness, they say, will be a sign that Mr. Assad is seeking to drag out the process, betting that time is on his side as memories fade of the attack that is said to have killed more than 1,400 people and prompted a military standoff with the United States.

The benchmarks laid out in the Geneva agreement seek to capitalize on the momentum by imposing quick deadlines, including a requirement that Syria submit a complete list of its chemical weapons, and storage and production facilities within a week. The agreement also requires “immediate and unfettered” access to chemical weapons sites by international inspectors.

The agreement calls for the destruction of chemical agent mixing equipment by November and, perhaps most ambitious, for Syria to completely rid itself of chemical weapons and production facilities in less than a year, a timetable that would set a speed record and one that many experts doubt could be completed even with Syria’s full cooperation.

Experts say speed is of the essence.

“You have a very limited time to do as much as you can with maximum political support,” said David A. Kay, who led major efforts in the 1990s to find and destroy Iraq’s unconventional arms. “The political support will start to erode. The people you’re inspecting will get tired. So you want to do as much as you can, as quickly as you can.” Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on September 14, 2013 (a version of this article appears in print on September 15, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: If History Is Any Measure, the Clock Is Ticking).

12
Sep

Los comicios alemanes del 22 de septiembre son cruciales para el futuro de la UE

Por José Ignacio Torreblanca, Profesor Asociado de IE School of International Relations

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El problema es que, en la UE actual, las cosas son exactamente al revés o, al menos vistas desde Alemania, adoptan un cariz muy diferente. Como ponen de manifiesto las encuestas, una mayoría de alemanes rechaza cualquier tipo de mecanismo que suponga asumir o mutualizar las deudas en las que han incurrido otros países. De ahí que mientras que una gran parte de los europeos querría que las elecciones alemanas pusieran en marcha una dinámica de cambios que llevara a completar la unión monetaria con aquellos elementos de los que en la actualidad carece (eurobonos, un presupuesto propio, un mecanismo de gestión de crisis bancarias común, etc.), los alemanes parecen querer a toda costa que las elecciones no introduzcan cambios de importancia en la actual política europea de su gobierno. Como señala la encuesta recientemente realizada por el Instituto Open Europe, en Alemania no hay apetito por políticas que profundicen la integración europea sino que, al contrario, por “más Europa” se entiende “más control” sobre el resto de los países.

El curso político europeo 2013-2014 se abrirá con las elecciones generales alemanas el 22 de septiembre y se cerrará con las elecciones al Parlamento Europeo el 25 de mayo de 2014. En teoría, las primeras deberían tener una importancia secundaria y las segundas ser cruciales. Pero, paradojas de la vida política europea, la situación es más bien la contraria: las primeras son cruciales para el futuro de Europa mientras que las europeas tendrán una importancia marginal. Previsiblemente, un gran número de europeos, que desde 1979 tienen derecho a elegir a un Parlamento, por cierto, bastante poderoso, ni se molestarán en acercarse a las urnas en mayo de 2013 (recuérdese que en las últimas elecciones europeas, celebradas en junio de 2009, la participación fue del 43%). Sin embargo, conscientes la importancia que para su futuro ha adquirido Alemania, es bastante probable que, si se les diera la oportunidad, muchos europeos sí que tuvieran interés en votar en las elecciones alemanas.

Todo ello nos habla de la gigantesca disociación sobre la cual está organizada la Unión Europea: mientras que bienes, servicios, capitales y personas circulan libremente en un enorme territorio articulado en torno a una moneda común, la política sigue organizándose sobre la base de una serie de unidades nacionales sumamente fragmentadas y de muy desigual tamaño y capacidad. Esta incoherencia entre las fronteras de la política y la economía es lo que llevó al Emperador Marco Aurelio Antonino a extender la ciudadanía a todos los habitantes del Imperio Romano. El edicto de Caracalla, promulgado en el año 212, utilizaría un argumento de bastante actualidad: “es legítimo que el mayor número no sólo esté sometido a todas las cargas, sino que también este asociado a mi victoria”. Está asociación entre los impuestos y la legitimidad de un régimen político es pues una constante en la historia y ha llegado hasta nuestros días en forma de una regla de muy sencilla: uno debe votar donde contribuya con sus impuestos y financiar con sus impuestos sólo aquello sobre lo que pueda votar. Seguir leyendo…

Artículo publicado por El País el 9 de septiembre de 2013.

 

11
Sep

All lives have the same value, but the political and legal consequences of the use of chemical weapons have to be different

By José Ignacio Torreblanca, Associate Professor at IE School of International Relations

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Chemical weapons are responsible for only about one percent of the deaths in the Syrian civil war. To propose military intervention on account of 1,429 deaths, among more than 100,000 victims of conventional weapons, is sheer hypocrisy – or worse, proof that the US has hidden intentions in the region. If all deaths are equal, what does it matter how you cause them?

This is an oft-repeated argument of late. But it’s a wrongheaded one. All lives have the same value, but the political and legal consequences of the use of chemical weapons have to be different. The international community has placed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in a special class, as weapons of mass destruction, under a special statute, regulating their possession and proliferation and prohibiting their use. This expresses a conviction that, although war appears to be intrinsic to the human condition, there should be limits to it.

It is true that this approach, of trying to humanize what is essentially inhuman, is fraught with contradiction and paradox. Remember, for example, that most of the 800,000 victims of the genocide in Rwanda were hacked to death with machetes imported from China, while the international community looked on and did nothing. Likewise, apart from “strategic” nuclear bombs capable of destroying whole cities and killing millions, there are states that possess stocks of “tactical” nuclear weapons, whose destructive power is only of a slightly higher order than that of conventional weapons.

Be that as it may, the international community has classified conflict not merely in terms of the number of deaths, but has rightly drawn a red line against the use of weapons of mass destruction. To trivialize the use of chemical weapons not only degrades us morally; precisely because we know there are regimes prepared to use them, it also opens up intolerable prospects for the future. In the case of Syria, as we await the final report from the UN inspectors, the mass of evidence brought forward by the US, France and Germany is more than sufficient to conclude that they have, in fact, been used. To render this use more costly is not only justified, but necessary.

Military intervention is justified not only retrospectively, to punish their use, but prospectively, to ensure that Bashar al-Assad does not use them again, and thus, as a future warning to those who may think that the prohibition is only relative. Read more…

As published in www.elpais.com on September 10, 2013.

9
Sep

By Bill Keller

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The United States has just spent thousands of American lives in a distant land for a victory that now seems hollow, if indeed it can be called a victory at all. Our own country, moreover, is emerging from a recession, dispirited and self-absorbed, worried about the fragility of the recovery and the state of our democracy. Idealism is in short supply. So, as another far-off war worsens, Americans are loath to take sides, even against a merciless dictator, even to the extent of sending weapons. The voices opposed to getting involved range from the pacifist left to the populist right. The president, fearful that foreign conflict will undermine his domestic agenda, vacillates.

This is the United States in 1940. Sound a little familiar?

I’ve been reading two engrossing new histories of that time — “Those Angry Days” by Lynne Olson and “1940” by Susan Dunn — both focused on the ferocious and now largely forgotten resistance Franklin D. Roosevelt had to navigate in order to stand with our allies against Hitler.

Of course, 2013 is not 1940. The Middle East is not Europe. President Obama is not F.D.R. But America is again in a deep isolationist mood. As a wary Congress returns from its summer recess to debate Syria, as President Obama prepares to address the nation, it is instructive to throw the two periods up on the screen and examine them for lessons. How does a president sell foreign engagement to a public that wants none of it?

The cliché of the season is that Americans are war-weary from our long slogs in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is true, but not the whole story. To be sure, nothing has done more to discredit an activist foreign policy than the blind missionary arrogance of the Bush administration. But the isolationist temper is not just about the legacy of Iraq. Economic troubles and political dysfunction have contributed to a loss of confidence. Add to the mix a surge of xenophobia, with its calls for higher fences and big-brotherly attention to the danger within. (These anxieties also helped give rise to the expanding surveillance state, just as nativism in that earlier period gave license to J. Edgar Hoover’s obsessive eavesdropping.)

Isolationism is strong in the Tea Party, where mistrust of executive power is profound and where being able to see Russia from your front yard counts as mastery of international affairs. But sophisticated readers of The New York Times are not immune, or so it seems from the comments that arrive when I write in defense of a more assertive foreign policy. (In recent columns I’ve advocated calibrated intervention to shift the balance in Syria’s civil war and using foreign aid to encourage democracy in Egypt.) Not our problems, many readers tell me. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on September 8, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appears in print on September 9, 2013, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Our New Isolationism).