The New World Order
Two recent incidents illustrate how certain international usages are fraying at the edges. In the first, Vladmir Putin has ordered Russian secret services to track down and "destroy" the killers of four Russian diplomats in Iraq, according to the BBC.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered special services to "find and destroy" the killers of four Russian diplomats taken hostage in Iraq. The head of Russia's security services immediately pledged to see Putin's order carried out. The Russian government confirmed the four men's deaths this week, after an insurgent group released a video showing two of them being killed. ...
He said Russia hoped its friends would help to identify the killers. ... On Monday, the Russian foreign ministry urged the Iraqi authorities and the US-led coalition forces to find and punish the perpetrators.
In other news, Reuters reports that Israeli warplanes have buzzed the Syrian President's palace to send a message about the crisis that is now gripping the Israeli-border with Gaza.
June 28 (Reuters) - Israeli warplanes flew over one of President Bashar al-Assad's palaces on Wednesday to warn Syria against supporting Palestinian militants who abducted an Israeli soldier, the Israeli army said. Israeli media reports said four planes carried out the overflights at low altitude, early in the morning, and created several sonic booms.
An army spokeswoman said the planes flew over Assad's palace near the city of Latakia, "because the Syrian leadership supports and harbours terrorist leaders, among them Hamas, the kidnappers of the soldier". Israeli media said Assad was at the palace at the time.
Bill Quick asks "Is 'Hunt Down and Destroy' In the Geneva Conventions?". Isn't intentionally sending warplanes over another country's capital a potential act of war? Come to think of it, wasn't Iran's decision to destroy the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia an act of war? Tut-tut. David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy argues that for some individuals, "International Law" is now the new religion. If so, throwing brickbats at its altar seems to be a flourishing cottage industry. Or is it just OIF and Gitmo prison everyone should be worried about?
I've noticed in a variety of contexts that there are some rather well-educated, articulate individuals out there who have what seems to me to be a fanatical, quasi-religious belief in "international law", and the idea that it should trump any other conflicting consideration. In the constitutional law field, this is reflected in the argument that the president and the courts should ignore domestic law and the Constitution if they conflict with international law--even if the United States isn't a party to any binding international agreements on the particular subject at hand.
But sooner or later the advocates of international law are going to realize what every judge knows. It's one thing to issue a warrant. It's another to get someone to serve it. Of course, the international law people are probably counting on the United States to ride out and do their bidding, without which their "power" over Russia or the Israeli Airforce will be slim to none. If international law is the new god it is the sort of god that needs the United States of America to carry out its divine mandates. The sort of god with clay feet, one might imagine.
Maybe a lot of handwringing over America's Gitmo and OIF really represents an internationalist fear that their influence over the USA exercised through a tacit acceptance of certain "standards" is waning. The argument that if America doesn't buy into the internationalist interpretation of the Geneva Conventions it is "weakening it's moral authority" and thereby weakening itself is really a slick inversion of the facts. What a failure to behave to the satisfaction of internationalists really does is weaken their perceived power in the way of an animal tamer whose lions have all of a sudden stopped responding to whipcracks and are more or less ignoring the man in the spangled suit in the cage with them. The Red Cross site says:
The Geneva Conventions has reached such a high level of ratification that it has obtained universality, binding even non-signatories to rules. However, with the possible exception of the Ottawa Convention, other treaties pertaining to humanitarian issues have yet to register the same amount of success, and much work remains to be done in the dissemination of IHL to educate the armed forces and the general public on the importance of IHL.
The International Law people can tell that to Russia or to the Iranian authorities who issued a fatwa against Salman Rusdie.
The task of building a lawful international world requires that its advocates be attuned to changes in the world in ways analogous to Congressmen who understand what is feasible or infeasible in their home districts. But then Congressmen are elected, while the internationalists are above all that. However, if internationalists cared to look out at 21st century, they would find it bore little resemblance to the centuries in which their laws are rooted. They would gaze upon a scene increasingly comprised of Third World and even failing states; a world where powerful international terror groups are actively looking for biological and chemical weapons to attain their apocalyptic dreams. They'd see a world where the President of Russia has ordered Death Squads to fan out across the globe and Israeli airplanes buzzing the palace of the Syrian dictator in response to the abduction of an Israeli soldier within its borders. And they'd go back to investigating Gitmo.