Wednesday, June 28, 2006

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.


Blogger MG said...


Recall the story of the "drunk and the lightpole".

He lost his wallet in a dark alley, but searched for it under the lightpole because that is where the light was.

These "internationalists" focus their haughty disparagements on the US because it is one of the few countries that has a substantial population that worries about being well-liked (h.t. to Willy Loman) by the international "community".

They don't bother with thug regimes, or states with a reputation for acting on their own because they know they have no influence there, even though effective influence there would be most helpful to an international "order" .

6/28/2006 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

"Fraying at the edges"... where there is no legitimacy, there is no law. The ratification of State protocols by diplomats representing vicious, rogue regimes (Cuba, Iran, North Korea to name a few) in actuality is a PR exercise without bearing on international reality. Long before Darfur, Kosovo, Rwanda made "international law" a bitter jest, the UN in particular has acted to sabotage the very concept.

"Political science" (sic) has long posited that domestic security requires a State "monopoly of force" (excluding an armed citizenry capable of individual self-defense). Surely the "international community" (spare us) is not about to concede such a role to the U.S. The concept is centuries premature, or perhaps awaits establishment of a moon-based colony capable of dropping nuclear disincentives down the planetary gravity-well as occasion warrants.

Not skepticism but cynicism, brutal and all-encompassing, is called for in "internationalist" conventicles. Scratch the surface, you will invariably find a nest of bureaucratic potato-bugs willing to say anything in defense of their perogatives. Nothing whatever affects them, and in the crunch... casualties are indeed regretable, but at least we're safe. Boutros-Ghali, Kofi Anan, and their ilk are moral slobs. Get used to it.

6/28/2006 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

The Islamists could not be doing a better job at bringing about their own destruction. The Internationalist Left is already irrelevant. Ignore them. As for Putin, let him do his own dirty work. We owe him less than nothing.

6/28/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

The 'International Law crowd' seem to have selected the 'King Canute' path.

The rest of us are more interested in making sure we know how to swim.

6/28/2006 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Perhaps international law in the 21st century really means "heads America's enemies win, tails America loses"...

6/28/2006 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

2164th - "As for Putin, let him do his own dirty work. We owe him less than nothing."

Actually, if we were serious about "Friendship" with Russia, we had some strange ways of showing our "pal status". Pushed NATO right to their doorstep. Helped Oligarchs access Jewish financiers so as to bribe Yeltsin and gain Russia's resources for a pittance. Meddling in elections in nations bordering Russia, persisting even after strong warnings. Using 9/11 as an excuse to get bases in Central Asia and then try prying them out of the Russian sphere of interest. Screwing them on their debt burden.

Then the worm turned. Oil revenues exploded, enabling debt to be repaid in full. Putin got much of the stolen wealth back from the Oligarchs. Russia and China formed the Shanghai Cooperative Alliance and began pushing us out of Central Asia while we were bogged down in Iraq and reluctant to increase military size because that would jeopardize tax cuts for the wealthy, Bush's most important policy....

Yeah, they fudged on Iraq. So did France and China, and we really don't gain by making them all permanent enemies.

It would behoove us to realize:

1. Russia has the largest oil stocks in the world if we count the Central Asian nations now relinquished by the US due to our botched Iraq postwar, back to Russia. They have the 2nd largest national gas reserves, that much of Europe looks to them for. We really don't wish to lose ANOTHER major energy source to China.

2. We need Russia to consider stop selling their top-line weapons systems to China as payback for our crony capitalist mess we put on them, and the Ukraine meddling. Long-term, China would like East Siberia. Arming China is bad for both nations.

3. We need Russia as a partner against radical Islam, etc., etc.

6/28/2006 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Foobarista said...

Liberal internationalism works great when things are completely stable, ie when there's absolutely nothing for it to do. This is why it "worked" during the Cold War - or at least it appeared to work well enough to fool many into thinking that it was the UN, not the US and USSR and their static rivalry, that held things together.

Now that things are more fluid, there's "stuff to do" - and the international outfits are simply not up to the job - especially the UN. Their structure makes it impossible for them to do anything other than posturing.

What works is what always worked: coalitions of the willing, led the old-fashioned way by a single or small group of leaders organizing them and pulling them along.

What we're now seeing is that world leaders aren't even pretending that these outfits work anymore...

6/28/2006 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Or as the boys at westhawk say about Russia and it's experience in Lebanon.

"... If the Russians, through the use of ruthless pressure, quickly clear up this crime, their success would, rightly, send a shockwave through Washington’s halls of government. After over 2500 American deaths and $300 billion in expenditure (not to mention prolonged Iraqi suffering), it would certainly seem reasonable after such a Russian success to ask if everyone on the White House staff, at the Pentagon, and on Capitol Hill was truly “thinking outside the box” when it came to American tactics in Iraq.

It would be ironic if Russian methods gave American policy-makers a lesson in ethical standards and their consequences. ..."

Which would seem reasonable.

6/28/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...


Some of what you say is true about Russia. We did take NATO to their front door but we did not push as much as we were pulled. Talk to Rumanians, Poles or Bulgarians. They had an up close and personal relationship with the Russians and they voted for NATO.

The debt argument is simplistic and you know better. As for a Jewish plot taking over the oil industry for a pittance, Yeltsin set the rules for privatization and Jewish entrepreneurs had wealthy contacts in Israel. The privatization program was shabby but if was ex-communist party operatives who were the exploiters. There was no Jewish conspiracy. That is silly and I think you know that as well, and I am no apologist for Israel.

If you think an ex-KGB thug, who is working against democratic values and taking Russia back to an autocracy is a good thing, I disagree. Russia is an adversary of the US as is China. We are not natural allies. Nor are we guaranteed adversaries. Helping Russia fight Islamists while Russia is helping the greatest Islamic terror state develop nuclear technology will get us nothing. Believing that Russia will stop selling military technology to China is another fantasy I do not subscribe to. They will sell anything to anyone.

The US does not want China or Russia as an enemy. As long as the US is the solo Super Power, it will have neither one of them as an ally. Dream on.

6/28/2006 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Starling David Hunter said...

Not without precedent is Putin's decision to have the perpetrators tracked down and liquidated. The details are fuzzy but I seem to recall that Hezbollah (?) kidnapped and killed(?) a KGB agent in Lebanon in the mid 1980's. The KGB responded by kidnapping a relative of a leader deemed responsible for the kidnapping. Seems I recall the Russians sent the body back in pieces.

Not that I condone this sort of thing but I do think that Russian diplomats/KGB agents were never so molested again in Lebanon.

My first guess is that an even worse fate awaits the murderers of the four Russian diplomats in Iraq.

Perhaps it's a no-brainer but my other guess is that not one of the killers would refuse American custody -or even a stint of undetermined length in Gitmo followed by a military tribunal and execution by firing squad- rather than to face Putin's brand of justice.

6/28/2006 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I for one welcome the widening of the inevitbale Arab Wars, althoughing limiting Russia to special forces hit teams should be a priority. Good for Putin, good for Israel. Let the fools pay their debts now and early. This will make for good sport.

6/28/2006 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We thank Desert Rat for referring to our posting on this subject:

But what if the Russians get their man?

And, Starling David Hunter, we do discuss the 1985 incident with the Russian diplomats in Beirut.

Wretchard is spot on with this post. If the Russians somehow successfully execute Mr. Putin's order, it will be another embarrassing setback for the international lawyers. In a messy and frustrating world, effectiveness is mighty appealing.


6/28/2006 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Putin is retro, absolutely retro. It is amazing to me that anyone could be so stupid as to try and turn the clock back to Soviet Union days. From the selfish perspective as a citizen of a rival country, I couldn't imagine a better president to sabotage Russia's future. Compare and contrast to China's "communist" leaders who know that free enterprise is power. Russia actually has all the advantages as an oil producing country.

6/28/2006 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Putin, an ex-KGB agent, is the spy who wouldn't come in from the cold.

6/28/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I keep asking, and no one seems to be able to tell me, where is this "international law" written down?

What does it consist of, specifically, that we are accused of breaking it?

And finally, was I ever asked to vote on whether or not I agreed to live under it?

P.S. See this article, "US Tells the World 'No'" on second day of gun ban conference for another international brilliant idea that ain't never gonna make it in the US of A.

6/28/2006 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

Putin may, at this point, have a lot of oil, but Russia is a Dead Man Walking. Putin's desire to play Gorillas in the Mist, belies his reputation as a shrewd guy. It won't be long before he or his successor runs out of cards to play. They will then be sorry that they were such bitches towards the US.

6/28/2006 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger J.Fred said...


OK. When Geneeeral Anti-Iraqi/ Anti-American VLADCHIK PUTIN's KGB 'spetz-natz' invade Iraq to punish the Muhajideen Sura Council [sic?], I trust we'll intercept them and put them up in the Abu-Ghraibener Hilton, no? After all, it would be bad form to spray them with leftover 'Eau de WMD a la Russe', would it not?

So, Mr. President, and my conservativish friends, here is an excellent opportunity to teach those Russo-fascisto-commie autocrats a thing or two about the Rule of Law, no?

Hmmm, and, perhaps, just in time for new, Iraqi 'Religion of Peace or Pieces--We'll Pick for You' Abu-Ghraibischer Admins to welcome them.

To quote brighter lights than I:


6/28/2006 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

I don't think the Russians needed to give anyone any ideas, Rat.

I'd say give it time.

6/28/2006 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...


Couple of points: Afghanistan, Chechnya. How many years did OBL kick Russia's butt in Afghanistan? How many weeks did it take the US military to win there? Putin is still fighting in Chechnya.

Winning a counter-insurgency war requires gaining the hearts and minds of the local population, as we are seeing in Iraq. Sending people's body parts home bit by bit in the mail doesn't help to win hearts and minds.

If we started to work like that we'd lose, because our young men and women in the military would quit. They believe they're fighting a moral and justified war and wouldn't believe in it if we were cutting people up and mailing their parts home to their mothers.

We can certainly argue strategy and tactics in Iraq but I really don't think that Putin has anything to teach us.

6/28/2006 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...


Where is international law written down? I hope you have some time on your hands. Start here:

International Law
International Humanitarian Law
Geneva Conventions

Individual citizens don't get to vote on whether their country signs an international treaty or convention. Their elected officials do that.

6/28/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

"Sending people's body parts home bit by bit in the mail doesn't help to win hearts and minds."

Who says you have to cut off body parts and send them through the mail in order to get the point across?

6/28/2006 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Home delivered,like the NYTimes,
no mail involved.

6/28/2006 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

I also know that we have our own limits (not yet approached) and that's not a bad thing.

6/28/2006 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger whit said...

It will be very interesting to watch the leftwing media to see if they give Putin "a pass" for his decidedly un-PC comments.

Apologies to friends and allies but from this writer's seat in USA, the outside world appears to be increasingly dodgy.

You can expect that most cognizant, informed US citizens will be extremely wary of entering new treaties or agreements. For instance right now, the UN gun grabbers are plotting in Turtle Bay. Not long ago, the issue was the Human Rights Council. A few years ago, it was the International Criminal Court. Still undecided is the Law of the Seas.

As long as the Lilliputians attack American soverignty, conservatives in America will look astance at entangling alliances with the rest of the world.

6/29/2006 02:15:00 AM  
Blogger dchamil said...

Speaking of the difficulty of the enforcement of international law, one observer posed this riddle: What is the difference between international law and Santa Claus?

Santa Claus is only believed in by small children, while international law is only believed in by international law professors.

6/29/2006 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger Dr. Scott said...

International law is an oxymoron. There is no law without a sovereign. There is no sovereign over the nations.

Now, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is indeed over the nations, so I suppose you could be talking about His precepts, in the shape of natural law. Was this what you had in mind? Didn't think so.

A better term is "international custom". If you follow these principles, other nations probably won't go to war against you even if you're doing something they don't like. That's all it means.

6/29/2006 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger ipw533 said...

The more I read about where Wilsonian internationalism has led us, the more I appreciate men like Richelieu, Washington, Jackson and Bismarck....

6/30/2006 06:41:00 PM  

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