The European Tribune is a forum for thoughtful dialogue of European and international issues. You are invited to post comments and your own articles.
Please REGISTER to post.
First some historical context: Medieval wars often involved battles between relatively small armies and left civil societies relatively unscathed One Monarch/ruler might be replaced by another, and there could be great economic disruption as an army rampaged across a countryside seeking food and women to sustain a rapacious army, but it didn't necessarily involved a systematic attempt at genocide - the attempt to completely wipe out an indigenous population and replace it with an invading one. The officer class/nobility of different countries were often just engaged in a battle over who should own/rule what. Royal intermarriages, shifting diplomatic alliances, an emergent common interests in trade could mitigate the conflicts and even a war might only replace one ruling class with another.
Then a few things happened. Populations rose exponentially. Lebensraum became an issue for some. Technology hugely increased the scale of slaughter possible and also gradually blurred the distinctions between combatants and civilians. The twentieth century saw two world wars of unparalleled scale and systematic attempts at civilian genocide - by Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and a variety of smaller scale despots. Institutions like the League of Nations, International Courts of Justice and UN emerged to try and put some order to international relations and limit the scope of repression and war. An emerging body of international law, generated by Treaties, International Courts and International organisations began to emerge - and became, haltingly, and selectively, more enforceable.
All of these things limit the absolute right of a Sovereign or a state to do absolutely what it pleases. The concept of "human rights" as distinct from the rights of citizenship that might or might not be conferred by individual states emerged. Thus the right of "National Self-Determination" became ever more constrained. The world might be made up of more or less independent Nation states but all were, to a greater or lesser extent subject to International Law - usually in inverse proportion to their military and economic strength. And all of this implied - if it were to be more than just paperwork or window dressing - that there were ways of enforcing such laws.
Thus there emerged a range of measures - ranging from diplomatic pressures, economic sanctions, arms embargoes, clandestine actions, media/propaganda wars, threats of prosecution for "war crimes" etc. - which could place some limits of State Sovereignty short of the absolute sanction of military intervention and formal war. However whilst these changed the nature of international relations, they didn't entirely replace the age old practices of wars of conquest or domination where the powerful states subjugated the weaker. Whatever change there was, was gradual.
A few factors accelerated the trend:
Moreover there isn't a clearly distinct Global Judiciary whose decisions are clearly and invariably enforceable. Decisions are enforced only is it is in the interests of major players with the power to do so. The USA routinely flouts Treaty obligations with impunity. Military interventions as in Libya are the exception rather than the norm. Many would argue that a law selectively enforced is no law at all. Others argue that it is better than no law at all. But clearly enforcement is costly and which Nation wants to put its soldiers at risk unless it is clearly its its self-defined national interest? This inconsistency undermines the legitimacy of the international system, but is it not better than nothing, and a welcome sign of progress?
Countries such as Israel and Apartheid South Africa are/were particularly vociferous in their complaints of Double standards. Whatever their failings, weren't Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Rwanda etc. far more egregious violations of human rights? Objectively yes. But if you claim to be a "western democracy" upholding "western" standards, you will also be judged by those standards. So there is a value in setting international norms and standards for human rights and Governmental conduct which can gradually be applied more generally across a wider sphere.
It would be silly to deny that this movement for Greater global governance isn't also being used by major players to further their interests. But perhaps even sillier to deny that a movement towards higher global governance standards isn't necessary and good - whatever its limitations at any one point in time. History hasn't ended. Wars will continue to be fought. Military and Economic might rather than justice will still determine the outcome of conflicts in many cases. Self interest and Greed hasn't been abolished. But a generalised movement towards higher standards of global governance together with a greater array of non-violent tools for enforcing them cannot but be welcomed - in my view - whatever the merits of a specific intervention in a specific conflict.
Index of Frank's Diaries
Countries such as Israel and Apartheid South Africa are/were particularly vociferous in their complaints of Double standards. Whatever their failings, weren't Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Rwanda etc. far more egregious violations of human rights? Objectively yes. But if you claim to be a "western democracy" upholding "western" standards, you will also be judged by those standards.
Aside from Israel's claims to be a democracy, there is the far more compelling case that The WestTM is complicit in Israel's crimes, by virtue of active support for them, where it was merely a spectator - and a comparatively impotent one - to Pol Pot's crimes.
The WestTM had no power to compel Pol Pot to respect human rights. Having no economic or diplomatic relations worth speaking of with a regime rather limits your range of sanctions. But The WestTM could compel Israel to respect human rights by the simple expedient of withdrawing the generous support extended to it.
Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
Pol Pot was a consequence of the greater Vietnam War. He came out of - for lack of a better term for this discussion - extreme violations of human rights and international law by the US.
aspiring to genteel poverty
by IdiotSavant - Jun 24 14 comments
by Oui - Jun 25 42 comments
by IdiotSavant - Jun 16 15 comments
by Frank Schnittger - Jun 15 14 comments
by Frank Schnittger - Jun 10 15 comments
by Frank Schnittger - Jun 6 4 comments
by Bernard - Jun 6 23 comments
by Oui - Jun 8 107 comments
by Oui - Jun 30
by Oui - Jun 296 comments
by Oui - Jun 2723 comments
by Oui - Jun 2542 comments
by IdiotSavant - Jun 2414 comments
by Oui - Jun 2310 comments
by Oui - Jun 23
by gmoke - Jun 22
by Oui - Jun 20
by Oui - Jun 1916 comments
by asdf - Jun 184 comments
by Oui - Jun 184 comments
by IdiotSavant - Jun 1615 comments
by Frank Schnittger - Jun 1514 comments
by Oui - Jun 1311 comments
by Oui - Jun 1240 comments
by Frank Schnittger - Jun 1015 comments
by Oui - Jun 95 comments
by Oui - Jun 8107 comments