Monday, June 11, 2012

Intervention run amok?

A post from the Jason Fritz at the Ink Spots blog, in reaction to a brief post by Anne-Marie Slaughter, of R2P fame, has me a bit confused. There are several lines of objection in the InkSpots post, ranging from a relativist complaint, to worries about inconsistency in application, and the influence of self-interest on the latter. But, I’ll focus on one area of worry:

The post also voices concern about the world evolving into a stage of increased interventionism, thanks to the recently introduced, Slaughter-endorsed, redefinition/codification of sovereignty. A definition which builds in certain moral criteria for international acquiescence in sovereignty claims by states, criteria that must be met before such claims will be honored.

The concern here seems to be the prospect of a world somewhat similar to the state of Europe pre- Westphalia, when states would often fight each other over religious creeds, hoping to impose the correct creed. But, the possibility now, in a less religious age, would be that states would resort to war in the interests of furthering and preserving a set of secular universal moral values (or at least those the UN says are universal). Here are some snippets from AMS (the first 3) followed by one from Ink Spots, along with some running commentary: 2005 all the world’s states, on the 60th anniversary of the U.N. Charter’s passage, adopted the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, which effectively adopted a definition of sovereignty as responsibility. Sovereigns bear responsibility to not only their fellow sovereigns but also their own people, to protect them from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and grave and systematic war crimes. ..Standing up for that principle will result in a world that will be more stable, prosperous and consistent with universal values ..bringing it into being requires demonstrating firmly and quickly that when governments cross the line of genocide, or engage in crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, or grave and systematic war crimes against their own people, the world will act — with force if necessary and with the approval only of a regional organization and a majority of the members of the U.N. Security Council.
Freeze-dried version:
1. A state’s claim to the privileges of sovereignty must be honored unless the state does not protect its citizens in the various ways listed.
2. When a state fails in this regard, outside states via the UN can act in various ways, including sanctions, embargoes and the like.
3. These agents may, as a last resort use military force, but ONLY IF they have both:
a. Majority approval of the UNSC
b. Approval of some regional international organization (presumably like the Arab League)

That’s the gist.

Now, ask yourself how stringent this requirement is. I’d say it is a pretty high hurdle to clear, especially if you think of specific cases. The case in mind is obviously Syria.

Alrightee then… What are the chances for majority approval of the UNSC for military intervention in Syria? I would think; low.

Five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the UK and US. The present ten non-permanent members : Azerbaijan , India, South Africa, Colombia, Morocco, Togo, Germany, our erstwhile friend Pakistan, Guatemala and Portugal. A simple majority would be 8 of these members. Suppose we are able to garner yea votes from the UK, US and Germany. (I actually have grave doubts this would happen, but for the sake of the argument, assume so). What then?

Russia would be a ‘nay,’ ditto China. The Paks are out. Why would any of these ‘universal value’ flaunting nations want to set a precedent that might backfire on them?

I suspect France would also vote ‘no.’ That leaves India (hey, they might vote yes just to jab Pakistan), Azerbaijan, SA, Columbia, Morocco, Togo, Guatemala and Portugal. Of these eight, five would have to take the dive, knowing they may be called upon to provide men or material.

I suspect that’s a tall order. And, even if you clear this UN hurdle, you have to go to that more local organization, the AL, and get a majority of those states to OK things. A majority of those states are universal-value flaunters. Good luck with that.

So, even if there is universal outrage at the barbarism of the Syrian regime, and even if the U.S., already coming off two major wars, is willing to head up the enforcement action, I’d say the world will actually end up using various means short of war, much as it has done in the past. Absent some grave threat to the US, or the world, we would not militarily intervene. That seems a reasonable read of things, even given the new R2P definition of sovereignty has become ‘official’. So, now we move on to JF’s worries:
I'm also wary of a world where nations go to war to uphold their values beyond their borders. Such a world is fraught with nationalistic militarism more reminiscent of the early 20th Century instead of the 21st. I'm also wary of a world that except in the most exceptional cases uses war - the purposive taking of life - in order to protect life. There is a contradiction in the American use of lethal force to promote our values for human life and I'm not sure that parts of the world understand that. The potential for even greater suffering contrary to universal values is not only significant, it is likely. I am with Dr. Slaughter in her disgust for the Syrian regime for what they are doing to their own people. I agree that they have violated their responsibilities as leaders. But I hesitate to support the use American military force to wage war in an action that is likely to result in the deaths of more civilians than the regime's current actions. Values are an American interest, but are they worth war without overwhelming support from the rest of the globe? I don't think so. Values are a great reason to flex the United States' ample diplomatic and economic capabilities as this approach is more in line with our values.
My question is simple: Does the implementation of the basic outline of Slaughter’s view, if assumed to be the case, jibe with the projections given in this post? F cites the early 20th Century as an analogical case. I’ve mentioned pre-Westphalian Europe as a case where interventionism had run amok. Are we on the brink of something similar happening here?

Assume the UN were to adopt the Anne Marie-Sanka-Three-Step-Plan above outlined, and really give it serious codification. Suppose, also that the permanent members of the UNSC remain, and rotation of the ten non-permanent members continues. Suppose too, that you have the same interplay of self-interest, and politics in the decision making process as we now have.

There is no reason to think things would change drastically. Interventions would still remain relatively rare, and, given current economic realities here in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, I suspect the ultimate step would be taken less frequently than has been the case. The world would tend to stop at the penultimate step. Even supposing an economic recovery, I don’t see an uptick, certainly not an upward trend over time. Seems to me that what we already have, with the UN, its Charter, and the Declaration of Human Rights, is something like R2P thought to begin with, even if it doesn't yet have the handy Sanka freeze-dried-three-step. And, guess what? We are not in a world like that of early 20th century or pre-Westphalian Europe.