International Law or Imperial License?

04 Inter-State Conflict, 05 Civil War, 07 Other Atrocities, 10 Security, 11 Society, Corruption, Cultural Intelligence, Government, Military, Peace Intelligence
Who, Me?

What kind of law is this?

Anne Orford 29 March 2011


Many aspects of the Libyan situation remain unclear: the scope of the mandate given to UN member states by Security Council Resolution 1973, the broader aims of the intervention, how many civilians have been killed and by whom, and who the rebels represent. One thing, however, seems clear: the international intervention is considered to be legal. International lawyers have agreed with the UK government’s advice that Security Council Resolution 1973 ‘provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for the deployment of UK forces and military assets to achieve the resolution’s objectives’. Legal experts have been quick to suggest that Resolution 1973 gives authority for any action thought necessary not only to protect civilians, but to protect areas inhabited by civilians.

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If today’s Western leadership is really ready, in the words of William Hague, to support the people of the Middle East in their ‘aspirations for a better future’, it will need to do more than use international law to target its enemies while protecting its friends. In rejecting their authoritarian leaders, the current wave of Arab revolutionaries is also rejecting the international system that has profited from their existence. As the US declares yet again that Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorists while bombs rain down on Libya, as protesters continue to be killed in Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and as the numbers of people detained continue to grow, the idea that Nato is working to support the freedom fighters of this Arab spring rings increasingly hollow. The bombing of Libya in the name of revolution may be legal, but the international law that authorises such action has surely lost its claim to be universal.
Phi Beta Iota: Emphasis added.  The “responsibility to protect” is a sound concept, but cannot be rooted, as it is now, in being an extension of the Western colonial powers that nurtured the 44 dictators and created mass atrocities in the first place; and at the behest of the UN Security Council, which is dominated by the top five proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (including small arms).  The five billion poor have every reasonable right to consider the West predatory and illegitimate.  The public–the tax payers–in the West have every reasonable right to call into question all that has been done–and spent–in their name but not in their interest.  There are simple solutions to all of this, including an Open Source Agency proliferating the open tri-fecta (software, spectrum, and intelligence); a global multinational information-sharing and sense-making grid; a global commitment to documenting the “true cost” of every good, service, and behavior; and a global range of gifts table at the micro level.  Anything less is a continuing crime against humanity.

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