Monday, 18 August 2008

Russia's Georgian Rampage

Did anyone hear about what Miliband or Brown had to say whilst the Russians were on their excursion into Georgia? No. Because, whilst the crisis raged, they didn't say anything. They were probably hiding under their beds wishing like a child, that the horrible monster would just disappear. Now they can just pretend it was shadows caused by the light through the window. Did any eminent international lawyer dare stick a head above the parapet? No, incase one day the whole thing ends up in court and they might be precluded from representing either side. Only David Cameron responded appropriately and firmly to the lawless actions by Russia. Who needs to seek a Security Council resolution these days to justify the use of force? The council is irrelevant- we might as well say the truth and state that the whole thing is defunct and perhaps only useful when the little countries are being a bit naughty. Then only of use to satisfy the loopy lefty tree-huggers that we are doing something. Converse to the recent Russian actions, at least with regard to the NATO air-strikes in Kosovo, Security Council Resolutions 1119 and 1203 talked of a 'humanitarian catastrophe' and thus provided some legitimate basis upon which to act. As far as the so called genocide and other humanitarian breaches putatively claimed by Russia, they were so axiomatic and clear cut that it was worth not even bothering tabling them at the UN. One state can subjectively decide by itself and the whole system will operate better that way. A global community based on tit-for-tat is far more sensible idea, one is inclined to agree with Mr. Putin.
One might be forgiven for thinking that the borders of another sovereign state are supposed to inviolable since the drafting of the UN Treaty, yet we have one country who seems to think that is irrelevant. No one dares stand up to the menace and threat this action is to the sovereign equality of states and the long term protection of that principle.
To be honest the Security Council has not been on best behaviour since the end of the cold war. Its mandate is to maintain ‘international peace and security’ under the UN Charter. It has used this, dubiously, to build courts such as the International tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International tribunal for Rwanda. These tribunals brought in alien international criminal rules to try persons that had little or no idea that such rules existed. Legitimacy was assumed on the basis that a few utopian idealists thought it was the moral thing to do. The consent of either state to this system was wholly ignored, despite state consent being the cornerstone of the UN charter and international law. The Security Council went further in its desire to intervene in matters that seemed to be internal affairs of states. In 1994, through the passing of Resolution 940, it would decide what type of Government ought to be present in Haiti, when the dictator baby-doc brought a coup to the democratically elected Government. That was, perhaps, a good thing if one weighs the morality of democracy over the legitimacy of the Council in acting in this way. However, there was a lack of consistency in this approach. This was, of course, conveniently forgotten when the fraudulent dictator Mugabe demanded a second election through sheer brutal use of violence. No action was sought, express or implied when the janjaweed were bashing Sudanese villages to pieces from the Security Council. The use of force in Iraq 2003 was justified with complex, difficult arguments of implied authorisations (those that the Council does not state expressly) based on Security Council resolutions passed over a decade earlier. Despite the soundness of these contentions, what the lawyers that backed the war failed to realize is that there comes a point when sophistry of a legal argument is so great that it undermines its credibility. Such circumstances, as Iraq, demonstrate the clear lack of uniformity of the system, as there is no consensus of values amongst its states. Those who criticize the system excessively forget that the Security Council or the UN was not designed to be a cohesive system of accountability of states. The system was designed to defer largely to will of states. There has always been a clear disparity of values between far too many states for a cohesive, uniform and practical international institution to work. Perhaps it is time for a league of democracies to form their own separate institution with distinct values, where real economic sanctions will have effect and isolationism hurts those intransigent states hard. Or a system based on accountability with a court whose judgments can be enforced against assets of states who violate the principles in other states. The system’s weaknesses were hidden by the cold-war. It was not used in that period as security could not, ironically, have been left to a neutral international institution with a power to make real hard enforceable law. State sovereignty, at the cost of accountability, has been preserved often to justify a human tribal insecurity of placing one’s nation free of the possibility of commonly agreed rules. It was only the complacent that thought that after the end of the cold war the real battle for ideas and values had been won. In fact, as the conflicts and regime changes in the 1990s showed, it had just begun and that one without further firm action today from Western democratic states is at risk of being lost through inexcusable complacent apathy.

During the Georgian crisis the US, France and the UK have just watched, not Georgia of course, but the convenient distraction of the Olympics. Even most of the papers in the UK had the games as the leading story not the pouding that a small ex-Soviet state received. The answer to why this is of course is simple: We believe that Churchill was wrong in the 1939-40, and we wish, very sensibly deep in our hearts, that the job had been given to Lord Halifax.The cowardice of complacency is so much better than the virtue of courage. Winston, you were a rotter, how dare one have the spirit to act. There's a lesson here for Herr Hitler too. Better have given the gold to Jesse Owens whilst one is busy invading Poland.

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