national security

IMG_5540At first blush, today’s security challenges may seem familiar. Yet they are new – emerging, in U.S. State Department parlance – because of the novel ways in which those challenges present themselves.

So explained Mallory Stewart (near right), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Emerging Security Challenges & Defense Policy, during her fascinating talk Monday at Tillar House, the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the American Society of International Law. We at Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center were honored to join ASIL’s Nonproliferation, Arms Control & Disarmament Interest Group in cosponsoring Stewart’s talk, “Common Challenges to Diverse Security Threats.” (For the event video, see here.)

Stewart’s talk followed introductions by Kathleen A. Doty, Interest Group Co-Chair and our Center’s Associate Director for Global Practice Preparation, as well as opening remarks by yours truly (above, at right) respecting Dean Rusk’s arms control legacy.

Stewart pointed to technological change, in outer space and elsewhere, as one of the emerging challenges. Within this category was what is essentially garbage; that is, the debris left in outer space by state actors and, increasingly, nonstate/commercial actors, whose celestial flotsam and jetsam continue to orbit and present hazards to active satellites, space stations, and the like.

Another challenge is dual-use technology. Items as seemingly innocent as chlorine – a chemical essential to everyday cleaning – can become a security threat when deployed as a weapon, as is alleged to have happened during the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Yet another is ubiquity, the reality that technologies, such as cyber capabilities, are, literally, everywhere, and thus not easy to contain.

Containment – regulation – thus is difficult both to design and to effectuate. With regard to dual-use technologies, for instance, Stewart posed questions of intent: How, exactly, does one define and identify the moment that an innocent item is transformed into a weapon? What about attribution – in areas like cyberwarfare, how can the perpetrator be identified? How can attacks waged with such weapons be prohibited in advance?

Stewart gave due respect to the 20th C. arms control treaties that form the core portfolio of State’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification & Compliance, where she practices. Nevertheless, stressing global interdependence, she stressed the need for more nimble forms of international lawmaking. To be precise, she looked to mechanisms of soft law, such as codes of conduct, as ways that states and other essential actors might develop norms for responsible behavior in the short term. In the longer term, if the internalization and implementation of such norms should prove successful, eventually legally binding treaties may result.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes blog, where this post appears as Part 2 of a 2-part series; Part 1 is here.)

outerspaceVisitors to Tillar House, the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the American Society of International Law, were treated Monday to a superb overview of emerging security challenges by the U.S. State Department lawyer who leads that portfolio, Mallory Stewart. I was proud both to have Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center cosponsor, and also to serve as discussant for this important event. This post and the post above will outline the proceedings. (For the event video, see here.) This post consists of my opening remarks, which aimed to to reacquaint the audience with to the role that our Center’s namesake, Dean Rusk, played in building the arms control framework within which Stewart and her colleagues work.

. . .

Everyone knows, of course, about Dean Rusk and Vietnam – of his role in championing a foreign conflict that claimed more than a million American and Vietnamese lives between 1965 and 1974. Everyone knows, too, of his pivotal role in averting nuclear catastrophe during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when Rusk famously said,

“We are eyeball to eyeball, and the other fellow just blinked.”

What may be less well known – or been forgotten – is likewise significant. That is Rusk’s role in the design and implementation of the international arms control regime that has prevailed since the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan seven decades ago. An Army officer who served in Asia and then in the War Department in D.C., Rusk, like many of his generation, did not fault the military decision. Yet in his memoir, As I Saw It, he wrote (p.122):

“[W]e made a mistake with the Manhattan Project from its inception. We should have built in a political task force to consider the ramifications of using the bomb.”

That position is consistent with Rusk’s own work, first as a State Department diplomat who championed the United Nations, NATO, and other multilateral postwar efforts, and ultimately as the head of that Cabinet department, for the entirety of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

As Secretary of State, Rusk oversaw the establishment of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, a forerunner of the Bureau for which our principal speaker, Mallory Stewart, now works. Moreover, Rusk was instrumental in the drafting, negotiation, conclusion, or implementation of at least seven major arms control treaties.

ltbtruskOne was the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty, about which Rusk wrote (p. 259):

“[A]fter the Cuban missile crisis, it was important to demonstrate that the United States and Soviet Union could coexist. The test ban required careful and extensive negotiations, but we and they did sign a major agreement on the heels of the most horrendous crisis the world has seen. … Such is the legacy of what President Kennedy felt was his proudest achievement.”

The other treaties were the Antarctic Treaty, the Outer Space Treaty, the Treaty of Tlatelolco, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Seabed Arms Control Treaty, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Many of them remain at the core of the U.S. arms control portfolio to this day. Yet with the same modesty that pervades his memoir, Rusk wrote (p. 353):

“On the whole, our record on arms control under Lyndon Johnson was respectable.”

He did allow himself a light pat on the back (p.353):

“In reviewing the accomplishments of the Kennedy-Johnson years, I claim only one for myself: that with the agreements negotiated and our constant talking with the Soviets, my colleagues and I helped add eight years to the time since a nuclear weapon has been fired in anger.”

Rusk’s commitment to extending that time continued long after he left government, in 1969, and joined the faculty at the University of Georgia School of Law. Professor Rusk spoke often about arms control, with students, with the larger community, and with the stream of colleagues who consulted with him at his new home. Indeed, as late as 1985 – less than a decade before his death – Rusk welcomed to Athens, Georgia, former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, former Secretary of Defense McGeorge Bundy, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and others for a televised discussion entitled “Forty Years Since Hiroshima: What Next for Mankind?”

Rusk’s 1990 memoir returned to that question. In the final chapter, entitled “Dean Rusk’s Message to the Young,” he wrote (p. 630):

“Your generation will discover in the decades ahead whether mankind can organize a durable peace in a world in which thousands of megatons are lying around in the hands of frail human beings. A world in which collective security – what my generation used to try to curb the obscenity of war – is withering away, and we are not even discussing what shall take its place.”

We are here today to put the lie to that last line – that is, to discuss those very issues of global security. I look forward to Ms. Stewart’s remarks.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes blog. Part 2 of this 2-part series outlines Mallory Stewart’s remarks. Credit for photo at top, of Rusk signing the Outer Space Treaty; credit for photo above of Rusk, standing just to the left of the portrait as President Kennedy signs the Limited Test Ban Treaty)

mdmAmid this weekend’s reminiscences of the birth of the United States, I found much to ponder in one reading – not in English, but rather in French.

Entitled La démocratie dan les bras de Big Brother – that is, Democracy in the Arms of Big Brother – it’s the transcript of Le Monde journalist Franck Johannès‘ recent interview with a longtime colleague of mine, Mireille-Delmas Marty, emerita professor of the Collège de France de Paris. (photo credit; prior posts)

Delmas-Marty sounds a warning about the “downward spiral” that, in her view, has created an unwelcome “metamorphosis in criminal justice” in the years since terrorists attacked New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. 1st in the vortex was the United States, she says, and she fears that her own homeland, France – and, indeed, the planet – are following suit.

Contributing to this analysis, in her view:

► Characterization of terrorist acts as “exceptional” offenses, related to more to war than to ordinary crimes, coupled with the redefinition of unlawful association so that it may apply to “only one person,” without proof of actual association with another.

► Globalization of surveillance and “social control,” in an effort to predict offenses before they happen. Post-9/11, the United States moved from notions of preemption to notions of prevention, she notes. She argues that today the United States, and others, have moved further, to “prediction” – a shift that lends justification to confinement of persons deemed harmful, not only before they have been proved to commit an offense, but also after they have served postconviction sentences. She contends (all translations mine):

‘To lock up a human being, not to punish harm but rather to prevent harm, as if he were a dangerous animal, is in truth an act of dehumanization…’

► Persistence of nonstate actors that once would have been deemed exclusively “criminal organizations,” but now are seen as parties waging armed conflict. Not long ago, Al Qaeda dominated this discourse; today, it is “the so-called ‘Islamic State.'” Delmas-Marty continues:

‘With whom is a treaty of peace to be concluded? We now have all the ingredients for a global, and permanent, civil war.’

liberteAmong Delmas-Marty’s recent books is Libertés et sûreté dans un monde dangereux (2010). In the Le Monde interview, as in that book, she calls for restoring a balance between desires for security and the value of liberty. (It’s a balance that I’ve explored in my own writings, including “Punish or Surveil” (2007).)

“To dream of perfect security,” Delmas-Marty maintains, is an “illusion.” She allows that “[i]n the name of the struggle against terrorism, there can be restrictions on the right to respect for privacy,” yet she would require that such restrictions themselves be constrained in accordance with the principles “of legality, proportionality, and democratic control.”

Much to ponder as the United States begins its 240th year of democracy.

droneWhat once was a rather loud drone of debate over the use of armed, remote-controlled, aerial attack vehicles seems recently to have receded into background noise. Perhaps that’s in part because of newly perceived threats like ISIS — threats that many Americans, tired of U.S. ground-troop casualties, would rather see addressed by Reaper and Predator drones. (photo credit) Perhaps it’s because criticism of U.S. counterterrorism practices has muted since the days of the Bush Administration, or because reports of any such criticism now are relegated to the back pages of a few national newspapers.

A recent New Yorker article deserves to break through this complacent fog: “The Unblinking Stare: The drone war in Pakistan,” by Steve Coll, a Pulitzer Prizewinning reporter on national security issues and dean of the Columbia Journalism School. It’s a great synthesis of reportage on the origins and evolution of the program, coupled with commentary that raises questions all ought to be asking.

Of particular note:

► The recognition that the practice of “‘signature strikes'” — drone-killings of “armed military-aged males engaged in or associated with suspicious activity even if their identities were unknown” — stands at odds with settled law. Coll cites a 2013 report by Christof Heyns, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, for the proposition that such strikes do not fall under either “proper standard for attacking a person under the laws of war … ‘continuous combat function’ or … ‘directly participating in hostilities.'” (Coll might’ve gone a step further, and acknowledged that “continuous combat function” is a concept not established in written international humanitarian law, and thus itself still subject to challenge.)  Concern over legality seems to have contributed to President Barack Obama’s tightening of drone-killing standards a year or so ago. The result? Since that time, “there has not been a single documented civilian casualty, child or adult, as a result of a drone strike in Waziristan.

► The role that children play in the story. Coll reports that a Pakistani documenter of human rights violations soon realized that data on drone-killings of adults stirred little interest; “if a drone missile killed an innocent adult male civilian, such as a vegetable vend[o]r or a fruit seller, the victim’s long hair and beard would be enough to stereotype him as a militant.” The documenter’s solution? “[F]ocus on children.” Thus were recorded, via photographs, the harm done to children in the course of drone attacks. Such photos helped fuel “a social-media contest,” Coll wrote, a contest that includes widely varying statistics about just how many civilians, of any age, have perished in U.S. strikes. The disparity makes it hard to evaluate — and thus hard to challenge — U.S. administration claims that drones are more humane, more precise than other sorts of aerial attacks.

Even if the claims are true, Coll questions whether that matters in the end. He cites a recent Foreign Affairs essay in which scholars Micah Zenko and Sarah Kreps argued that the promise of precision “may create more war.” And he writes of meeting in Islamabad with young men who acknowledged the upside of more precision, then added: “But they also talked about the suffering their families had endured — kidnappings, homes under pressure — and their own struggles to obtain an education. In their telling, the relative precision of the aircraft that assailed them wasn’t the point.”