security

Delighted to be back in Washington for the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, and to have the honor of leading a roundtable aimed at exploring contemporary security governance.

Entitled Challenges and Prospects for International Peace and Security: UN Peacekeeping, NATO, and the UDHR at 70, the roundtable will take place 9-10:30 a.m. this Thursday, March 28. Participants (including some names different from ASIL’s printed program) are:

  • Michael W. Doyle, University Professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
  • Steven Hill, Legal Adviser and Director of the Office of Legal Affairs at NATO Headquarters in Brussels
  • Bruce Oswald, Professor and Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law in the Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne; and
  • Rita Siemion, International Legal Counsel at Human Rights First

After noting that UN Peacekeeping, NATO, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all are marking their 70th anniversaries, the roundtable description asks:

“Have they failed to deliver on their original promise or have they adapted effectively to contemporary global realities? Is their future dependent on the continuation of Western hegemony and unity? Can they adapt to the changing nature of security threats, rising powers and a waning commitment to multilateralism? Are they instruments for peace, security and the promotion of international law? What challenges and opportunities lie ahead?”

Thanks to Jesse Clarke, member of the annual meeting planning committee and the Assistant Secretary, Office of International Law, International Division, in the Department of the Australia Attorney-General, for organizing what promises to be a stimulating discussion.

More on annual meeting participation by my colleagues from the University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center, and me, here.


“‘Protecting Children’: A Welcome Addition to Efforts to Redress Wartime Harms,” an essay I published yesterday at Just Security, underscores connections among a number of recent initiatives related to children and armed conflict.

The essay welcomes Protecting Children in Armed Conflict (Hart Publishing 2018), the 600-page report of the 2017 Inquiry on Protecting Children in Armed Conflict spearheaded by Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education. (I served on the Inquiry’s Advisory Panel.)

Leading a team of researchers was Shaheed Fatima QC, a barrister at London’s Blackstone Chambers, who spoke on this work at the International Law Weekend panel last month. (prior post here) My Just Security essay offers a detailed description and favorable critique of this research, noting the work’s connections with what the UN Security Council terms the “Six Grave Violations against Children in Armed Conflict.”

The essay further draws links between this work and the 2016 International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children, which I had the honor of helping to prepare in my ongoing service as ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict. (prior post here) The essay points to “the complementary potential of these and other initiatives,” and concludes:

Together, they may advance two essential goals: first, to articulate norms prohibiting wartime harms against children; and second, to secure redress for any such harms that occur.

My Just Security essay is here. It is part of a miniforum which began with a post last week jointly authored by Fatima and Brown, available here. The Just Security series will continue with forthcoming posts by Sarah Knuckey (Columbia Law), Alex Moorehead (Columbia Law), and Alex Whiting (Harvard Law).

The investigation by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller into 2016 election interference and related matters is now in its 10th month. Among the ensuing indictments is the one announced last Friday, in United States v. Internet Research Agency LLC.

Asked for a Vox legal-experts-roundup about last Friday’s indictment of what I called “a baker’s dozen of Russian persons and entities,” I pinpointed 3 oft-repeated words, “and their co-conspirators,” as especially significant. Still to come, these words suggest, is a “mirror image” indictment, one likely to name some “Americans, fully subject to trial in the United States.”

Full comments here.

The U.S. President’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly today sought to draw support from the example of a predecessor, Harry S Truman, who encouraged the founding in 1945 of the United Nations Organization. But on close comparison – that is, analysis more searching than that in a just-published, facile Time account – today’s speech is a far cry from the global vision of Truman era.

“The United Nations represents the idea of a universal morality, superior to the interests of individual nations. Its foundation does not rest upon power or privilege; it rests upon faith. They rest upon the faith of men in human values – upon the belief that men in every land hold the same high ideals and strive toward the same goals for peace and justice.”

So said Truman in 1950 to the General Assembly in New York, delivering the traditional head-of-state speech on behalf of his country.

In the aftermath of World War II – a war that he had brought to a close following the death-in-office of President Franklin D. Roosevelt – Truman pushed for establishment of an international organization that would bring collective security to a world that, then as now, was troubled. His United States hosted the diplomatic conference at which the Charter of the United Nations was adopted on June 26, 1945. That Charter lays out a plan for international regulation of the use of military force – a plan established by, to quote the Charter’s very first words:

“We the peoples of the United Nations determine to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…”

U.S. President Harry S Truman addresses 1945 San Francisco Conference to draft the Charter of the United Nations. (credit)

In April 1945, fewer than two weeks after VJ Day, Truman had opened that San Francisco Conference with a speech that placed collective security over the whims of any single country. To quote President Truman:

“The essence of our problem here is to provide sensible machinery for the settlement of disputes among nations. Without this, peace cannot exist. We can no longer permit any nation, or group of nations, to attempt to settle their arguments with bombs and bayonets.”

Five years later, his 1950 address to the General Assembly acknowledged:

“Governments may sometimes falter in their support of the United Nations, but the peoples of the world do not falter.”

By way of example, Truman in 1950 cited the “widespread,” “overwhelming,” and collective efforts of the United Nations to repel the then-recent invasion of South Korea. “In uniting to crush the aggressors in Korea” – note that Truman spoke of crushing aggressors, and not of destroying an entire country – he maintained that countries had “proved that the charter is a living instrument backed by the material and moral strength of members, large and small.”

In the U.S. head of state’s General Assembly speech today, the world heard a very different address, by a very different holder of the office of the U.S. President. Today’s speech referred to Truman and Truman-era policies like the Marshall Plan as purveyors of “three beautiful pillars,” of “sovereignty, security and prosperity.”

It must, however, be noted that no reference to sovereignty or prosperity may be found in the two pivotal Truman speeches. Not one of the three quoted words appears in the speech by which Secretary of State George Marshall announced his eponymous plan, either. Security does receive mention in Truman’s April 1945 speech, but in a global, collective, and cooperative, and not an individual nation-state, sense, as here:

“With firm faith in our hearts, to sustain us along the hard road to victory, we will find our way to a secure peace, for the ultimate benefit of all humanity.”

Truman’s envisagement of “peace, for the ultimate benefit of all humanity” exists worlds away from the enshrinement in today’s speech of individual state sovereignty.