use of force

child-silhouette‘There is a mile of distance between grieving for dead children and avenging those deaths through military force.
‘Furthermore, one can simultaneously express sorrow for the dead, particularly the children, and resist direct United States military intervention. This is a false choice that uses the dead children as a mask for America’s militaristic instinct, and one that I find repugnant.’

The New York Times’ Charles Blow, in an op-ed that criticizes governmental officials for singular invocations of the suffering of Syrian children as a casus belli (prior posts), even as those same officials maintain resounding silence about the suffering of other children at home and abroad – a host of ills that include malnutrition and gun violence.

icjDevoid from much of the U.S. debate about whether to use military force against Syria is any exploration of nonviolent ways to condemn the use of chemical weapons and to push for an end to Syria’s multiyear civil war. (Prior posts.)

While it’s true that Russia, in particular, says it will veto action in the U.N. Security Council, we’ve not seen any public effort to apply effective pressure on Russia to do otherwise. No threat of a Western boycott of the Sochi Olympics – to hearken to one tool used during the Carter Administration – or any other action that similarly might sting the Putin regime. (By no means am I advocating a boycott, which does unwarranted harm to athletes. I mention it, rather, as an example of the kind of out-of-the-box thinking we haven’t seen voiced in this runup to a possible Syrian intervention. As posted months ago with respect to Syria, in this sense diplomacy hasn’t been tried.)

And while there’s been much hand-wringing over Russia’s apparent opposition to a Security Council referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, we’ve heard no exploration of another Carter-era tool – a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice. (photo credit) My students and I have just studied that suit, brought against Iran after the November 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The ICJ’s May 1980 decision in the Diplomatic & Consular Staff Case (U.S. v. Iran) pronounced the wrongfulness of Iran’s failure to protect the embassy and its personnel during and after the takeover. The court’s order that the two sides negotiate an appropriate remedy fueled a bilateral settlement which resulted in the release of the 52 U.S. hostages and the establishment of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, which to this day arbitrates disputes between the 2 countries.

Why not pursue a similar course in the current crisis, in lieu of or in tandem with other avenues?

A possible vehicle for such a suit would be the 1984 Convention Against Torture. Article 1(1) defines torture as

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Surely, this definition is satisfied by the conduct alleged against the Syrian government: attacking civilians with chemical weapons – nerve agents that bring long-lasting injury or death to human beings – for the purpose of exacting punishment against or coercing capitulation by rebel forces.

The Convention Against Torture may serve as a vehicle for litigation because Article 30(1) contains a clause conferring ICJ jurisdiction:

Any dispute between two or more States Parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention which cannot be settled through negotiation shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration. If within six months from the date of the request for arbitration the Parties are unable to agree on the organization of the arbitration, any one of those Parties may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice by request in conformity with the Statute of the Court.

The United Nations’ online treaty database indicates that when Syria joined the Convention on August 19, 2004, it did not limit the effect of Article 30. That seems to open a path for a state party – if not the United States, which did place some limitations on its own joinder, one of the many other countries calling for action against Syria – to insist on negotiation of this dispute over chemical weapons use, with an eye to suing in the ICJ 6 months’ hence if negotiations come to naught.

An ICJ judgment that explores the relation of a chemical attack to the universal ban against torture could do much to enhance the current claim that such an attack crosses an “international redline.” Even if some snag prevented the issuance of a judgment as unequivocal as that in the Diplomatic Staff case (maybe a lex specialis concern, to name one), resort to negotiation/litigation might enable a more deliberate, less violent resolution to this grave situation.

Capitol-SenateThe newly released draft of what the Senate calls the “Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Government of Syria to Respond to Use of Chemical Weapons” is, well, longer than the President’s version. The objectives remain quite broad; indeed, the terms of this draft seem to contemplate more than a single strike. Differences on 1st glance in this version, expected to be the basis of Senate debate today:

► Deletion of the President’s preambular reference to “international norms,” counterbalanced a few paragraphs down with a list of treaties;

► Requirement that the President deliver his determination of necessity to high-ranking Senators and Representatives, plus other reports to and consults with Congress; and

► More references to limitation of scope, including a 90-day sunset on operations, with possibility of a single 30-day extension.

(photo credit; h/t Lawfare for Senate draft)

207“Shari’a Law and Military Operations” will be the subject of the NATO School/International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences Seminar, to be held November 24-30, 2013. The site will be the headquarters of the Institute in Siracusa – a lovely city on Italy’s island of Sicily, about which I posted a while back.

nato_school_oberammergauThe November gathering will mark the 6th annual joint seminar on this subject. Organizers write that the seminar aims “to provide instruction to military officers, legal advisors, operational planners, political and policy advisors,” but is open to all interested persons. The faculty consists of “internationally pre-eminent scholars on Shari’a.” As detailed in the draft program, topics will include:

► Introduction to Shari’a law
► Islamic Criminal Justice System
► Islamic International Law & International Humanitarian Law
► Shari’a’s Limitations on Jihad & the Use of Force
► Shari’a and Contemporary Post-Conflict & Transitional Justice
► Women’s & Minorities’ Rights
► Operational Issues

Deadline for registering is October 25. Details here.

decwarsAmericans judge U.S. intervention abroad based on the success of the military operation, concludes Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin in an insightful analysis published today. Americans’ hindsight perception of military success – or failure – matters more than whether the President in power had the foresight to secure congressional authorization for the operation, Bravin adds.

He bases his analysis on a survey of the “mixed record” of military operations, dating to the 1941 declarations of war that launched U.S. military involvement in World War II. (credit for photo of President Franklin  D. Roosevelt signing declaration against Japan) Considered inter alia are:

doc_098_big► Interventions conducted pursuant to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (right) that led to escalation of the U.S.-Vietnam War, the 2001 post-9/11 authorization that preceded the U.S.-led counterassault in Afghanistan, and the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq.

► Many interventions that were not preceded by congressional authorization – including the United States’ role in the months-long 1999 bombardment of Serbia, waged, as Bravin put it, “to stop Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s forces from attacking in Kosovo.”

Nacionalni_automobil_Yugo_1999The Kosovo effort emerges as a foreign policy success in American eyes – Bravin writes that it was “conducted under the aegis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, subdued Milosevic; resulted in no U.S. casualties; and ended 12 days before the 90-day deadline the War Powers Resolution of 1973 sets for a president to withdraw U.S. forces unless he obtains congressional authorization.” (credit for 1999 photo captioned “A street in Belgrade destroyed by NATO bombs”)

In short, the Kosovo operation’s perceived success as a matter of policy – its contravention of the terms of the U.N. Charter is an altogether different matter – depended in no small way on its limited character. That policy lesson of constraint also informs Bravin’s quotation of my own comment on the draft Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria that the Obama Administration has sent to Congress. Here’s my quoted critique:

‘The draft uses multiple verbs to characterize the ‘objective’ of intervention – deter, disrupt, prevent, degrade. All are vague and thus susceptible to expansive as well as restrictive interpretation. The breadth of the authorization, and the consequent potential for an eventual widening of operations in Syria, should spark concern even among those who favor a limited strike.’

map_syriaKudos to President Barack Obama for deciding to put to the test of democratic deliberation his support for using military force against Syria in the wake of the August 21, 2013, chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. (image credit)

The decision is welcome not just because of the Obama Administration’s failure so far to build, within or without the U.N. Security Council, a global coalition – a  failure signified most starkly by Thursday’s “No” vote in the British Parliament. The decision to debate is also welcome because the proposed use of force raises serious questions of international and national law and policy. Deliberation offers opportunities for legitimation and education, not to mention further exploration of nonforcible measures like sanctions or a referral to the International Criminal Court, both of which were deployed in the 2011 Libya crisis. (Prior Syria posts here.)

Below, thanks to CNN.com, is the full text of the Administration’s draft Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria. The draft likely will form the basis for ensuing debates in the House of Representatives and Senate.

* * * *

Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians;
Whereas these flagrant actions were in violation of international norms and the laws of war;
Whereas the United States and 188 other countries comprising 98 percent of the world’s population are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons;
Whereas, in the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Congress found that Syria’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;
Whereas the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1540 (2004), affirmed that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security;
Whereas, the objective of the United States’ use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;
Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process; and
Whereas, unified action by the legislative and executive branches will send a clear signal of American resolve.
SEC. ___ AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES
(a) Authorization. — The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to —
(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or
(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements. —
(1) Specific Statutory Authorization. — Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) Applicability of other requirements. — Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

memdFor a number of years now, writings of my colleague Mireille Delmas-Marty have explored the relationships between the globalization of law and the globalization of the economy. Her newest publication proposes to regulate the latter in a way that enhances the former. Specifically, she would criminalize “aggression committed by non-state actors” – read corporations – as a means to encourage states to agree to hold themselves accountable for this international offense.

This provocative suggestion appears toward the end of “Ambiguities and Lacunae: The International Criminal Court Ten Years On,” just published in the Journal of International Criminal Justice by Delmas-Marty, Chair Emerita in Comparative Legal Studies and Internationalisation of Law at the Collège de France in Paris. (photo credit) The essay:

► Begins with “ambiguities” that arise out of the tension between the universalist aspirations of the Rome Statute and the sovereigntist realities of the ICC’s state-based structure.

Among the manifestations of this tension, she writes, is the status of the crime of aggression in the ICC. The international global community, she argues, must not just aim for “restoring peace as a form of reparation, but rather it must seek to establish a long-lasting and sustainable peace.” (p. 557) In her view, states’ Realpolitik must give way to acceptance, by big states as well as small, of the crime-of-aggression amendments adopted at the ICC Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda.

These amendments would regulate only state actors. Entry into force requires ratification by 30 of the ICC’s 122 states parties, as well as an additional state-party vote that may not take place earlier than 2017. As I wrote in A Janus Look at International Criminal Justice (2013), ratifications have been slow in coming. The Rome Statute had secured nearly all the requisite 60 ratifications within the 3 years following its adoption; in contrast, as of today, 3 years after the Kampala Conference, only 7 states have ratified the crime-of-aggression amendments. A new addition, Germany, merits particular note not only because of its history, but also because of its status as a large-power NATO member. Yet as Delmas-Marty writes in her JICJ article, most states seem to remain “[r]eluctant to transfer to international judges the power to qualify acts of aggression.” (p. 558)

► Shifts to exploration of “lacunae” (pp. 558-61). Of particular concern to Delmas-Marty is the status of globalized nonstate economic actors vis–à–vis the ICC. Citing Nuremberg-era cases involving industrialists, such as IG Farben, Flick, and Krupp, she states:

‘Corporate criminal involvement in international crimes did not end with the Second World War.’

Sometimes, she continues, “corporations are involved in the commission of serious crimes …. And yet, the Rome Statute does not contemplate the criminal responsibility of legal persons ….” Especially when corporations bear responsibility for fueling logs-of-war-promo2-view-1.599.307.sconflicts through “alliances with warlords in order to obtain scarce resources (such as diamonds, gold, timber or oil),” (photo credit) Delmas-Marty urges amending the Rome Statute to hold nonstate economic actors accountable for aggression:

‘By first outlawing armed conflicts commenced by criminal organizations,  the resistance of states could be overcome with the purpose of recognizing a global community whose interests are pursued  by all in the name of a sovereignty that, rather than being solitary, is grounded on solidarity. Following such an approach, international criminal justice could perhaps apply not only to the vanquished but also to the victors. In other words,  to the major powers themselves.’

These are ambitious goals. Even at Nuremberg, industrialists were convicted of aggression solely in the Krupp trial, and that result was reversed  on review. (See here.) Still, Delmas-Marty’s article provokes thought on how to hold to account both state and nonstate authors and agents of atrocities.

‘[S]uggestions that cyber means and methods of warfare exist in an extra-normative space beyond the reach of IHL are completely counter-normative.’

Michael N. Schmitt, contributing a post to a series on “International Humanitarian Law & New Technologies” sponsored at Intercross, the blog of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Schmitt, who heads the U.S. Naval War College International Law Department and is a Senior Fellow at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, is among the experts who maintain that Intercross ID logo_0international humanitarian law enjoys what he calls “inherent adaptability”; therefore, consideration of what uses of new technology are lawful ought to occur within the frame of that body of law. It’s the stance he took on release of the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare (2013), about which I previously posted, and to which he refers in his Intercross post. Schmitt does not argue that IHL is static. Rather, he predicts that some legal concepts may be “reinterpreted”; for instance, what constitutes an “attack” within cyberspace. What I’ve titled “human-free weapons” – that is, autonomous or robotic weapons, able to make targeting decisions without human intervention – pose particular interpretive challenges. Schmitt notes others’ posts in the series and “join[s] the ICRC in calling for further informed examination of the issues the systems arise.”

Given my interest in law and the value of peace, I read with interest the call for papers to be presented at a conference entitled “Law, Peace, and Violence: Jurisprudence and the Possibilities of Peace.”

It’ll be hosted by Seattle Journal of Social Justice on March 14, 2014, at the Seattle University School of Law in Washington state. Invoking thinkers like Thoreau and Fanon and Gandhi and King as well as scholarly colleagues like Mark Drumbl and Mary Dudziak, organizers ask a variety of intriguing questions:

► Can the law help forge a more peaceful world?books

► Do peaceful protest and rhetoric pose special hazards to vulnerable groups?

► Can we incorporate peace activism and theory into our practices and jurisprudence? Or is peaceful resistance – and even the concept of peace – anti-law?

► Is peace activism a luxury of the privileged?

Welcomed are abstracts of up to 500 words describing “traditional academic paper topics,”  as well as “abstract proposals for fiction, non-fiction, or visual art,” addressing issues related to inter alia poverty, violence, law, peace, war. Abstract deadline is September 2, 2013. Details in the full call for papers.

(hat tip to Faculty Lounge blog, with thanks to Ed Gordon)

powerobamaNews of Samantha Power’s nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations prompted me to read her biography of that 68-year-old international organization. In truth, the book is a biography of the top diplomat killed 10 years ago when a car bomb gutted U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. Yet because that diplomat had effectively grown up alongside the United Nations – he was born fewer than 3 years after its Charter entered into force, and he would serve under 5 of its 8 Secretaries-General – Power’s Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World (2008) tells the life story of both the man and the organization. The book thus indicates what Power thought of the United Nations back when she was advising then-Senator Barack Obama on foreign policy.

Emphasized throughout Chasing the Flame is Vieira de Mello’s transformation from a man of humanitarian action alone to one who comes to realize, indeed to embrace, the significance of politics in humanitarian endeavors. Recounting his late-1980s role in repatriating Vietnamese refugees, Power wrote with disapproval of Vieira de Mello’s decision to “downplay his and the UN’s obligation to try to shape the preferences of governments” (p. 69, emphasis hers). She likewise criticized his early ’90s stance of neutrality while serving in UNPROFOR, the hapless U.N. Protection Force mission in Bosnia: “impartial peacekeeping between two unequal sides was,” she wrote, “its own form of side-taking” (p. 179). In contrast, Power conveyed approbation when she wrote that by the late 1990s, after working to return Hutu refugees to Rwanda, Vieira de Mello “was now convinced that UN officials would better serve the powerless if they could find a way to enlist the power of the world’s largest countries” (p. 219). According to Power’s epilogue, the key to harnessing that power is flexibility (p. 516-17):

power‘While many have responded to today’s divisions and insecurities with ideology, Vieira de Mello’s life steers us away from one-size-fits-all doctrine to a principled pragmatism that can adapt to meet diffuse and unpredictable challenges.’

The United Nations, she added (p. 519), has a critical role to play:

‘UN civil servants had to become more self-critical and introspective, accepting what had taken Vieira de Mello years to learn: that they are agents of change themselves and not simply the servants of powerful governments.’

In this book as in A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2002), Power put much blame on the U.S. government. The United States’ perception of its own self-interest often appeared short-sighted and inept. U.S. officials’ resistance to the International Criminal Court won them no favor. Ineptitude was especially evident in the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq – events that would place Vieira de Mello and other humanitarians in Baghdad on the fateful date of August 19, 2003.

Power herself began working for the U.S. government not long after Chasing the Flame was published. As Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the White House-based National Security Council, she spent years working on issues at the heart of her earlier writings.  (An account of a central effort, establishment of an Atrocities Prevention Board made up of officials from various U.S. agencies, was the subject yesterday of a New York Times article.) She’s reported to have played a pivotal role in the U.S. decision to intervene in Libya based on U.N. Security Council resolutions that invoked a concept discussed in her book, the responsibility to protect; to be precise,at p. 528 and elsewhere, Power stressed Vieira de Mello’s espousal of the emerging doctrine. These experiences may have adjusted Power’s views on the relation between the United Nations its member states. Yet most likely her 5 requirements for foreign policy success, distilled from her account of Vieira de Mello’s life, remain a constant. Quoted in full from p. 523, they are:

  • Legitimacy matters, and it comes both from legal authority or consent and from competent performance.
  • Spoilers, rogue states, and nonstate militants must be engaged, if only so they can be sized up and neutralized.
  • Fearful people must be made more secure.
  • Dignity is the cornerstone of order.
  • We outsiders must bring humility and patience to our dealings in foreign lands.