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International Law:

Eugene Kontorovich writes:

The most surprising aspect of international proposals for a ceasefire in the Israel-Lebanon conflict is their endorsement of Hezbollah's demand that Israel give it territory, known as the Sheba Farms, in exchange for a end to rocket attacks on Israeli cities. The merits of the proposal as a diplomatic measure are far from clear. What is certain -- and yet entirely neglected in the discussion of the issue -- is that the proposal violates bedrock norms of international law.

Nations cannot enlarge their borders through the use of aggressive force. There are no exceptions to this non-acquisition principle. The U.N. Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and America itself have consistently affirmed it. In the words of the General Assembly, "no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal." Moreover, nations are forbidden from recognizing borders secured through illegal war....

I'm not an international law expert, so I can't speak to the merits of this point; but Kontorovich does know a good deal about the subject, so I thought I'd pass it along. If others have pointers to relatively detailed (even just with an op-ed level of detail) arguments to the contrary, please do post them in the comments.

rarango (mail):
At the risk of being a bit cynical, it seems to me that international law is useful only for beating up on Israel--but, I admit my bias in favor of Israel; also, does international law ever recognize non-state (including terrorist) actors? If not, how is international law even useful?
8.7.2006 2:21pm
ak47pundit (www):
It's also interesting that even the UN has said that Cheba Farms is Syrian territory, not Lebanese. In effect this request would allow Lebanon to gain territory that was taken from israel from Syria.

If Israel acquiesces, look for Syria to find more land to 'give' to Lebanon so it can keep an excuse for Hezballah, it's prox,y to continue to claim it is attacking Israel due to Israel's occupation of Lebanon.
8.7.2006 2:29pm
Donald Kahn (mail):
The whole argument is garbage. These pettifoggers are not to be taken seriously.
8.7.2006 2:46pm
Justin Levine:
The entire notion of "international law" is completely illegitimate and has no foundation in the consent of the people "governed" by it. Legal scholars should be actively opposing and undermining the concept if they wish to do some good for society.
8.7.2006 2:48pm
Erik Voeten (mail):
Kontorovich overstates his case. The relevant text in the SC resolution, which reaffirms respect for the territorial integrity of both Israel and Lebanon, "calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements:"

which includes (as 1 of 9 elements):
"- delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including in the Shebaa farms area."

So, the call is for Lebanon and Israel to discuss their border dispute as part of a long-term solution. This is not revolutionary and does not amount to the recognition of territorial acquisition through force.
8.7.2006 3:10pm
Norman Rogers (mail):
I think the reason we're not hearing a lot of Israeli objections to this is that Israel doesn't lay claim to the region -- unlike the Golan heights which were formally annexed.

So if Israel gives Shabba Farms over to a UN thingy, what's the big deal? It certainly won't be transferred to Lebanon.
8.7.2006 3:12pm
Romach (mail) (www):
Didn't the UN already certify the Lebanese border when Israel pulled out in 2000? Around the same time they said Shebaa farms was part of Syria, not Lebanon.
8.7.2006 3:13pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Erik,

The problem is that the border, including in the Shebaa Farms area, isn't disputed or uncertain. When viewed in that context, your objection falls away and the proposition in the Op/Ed stands.

(Or, rather, it isn't uncertain, and it isn't disputed except by Hezbollah. But if mere contradiction counted as argument, then that Monty Python sketch wouldn't be as funny and the entire principle would be undermined. Any country could point to a spot in another country, say, "Hey, that land is ours," attack, and then demand, as a condition of peace, that the land be granted to it. Which would be the acquisition of land by aggression.)
8.7.2006 3:29pm
Some Guy (mail):
Of course, one more well-known UN principle states that:

"No murder of Jews shall be recognized as illegal."

So, go figure.
8.7.2006 4:07pm
Kontorovich (mail):
In response to Mr. Voeten's point:
The resolution does not simply suggest that Israel and Lebanon should discuss the Sheba issue. It speaks of a “delineation” of the border, and makes clear that Kofi Annan will be in charge of this process. A few things suggest the outcome of the delineation is a foregone conclusion.
Firstly, the U.N. already decided that Lebanon has no legitimate territorial grievance with Israel. It turns out that did not satisfy Lebanon, and so Hezbollah goes to war. If the goal of the resolution is a “lasting peace,” surely that won’t be achieved by telling Hezbollah what they were told six years ago. Presumably the point of revisiting the issue is to get a different answer.

Second, one must understand the political context of the resolution. At the Rome conference a few weeks ago, the Lebanese demanded that Secretary Rice secure a Sheba farms hand-over. She tentatively agreed, and this appears to be the diplomatic form of such a demand.

Certainly the structure of the resolution is designed to obscure the fact that it contemplates the expansion of Lebanon’s borders through force. But that is not surprising. Few illegal schemes openly declare themselves, and it is the job of lawyers to see the substance.

Everyone agrees the Lebanon has no legitimate claim to Shaba. The U.N. resolution sets up a process that may give Lebanon Sheba. This would never have come to pass had it not been for Hezbollah’s attack on Israel. Thus Lebanon may gain land through force. Even having the issue of Sheba put on the table is a victory for those would use illegal aggression to expand their international borders.
8.7.2006 4:09pm
jack (mail):
There is also a post about Prof. Kontorovich's op-ed at opiniojuris.org. The gist seems to me that international law is really just a suggestion and can be disregarded by willing parties -- I guess it's both a feature and a bug.
8.7.2006 4:17pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Anybody know the phone number for the International Police station?
8.7.2006 4:41pm
jvarisco (www):
It seems strange to bring this principle into play now - it seems to be consistent one would also have to ask Israel to withdraw to its 1948 borders. Or are gains fine if one happens to agree with the side who wins them?
8.7.2006 4:42pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
It seems strange to bring this principle into play now - it seems to be consistent one would also have to ask Israel to withdraw to its 1948 borders. Or are gains fine if one happens to agree with the side who wins them?
JVarisco: what country's land was taken by Israel after 1948?
8.7.2006 4:46pm
Preferred Customer:
David Nieporent:

The quoted passage from Kontorovich says:


Nations cannot enlarge their borders through the use of aggressive force. There are no exceptions to this non-acquisition principle. The U.N. Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and America itself have consistently affirmed it. In the words of the General Assembly, "no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal." Moreover, nations are forbidden from recognizing borders secured through illegal war.


It may be that the passage does not accurately state the relevant legal principle (which I will admit to knowing nothing about), but as drafted the maxim summarized does not require that territory be taken from another state--only that the border of the acquiring state be enlarged through "acquisition" of territory by the use or threat of force.
8.7.2006 4:57pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Preferred

Yes, but here's the thing: the phrase "1948 borders" (or "pre-1967 borders," as it is usually phrased) is a misnomer as applied to Israel. There weren't "1948 borders." The Green Line is merely an armistice line, not a border.
8.7.2006 5:22pm
ray_g:
My problem with "endorsement of Hezbollah's demand that Israel give it territory, known as the Sheba Farms", is that I don't know how you give territory to a non-state actor. So, if they are given this land, isn't that conceding that Hezbollah is the de-facto government of southern Lebanon? If so, let's recognize Southern Lebanon as "Hesbollahland" or whatever name, and then Israel can bomb the holy living stuff out of it without all this crying about hurting innocent Lebanese. Alternatively, if this is a demand from the government of Lebanon, relayed through Hezbollah, then we can assume that Lebanon supports or at least endorses Hezbollah's actions, so again we can put to rest the apparent fiction of the government of Lebanon unable to control Hezbollah, and let the bombs fall freely.

And if this land really "belongs" to Syria, aren't they going to be upset if Israel gives it to a third party?

I don't know if this proposal "violates bedrock norms of international law", but it sure seems to distort how we look at nation-states and sovereignty.
8.7.2006 5:56pm
David Hecht (mail):
If it's a norm, it can't date back any further than the end of WW2: after all, there's bagsful of territorial acquisitions that occurred prior to that time through the actual or threatened use of force, virtually all of which (the conspicuous exception being Manchuria) were recognized--indeed, in the case of the Munich accords, *brokered*--by the Great Powers.

I don't consider a principle of international law that is maybe 60 years old, tops, as being normative, let alone "bedrock". A "bedrock" principle would have to go back to at least the Vattel/Grotius era.
8.7.2006 6:02pm
Third Party Beneficiary (mail):
"what country's land was taken by Israel after 1948?"

Besides Syria's (Golan Heights)?
8.7.2006 6:10pm
devil's advocate (mail):
I would say the whole problem of the legality of all the boundaries over there are suspect. That's what happens when you dissolve colonial empires (western and ottoman). for anyone (Israeli or Arab or otherwise) to claim international law justifies their lines just depends on whether they were happy with the facts on the ground when the particular piece of international law paperwork was issued.

You can hate islamofacists all you want but the ownership of all that land in greater Israel-Palestine has a murky history if you run a objective, unbiased title search. Anyone who supports property rights like a strong conservative should can surely understand how people who believe a piece of land belongs to them (whether objectively right or wrong or ambigious) would react violently. And these conservatives should also be able to imagine how that natural human territorial defense reaction can be maniuplated.

I think more people need to answer the question: "where did Israel come from?" Where does a Palestinian state come from? Where did all those lines on the map come from? Military force? Terrorism? International Law? Holy texts?

America's lines also have the same issues, but there is the adverse possession principle of property law that once something is in effect and observed for a long time, it becomes legitimate even if it wasnt originally. Well it has only been 50 years or so for the lines around Israel, and there are certainly other adverse possessors who have not quieted their claim on the title.

I agree with the conservative commentors that international law has little intrinsic value (like a lot of things, it only has value if the parties choose to give it value*), but what does infuse Israel's lines with legitimacy? Is it the colonial powers decisions borne out of the guilt of the holocaust? Or the bible itself?

*of course int'l law like treaties are binding when nations enact implementing legislation. NAFTA law and tribunals etc are not laws that spring forth from an int'l bureaucracy unilaterally, those decisions have been accepted by the domestically governed when their representatives voted to implement the agreement. If you disagree with a portion of binding int'l law, dont blame the international-ness of it, blame the Congress that implemented it.
8.7.2006 6:49pm
markm (mail):
Israel didn't acquire land through "aggressive force". It just seems that every time Israel defends itself, it's army winds up in somewhere outside of the previous borders...
8.7.2006 6:57pm
just me:
Jimmy Carter included a call for Shebaa-to-Lebanon in his op-ed last week:


“Israel should withdraw from all Lebanese territory, including Shebaa Farms, and release the Lebanese prisoners.”


But, as others have noted above, this land was taken from SYRIA, not Lebanon.

So in the same spirit, I suggest that Israel give Gaza and the West Bank to, say, India? Monaco? Me?
8.7.2006 7:00pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
MarkM: That is the mark of a successful army. One might of course argue that a nation ought not even acquire territory as the result of a defensive war. But winning armies in defensive wars often do end up, for very good reason, on the other side's territory.
8.7.2006 7:11pm
ray_g:
I doubt that there is an acre of inhabited land in the world that hasn't changed hands via violence means at least once. So, trying to figure out who "really" or "legitimately" owns a particular piece of land is a pointless effort. The best we can do is to try to resolve any present disputes without resorting to violence.

The reality of the situation in the ME is that, like it or not, the state of Israel exists, has existed for a long time, and it will not voluntarily go away. So, you can either deal with its existence, or try to destroy it. As others have pointed out, the nations that deal with it (examples are Egypt and Jordan) don't get bombed.
8.7.2006 7:59pm
Jeek:
One might of course argue that a nation ought not even acquire territory as the result of a defensive war.

If that prevents the next war, then why not? If the aggressor does not pay a heavy price, what's to stop him from dusting himself off and coming back again when he's ready?
8.7.2006 8:20pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I don't think one can easily reconcile Israel's territorial acquistions in its prior wars with the principle Mr. Kontorovich is espousing simply by saying all of the prior wars were "defensive" by Israel and therefore did not involve the acquisition of land by aggression. For example, is the current war an "offensive" or a "defensive" war by Israel? Certainly, Israel has the right of self-defense, including the right to defend attacks on its soldiers, but does that right of self-defense, which justified a response to the kidnapping of 2 of its soldiers and killing of 8 of them, justify all of the actions it has taken in Lebanon, including the bombing of whole districts of Beirut, Lebanon's bridges, roads, and airports, and the wholescale dislocation of 1/4 of Lebanon's population? Is this still a "defensive" war?
8.7.2006 9:15pm
Erasmussimo:
It seems that some people are playing both sides of the fence here. On the one side we have those who say, "one nation cannot annex another nation's territory without the agreement of the other nation." They oppose the Lebanese demand for the Sheba farm area because it's a violation of international law. I agree with this proposition.

But then there are extremist supporters of Israel who don't give a fig for international law. They want Israel to annex the West Bank by right of conquest. But they also oppose the Lebanese proposal. Why? Well, because it would hurt Israel. They are certainly consistent in their support of Israel, if not in their treatment of international law.

I'll point out that, if the world were to accept their notion that nations are free to annex any lands they conquer, then India and Pakistan could quickly resolve their dispute over Kashmir with a nice bloody war. I suppose that the extemists would support India in such a war, because Pakistan is Muslim. On the other hand, Pakistan is a US ally, so it's difficult to determine which side they'd support, given their lack of concern for international law.

I'd like to pose a new problem. Let's suppose that Hezbollah scientists just happened to discover a Star Trek transporter device. They could beam their fighters into any place on the planet (such as, say, the local shopping mall in downtown Anyplace, USA), shoot up the place, and then beam home safely before the local police could respond. Arguing correctly that the USA is a belligerent in the current war (the USA is supplying the IDF with weapons), they could use the arguments presented by some people here that the goal is to intimidate the American public by killing so many Americans that the USA will surrender to them. They are quite active with their transporter, constantly sending teams to targets all over the country, and the police simply can't keep up with them; they're killing Americans by the hundreds every hour.

The questions I put to our bloodthirstier commentators are:

1) Would killing civilians still be a good idea if it were American civilians being targeted, instead of Lebanese civilians?

2) Since killing Muslim civilians is the best way to convince them to stop their undesirable behavior, will not the same tactic work in the same way on Americans?
8.7.2006 9:19pm
John Noble (mail):

The most surprising aspect of international proposals for a ceasefire in the Israel-Lebanon conflict is their endorsement of Hezbollah's demand that Israel give it territory, known as the Sheba Farms, in exchange for a end to rocket attacks on Israeli cities.


The Washington Post coverage of the US/French ceasefire proposal reported Hezbollah's view that it was a non-starter because it did not require Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. Of course, Sheba Farms isn't the Motel 6 of the Middle East, but the principle would seem to apply, and the exchange of territorial rights is only slightly complicated by the fact that Sheba Farms is Syrian territory swapped for Lebanese territory, that was occupied by Syria until their forced withdrawal unleashed Hezbollah, which provoked the Israeli incursion (invasion? encampment? occupation?). The distinction between aggressive and defensive occupations strikes me as particularly slippery. Provocation, like beauty, is in the mind of the beholder.
8.7.2006 9:28pm
Falafalafocus (mail):

Arguing correctly that the USA is a belligerent in the current war (the USA is supplying the IDF with weapons), they could use the arguments presented by some people here that the goal is to intimidate the American public by killing so many Americans that the USA will surrender to them

Maybe the hezbos could bomb our army barracks to show their anger at Evil American Aggression. Alternatively, they could hijack a ship and shoot a few joooos and dump them overboard. Perhaps they could talk a few friends into flying a plane or two into a large skyscraper.
8.7.2006 10:09pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Nations cannot enlarge their borders through the use of aggressive force. There are no exceptions to this non-acquisition principle.


I am kind of farklempt. This must be the only legal rule that has never been followed, and which every nation has violated. Indeed, I would wager that there are no cases where this rule has been applied. It would be closer to correct to state that all international boundaries are established solely by the aggressive use of force. No wonder that a lot of intelligent people snicker when international law is mentioned.
8.7.2006 10:12pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
More Arabs were killed in the annual trample-fest in Mecca this year than in the entire Israel-Hezbulla unpleasantness so far. Iran probably executes more prisoners in a year than Israel has killed in Gaza in 20. Check out the Islamic Republic News Agency site sometime. They have cool pictures of homosexual teens being executed along with those of the fierce revolutionary guards drilling, and the womens table tennis teams world tour. I shouldn't get over confident, but I just cant take seriously a force that drills in bermuda shorts and huraches.
8.7.2006 10:18pm
Just:
That is the mark of a successful army. One might of course argue that a nation ought not even acquire territory as the result of a defensive war. But winning armies in defensive wars often do end up, for very good reason, on the other side's territory.

Is there any truth to the rumor that Israel was looking for a pretext to invade and re-occupy Lebanon, and the soldiers' kidnapping gave them opportunity to solidify plans?

Also heard that the massive air-bombing campaign to get civilians to "abandon" their lands, so Israel can expand its territory. Some say they need the waters of the Litani, geopolitically, and the military explanation of needing this additional area, beyond which no rockets can reach?, is used as a sideshow to justify the acquisition of land.

I try not to put much faith in this type of talk, but comments like this, "But winning armies in defensive wars often do end up, for very good reason, on the other side's territory" make me wonder if I'm just naive. Personally, in the long run, I'd think this was a sorry way to expand boundaries, not "the mark of a successful army." To me, that's one that doesn't have to fight and spend so much as Israel does. Wouldn't a successful army, being guided in truly successful policies, not find itself in emergency mode so much as Israel does? Just Askin.
8.7.2006 11:48pm
Erasmussimo:
Just, I doubt that the Israelis have any long-term plans for southern Lebanon. They learned their lesson the first time they occupied Lebanon and I doubt they want to repeat that fiasco.

A minor comment on Eugene's comment That is the mark of a successful army. One might of course argue that a nation ought not even acquire territory as the result of a defensive war. But winning armies in defensive wars often do end up, for very good reason, on the other side's territory.

According to the Nazis, Polish troops attacked German border outposts during the night of August 31, 1939. They even got some bodies out for photographers as proof of such attacks (looks like staged photos are nothing new). Based on this, the German armed forces counterattacked and successfully conquered the aggressor, Poland (at least, that's their version of it). I assume that Eugene would find nothing objectionable in Germany's subsequent annexation of Poland's territory -- after all, they were the winning side.
8.7.2006 11:56pm
o' connuh j.:
Yes, except Hezbollah admits that it DID make a cross-border incursion and that it kidnapped and killed Israeli soldiers. Where does Poland admit the same? Yeah, drivelous babble. Next.
8.8.2006 12:20am
Jeek:
if the world were to accept their notion that nations are free to annex any lands they conquer, then India and Pakistan could quickly resolve their dispute over Kashmir with a nice bloody war.

Conquest and annexation certainly resolved India's dispute with Portugal over Goa.

Since killing Muslim civilians is the best way to convince them to stop their undesirable behavior, will not the same tactic work in the same way on Americans?

Ignoring your asinine straw man, the answer to the question is yes, on any given issue, there is some number of Americans you could kill in order to force the US to change its policy on that issue.

According to the Nazis, Polish troops attacked German border outposts during the night of August 31, 1939. They even got some bodies out for photographers as proof of such attacks (looks like staged photos are nothing new). Based on this, the German armed forces counterattacked and successfully conquered the aggressor, Poland (at least, that's their version of it). I assume that Eugene would find nothing objectionable in Germany's subsequent annexation of Poland's territory -- after all, they were the winning side.

He was certainly referring to genuine defensive wars, not aggressive wars waged on a phony defensive pretext (should this really need clarification?). For a fact, nobody objects to Soviet and Polish annexation of German territory as a result of the USSR's successful defensive war against Germany, and this annexation played a major role in preventing further German aggression.
8.8.2006 12:54am
Justin (mail):
"He was certainly referring to genuine defensive wars, not aggressive wars waged on a phony defensive pretext (should this really need clarification?)"

How....current.
8.8.2006 12:57am
Brian G (mail) (www):
You don't need to know a thing about international law. By even considering Hezbollah legitimate, international shows how legitimate it is not.

International law is code for the attempt to force liberal socialist policies on unwilling and unsuspecting people.
8.8.2006 1:26am
Erasmussimo:
There is some confusion about annexation of territory by military conquest. First, we can all agree that, prior to the twentieth century, such annexations were common and accepted. However, during the course of the twentieth century, attitudes have changed and it is now accepted by the international community that annexation of conquered lands is illegal. Transfer of territories as part of a peace treaty is just fine, but simply invading and taking over is no longer acknowledged as legal. There are plenty of cases in which such annexations have been acquiesced to because there is simply nothing that can be done about it -- China's illegal annexation of Tibet is such a case. I'm not sure of US policy on Tibet, but I believe that the official position is that this annexation was illegal. Somebody please correct me if I am mistaken.

Similarly, Indonesia's annexation of East Timor was never accepted as legal and international pressure eventually forced Indonesia to permit self-determination for the people there.

Somebody cited India's annexation of Portuguese Goa. This is a poor example because neither Portugal nor the United Nations recognized the annexation. In 1975 Portugal re-established diplomatic relations with India and signed a treaty recognizing India's annexation of Goa, at which point the UN recognized the annexation. In other words, it wasn't legal until the original owner recognized it as legal.

Let me remind everybody that Mr. Kontorovich is an expert on the subject and is adamant on the point; please see the main posting as well as the full essay. There is no basis for debating the legality of the matter. (A few days ago a number of correspondents insisted that there is no such law; I hope that Mr. Kontorovich's article has put their doubts to rest.)

Lastly, I want to remind everybody of the two reasons why the international community has developed these legal concepts. First, if the community acquiesces to such annexations, then there is no security for small states. Remember that Iraq's annexation of Kuwait in 1990 was flatly rejected by the entire world and the coalition the evicted the Iraqis included a great many nations. That's because everybody knows that, if we acquiesce to annexation by conquest, we're setting up the world for invasions of the weak by the powerful.

Second, the world has learned that territorial acquisitions of this nature breed resentments that often explode into wars. Germany clobbered France in 1870 and took Alsace-Lorraine. Then France won in WWI and took back Alsace-Lorraine, along with other territory. This left the Germans smouldering with resentment which exploded into WWII. We have learned that discouraging the use of violence to annex territory can reduce the overall amount of war on the planet.
8.8.2006 1:48am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
"Let me remind everybody that Mr. Kontorovich is an expert on the subject and is adamant on the point; please see the main posting as well as the full essay. There is no basis for debating the legality of the matter."

Oh give me a break. Mr. Kontorovich is making it up. The subject he claims to be an expert in apparently produces nothing but drivel.

"Then France won in WWI and took back Alsace-Lorraine, along with other territory. This left the Germans smouldering with resentment which exploded into WWII."

And the Germans lost WWII, and the victors carved it up like a Thanksgiving Turkey. And the borders of every European country were redrawn by the aggressive use of force.

As the Iraq-Kuwait war proves, international boundaries are guranteed by the willingness of the United States to use force, and that is all.

You an Mr. K can bloviate about all you want about international law and the UN charter, and it makes no difference, international boundaries have always been, and will always be, established by the agressive use of force.
8.8.2006 2:36am
Jeek:
Congratulations, Erasmus, you have established that international law is an important obstacle to the annexation of territory, except when it isn't.

if the community acquiesces to such annexations, then there is no security for small states. Remember that Iraq's annexation of Kuwait in 1990 was flatly rejected by the entire world and the coalition the evicted the Iraqis included a great many nations. That's because everybody knows that, if we acquiesce to annexation by conquest, we're setting up the world for invasions of the weak by the powerful.

The "security for small states" depends not on international law but on the power and ability of the United States to deter such annexations and reverse them when they occur. The rejection of Iraq's annexation by the entire world was essentially irrelevant, because without the U.S. decision to throw Saddam out, and the U.S. military's ability to do so, the world would eventually have acquiesced to this annexation just as it has to others.

territorial acquisitions of this nature breed resentments that often explode into wars.

Except when territorial annexations underwrite the peace, as in 1945. Oh wait, I forgot, for Erasmus, history started in 1945. All that went before is now moot.

We have learned that discouraging the use of violence to annex territory can reduce the overall amount of war on the planet.

Yeah, there has been very little violence on the planet since 1945 when such annexations were outlawed. Thank God for this wise international law! It is clearly an important contributor to world peace.
8.8.2006 3:09am
Erasmussimo:
Jeek and Robert Schwartz jeer at international law as feckless. Robert writes, international boundaries have always been, and will always be, established by the agressive use of force. Let us examine their position.

We begin by considering their thesis with a minor change in wording:

personal wealth has always been, and will always be, established by the agressive use of force.

This describes a state of anarchy, in which the powerful prey upon the weak. All societies have some sort of constraints upon such behavior, in varying degrees of effectiveness. Many nations in sub-Saharan Africa are crippled by weak constraints upon such behavior; this is a major factor in their inability to address their problems.

At the opposite extreme, we have the advanced economies with complex legal systems designed to protect the weak from even the most devious machinations of the powerful. Of course, such legal systems are imperfect; the struggle to keep up with the endless schemes of human cupidity will never achieve total victory. But we measure the degree of civilization of a society by the degree to which law protects the weak from the strong.

The esteem that we hold for law does not arise solely from our natural inclination for justice -- over thousands of years we have learned that protecting the weak from the strong is necessary to the well-being of society as a whole. In societies in which the strong can steal from the weak, people devote their energies to protecting their wealth rather than creating more wealth. Society as a whole is poorer. The strength of the law enriches everybody.

Messrs Jeek and Schwarz reject this principle. They celebrate naked power as they heap ridicule upon the rule of law. Let us all reflect upon our good fortune that these two were not present at the Constitutional Convention.
8.8.2006 11:38am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Rubbish. The rule of law is a great thing, but it only occurs inside civil societies. Hobbes said:

Out of civil states, there is always war of every one against every one.

Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war, as is of every man, against every man. For war, consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time, is to be considered in the nature of war; as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather, lieth not in a shower or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war, consisteth not in actual fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.

The incommodities of such a war.

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

* * *

But though there had never been any time, wherein particular men were in a condition of war one against another; yet in all times, kings, and persons of sovereign authority, because of their independency, are in continual jealousies, and in the state and posture of gladiators; having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is, their forts, garrisons, and guns upon the frontiers of their kingdoms; and continual spies upon their neighbours; which is a posture of war. But because they uphold thereby, the industry of their subjects; there does not follow from it, that misery, which accompanies the liberty of particular men.

In such a war nothing is unjust.

To this war of every man, against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law: where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice, and injustice are none of the faculties neither of the body, nor mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his senses, and passions. They are qualities, that relate to men in society, not in solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition, that there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thine distinct; but only that to be every man’s, that he can get; and for so long, as he can keep it. ...


CHAPTER XIII. of the natural condition of mankind as concerning their felicity, and misery.
Leviathan or The Matter, Form, &Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil by Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury.(London, 1651)
.

If you wish to argue from authority, select one of the immortals, not an assistant prof at a second string state university.
8.8.2006 2:41pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Huh, I'm very confused. This land isn't part of israel proper but merely land that belongs to Syria that they occupied in a previous war. Besides lebanon made no aggresive act. So in what way would this possibly violate the international law quoted here.

The real problem with withdrawing from sheeba farms is that it isn't lebanese but Syrian. All the maps from before israeli occupation show it to be syrian but the syrians suddently started saying they supported a lebanese claim the second the israeli occupation of the area could be used to show that the israelis hadn't totally withdrawn from lebanon. However, the syrians still refuse to formally support such a claim which would actually settle the border in favor of lebanon.

In other words the problem with sheeba farms is all of syria's making. Though this obviously doesn't mean it might not be in the best interests of peace for israeli to simply withdraw and leave it to syria and lebanon to work out.
8.8.2006 2:53pm
Erasmussimo:
Robert, Hobbes' argument supports my position. He points out that, without law, it's every man for himself, and that there needs to be some power greater than individuals to enforce law. The next step in the history of political thought was the realization that this power springs from the people over whom the law would rule. ["...That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed..."

That's what we're trying to build with international law. Humanity is trying to establish the just powers defined in international law step by step. It's a slow and difficult process; more than 500 years elapsed from the Magna Carta to the US Constitution. Your position is that of a cynic dismissing the Magna Carta as meaningless. You sneer at the effort and revel in naked military power. History is not on your side.
8.8.2006 3:17pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
As long as we are reviewing the fundamental tenents of political theory, we should recur to John Locke:

§. 14. It is often asked as a mighty objection, where are, or ever were there any men in such a state of nature? To which it may suffice as an answer at present, that since all princes and rulers of independent governments all through the world, are in a state of nature, it is plain the world never was, nor ever will be, without numbers of men in that state. I have named all governors of independent communities, whether they are, or are not, in league with others: for it is not every compact that puts an end to the state of nature between men, but only this one of agreeing together mutually to enter into one community, and make one body politic; other promises, and compacts, men may make one with another, and yet still be in the state of nature. The promises and bargains for truck, &c. between the two men in the desert island, mentioned by Garcilasso de la Vega, in his history of Peru; or between a Swiss and an Indian, in the woods of America, are binding to them, though they are perfectly in a state of nature, in reference to one another: for truth and keeping of faith belongs to men, as men, and not as members of society.

Two Treatises of Government by John Locke (1689), Book II: OF Civil Government, Chapter II: Of the State of Nature.




§. 16. THE state of war is a state of enmity and destruction: and therefore declaring by word or action, not a passionate and hasty, but a sedate settled design upon another man’s life, puts him in a state of war with him against whom he has declared such an intention, and so has exposed his life to the other’s power to be taken away by him, or any one that joins with him in his defence, and espouses his quarrel; it being reasonable and just, I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction: for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved as much as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be preferred: and one may destroy a man who makes war upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion; because such men are not under the ties of the common-law of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into their power.

Two Treatises of Government by John Locke (1689), Book II: OF Civil Government, Chapter III: Of the State of War.
8.8.2006 6:51pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Whatever you have been smoking, you better quit. History may be on your side. All though I suspect that abstractions don't take sides. Humanity of course does nothing, individual men do things.

To date no-one has produced a workable plan for world government. Clearly the UN is closer to being a bad joke than a government. A Kalifate would be a world government that would make you regret you ever thought of the idea.

Furthermore, reading history as a monotonic climb towards something other (Whig Theory, Marxism) is a bad habit. It is true that Magna Carta was the first step down the path toward the rule of law in England, but if Henry VIII's first wife had borne a couple of healthy sons things might have been very different.

Finally, I am not sure that a world government is even a good idea. Monopoly is almost always a bad idea, and large centralized governments tend more to tyranny than peace.
8.8.2006 7:40pm
Erasmussimo:
Furthermore, reading history as a monotonic climb towards something other (Whig Theory, Marxism) is a bad habit.

The catch in your statement is the word 'monotonic'. Sure, there are lots of ups and downs. But the secular trend is clear in all manner of indicators: literacy, population, global economic output, science and technology... the list is long. Yes, there really is such a thing as progress.

I am not sure that a world government is even a good idea.

This is a restatement of your opposition to international law. All I can offer is my own restatement of the centrality of law to civilization.

large centralized governments tend more to tyranny than peace.

Yes, it is difficult to design a government that doesn't become a tyranny. The Founders did a pretty good job, and while the government they designed is slowly sliding in the general direction of tyranny, it's still very far from getting there. Given the additional two hundred years of experience we have in designing governments, why shouldn't we be able to do better in designing a world government?
8.8.2006 7:56pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
This has gotten tiresome. Clearly you have a fixed idea, and a foolish one at that. My problem with your idea is that it does not correspond to the facts of history. I have never objected to the idea of international law, I simply maintained that it does not exist, nor has it ever existed. You belief in "progress" is touching, but hardly realistic. Indeed, many people believe we are on the precipice of a catastrophe. I leave you with a song:

A world become one
Of salads and sun
Only a fool would say that

A boy with a plan
A natural man
Wearing a white stetson hat

Unhand that gun, begone
There's no one to fire upon
If he's holding it high
He's telling a lie

CHORUS:
I heard it was you
Talking about a world
Where all is free
It just couldn't be
And only a fool would say that

The man in the street
Dragging his feet
Don't wanna hear the bad news

Imagine your face
There in his place
Standing inside his brown shoes

You do his nine to five
Drag yourself home half alive
And there on the screen
A man with a dream

CHORUS

Anybody on the street
Has murder in his eyes
You feel no pain
And you're younger
Than you realize

CHORUS
8.9.2006 12:10am
o' connuh j.:
Nonsensical assbabble from "Erasmussimo". Hobbes clearly does NOT support your 'argument' - since for Hobbes the only source of law is the sovereign - and there is no 'sovereign' at international law: every state is a legal personality or 'sovereign' in their own right. Please desist from talking out of your ass.
8.9.2006 12:30am
Erasmussimo:
Robert and o'connuh j, since you offer invective and denial rather than reasoned arguments, I have nothing to respond to. I'm always happy to discuss matters. It seems you give me nothing to discuss.
8.9.2006 1:18am
o' connuh j.:
In other words, you have no reply to the crushing rejoinder that there is no Hobbesian sovereign at international law (which you should have responded to, but chose not to, because you have no response).

Next.
8.9.2006 1:52am
Deoxy:
Erasmussino,

oconnuh's last point is the point I had come to, even before I read it. Unless you can offer a response, you are soundly beaten, no invective or denial necessary.

Each and every state does as they see fit. There are NO binding international laws, save those that have been entered into by treaty between individual countries, and even those get broken on a fairly regular basis. The only other method is force, which is deployed regularly. When the US chooses do enforc some "law", that's nice, but how often is that? And that's just the biggest kid on the block using force.

"International law" is a joke, enforced at whim and at random.
8.9.2006 4:38pm
ReaderY:
Isn't the Kellog-Bryant Treaty still on the books -- war is completely illegal and nations can't use force under any circumstances. Oh, and gentlemen aren't allowed to read each other's mail.
8.10.2006 4:49am