The House We Built: How the US Walked Away from Decades of Accountability

By David M. Crane

(Jurist | Sept. 22, 2018) JURIST Guest Columnist David M. Crane, the founding chief prosecutor of the international war crime tribunal called the Special Court for Sierra Leone, discusses America’s decreasing role in maintaining the international order and the Trump Administration’s recent attacks on the International Criminal Court…

As the world turns inward, nationalistic perspectives are on the rise. It feels like 1930, where the international order laid out in the Versailles Treaty, was about to be turned upside down. Today, something terrible is lurking around the corner, sitting in the shadows of anarchy and fascism. The rule of law tentatively steps forward afraid of what comes next. In this kaleidoscopic age, we do not know. All the international institutions laid out after World War II are being threatened by strongmen who seek their own personal power over the backs of citizens who seem too addled by consumerism or in the depths of social media. It has become a dog eat dog world and the dogs are the new nationalistic strongmen who have risen to power in an astonishingly short period.

The cornerstones to our system of international peace and security, the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the European Union among others, are faced with the reality of a diminished role by the United States in ensuring that the rule of law remains the fundamental currency of this international order. Since 9/11, the United States’ role in international peace and security has been more of a threat to peace than as a leader and champion of the rule of law. No more so than today.

By way of example related to this diminished role, the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture is about to release its report on 27 September regarding the depths of the horror that was the Retention, Detention, and Interrogation Program led by the current director of the Central intelligence Agency. After the planes crashed into the buildings on that fateful September day, the United States began to slip down a slope that had no bottom. The world recoiled in horror at subsequent American policy and actions related to its misguided “war on terror.” A blind and bleeding giant, the Americans swung the club of illegality about the world trying to kill the fly that was international terrorism. The United States has never really recovered from this mindset and has lost all credibility as a nation of law.

The 21st Century has not been good to the United States and its Presidents have stumbled along trying to adjust to a new world order that they were not prepared for. They have shown the world, particularly its possible adversaries, that today it would have to move on without American leadership in maintaining the delicate balance of peace and security. American strength and resolve to uphold the rule of law was once the fulcrum that balanced the forces of good and evil that the international community struggled with during the Cold War and the kaleidoscopic age we now live in.

With the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, this slide into oblivion has accelerated. Unstable and petulant with no respect for law, he has thrown gasoline on the fire started by George W. Bush and the war on terror. Barack Obama, aware of this slide, drank the cool aid of the war on terror and did little to halt the movement away from global leadership on the rule of law. The arbitrary use of drones throughout the world and extrajudicial killings of human beings deemed “terrorist” is a good example of how much he embraced his predecessor’s policy. The fact that Guantanamo remained open under his watch moved the United States further down the dark and slippery slope of lawlessness.

Throughout this period, the rest of the world (minus China and Russia) focused on accountability and creating a system of international criminal law that was largely built by the United States. Initially begun at Nuremberg, the Americans were the leading advocates of fair and open tribunals to try those who committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and eventually genocide. In the 1990’s, but for American leadership, the likes of the courts set up for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia, even the International Criminal Court, would not have happened. We were the master carpenters that built the house that is modern international criminal law, and yet we have just given away the keys to that house!

Recently, the United States once again has decided to drive a stake into the heart of international criminal law and accountability by attacking the International Criminal Court (ICC). Led by the National Security Advisor John Bolton, the Americans laid out a breath taking policy that would have shocked the original architect of the house the United States built at Nuremberg, Justice Robert H. Jackson.

Bolton has always wanted to destroy the ICC, beginning with the famous “Bolton Letter”, which practically speaking pulled the United States out of any meaningful relationship with the ICC. Though modified over time, the US has never been a leader in ensuring that the ICC succeeds. That house we build was left to others to maintain and protect, but we always kept the key, the key of United States’ adherence to the rule of law …

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Now retired from teaching at Syracuse University College of Law, David M. Crane is an INSCT Research & Practice Associate.

Yemen: A Crime Against Us All

By David M. Crane 

In a bombing, the dust settles slowly over the strike zone. What emerges are grey images, living beings neutralized to monochrome. Bleeding from the ears, deaf, and dumb from the concussions the survivors walk about in a haze. These zombies are the first things you see staggering down the street away from the rubble behind them, rubble that is the tomb of loved ones, neighbors, and friends.

“For a decade or so, the rule of law prevailed regarding holding those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable. Yet we have slipped down a slippery slope. That political will is waning.”

There is no militarily necessary reason for the destruction, the strike carried out by one of the combatants who knew or should have known about the laws of armed conflict. The rules do not matter in most conflicts of the 21st century. Welcome to the dirty little wars that nip at the heels of civilization, a civilization grown weary of it all and who look the other way. It is just too hard to marshal enough political will to do something.

A powerless United Nations can do nothing other than to help ease the pain of air strikes by caring for the wounded and the terrified refugees. The once proud mandate of restoring international peace and security has changed to maintaining at best that peace and security.

The three nations that could restore that prominence, the United States, China, and Russia are its biggest challenges and all three could certainly live without the paradigm of peace set forth in 1945. All three of those nations over the past years are also the biggest human rights abusers led by strong men.

International Law has evolved over centuries through customary practice and the consent of nations to bind themselves to certain norms. Indeed the day-to-day actions in commerce, trade, and finance all hinge upon these norms. Over time, other norms that declare that human beings have rights to be free from want, fear, and to speak their minds and worship freely are now enforceable and carry an accounting if violated.

From all this just twenty-five years ago, modern international criminal law began. For a decade or so, the rule of law prevailed regarding holding those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable. Yet we have slipped down a slippery slope. That political will is waning and the use of the law to govern international relations regarding humanity challenged.

In this kaleidoscopic void, dirty little wars flourish like weeds in an abandoned lot. Yemen is one of those weeds thriving in the dusty haze of airstrikes.

The likes of the Yemeni conflict exists but for this condition and circumstance. A surrogate conflict backed by cynical nations vying for power and influence in the greater region that is the Middle East, the possibility of a peaceful resolution hinges on the rule of law. It is not going to happen …

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The Stain of Torture

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from The Jurist | June 26, 2018) June 26th is the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Its purpose — to denounce the crime of torture and proclaim solidarity with its survivors — is in stark opposition to the policy of my government.

As a former Chief Prosecutor of an international war crimes tribunal in West Africa, I walked the countryside, interviewing hundreds of victims — often people who had been tortured by their own government. The atrocities scarred them physically, emotionally, and psychologically for life.

But they shared their stories enthusiastically with our team, willing to relay the horror in order to receive human empathy, long after giving up hope of finding anything resembling justice.

Having prosecuted the officials of other governments for torture, I now find myself in a United States increasingly identified with torture and cruelty. Intensifying torture was presidential campaign rhetoric. A person who oversaw waterboarding in black site prisons is promoted to lead the CIA. Children are removed from their families as they flee gang violence. The U.S. reportedly now plans to leave the UN Human Rights Council, although a member has never before departed that body voluntarily.

How Did We Get Here?

A leader in building the post-World War II consensus against torture and for the rule of law, the United States chose a path of lawless brutality after the horrendous crime of 9/11. Lashing out broadly at Muslims, it threw aside its own rules and embarked on the rendition, detention and interrogation program (RDI).

Our government embraced torture, long known by interrogation professionals to be counter-productive. It did so as an attempt at payback, out of anger. Weak justifications defied logic, morality, and international legal norms that had stood for decades.

Two Libyan victims of the RDI program, Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar, exemplify how far the U.S. moved to the dark side. They were on their way to the U.K. to seek asylum as opponents of the Gaddafi regime. With intelligence from the U.K., the CIA detained them in Thailand and tortured them: painful stress positions, drugs, and vicious beatings. Boudchar was several months pregnant.

From Thailand they were rendered to Libya, to the hands of their enemies, where they suffered further torture. Ms. Boudchar was released from prison just three weeks before she gave birth.

Fourteen years later, the British Prime Minister finally issued an apology for the U.K.’s role in the couple’s rendition and torture, a crime led by the United States. Stating that her country had contributed to the couple’s capture, Teresa May admitted “neither of you should have been treated this way,” and apologized unreservedly.

Less than a month later, the European Court of Human Rights also repudiated torture. It delivered judgments against Romania and Lithuania, which both hosted secret CIA torture prisons, finding this supporting role a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In stark contrast, at the same time such moral progress was occurring across the Atlantic, the U.S. confirmed a key figure in the RDI program to lead the CIA. Gina Haspel oversaw detention and torture at a black site occupied by Abd al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the detainee whom the European Court said was subject to “an extremely harsh interrogation regime.”

What Are Citizens to Do When Their Government Doubles Down on its Torture Record?

I am part of one attempt to answer that question and give the survivors a safe space to tell their stories. I am a Commissioner of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT). As part of the RDI program, the CIA used contractors and public facilities in North Carolina to move victims around the world to be tortured. Now local citizens are demanding to know how and why this was allowed to occur …

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Gassing International Law

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from The Jurist | Nov. 6, 2017) The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should not ignore or walk away from the alleged use of any prohibited weapon, such as chemicals, as it signals it is permissible to violate the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and erodes international norms related to such weapons. Further, it signals that countries with deep ties to P5 (U.K., U.S., France, Russia, China) are outside the scope of UNSC authority, therefore creating a bigger issue of eroding the international authority of the UNSC and jeopardizing the foundation of international law.

“The UN is not impotent, as it has facilitated international cooperation on the conflict, resulting in ceasefires, the initial formation of JIM, condemnation of acts, and investigation of potential war crimes.”

On Tuesday, October 24, 2017, Russia vetoed the resolution extending the mandate of the investigators probing chemical weapons attacks in Syria. [JURIST report] [Meeting Record] Following the chemical attack in 2015, Russia and America created the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) to investigate the presence/use of chemical weapons in Syria, which found 27 active production facilities. In its most recent report late last month, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it had verified the destruction of 25 of the 27 chemical weapons production facilities declared by Syria and continued to prepare an inspection to confirm the current condition of the last two. The vote on the resolution was in advance of the JIM investigative report (presented Thursday October 26). The report sought to identify the party responsible for a deadly April 4 attack in the rebel-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun in southern Idlib that killed and sickened scores of civilians allegedly using sarin gas. Shortly after that attack, the United States launched an airstrike on a Syrian air base and accused the al-Assad regime of carrying out the gas attack.

This action by Russia is primarily concerned with the sovereignty of Syria and stresses the maxim that you cannot enter a sovereign territory without concrete evidence of wrong doing. Further Russia believes they face possible retaliation by Syria and/or rebel groups present in Syria. Finally, Russia is concerned that there has been a blurring of lines between the conflict against Syria and the conflict against ISIS. Additionally Russia is supporting the regime and has economic ties to Syria. They do not want the US to gain any influence in Syria.

The media and various member states are concerned that the UNSC is impotent in assisting in Syria due to the P5 structure. The UNSC and the UN system are shouldering the blame for little progress in Syria. The broader discussion criticizes the entire UN system as being outdated and ineffective.

The UN is not impotent, as it has facilitated international cooperation on the conflict, resulting in ceasefires, the initial formation of JIM, condemnation of acts, and investigation of potential war crimes. Further, the UN is serving its purpose as a neutral forum for these discussions. Syria has not simply become a battlefield upon which America and Russia are fighting, nor are we seeing a return to interstate war. Therefore, the UN is working as a forum for these issues. Further negotiations need to be based on interests and relationships as nationalistic and realist strategies fail within the cooperative international organizational model …

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Qatar & the “Quartet”: International Blackmail

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from The Jurist | Oct. 11, 2017) Within the United Nations paradigm, state-parties settle their disputes peacefully and only resort to the use of force as a last measure. Several weeks ago four state-parties skipped the first step and used force against a fellow member state. That aggressive act consisted of embargoes, cyber-attacks, and trade and flight disruption, culminating in a list of demands by those states to lift those sanctions.

“The use of force by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt (the Quartet) against Qatar would not have happened but for a new and unstable president in the White House.”

In 2017, it is hard to imagine that a member state would use force without a legal sanction by the Security Council or an appropriate regional body. The unilateral decision to do harm to a member state of the United Nations by other member states is an action that should be condemned and corrected. Most remarkably is how little has been done by the international community to correct the situation and restore international peace and security within the region. The silence is deafening.

The use of force by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt (the Quartet) against Qatar would not have happened but for a new and unstable president in the White House. Past presidents, regardless of party, would not have allowed this to happen; and one would surmise that this Saudi led attack would not have even been contemplated by this Quartet of member states due to that leverage by the West. This quartet saw a political weakness and an opening and took it almost assured of the reaction by the West.

This action by the Quartet could most likely be the beginning of a series of “events” brought upon by a weakened and confused American foreign policy. The lack of leadership coming out of Washington is starting to weaken that international peace and security upon which the United Nations is grounded. Though international blackmail cannot be allowed to stand, the lack of discourse between the feuding parties will only exacerbate the situation. The recent demand by the UAE for Qatar to withdraw as a host of the 2022 World Cup is an example of the blackmail and the lack of interest in settling a dispute peacefully.

The violations of international law and norms committed by the Quartet against Qatar are almost too numerous to mention. Among the treaties violated are the Universal Declaration of Human rightsthe International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsthe Arab Charter on Human Rights, as well as the Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United States, among several others. These violations could arguably amount to an act of aggression. The battlefield and the weapons used are not conventional, but an embargo and the use of cyber space as a weapon to do harm could be construed as an aggressive act.

Hence the dilemma the international community now faces, technology has shifted the concept of conflict to another dimension, cyberspace. Its use to do harm continues to manifest itself and the lack of regulation of this new battlespace causes muddled or ineffectual response …

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Trump & North Korea: Beware the Boogeyman

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from The Jurist | Aug. 11, 2017) Tyrants need a war. Looking back over the past hundred years one finds that tyrants come to power in conflict and remains in power largely due to conflict. It centers the populace, distracting them from other societal challenges to include their civil liberties.

Historically these conflicts created by a tyrant, dictator or insecure leader rarely succeed. The immediate result may be a distraction, but in the long term that nation, and its leader, end up weakened and in some cases worse off than they were before the conflict.

Politically weak or insecure leaders also need a distraction. I call those distractions boogeymen–nations, a peoples, or culture that the leader perceives to be a threat to the national security. This boogeyman also distracts from the political challenges both real and imagined that leader faces. Hitler had the Jews; Stalin capitalism; the Ayatollah the “Great Satin,” and Assad “terrorists” by way of a few examples.

Dictators and other leaders need a populace that is afraid. Fear is a powerful psychological tool to govern with and leaders use it for various reasons. A populace that is afraid of “something” looks to its leader for security and a solution. This is where the shadow of a boogeyman is useful. Fear can bring a society together in common cause.

Historically these conflicts created by a tyrant, dictator or insecure leader rarely succeed. The immediate result may be a distraction, but in the long term that nation, and its leader, end up weakened and in some cases worse off than they were before the conflict. Various circumstances intervene that were unintended consequences. History shows that these unintended consequences rarely benefit a leader.

Only the citizens of that country suffer those consequences. Simply put some of their loved ones do not come home. Tens of thousands perish their nation weakened politically and economically by the conflict. The nation itself loses stature internationally. Weakened trade through sanctions and other action only bring more unrest and insecurity.

The result is a country in worse shape than before the conflict. It all blows up in the tyrant’s face, with more unrest and division a result. In this information age, conflict is bad for global trade and business, unlike the industrial age where conflict was good for business. The world suffers from this type of threat and conflict as well.

As our President, politically weak, deeply insecure and challenged on all fronts looks for a distraction and a boogeyman, he conveniently has been handed one in the guise of Kim Jong-un and North Korea. From the President’s point of view, he has a “twofer,” a threat worthy of a conflict and a boogeyman. To maintain his political relevancy (and to silence whatever demons whisper to him) a looming crisis with nuclear implications is just what the doctor ordered. Words such as “fire and fury” ring true to him.

Suddenly the Russia scandal is off the front page. No one is talking about collusion, conspiracy, perjury or obstruction of justice. Attention is diverted across the Pacific Ocean to a hermit kingdom led by a crafty leader who uses just this type of tension to maintain his own power.

Kim Jong-un is a dictator, he needs a looming conflict, and he needs that boogeyman, as well, to distract his citizenry away from daily famine towards an impending attack by their boogeyman, the United States. The President has handed him politically a reason to lead his nation and consolidate power on a silver platter.

We have an insecure and an unstable leader in our President now in a possible “dance of death” with a brutal tyrant who is “crazy like a fox” …

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A Step Backward: The Closure of the Office of Global Criminal Justice

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from The Jurist | July 21, 2017) With the raspy barking of a US President in the background trying to “Make America Great Again,” the world shrinks away in surprise and confusion. As the light begins to wane on that bright and shining experiment on the hill called “America”, the international community faces the yawning maw of a retrenching America, once again looking inward, shrinking away from a leadership position it has held since World War II. Unprepared for any of this, the West is losing its way uncertain and weakened. They look for any indication of someone to lead.

“The United States has always been at the forefront in creating justice mechanisms.”

It will not be America. From the environment to trade, the US has chosen to step away from not only legal but also moral obligations. This past week another indication of further retrenchment was manifest when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that he was closing the Office of Global Criminal Justice (OGCJ), the office where the US asserts leadership and support for international justice and holding accountable those who feed upon their own citizens. Like much else this new US administration has done, this is wrong!

The United States has been the cornerstone for the creation of modern international criminal law. It played the leading role at the International Criminal Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945, the subsequent Council 10 trials, up to and including the establishment of the tribunals and courts for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia, as well as the International Criminal Court. BUT FOR the support of the United States, most of these justice mechanisms would not have come into existence or would have had existential and overwhelming challenges at the beginning. The United States has always been at the forefront in creating justice mechanisms.

Past administrations have had policy differences with the world community on the administration of international justice, but, at the end of the day, they did not waiver in the perception that the rule of law is important for a more stable world. This administration, a newly forming kleptocracy, is facing the rule of law with almost a blatant disregard, certainly a jaw-dropping disrespect not seen in the history of the republic. Ruefully, commentators have said that in Washington “nothing matters” …

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What Did Trump’s FBI Nominee Know of US Torture Post-9/11?

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from The Hill | July 12, 2017) [On July 12, 2017] Washington’s attention turns to the confirmation hearing of Christopher Wray, nominated by President Trump as FBI Director following the firing of James Comey in that position.

“But perhaps the most disturbing recent official effort to sweep our torturous past under the rug is the Administration’s surrender of most copies of the 6,770-page study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation practices to the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

In the inevitable focus on the Russia investigation and Comey firing fallout, Senate Judiciary Committee members would be remiss not to use the opportunity to probe the issue of Wray’s previous role as Assistant Attorney General in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department. What are his past and current views on the use of torture in interrogations?

In the years following 9/11, our government unleashed a program of illegal torture and rendition of suspected enemies.

Recent efforts to bury the most comprehensive account to date of the U.S. torture program, coupled with Administration appointments of those who played a key role in it, raise sharp concerns about human rights, government transparency and accountability.

Wray served in  a Justice Department which sought to justify the use of torture by since-repudiated legal gymnastics. Glimpses from highly redacted government documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU indicate that, at the very least, Wray knew about detainee abuse and was involved in discussions about harsh interrogation techniques.

His stance in those conversations remains a mystery, but members of Congress and the American public have a right to a full picture of what happened. Nothing less will prevent a repeat of these mistakes.

Wray is not an outlier among recent appointees who played a role in this dark chapter of American history.

Steven Bradbury, a key enabler of the torture program, was nominated as General Counsel of the Transportation Department. Bradbury has suffered no consequences for his 2007 memo that helped authorize the since-discredited program.

These two nominations follow the February appointment of Gina Haspel as Deputy Director of the CIA; who, according to multiple reports, personally oversaw the use of torture at a black site in Thailand.

But perhaps the most disturbing recent official effort to sweep our torturous past under the rug is the Administration’s surrender of most copies of the 6,770-page study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation practices to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which produced the report.

This recall was requested by the Chair of that Committee Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The declassified summary of the report contains a damning assessment of the CIA’s tactics as both ineffective and damaging to America’s reputation and influence.

It raises the distinct possibility that some of these actions violated both international and domestic law …

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A Darkened Age—The Rule of Law in Protecting Morality and Humanity

By David M. Crane

There is a growling of a discontent, an unrest, just below the surface, festering ready to erupt into a boil of frustration. The salve of the rule of law diluted or unavailable. The world today shifts to the right or spins helpless, struggling to find an anchor, a safe harbor in which to balance itself.

“The world wobbling, citizens looked to new political leaders who promised to restore greatness, an elusive idea that cannot be attained alone in this new century.”

There is no light towards which we can step towards, hopeful that mankind is moving in a direction that is right and proper. Our kaleidoscopic future looms, where tried and true customs and norms shrink from this new thinking of looking inward and away from a global village that was beginning to change the world stage.

In another context we have been here before. For 50 years we saw a stasis that saw the rise of the dictator. The Cold War was a desperate time trying to maintain a balance that would avoid Armageddon. Death and destruction by heads of state against their own citizens was rampant, with little checks against internal struggles. Mankind simply looked the other way as long as loyalty towards one side or the other was maintained. Tens of millions perished, disappearing into the sands of time forgotten as if they never existed.

As the Cold War ended there was a sense of optimism that we had changed for the better, the rule of law began to take hold, the UN taking its intended position of guiding the international community [PDF] towards a real peace and security never attained before. Tyranny shrank before this blinding light and dictators faced accountability. The new millennium held promise, more so than any other millennial event.

It all came crashing down with the towers on September 11, 2001. A fundamental shift took place, at the time seemingly correct, wrapped in a ragged cloth of righteous fury. But the pain of that day stripped away our innocence, our hope, our desire to build a global village where all mankind would benefit. America turned into itself, seemingly trying to lead, to fight against a new and elusive adversary, yet chasing its tail against itself. American civil liberties were challenged. The world watched and stepped away, subtly looking for other leadership and other ways to survive in a world of struggle with a weakened America, the loss of a land that was a bright and shining light that dimmed, barely visible in the storm of extremism that blew across the world.

To survive nation-states began to look for their own solutions seeking new directions. Major international institutions such as the UN, the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) shrank in influence against the onslaught of that extremism. There seemed to be no solutions that were viable. The world wobbling, citizens looked to new political leaders who promised to restore greatness, an elusive idea that cannot be attained alone in this new century. The rise of the nationalistic right a desperate attempt to grasp hold of the fog of this new kaleidoscopic world …

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The Fist in a Velvet Glove: Hardened Humanitarianism

By David Crane

(Re-published from Jurist | April 21, 2017) The cornerstone to the UN paradigm is to settle disputes peacefully, using force only as a last resort. Yet, restoring international peace and security sometimes requires a hardened approach to ensure that peace and security.

“This hardened approach must be done under law or we weaken our international norms, yet it must be done. Enough is enough in Syria.”

There are decades of international treaties, custom, and precedent that support what I call hardened humanitarianism. When we have to deal with a tyrant, thug, dictator, or rogue head of state who turns on his own citizens, the international community or a member state of that community should step forward with a clear and firm position—stop it or force will be used.

A tyrant only understands one thing—power. When he feels the sting of consequence for his actions that tyrant begins to focus on that use of force against him. The use of this more hardened approach in using force to stop a tyrant’s actions will cause that tyrant to pause, to consider his next steps.

Appeasement in the face of tyranny never works. History is replete with anecdotal evidence of this from the Armenian genocide to the Sudetenland. A hardened policy of seeking a peaceful dialog with the assurance of a forceful resolution, should that dialog fail, makes for a more meaningful discourse.

Our international legal and policy system has drawn lines related to protecting civilians in a conflict and banning certain type of weapons systems per se. Most, if not all, states parties have signed onto these norms. We don’t have to be histrionic when a tyrant ignores these clear lines beating our chests with empty words. When that tyrant steps over a line hit them hard, use force, show the world there are consequences!

US action against Al Qaeda after they attacked the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are examples of facing down the lawless elements of our society under the international legal concept of reprisal. In 2005 the world came together to create a doctrine that laid down a marker that declared that the international community has a right to step in to block a tyrant or head of state who is turning against his own citizens committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Called the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the doctrine was a clarion call to arms should there be alleged violations of international law.

Unfortunately, R2P has fallen short of the ideal based on the political perception that it is a doctrine that can be easily used by various powers against weaker nation states for alleged violations. Despite this the principle idea of this responsibility to protect citizens from their own leaders remains.

The long and tragic kaleidoscopic conflict that is Syria has now gone beyond peaceful resolution. A hardened sense of humanity calls for continued cruise missiles strikes and other military action every time Assad crosses the lines laid out under international norms. Kaleidoscopic conflict is fast becoming a new concept in the dirty little wars of the 21st century. Old doctrines for war fighting and the legal set of rules that surround warfare that have been tested over time are being challenged at all levels. Just when planners think there is a viable course of action developing related to a conflict, such as in Syria, one thing changes and everything changes, hence the term kaleidoscopic. This impacts on what is called the deliberate planning cycle in modern parlance throwing out how international and domestic organizations plan for and deal with conflict on a day to day basis.

At the end of the day we are beginning to face situations where there is no solution under current policy and doctrine. This gives us pause as to how to advise world leaders in dealing with any given conflict. This pause can allow a tragedy, such as in Syria, to go on and on without any foreseeable ending.

These dirty little wars have a direct impact on how parties to a conflict deal with civilians found in and around the battlefield. One of the key cornerstone concepts of the international humanitarian law is that civilians are to be protected and that the intentional targeting of a civilian is a war crime plain and simple. We see around the globe today parties to a conflict flagrantly ignoring this key legal concept. With no apparent repercussion to these attacks on civilians, actors move about the battlefield with impunity. Again this is the conflict in Syria, but can be seen also in the fighting in South Sudan. This is why a more hardened approach to our humanitarian principle of using force where legally appropriate will cause actors to pause and reconsider wholesale destruction in any given conflict.

This hardened approach must be done under law or we weaken our international norms, yet it must be done. Enough is enough in Syria. States parties who for whatever reason give that tyrant support should also be dealt with for their aiding and abetting of international crimes with legal sanctions …

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