Posts Tagged

Security and Insecurity

It now seems fairly clear that the US and the UK are set to take military action in Syria in the coming days in response to the recent chemical attacks there. The UK Prime Minister, UK Foreign Secretary and the UK Secretary of State for Defence have all asserted that any action taken in Syria will be lawful. But on what grounds will military action in Syria be lawful. As is well known, United Nations Charter prohibits the use of force in Art. 2(4), as does customary international law. The UN Charter provides 2 clear exceptions to the prohibition of the use of force: self defence and authorization by the UN Security Council. It is almost certain that there will be no Security Council authorization. In a previous post, I considered the possibility of a (collective) self defence justification for the use of force in response to a use of chemical weapons. The scenario contemplated then is very different from the situation that has emerged, and the language used, at least by the UK, does not hint at a use of force on the basis of national interest. However, President Obama in a CNN interview last week did seem to speak of self defence when he said “there is no doubt that when you start seeing chemical weapons used on a large scale … that starts getting to some core national interests that the United States has, both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region.” A justification for force on this basis would sound like preemptive self defence in a way that is very close to the Bush doctrine. I find it hard to see the Obama administration articulating a legal doctrine of preemptive self defence claim in this scenario.

The balance sheet after three weeks of protests and police violence in Turkey is grim: four people were killed, more than 7,000 wounded, 11 lost their eyesight and several hundred detained. What began as a localised protest over a shopping centre and the demolition of the Gezi Park in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square turned into a nationwide conflagration in response to the inciting rhetoric of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the unfettered police brutality unleashed upon peaceful protestors. The image of German Green Party Chairwoman Claudia Roth, barely able to speak following a teargas attack on her hotel next to the Gezi Park, will come to haunt Turkey’s political elites for years to come. It is hence not surprising that a significant portion of Turkey’s society, which also feels unrepresented by the infighting-plagued main opposition party, was ready to go to the streets, when the initial protests over the shopping centre were brutally repressed.

East Asia’s rapid economic and military development has captured global attention. Analysis of news coverage demonstrates that regional economies and tensions have been growing in tandem. The South China Sea has historically been of particular interest because of the number of conflicting claims on the islands and sea-lanes it encompasses. Of note, these conflicts have never escalated to a full-scale regional war. Direct extrapolation suggests that previous restraint in military interactions implies the nations involved do not consider the potential benefits sufficient to justify an upset to the balance of power. However, contemporary changes in economic and security conditions complicate the issue.

Newly confirmed as US Secretary of State, John Kerry delivered his first policy speech last week, making the case for a renewed and proactive American diplomacy. Directing his remarks to the US Congress – and to Beijing’s leaders – more than to his actual audience at the University of Virginia, his message was urgent: “This is a time to continue to engage for the sake of the safety and the economic health of our country. This is not optional. It is a necessity.” Given the looming March 1 deadline for across-the-board sequestration which would reduce State Department operations by $850 million and foreign assistance by $1.7 billion, the US’ chief diplomat used his speech to defend the foreign policy budget against spending cuts, portraying foreign affairs as the guarantor of American economic prosperity.

Appealing to his Eurosceptic domestic constituents, Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent proposal for a UK-wide referendum on Britain’s membership to the European Union has been declaimed by EU supporters as an easy, if irresponsible, exit strategy. While the UK has a history of ambivalence towards European integration, Cameron’s official speech has placed the EU at a strategic inflection point in its development. Using his speech to ask ‘tough’ questions about the future of the European project, Cameron rejected the argument that a Europe in crisis ought to eschew such introspection. Instead, he declared that this is the moment to “examine thoroughly what the EU as a whole should do and should stop doing”, with nothing “off the table”. Although Cameron’s announcement raises anew the long-standing ‘widening versus deepening’ debate for some, the context of Cameron’s pronouncement ought to bring new scope to these questions.

After long years of silence and quiescence, the Non-Aligned Movement gained momentum in the debate about global governance and the management of alternative strategies of engagement with the world of international affairs. The setting was an unusual one per se, suggesting that the 16th gathering of the NAM was likely to be of a different nature. Indeed, Tehran, during the heated summer of 2012, seemed to be one of the less aligned capitals of the world, for a number of issues, widely debated in political science circles as well as among foreign policy decision-makers. Crippling sanctions, shadow negotiations and an on-going regional conflict in the Middle East, with several branches developing in Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and perhaps Yemen, have put …

The Home Affairs Committee has recently published a report into the work of the UK Border Agency in which it criticises the UKBA for failing to deport more than 600 Foreign National Prisoners who were released between 1999 and 2006 and are still in the country. It also says the Agency is failing to clear the ever increasing “controlled archive” of unresolved cases in the Case Resolution Programme. The report calls on for the Home Office to ‘act immediately to deal with the public scepticism in the effectiveness of the UK Border Agency’. Keith Vaz MP (Labour), Chair of the Committee, said: The reputation of the Home Office, and by extension, the UK Government, is being tarnished by the inability …

In Israel and the Palestinian territories, decades of conflict have not offered ripe soil for mutual understanding and peace on reasonable terms. Endless confrontation has eroded hopes for successful negotiations. Nonetheless, the frequent reference to a ‘status quo’ in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is mistaken – in my opinion, it’s pure political rhetoric and this conflict is anything but one of attrition. Every day, new settler houses are being built in the West Bank and east Jerusalem – on Palestinian land. Everyday bricks are added to the anti-terrorist fence (or apartheid wall, as some call it), thereby outcasting communities of shared history, as well as hindering commerce and splitting communities (and families) apart. The Israeli government, meanwhile, has authorised the building …