US, UN, International Law and Pre-emptive Invasion

This discussion began as an exchange of E-mails between some Americans and some Brits, first discussing what was legal and illegal in the international arena, then what exactly is the role of the UN, and specifically does the UN have the power to make actions of member states legal or illegal, then the nature of the United States current policy of pre-emptive invasion.

When we finish solving these minor problems we plan solve world poverty, end world hunger and find a cure for cancer.

In migrating to this more public forum I will very briefly summarize what has been discussed previously, so others not in the original exchange of Emails will have a clue what we are gabbling about. I will intentionally not give much detail about other people’s opinions. They can refine their own views and they don’t need me to give them views they don’t actually hold.

Anyone not in the original Email exchange is encouraged to chime in, particularly if you are witty, funny, good at expressing complicated subtle nuances of economic and geopolitical theory, knowledgeable about current and past world affairs and have too much time on your hands. Oh yes, two of us like Latin epigrams so either a knowledge of classical languages or the ability to ignore pretentious Latin quotations would also be helpful.

If you do join the discussion please briefly describe your background (“I am French, a member of the extreme left wing of the Partie Communiste Francaise, hold two doctorates, one in Islamic Culture and the other in Maritime Law and I am currently on the editorial staff of Foreign Affairs. That sort of thing. Just so we know what part of the woods you come from. We don’t need your real name, a handle or nickname is fine.

Please try to keep comments polite. This is serious stuff and we don’t need nastiness. I also recommend you keep your comments short. Make three short posts and people will read and consider your brilliant analyses. Write a long piece and the reader’s eyes will glaze over, his finger will involuntarily twitch on that mouse button and he will be carried away to safety on the next (shorter) web page.


Struggling to summarize our brilliant insights so far:

I think we have on the whole agreed that the UN does not have the power to enforce any of its decisions. Some of us have said that was intentional: that the UN Founders designed it to be powerless limit the actions of those same Founding States.

We then discussed (well, I asked) if the UN serves any useful purpose at all. By “UN” we limited the discussion to the Political Arm (the Secretary General, Security Counsel and General Assembly), as distinct from the Social Service Branch (the WHO, the ILO etc.) Had it ever attempted something, succeeded at what it was trying to do, and was that result an improvement in the world?

The only two things we came up with were that the UN provides a forum where member states can air their differences verbally (rather than just picking up the nearest sharp object). And someone else said the Political Arm has allowed the UN Social Service arm to exist (ie without the General Assembly the WHO wouldn’t exist). Others can expand on this if they wish.

I noted the UN and many members have a different view of the UN’s authority, and that difference between the true powerlessness of the UN and a perception it has any power and authority is dangerous. People find the assumptions they have been operating under aren’t true or aren’t shared and they become hurt, angry and hostile.

See my post Sam’s Bus Ride

written years ago in another discussion. It is a parable of what happens when two groups find to their surpise they don’t agree who is in charge of what.

We discussed the US Pre-emptive Invasion doctrine. I noted that this is nothing new and came up with a long list of similar occasions where the US stepped inside some other country and changed the leader or government, usually without asking permission and sometimes over the explicit orders of other entities, including the UN. People added more examples. We (the US)do this maybe every 5 years or so. It is not a new doctrine.

Examples were Kosovo where the UN did not give permission for a US led war, where the Security Council wouldn’t back the war (the Russians were pro-Milosevic on ethnic/religious affinity grounds) Kofi Annan said we didn’t have UN authority and we were violating International Law and we went in anyhow and Milosevic is in a prison cell, not a presidential palace.

Our invasion of Grenada stirred up quite a bit of old unhappiness among the Brits (ask them about it). Panama (Manuel Noriega) was another example. The list is a long one.

On the subject of Panama one of the participants mentioned this as “Imperialism” and I was about to start writing about what the US sticking-itself-into-other-countries-and- changing-them is. Imperialism? Paternalistic? World’s Self Appointed Cop and Benign Dictator?

But then we decided to move here.

The other participants may (are likely to) think I got some of the above all completely wrong. My apologies if I didn't get your positions down correctly and please add or correct anything I said above as you see fit. But at least that is enough outline that passers by can probably figure out what Great World Issues we are solving.

Posted by: Drew | 04/12/2004 - 12:26 AM

It seems that most countries approach this whole UN thing with a relativist moral view, ie, what's right or wrong depends on your perspective. When the countries of Western Europe and others mostly shared our moral views on the nature of right and wrong there wasn't so much of a problem. However, now that many of those countries no longer share the same basic definition of right and wrong then the US is faced with a choice. Continue to act in it's best interests and in terms of what it sees as right and wrong, or shift to more of a post-modern view where such things are determined more by popular sentiment and expediency.
If we take the former road, the UN will most likely need to diminish in importance for the US. The latter road leads to more "internationalist" silliness such as having China on the human rights commission.
That's my .02 cents anyway. I guess that was kind of a long post and there aren't even any clever latin phrases.

Posted by: JD Mays | 04/12/2004 - 09:26 AM

in line with Quixote's decription of himself I have also produced one for me at the URL below...

Whilst what you may read there might indicate that I'd approve of recent actions - I don't really. Not because it is "wrong", but it was the wrong way..?

In my previous e-mail discussions I argued the case of "consensus" over "might is right". A world view over a nationalistic one. Evolution over intervention.

A precis of my discussions...

The US operates a "consensus" political system internally. Why does it feel it has the right to operate a "might is right" one the international stage? World matters should be managed on a consensus basis too, I think.

The US invasion of Iraq, or the Iraq invasion of Kuwait. Both were "might is right" actions. Difference? Not much IMO ... except concepts of morals - and those differ from person to person. Without consensus each nation is just another Saddam - operating his own values.

The UN is the current international consensus forum - however flawed? - it should be strengthened and improved rather than "undermined".

Terrorism should be "dismantled" rather than openly and directly confronted. The latter only strenthens their will, and unites them.

I haven't repeated all my reasoning - those are only the basic points.

I also wrote a "Sam's Bus ride" from another viewpoint - I often play "Devil's Advocate".

It'd be nice to think that a body like The Commonwealth might work as a system - an equal community of "like thinking nations" working together.
It won't - it will just factionalise the world, you have to have all the differently thinking nations together - talking and encouraging - lying and cheating too - yes.

As ever - history will judge - and perhaps like others, Iraq will have to be partitioned - or maybe it can work together still.

History is why the UN was created. I can't think of either a better reason, or a better way.

Posted by: Cassevellaunus | 04/12/2004 - 12:42 PM

Latin epigrams, huh?

How about:
Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume, labuntur anni, nec pietas moram, rugis et instanti senaectae, adferet indomitaeque morti.

No, how about:
Nihil est incertius vulgo, nihil obscurius voluntate hominum, nihil fallacius ratione tota comitiorum.

Well, there's always:
Nil ego contulerim iucundo sanus amico.

And, just because I'm feeling Machivellian:
Oderint dum metuat

If none of these suit, I'll just have to Scavenge up some others!

Posted by: khobrah | 04/12/2004 - 12:44 PM

Wasn't Cassevellaunus some Brit who shot his mouth off once too often, and as a result Julius Caesar invaded Britain?

Not that one's choice of handle is any sort of portent. Or has any influence on the haruspices. No, "on the auguries".

Darn, those two always mix me up.

Posted by: Drew | 04/12/2004 - 01:48 PM

Traffic Suggestion:

This thread may get really crowded very fast. People (me and others) are planning on posting about the definitions (real functional definitions) of the US and British major political parties, similarities and differenced between the Suez Crisis and the US intervention in Panama (two canals, no waiting), and Imperialism vs Paternalism vs Gangsterism.

I am inexperienced at this format but I suggest:

For anything related to this (US, UN, Intervention in the affairs of other nations, premptive wars) make the title of your thread "US,UN,Intervention:" and then "Suez" say. So we will have "US,UN,Intervention: Suez" and "US,UN,Intervention: Conservative, New Labour and Lib Dem".

That way (I think) one can search the common key words "US,UN,Intervention:" to find all the threads but post a follow up to the Suez-Panama discussion without confusing people in the other sub-threads.

But if anyone (like Khobrah or Quixote) sees a cleverer way to organize multiple subthreads hear, tell us all.

Posted by: Drew | 04/12/2004 - 02:19 PM

Well, only AQ can start a thread and all replies are always under one thread. (this isn't like a forum/message board)

Either he has to create a serious of threads or all replies will need to be here.

Of course, if you want a more classical methodology, you are all welcome to start up a series of threads over on Serpent's Tooth.

Posted by: Khobrah | 04/12/2004 - 03:07 PM

I'm one of the Brits in the original discussion... to me, the discussion was interesting on several levels. Firstly, it taught me I still harbour anti American prejudices / jealousies. Second, it taught me Americans can produce justifications for everything they do - sometimes this is kneejerk denial of awkward facts, sometimes they have very good reasons I hadn't thought of. The discussion was somewhat Yank-bashing, more or less politely. Both sides (Brits and Yanks) admitted to their countries having an atrocious record vis a vis military action vs other little countries. Some of the Americans seemed reluctant to admit that things such as Greneda, Nicaragua etc were - not to put too fine a point on it - atrocities. One thing which did NOT come up now I think back on it, is I don't think that Britain ever invaded anywhere on humanitarian grounds like the US sorted out Kosovo... but basically, I think the best comment was when one Brit said (I paraphrase): "America doesn't seem to have mastered the subtle approach to defusing tensions. It just jumps in and pumps more energy into an unstable system." I think this is what Europeans have learnt over the last century, and American foreign policy needs to take on board. Americans prefer a straightforward approach. This comes across as aggressive and hostile in some cultures.

Posted by: Paul H | 04/12/2004 - 04:46 PM

I'd agree with most of Paul's comments (although I still want to do some more homework on both Grenada and Nicaragua before I would agree they were atrocities). However, I fully agree some of the wars in our past were unjustified (e.g., the war of 1812 for starters).

I fully agree the American method is more straightforward and less subtle than modern Europeans are comfortable. However, I remain skeptical that the subtle way is effective in practice (at least as evidenced in modern times). As Paul himself admits, the US directly intervened in Kosovo for humanitarian reasons (over UN objections) to stop the slaughter. If the subtle way worked, this would not have been necessary. The subtle way did not work on Saddam either (or is 12 years not enough time for a fair test?).

However, I applaud Paul's honesty in admitting anti-American prejudices. It takes a lot to admit that. One of my reasons for engaging in any of these conversations (email forums or this site) is to expose people from different cultures to different ideas. I've learned a lot from these efforts and I'm glad to see others also are gaining from them.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 04/12/2004 - 05:34 PM

I suspect I have harboured prejudices against the US too. Some of these have to some degree been deflated, others have been enforced.

I had a feeling that the US populace is often "insular" in that it does not look at the rest of the world - other than being "other places" - not US. perhaps I'm wrong?

The issues relating to Grenada are not complex, Grenada is a small island (group) and was building an airfield for tourism. Problem was - they had just peacefully toppled a corrupt regime and were working on a new socialist but democratic approach to its future - and a constitution. Reagan just saw that the Cubans were involved.

Grenada is and was an associate state of GB - the Queen was and still is The Head of State and has her representative there in the person of her Governor General. It is also a member of The Commonwealth.
Things were strained with the UK - but not out of hand.

The US seemed to want to dictate what they could or could not do? That seemed presumptious to me.
What happened next was probably indicative of that sort of "muscleing". There were other ways to do things.
When the hostage thing happened - not good - it just went from bad to worse and the US effectively invaded a form of British state. It all worked out OK and only 24 or so Grenadians killed -some of whom were in a mental institution - and 300 wounded? I may have my facts wrong. Some reports have it the students were not under any serious threat and that Reagan was working to another agenda.

The UN deemed the US action Illegal.

On the other side?
Kosovo - OK yeah - the US did that, like they won both World Wars and broke the Enigma codes! 8)
Kosovo was a NATO operation - and OK there were more Americans than anyone else involved - I might be wrong but I seem to remember the first units into Kosovo were British?
Not important - it was still against UN sanction, and 5 years on you only have to read the press bulletins at the UNMIK online website to see that things are still not going well.
It might have been the best solution - we'll never know - and the UN get to have to sort out the mess in the end.

At the end of the day things do not pan out well when you just barge in?

Ho hum

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/12/2004 - 08:09 PM

Cassivellaunus, I suspect you have harbored anti-American prejudices too ;-) Hopefully this exercise will be enlightening for all of us (myself specifically included).

To answer your comments, yes many Americans are insular. And many are not. But this is human nature. Other than curiosity, there is little reason for many people to care what goes on outside their particular region if it does not affect them. This is especially true as your particular region is large. For example, I meet a lot of Chinese in my line of work. Most of them have a very good grasp of the Asian rim and know a fair bit about the USA. However, they know little of South America or Europe because these regions have little perceivable impact on the Chinese. (And virtually every one of the Chinese who did mention Europe had negative views – the Chinese have LONG memories). However, I'm suspect I'm missing your point about the insular comment. Why is this important?

Now your summary of Grenada is way too simplistic (and wrong) even for an straight-forward American who may miss the nuances that so delight the stereotypical European. On October 13, 1983, Grenada suffered a military coup that was quite bloody. There was nothing peaceful about it (nor was the previous administration, an experiment in non-communistic socialism remarkably corrupt). So this part of your explanation is just wrong. Nor did the US unilaterally move in. In response to an appeal from the governor general and to a request for help from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, in the early morning of October 25, 1983, the United States invaded the island of Grenada. [Note: scroll down to the Grenada section.]

Is this the same "governor general" that you speak of?

Grenada is and was an associate state of GB - the Queen was and still is The Head of State and has her representative there in the person of her Governor General.

In other words, the US affirmatively responded to an appeal from the Queen's representative and now a citizen of the Queen blames America for obliging the Queen? Is this a fair assessment of the situation?

I'll wait for your response before I spend time answering your other comments.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 04/14/2004 - 10:05 AM

How do you know what actually happened? Not just in Grenada, but anywhere else (Panama, Kosovo, Fallujah).

You can "follow the news" (most people don't even do that) but the news doesn't tell you what happened. It tends to tell you what that newspaper or broadcaster wants you to hear to promote his own political philosophy.

"Here! Look! I was right all along about those bastards!" is generally what you get. So the Brits (re Grenada) hear the US fascist interventionists overthrew a peace loving government and we in the US hear the US killed a bunch of Cuban troops and freed the US hostages.

How are you going to tell which is which? As the readers of the prior E-mail thread are aware I am in the unusual situation of actually knowing one of the hostages. But only one. And I never chatted with any of the peaceful Cuban construction workers who were killed in the firefight when the US Rangers freed the hostages from the construction workers.

You can follow more than one source of news to get more than one viewpoint (and following Al Jazeerah, El Aribya, and The Guardian does not count as "more than one viewpoint") but that gets exhausting very fast. Particularly if you want to follow Iraq _and_ Rwanda _and_ the civil war in the Sudan at the moment.

I tend to read what the various media report but then consider the prejudice of that particular new source for "windage" (ie how much do I discount what they say and in which direction based on their agenda) and just plain common sense.

For example those Iraqis with "Iraq Baby Food Company" (in English) on their shirts saying the US had just bombed the only Baby Food Factory in Iraq.

I certainly don't read/listen to the news with an uncritical mind. Dealing with attorneys and drug addicts all day may be a help in sorting out the "news" from what actually is happening *G*

Posted by: Drew | 04/14/2004 - 11:30 AM

If you have a simple, straightforward, trusting approach to things like I do, you may be confused by the link in AQ's post above. Clicking on it gets you some page about the A-7 (A US Navy Carrier Jet). But if you scroll and scroll and scroll down the page (or search the page for the word "Grenada") you find the section the Admiral mentions. It is cleverly disguised under the heading "Grenada" where it didn't occur to me to look.

Posted by: Drew | 04/14/2004 - 12:25 PM

The GG's request was for assistance - but I'm not sure an invasion was what he was asking for? Also the Commonwealth Secretariat was not consulted by the US or OECS. Like I said earlier - this put some noses out of joint but I don't really have a problem with that especially.

True - if the GG did shout for help "in force" then I will apologise, but I can't find a transcript of what he was asking for?

The "bloodless" coup I was referring to was the first one where the New Jewel Movement took control and started the whole US opposition thing?

My real objections are not really about the invasion itself, although I think it was premature, but more about the US's attitude towards Bishop's government - which some people consider was a reason for the bloody coup by Coard in which he was finally executed.

Anyway - for further reading on Grenada I would invite you to read


Whilst the second has a scent of bias about it, the first one seems like a well written treatise?

I am not a great news reader, although I tend to believe the BBC news, they have always seemed factual and truthful and without what I can recognise as bias. I might be wrong.

PS - how do I embed URLs in my text like you guys do? 8)

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/14/2004 - 12:49 PM

Cassie said:
"My real objections are not really about the invasion itself, although I think it was premature,"

In the Email discussion we compiled a list of the US intervening "at the wrong point in time"

Cassie and others thought the US intervened in:

WW I too late (I agree. It would have been better for the world had we intervened before Europe had ground itself so completely to rubble but we didn't have the political will)

WW II too late (I agree pretty much on the same grounds as WW I. We were "engaged" in WW II sooner than was apparent BTW. US warships on convoy duty and German warships (U-boats) were shooting at and killing each other for monthes before the US and Germany declared war. But it was sort of concealed by mutual consent because neither the US nor Germany were ready for open warfare yet).

Grenada: Too soon per Cassie

Iraq (Gulf War II): Way too soon. Should have given sanctions and UN resolutions longer to work.

Anyhow, as I commented at the time, there is just no pleasing some people.

As a question, was the US intervention in Kosovo too soon, too late or just right?

At some point someone has to make a hard decision about letting the current situation continue or starting a shooting war because he thinks that is the lesser evil.

Hmm, I have to get my "Imperialism/Paternalism/Officious World Policeman" piece completed.

Posted by: | 04/14/2004 - 01:27 PM

You were apparently thinking of the 1979 coup. It was relatively mild as far as coups go and all accounts that I have read agree it was relatively bloodless. And you are correct that many in American government were not happy about the coup. On the other hand, the American government freely allowed American businesses to operate in Granada at a time when American businesses were not allowed to trade with many countries on Uncle Sam's black list. This is despite all the activity that is alleged in your first reference. If all of this was going on, why allow American businesses to trade with Granada? It could be explained by government inefficiency, but more likely Granada fell into the middle ground. It certainly wasn't on America's good list and it was not on our bad list.

Getting back to the 1979 coup, like most (all?) illegitimate governments, it carried the seeds of its own destruction. Four years later, another coup took place. After the new rebel leaders murdered the former coup leader (Bishop – the guy the American leaders allegedly hated), things went downhill for the latest crop of rebels. It quickly turned bloody and this is when people called for American help. At the requests of those I mentioned before, Reagan sent in the troops.

I don't claim that Reagan was 100% altruistic to do so, but that was a factor. Other factors included ensuring the safety of American students (who were in fact safe, at that time, but this was uncertain during the coup), a chance to eliminate a violent communist government (the leaders of the new coup were literally Marxist-Leninists), and a chance to positively use American force to dissuade other potential tyrants.

I think you make an interesting point about My real objections are... ...more about the US's attitude towards Bishop's government I have had many politically discussions with Europeans and after a while, the discussion usually reaches a point where my European counterpart realizes he disagrees with how America does things (attitude, process, etc.) more than what America does. This is a cultural issue and I do not know of a way to handle this other than via discussions to help people bridge cultural differences.

I'll write a separate post soon on very basic HTML that will show you how to embed links. Check the main site in a bit. The BBC, the New York Times and CNN represent some of the most left biased news media that try to appeal to the mainstream. They are at least as skewed to the left as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are skewed to the right. I don't look even try to find an objective source anymore, I try to ensure I read a variety of sources (including those from other countries – see the links on the right of my main page: "News from America" and "Tidings from Afar" for some interesting perspectives).

Posted by: Don Quixote | 04/14/2004 - 02:05 PM

Damn! I wrote a whole treatise on solving all the world's geo-political problems with brilliant and simple solution and then something went funny and the page expired! Now my thoughts have gone and I'm going to sound stupid again! 8)

I usually compile my "expressions of lack of understanding" in text using Notepad so I'm still not sure how to do the embedded link thing in either this or the on-line "post a comment" text entry device I just used and failed at? Never mind!

Anyway. In reply to I most of the responses I seem to be generating counter-argument on? (and where are my compatriots!! 8) )

The World Wars, tardiness (and misrepresentation)! ....

I am being quoted out of context! 8)

Whilst no one can deny that the US was later than most in those wars - they were not "their concern" - I don't consider that a problem - they were operating under consensus rules. Even though they were rather "straining against" them in WWII. I have no personal complaints, but was merely identifying a "common view" over here that we rather use as *humour* rather than accusation. Similar indeed to the WWII contemporary expression about US soldiers being "over sexed, over paid and over here". It was an expression of an irksome situation rather than of complaint - I think. There was no question that we resented their presence on the more serious aspect of winning the war.


I wasn't "apparently" thinking of the 1979 coup - I "was" thinking of it. Also of Carter's and more importantly Reagan's reaction to it and their own agenda(s?). This was the start of the "problem" IMO. I didn't write that treatise - an associate professor did - since he works/worked in CA I'd "guess" he's American too.
So the US allowed companies to trade. That then says that the rest is untrue? Illegitimate govt, maybe - but the US had its own agenda and acted on those alone I think. They wanted and excuse to topple a psuedo-neo-Cuba and did so. The Commonwealth has other methods of persuasion....
I am merely presenting a non-american view here - more "other" views (a student paper)

some American Views?

I fail to understand why, in the face of near global disagreement with them, US opinion still clings to its standpoint? Or am I being unfair?
History records Grenada as the first successful campaign since before it's "thing" in Vietnam. It records other things too.
search for "Grenada" on
(I don't know the speaker - "bleeding heart liberal"? or realist?)

It seems we may have to "agree to disagree" regarding Grenada. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I felt at the time what the US did was "wrong" and most of what I have read since seems to agree with that IMO. Ho hum.

"How and What"
Oooh - crikey!!! 8)
Regarding the "how" and the "what" of the US doings, I'm pretty worried about both. Like I said in my self-description - I don't like politicians - I just can't think of a better way!

In a previous e-mail I used a quote:

"A monarchy is a merchantman, which sails well, but will sometimes strike on a rock, and go to the bottom; whilst a republic is a raft which would never sink, but then your feet are always in the water."
attrib. Fisher Ames 1758-1808
American politician

Although I am a Royalist - I do not advocate a Monarchy for Britain today! I am merely resistant to their removal and Britain becoming a republic. That's a whole new discussion and my logic may be riddled with more prejudices than I wish to explore. 8)

Anyway... I digress

"How" and "What"....

My concerns are inflated by statements like "the US action in Kosovo" which was in fact a NATO action. A NATO consensus. A good one IMO. It does have its ramifications though. UNMIK is still there and some conflict is still happening. I have friends who have been there under UNMIK auspices (I also have a friend who was a UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq) - they did not enjoy their experiences. Kind of like "I went to Iraq and all I got was this lousy UN T-Shirt" 8)

"How" they do things seems to be reliant almost completely on "Sam's gun". Whilst the world may need that gun - it also needs it to be used carefully and with thought, not just at the whim of "a president" elected by admittedly "flawed" processes. See other threads above?

"What" they do is also questionable, they have their own agenda it sometimes seems. Predominantly a desire to impress their political values on the rest of the world?
In the previous e-mail conversations I made reference to the US seemingly suddenly awakening to terrorism due to 9/11, where (for long historical reasons) various nations in Europe have been facing Terrorism for ages. These nations learned through "hard lessons" what should be done? You don't fight terrorism with a "big gun" in the same way you don't get fleas off a cat by shooting the cat, perhaps... The "what" here relates to Iraq 2 - invaded because of WMD (discredited?) but really because they wanted Saddam Out and 9/11 gave them a moral (not logical) standpoint to operate from.

Not particularly wishing to open a "bag of worms" here regarding specific issues but...
Grenada and Iraq 2 are a "what" and "how" I'd disaggree with.
The "War on Terror" is a "what" I'd agree with and a "how" I'd disagree with.
Kosovo and Gulf 1 are a "what" and "how" I'd agree with.

To get back to the UN issue?

Whilst I seemingly agree with the UN's stance on, say, Grenada, I disagree with the problem that Kosovo action was unlikely to be supported - due to Russian veto - veto... hmmmn. There is also the issue of "humanitarian" intervention as not being within its mandate so Kosovo was deemed to be a security risk. Weak argument? This is to some extent arguing a case towards a pre-defined conclusion. (there's a word for that I think?)

OK???? For condideration:

"The UN should have a restricted mandate, be over-ruled by vetos and undermined by "individual nation action". It should be a powerless opinion factory. "


"The UN should be empowered, have force for implementation of consensus and should be supported in it's resolutions - regardless?"


"The UN should be disbanded."




NOTE:::: BEWARE!!! I also argue "Devil's Advocate" sometimes - I told you this is my "resume" in my name's URL link! If you can work out where I'm doing it - I must be going wrong somewhere! 8)

Chin chin!

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/14/2004 - 06:40 PM

Ooops! Addendum.

I forgot! - I removed the bit about "Devils Advocacy" in my resume - my mistake!

But I do like to view things from the other side - and vocalise them - or try to.

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/14/2004 - 06:48 PM


1) Please tell me how you define "consensus"

2) You said: "Grenada and Iraq 2 are a "what" and "how" I'd disaggree with.
The "War on Terror" is a "what" I'd agree with and a "how" I'd disagree with.
Kosovo and Gulf 1 are a "what" and "how" I'd agree with."

With that in mind take a look at my "US,UN,Intervention: Intevention" thread.

Think of it like a software program or a circuit board you are trying to reverse engineer. You give it the inputs "Kosovo, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq" and get one set of answers from the "US Circuit" and a different set of answers from the "UK Circuit"

What is it in the two circuits that is making the output different even though the input is identical?

Posted by: Drew | 04/14/2004 - 06:52 PM

Regarding the BBC, I would ask the Brits and particularly Cassie (or is your nickname "Cassy" *G*) anyhow Cassevellaunus as a Royalist and admirer of the Royal Navy to take a look at:

(I haven't learned how to embed those cool URLs yet either).

Posted by: Drew | 04/14/2004 - 06:56 PM

Cassy wrote:

"Damn! I wrote a whole treatise on solving all the world's geo-political problems with brilliant and simple solution and then something went funny and the page expired! "

This reminds me of a science fiction story I liked:

Paleontologists discovered petroglyphs on a large rock in the back of a cave. These were no ordinary petroglyphs. They were small, precise and in some sort of dot-swirl writing. But the site was paleiolithic - early Cro-Magnon from about 30,000 B.C.

The Paleontologists came to see the writing started out simply, mostly mathematical series, then progressed to flesh out the language. It was strangely reminiscent of those dots and dashes beginging with mathematical series the SETI project and similar use beaming radio into space hoping some distant alien civilization will one day receive and be able to decipher the message.

So they call in some scientiests from different specialities. They begin to decipher the writing and become more and more excited. This _was_ written by humans, but the humans are writing that they, the Cro-Magnons, have been contacted by an Alien Exploration vessel from far towards the Galactic Core.

The Cro-Magnons, having dealt with these aliens during their 20 year survey of earth are now planning on leaving on the vessel with their tribe, but are writing this to their far-distant homo sapiens brethren to let them know about the Aliens and what they, the Cro Magnons have learned.

Excitement among the scientists gets even higher, if that were possible, when they decipher the next few lines: "We are leaving but we will leave for you, in the short time we remain here on this, our home planet, the two things we think will benefit you most and hopefully make it possible for other humans some day to follow in their path, and visit the civilizations of the Galactic Core. These two scientific advanvces they will record here are Faster than Light Space Travel and Immortality."

The scientists obviously continue to work around the clock deciphering the petroglyphs. But the leader of the expedition goes to his tent for a few hours' sleep.

A horribly dejected scientist soon awakes him. "We have deciphered the next line" he tells his chief.


"It says, 'Continued on the next rock.' ".

Posted by: Drew | 04/14/2004 - 07:36 PM

Hmmn. I feel myself being dragged into a moral debate on definitions and legality here! 8)

By "consensus" I am (in general) referring to an agreement by a body of persons or representatives which may or may not have full approval of all of that group.
I'm not defending this viewpoint as the original terms of discussion were related to more ambiguous issues of the US, UN and so on. I used the term as a generality deliberately within the assumed terms of that discussion. I haven't seen anyone actually debate the viewpoint with me yet?
The UN, democracies and so on operate predominantly (or at least idealistically) through similar means? This is the point I am making rather than individual distinctions about veto rights and our own images of "democracy". Nothing is perfect in this regard.
I'd rather discuss issues relating to the "might is right" over, shall we call it, "debated majority agreement" if the word "consensus" is not apt?

I had a look at your new thread - I just haven't had time to think about it whilst "fielding" issues on this one. I'm also not sure that my expertise in boulean logic is likely to be helpful. Electronic logic deals in absolute values and rules - not human failings and "morals".

Applying "black box" principles to complex human issues is a futile exercise - too many inputs and outputs - that is what politics is also failing to completely resolve?

Re: The BBC, Drew.
This is a case in my point, I think. The BBC do not generally pander to its audience nor its own government - an issue that has caused some UK govts to want to reorganise things I think.
Anyway - this is straying off-thread too I think. They report what Al-Jazeera say and what others say too, not just what Brits or the US want to hear. I can't comment on the Navy's feelings on the issue. Whilst the BBC is state-run (and publically funded), it also has its own "freedoms". I don't beleive everything I hear either - but as the BBC does not need to compete in exactly the same way as Commercial stations or newspapers do - they have more freedom (such as it is) to be non-sensationalist and just stick to facts?
I also read stuff occasionally!

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/14/2004 - 07:39 PM

Thanks for sticking with it even if your email friends are missing. On the Grenada incidence, I guess we will just agree to disagree (and yes, I know many US professors agree with you. That is about as surprising as finding a leftist at the BBC. The most virulent anti-American opinions do not come from abroad, rather we export it via spoiled academics who think they should be in charge). For the record, I am not defending all of our actions regarding Grenada, but I do think the invasion itself was justified after the second coup (and I must admit, I think it a riot that the Queen's representative asked for our intervention – I'd love to see a transcript of the actual request). You are probably right that Reagan wanted a reason to topple the government to prevent the spread of socialism in our backyard. A bloody coup is pretty good reason for action. So much the better when the Queen's representative and other agencies ask us to do what we want to do. Frankly, I'd love for Iran, Libya, Syria, and a host of other nations on our black list to give us a good reason to depose their leadership. So from that perspective, Grenada was a complete triumph for American foreign policy. You may not like the goals of our foreign policy, but that is frankly irrelevant. A strong majority of Americans supported it, it succeeded, thus it was a success. (It may or may not be some solace to you that I don't approve of many of our actions during the cold war including some of the things that the US allegedly did before our invasion. I always support the removing of bloody tyrants, but I believe many of the other actions, if true, where both unethical and counterproductive).

On posting direct links in hypertext, click here. Make sure you read the comments.

I agree with your comments on WWI and WWII, especially the part that they were not "our concern." (at least until December 7, 1941, but that concerned the Pacific Theater and only served as a very expensive and bloody excuse to join the European part of the war). In fact, out of all the twentieth century actions in which we participated, WWI is one of the least justifiable to me in terms of national security (down there with Kosovo). That's not to say I disapprove of our involvement – there is much in common between our countries and we won't let you go down the drain no matter how much it costs us.

You say I fail to understand why, in the face of near global disagreement with them, US opinion still clings to its standpoint? Or am I being unfair? Well, other than presuming European opinion (and that of many American professors) stands for global opinion, this is probably fair. But one of the (admirable? arrogant? both?) qualities of American culture is that if we think we are right, we act on it. If the cost of delay are not too high, we will wait and try to build consensus (and see if others see things we do not). However, if we still think we are right, we will act as we think best. We expect others to do the same. In fact, in our culture, we look down on people who see a problem, see the need to act, are convinced they are right, and then do nothing because others disagree. We admire those who have the courage of their convictions. Cowboy is a compliment to us; those who attempt to insult our President by calling him a cowboy only show how ignorant they are of American culture.

In another post we can discuss the pros and cons of different governance models. No matter which model used, it all comes down to how honest and competent the leaders are. The advantage of a republic is that it is easier to remove bad leaders than other methods. That's about it.

My concerns are inflated by statements like "the US action in Kosovo" which was in fact a NATO action. A NATO consensus. A good one IMO. Yes, the Kosovo action was a NATO operation like Korea. The US has not been in very many unilateral operations in the twentieth century (Grenada and Panama are among the few that come to mind). However, the slaughter in Kosovo went on for a long, long time before President Clinton decided enough was enough. Why didn't any European leaders take the initiative? It was their backyard. If an American president had not shown leadership, I suspect major fighting would still be going on (unless the attempted genocide would have been successful). Once we had shamed the UN into agreeing to do something, yes, we moved on. Our resources, while large, are still limited and we felt Europe could handle the rest. You point out that "How" they do things seems to be reliant almost completely on "Sam's gun".One of the biggest weaknesses of our allies in NATO is that our allies have very few ways to transport their forces where they are needed. Since there was a local area of need, it made logistical sense to allow the local forces to resolve it once the need for the heaviest firepower was removed.

You also say that Whilst the world may need that gun - it also needs it to be used carefully and with thought, not just at the whim of "a president" elected by admittedly "flawed" processes.No offense, but why do you think the rest of the world gets a say? We'll listen to various opinions, and give more weight to the opinions of our friends, but we will never give non-Americans the right to determine when and how we will use American resources. Build your own gun (in fairness, the UK is one of the few other countries that spends a decent amount on self-defense – we subsidize most of Europe by paying the lion's share of their defense).

You also ask for opinions about the UN. The ethical side of me says disband it. It is a waste of money and it is obscene to see folks from Syria on human rights committees. I'd cheerfully fund a council of democracies, but would not give tyrants a place at the table. My darker side says keep it. It gives many of the world's troublemakers a place to blow off steam. As both the strongest and richest country in the world, the USA is going to be the target of jealously and hatred. Providing an official forum for this makes it easier to keep an eye on our enemies and keeps many power-hungry folks away from positions of real power.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 04/14/2004 - 07:50 PM

In regards Grenada there is a cynical view that there was another reason to go in.
Following the successful re-taking of the Falklands (thanks Casper...) the US saw that it was actually possible to win again after Vietnam. Where better to try than in Sam's Backyard?
I recall that time as the day after a manager from the company I worked for was on the BBC, answering the question, "Why were you building an airport for the communists?"
He replied, "A contract is a contract..." Ahh, capitalism.

Posted by: Cobden | 04/15/2004 - 04:01 PM


It is a matter of debate whether the GG's alleged "request" was either real or if it were real, legal. It seems rather a mysterious affair to me. It seems clear to me that the OECS request was illegal under its own terms and the GG's "request" - even if valid under the new regime - should have gone through Commonwealth channels rather than direct to the US. I'm inclined to believe the "mad professor".

"Global disagreement" and "US Standpoint"
Hmmn. Herein lies the "nub" of the discussion?

Whilst I have cited a number of information sources for how wrong the US invasion of Grenada was, I have yet to see any seriously convincing counter argument?

Your mad and ambitious professor is also published on:
The Global Policy Forum
The OneWorld Network
Military Week's 23 Oct 2003 as one of their "10 Must Reads"
and was published in the
National Catholic Reporter.

The Canadian student's paper seems pretty thorough on these same issues too.

Independant Action?

You say -
"one of the (admirable? arrogant? both?) qualities of American culture is that if we think we are right, we act on it"

"(admirable? arrogant? both?)" - or Dangerous?
This is what people like me fear. The concept of the US "stomping the cat to kill the fleas" perhaps?

My corollary is that the US leadership in its independent action can be misinformed, working to a local political electoral/popularity agendum and in some cases the force projected is not sufficiently militarily experienced/capable to act alone? (new concept????).

Was he aware that the airport was still open and that the students could have left if they wanted to? That it was technically still a Commonwealth matter? That the OECS request was illegal under their own rules. And so on?

Local agenda?
Reagan blatantly ignored Thatcher's "strong advice" during those times
{"He asked for my thoughts and advice. I was strongly against intervention" MT)
and he was seemingly upset that she'd found out before he could announce it as a fait accompli
("I had intended to call her after the meeting, once the operation was actually under way"
" [she] asked me in the strongest language to call off the operation" RR).

Even the "special relationship" was deemed irrelevant - it seems. Sad.

New concept. Sorry
I will only state at this point that my professional knowledge base is in military matters and technology. My own researches so far indicate that US military planning, doctrine, training and attitudes seem inadequate and seemingly still littered with Cold War influences. The advance towards digitisation is now also adding a number of pitfalls which are reportedly being ignored also.

The "gun" IS big and powerful, but the hand seems to be "unsteady" and the intention uninformed? Discuss.

You ask...
"why do you think the rest of the world gets a say?"
OK - so the US is not "on the same planet" as the rest of us? I go back to the question about "might is right" over "consensus". The Nazis, Japan, Milosovic, Saddam, Galtieri and historically even the US over its "Native Americans" (or whatever the latest PC term is) are/were supporters of the doctrine of "might is right". (And yes, the UK is/was culpable too.)
The "nitty gritty" of Suez and so on are moot - but not necessary now please? Neither is Nicaragua and so on.

"Why the rest of the world should get a say" is precisely for historical reasons. We should be working more on how to resolve world issues other than just letting our own flawed local electoral machinery dictate the actions of individual nations - internationally?

I re-iterate. "Might is Right" is a descent into Anarchy - individually - or to international despotism - if some nation decides to become their own "world policeman".

Britain went that way once. Empire and all that. Thankfully - it is still friends with a lot of the Nations concerned and we work with them in the Commonwealth in a number of important (peaceful) ways (IMO).

If the US stands up to its "might is right" policy, it is relying on a consensus opinion of its own small part of the world, and must therefore bow to the right of Bishop/Coard in Grenada to do the same? Or China or Saddam or Kim Jong Il???? The bully in the schoolyard, the gun toting post-office worker? Where does it end?

If you espouse this ideology then you have to ask yourself why we are having this discussion? And why your new terrorist enemies hate you. Then remember that the UN was created as a forum to try and stop this kind of thing.

The US as it is, is now in danger of becoming a world "moralist" - and unpopular thereby - and has arguably been seen to inflict those "morals" already regardless of even its staunchest allies advice - let alone the UN?
If you stand by your "democratic rights" (=consensus) to choose your politics internally as a nation, and to dictate thereby who can kill who, abort what and so on, why then chuck all those ideologies out the window when it comes to nations interrelating?

Some other paths? - Admittedly simplistic....8)

The US becomes the "world despot" - like, say, Britain and its Empire was - or worse perhaps? Hmmn. Everyone - not just France and Germany - will isolate them I think. Some over here are already considering defecting from NATO to an EU common force concept - not as an objection to US stratagems/ideology right now - more of a rationalisation of EU "continental effort" and decision process. Sorry.
The US creates a "gang of common belief", with the UK and some other "like thinking" NATO nations and others - no dissention, no contrary dialogue. The potential "axes of terror" do the same, teamed up with terrorists. The confrontation will only escalate. In a previous discussion I mentioned that terrorism can not be defeated by direct confrontation - we learned this with the IRA. It can be dismantled though popular opinion, covert ops, and to be basic here - boredom. The application of passive and staunch denial and resistance. IMO.
We all look at the problems of the UN, assert consensus opinions and work out a way to live together without despots and wars. *pink flowers* *smiley faces* etc?
Bottom line - how is the world "best served" by individual nations? Though individual action based on local independent consensus? Or group action based on international consensus?
The only international forum right now is the UN. The US is ostensibly undermining that body in it's actions.

The UN.
OK - so Syria were on the Human Rights Commission. Right now so are Saudi Arabia. Hmmn. So are the US - and they endorse (regionally) "moral" issues other countries debate like the death penalty? So we discuss things.
This is rather straying into the "Social" aspects of the UN, but since it was brought up I will only state that "consensus" is not just about "like thinking people" getting together and neither is the US's democracy. Nor are world affairs. Before you enter dialogue on a political debate you have to be able to meet your "opponent" in that debate - otherwise you might as well just "gun that injun down" by shooting them in the back. You brought up Cowboys - not me. "The only good injun is a dead injun" therefore?
Enlightened opinion?

"Might is Right" huh?

I'll use that latin quote I am so apparently famous for again...

"Hoc volo, sic lubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas."
(I will have this done, so I order it done; let my will replace reasoned judgement.)
Juvenal (Satires 6, 1.223) 384:1

Time for a better world democracy I think?

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/15/2004 - 04:47 PM

"In regards Grenada there is a cynical view that there was another reason to go in. . .the US saw that it was actually possible to win again "

I will agree if you change "saw" to "demonstrate". I thought that at the time.

Grenada came just after, not Vietnam, but Jimmy Carter. Carter, as you may recall, managed to get an embassy and a bunch of people seized (through inept straddling the issue of the Shah) then managed to set up a half way military action to release the hostages and had that come apart again through being wishy washy.

Yes, in part I think the Reagan response to Grenada was to announce clearly to the world "Carter is over. This is not the same US government and we are not terrified of using force."

He also used LOTS of force in Grenada (way more than the other side had available). That was a reaction to the "Vietnam escalation" theory (best paraphrased as "Always use just a little less force than you need")

Reagan was saying "if we decide to use force we intend to have their be no question the force will work."

That is sort of the Powell Doctrine (which we can talk about more if you want but some guy said 'keep it short')

Anyhow, I agree if that is what you meant.

Posted by: Drew | 04/15/2004 - 06:03 PM

"Was he aware that the airport was still open and that the students could have left if they wanted to? "

As I said, one of the students, after graduation, became one of my post-doctoral students. He said he certainly wasn't free to leave, but then that may be a function of when during the events you mean. "Free to quit medical school and evacuate the island the day the Cubans decide they want it for an airbase"? Yeah, probably. But not free to leave after the death of Bishop.

Re the "airbase", he also said there was no question in the mind of anyone there that the Cubans were building military facilities. According to him, everybody knew it. People (Grenadans, not just the US students) would be talking on the bus about "more Cubans arriving to work on their airbase" etc. He was very surprised at how the US _played down_ the Cuban presence early on. He couldn't figure out why the US press was ignoring what people in Grenada all seemed to be chatting about.

Hmm, anybody listening who _was_ in Grenada at the time?

It is pretty clear we will not all agree on this one *G*.

The real question (at least what interests me) is how differently the US and "other than the US" decide "when, where, how much" to use military force.

Posted by: Drew | 04/15/2004 - 06:16 PM

Threats and Buses and Grenada

Relax, this is not going to be much about Grenada. (The crowd breathes a sigh of relief.) But it will mention this clever piece some guy wrote about Sam’s Bus Ride. (A moan goes up from the crowd; they head for the exit.) But only briefly. (The crowd hesitates at the door, then decides to hear him out).

In Sam’s Bus Ride one of the sub themes was threatening to use force vs. using force. Should you ever be in a situation where someone is doing something so awful you are convinced it would be, not “good”, but, “less bad” to kill him than to let him continue, you would doubtless rather tell him “Stop that or I will kill you” and have him stop rather than actually have to kill him.

For your threat to be credible the other party has to believe not only that you “have a gun” but that you actually have the resolve to use the gun. Carter worked hard while president to convince the world that the US would flinch at the last minute rather than use its military. Actually he is still trying to convince the world of that. That is why the Nobel Committee gave him the Peace Prize. I believe that part of Reagan’s intent re Grenada was to convince the world he did have the resolve to actually use the US military.

I think (you may disagree depending on which news sources you believe) that France and Russia were telling Saddam in the run up to Gulf War II that he was safe, that the US threat of force was not credible. Actually I think Saddam was such an isolated guy, that he thought he would survive the war, and I do not believe he would have folded in any case. But still, I think the French/Russia behavior before the war made the war more likely by telling him (falsely) they could protect him from the US.

In our current presidential election some people, Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd and (sigh) Jimmy Carter, are trying to assure the Other Side that they should just hang on, because if Kerry wins the presidency we will back down and the Other Side be safe. To his credit (write down this date. This may be the only positive thing I ever say about Kerry) Kerry is saying this is not the case and that he, Kerry, will follow through in Iraq with essentially the same military policies. But still that message is being undercut with the result the Other Side is being encouraged to fight all the harder.

I think in a situation where some of the parties are considering using lethal force it is extremely important for all involved parties to understand the real intent and the real capabilities of all the other parties. Party A should not threaten to use lethal force if they do not intend to follow through. That makes the next threat of lethal force, by them or anyone else, more likely to be ignored. If Party A threatens lethal force against Party B, Party C should not tell B that B can safely ignore A if, in fact, C has no control over A and no real understanding of A’s intent.

I am not spending all this time writing to try to convince anyone that the US invasion of Grenada or Iraq was “good” or “less bad than some other option.”

I am trying to convince anyone listening that perceiving the UN or the US or International Law as something it is not makes a dangerous situation more dangerous.

Posted by: Drew | 04/15/2004 - 07:22 PM


Crikey! - I write a whole rationale on the rights of individual nations to do as they please - or not - and I get pulled up on one of those arguably contentious points I used as an example? Oh well - the rest of my argument must be false too? 8)

While I in no way deny your student's statement - how can I? I have to judge, like we all do, on reported issues and analyses. My stated sources are not - as far as I can tell - sources of ill repute? They even highlight US debreifing as a suspect area of concern along with the security blanket that covered the whole event at the time? The whole thing is so suspicious and that it leads me to believe what I have read. E.g. What exactly did the Governor General request?

I'm still waiting for a something more substantial that argues that the US action was either legal or even "moral" (beyond "commie bashing")? 8)

Airbase. Right. Plessey Ltd - a UK company was building that "airbase". They categorically denied that there were any military installations it seems. Yes - Cuban workers were being used. Like we're going to send out a whole bunch of Brits to do the digging?

Reports seem to indicate that 90% of the students did not want to leave anyway and that the airport was open and operating normally (without military) the day before the invasion. Albeit without "domestic" flights due to US pressures? Hmmn.

Am I supposed to believe that all this is false and that a nation/govt with a population in the mere 10's of thousands is going to antagonise a neighbour like the US? Hmnn.

OK - read the report if you haven't already. Counter the arguments presented. I'm not convinced I believe all of it either - but I haven't seen anything out there except "unreasoned statements of fact" that in any way support the US/Carter/Reagan story.
This report has been published on more than one publication

Some other stuff relating to students/airport?
The Coard Coup was on 10/19 - The invasion was on 10/25...

On behalf of the Grenada government, Cuba notifies the US on 10/22 that it is ready "to cooperate in the solution of problems without violence or intervention." They receive no timely reply. — The Guardian (London) 10/27.

"US students in Grenada were, for the most part, unwilling to leave or be evacuated." — US Embassy in Barbados, 10/23.

The White House admitted that on 10/23 Grenada offered the US "an opportunity to evacuate American citizens" — New York Times, 10/27.

The White House also admitted later that four civilian charter flights left the Grenada airport on 10/24, carrying American medical students. — Hugh O’Shaughnessy, Latin America correspondent for The Observer (London).

No I haven't checked these assertions taken off the web. Is it all lies? Am I being mislead by a conspiracy against the US? I honestly don't know.

Actually - regarding Grenada - I don't much care - I'm getting slightly bored with the lack of serious opposition debate or supportable counter-argument.

In reality?
We are carefully side-stepping the whole new Iraq 2 thing by talking about an Historical episode of 20 years ago.

I used the student "thing", perhaps inadvisedly? - sorry - as part of a question about the US "might is right" ideology espoused by Don.

I commented that what I fear is that the US leadership and (military) is potentially


lead by "personal" local agenda,


I thought I'd get a much more "vitriolic" response to those assertions! 8)

Come on chaps!

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/15/2004 - 07:51 PM

Buses and Grenada

I have to go to bed right now it's nearly 2am here.

Your arguments on the face of it are not wrong. I'll read it more carefully tommorow.

What we are debating here - to my mind - is whether the UN (or some new body perhaps) should have powers to enforce things? Or should the US be allowed to "stomp about" with or without "its gang" and do as it pleases.

Are you saying that "might is right" as a valid approach to world affairs?

Or is the question too simplistic?

Yes / No?

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/15/2004 - 08:01 PM

In response to Cassy's "What are we debating here"

You think I am rambling and unfocused? Uh . . . I am saying:

1) That which I said just above: Better to understand what the other people are thinking than to assume everyone has the same perceptions and world view, then have a rude surprise. The surprise generally occurs the most dangerous possible moment because that is when the various parties actually have to make hard decisions and show their true values and assumptions.

In the run up to Gulf War II the US and Europe were rather surprised, on both sides, to see that their assumption that they were all pulling together was wrong. That confusion did was dangerous and made a bad situation worse (and continues to).

2) I am observing, with interest, how differently the US and UK people are think about what should be done and why this or that action should be taken or eschewed. We (well me and the UK people chatting here as scientific samples of “US Person” and “UK Person”) still have a huge gulf in how we see things. That gulf may be more in how we see things should be than in what we think the current reality is.

This “consensus” thing for example complete stuns me every time you mention it. “Consensus” to me means “what the bulk of the people think." Not 50.001% but not 99.9999% either, because there is always the whacko fringe. Is that right? “A comfortable majority with no really strenuous objections”?

It would never occur to me in time of war or crisis to either seek my moral compass or look for leadership in which way the herd was headed. I don’t see “everybody is doing it” as any grounds for making a morale decision.

Is Consensus what _most_ people think? Heck, _most_ people involved in the India-Pakistan confrontation are Indian (most _people_ will be Indian soon). So if “most people” think Pakistan should be nuked would you go along? Most people decided that going with the flow was better than confronting a police state and starting a lot of random shootings of hostages. So most people sided with the Good Germans, not with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “Most Countries” thought that it was safer to ignore Rwanda. That was the consensus. You don’t get a lot of leadership nor a lot of courage from “most people” in times of trouble.

Posted by: Drew | 04/16/2004 - 12:34 AM

Buses and Grenada reply

I've had a think.
We seem to be discussing two seperate issues from different starting points?

I understand your question about Parties A, B and C right enough I think. My answer would be that Party C has the right to say what it wants - even if it may be incorrect or based on wrong assumptions. Free speech just went out the window?

Sam's bus analogy could run along the following lines? A modified version of the one I used on the e-mail discussion...

Whilst it is true that Saddam used to beat up other people on the bus - the other passengers (with Sam's help) had taken his club off him, set up barriers so he couldn't hit them again, frisked him pretty thoroughly for any other weapons (which he eventually resisted saying - "I have no more weapons - go away"). Saddam is now sitting on the bus pretty much hobbled and everyone is watching him pretty closely. They even poke him with sticks occasionally. He is also severely limited in what he can buy too?
Sam has a problem when one of the rats on the bus bites him so he turns round and shoots one of the rat trainers on the bus (a "nasty" man who has completely different beleifs to Sam).
Sam then turns round and threatens to shoot Saddam because he thinks he still has gun hidden somewhere - (and he once trained rats?). Some of the passengers on the bus object and some don't. Why can't we just get him to agree to being frisked again? At least we could talk about it? What's the rush here?
Sam's "gang" go ahead and shoot Saddam anyway.
They have now searched the body and it seems he was telling the truth - he had no more weapons. Now Sam is having problems with some of Saddam's family.
(contentious aside? Some of Sam's family also trained or supported rats?)
Sam and his family are now pretty upset about the guys who objected. Members of his "gang" who are neighbours with them have no such problem.
The rats are insensed though - they always are when they see Sam blasting away with his gun. They hate Sam - always will.
There has also been a number of people who allege that Sam was the one who made Saddam the leader of his family in the first place?

Some of Sam's helpful friends have suspect relations with their own families too?

bah! It is all too complicated for my tiny little brain! 8)

Why do the rats hate Sam?
For an alternate and biased (?) point of view I found this? (scroll down a bit...)
Why Do "They" Hate Us?


My question is more along the lines of what right did Party A have in threatening lethal force on Party B in the first place?

These kind of actions are arguably why current world problems are the way they are?

I don't have any solutions either. I can only hope that nations can work together for betterment and security. That's why I support the UN and would like to see it improved and empowered.

The "What we are debating here?" posting.

No - I'm not saying you're rambling and unfocussed! I'm pretty sure I didn't imply it either. If I did, I'm sorry.

1)Some of Europe's "assumption" was that the UN is a good place to discuss stuff like this and that the US would be "wise" to work with it too? My personal surprise is that they went ahead so quickly when there didn't seem to be a case for haste?

2) Consensus. India and Pakistan. Hmmn. Either one of these working on an internal consensus to bomb the other is not a world (UN) consensus. You are misrepresenting my logic I'm afraid.

I've said this before and I fear to sound repetative.

The US has a population divided into states and operates a consensus system to govern its own internal affairs between those states.
Democracy. Yes/No?
Some of the States have laws/attitudes that other states do not agree with? Yes/No?

Now scale the whole thing up and consider.

The World has a population divided into Nations - it is trying to operate a consensus system to govern its internal (planetary) affairs between those nations.
The UN. Yes/No?
Some of the Nations have laws/attitudes that other nations do not agree with? And so on.

Simplistic I know.
Now unless you're going to tell me that the US Democracy is a perfect system. I would ask why you agree (and extol) an imperfect national consensus system at home in your State in the nation, but reject an imperfect international consensus system in your nation in the world?

Now if the international scheme is too imperfect - why not try and perfect it - rather than try to chuck it out?


Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/16/2004 - 10:39 AM

"Party C has the right to say what it wants"

I disagree with "what it wants" in some circumstances. The no-freedom-to-shout-"Fire"-in-a-crowded-theater principle.

Remember the example. Party C was telling B something which C knew to be false, or else saying it was true when actually were aware they really didn't know. C was saying "A won't use force" when either C thought A actually would use force, or when C really did not know but was representing to B that he did know.) This false representation to B was encouraging B (intentionally on C's part if you take "B" to be Saddam and "C" to be the French) to ignore the threat of violence, thereby making the actual use of violence more likely.

If you are asking "Do you [Drew] think free speech gives people the right to say things they know are false in situations where their knowling lie will cause someone's death" then no, I don't believe in that much free speech.

As a US/UK difference, it is my understanding, btw that free speech in the UK is more limited than free speech in the US, mostly because your libel laws give more rights to public figures and less to the press than ours do. But as I understand it both countries limit free speech at the point where the speech is harmful and knowingly false.

Posted by: Drew | 04/16/2004 - 11:24 AM

"The World has a population divided into Nations - it is trying to operate a consensus system to govern its internal (planetary) affairs between those nations."

Well, I agree with the literal sense of that but somehow I think we are drawing opposite meanings from those words.

Do I think the majority of the nations in the world are trying to establish a system under which by majority vote of nations Libya, Sudan, Saddam's Iraq and North Korea can vote that Libya is in charge of Human Rights, Iraq in charge of disarmament? (Iraq was scheduled to take over the chair of the disarmament commitee next, but the UN panicked when they saw that might not be "Saddam-Iraq" but "Iraq-under-US-Control" so they changed the succession of the chairmanship.)

Yes, they are trying to do that: Have a system of majority voting to control the US and make it do what they want.

However I think neither that such a system will ever actually be up and running. The US and other countries will ignore the General Assembly screaming "You are unspeakably evil, (and pay us reparations for your evil)". I think it would be a Very Bad Thing if we did establish a world government run by the votes of those tyrants and murders who run most of the countries in the UN. I think it would be a bad thing to have the UN decide who was "fit to vote" like the EU is deciding who is fit to be a member of the EU. That will quickly just degenerate into situation #1 above. North Korea and Libya agreeing with France and Germany that the US should not have a vote. Or like the EU agreeing that there is "just something not quite acceptable" about the Turks (nothing to do with brown skin or non-Christian religion, mind you, just something not quite right).

And (repetitively) I don't think it is a good idea to keep saying "we are almost there" when we are no where near a world government that can force member states to obey its decrees.

What do I think is better than having the unelected dictators who run the UN decide things by consensus? Have more representative democracies, more free market economies and more open education. Sort of like we are trying to do in Afghanistan and Iraq over the screams and objections of the Consensus who are terrified at that thought.

Posted by: Drew | 04/16/2004 - 11:42 AM

After Carter... I can see that. Over here Carter is just "President Peanut", just another US CEO.
I suppose the military needed a dose of something after "Desert One". Watching a few Rambo movies did not cut it.

As for Vietnam...don't get me started. It is a most fascinating piece of history and worthy of endless study. How not to set clear policy and then not to stick to it.

Which brings us to the Doctrine of Sovereign States. This is the belief that the world is divided into nations, states whatever, and they are sovereign.
If you believe this then you have a right to defend your borders and have a customer service. Also you then believe that intervention into foreign territory is state to state warfare. If you do not believe in it them preemptive intervention is not plain warfare.
This works both ways. If we hold that our territory is sovereign (we do!) then so is theirs.
There is, apparently, a subject called International Law. But there is no Court Structure and no elected Assembly passing these laws. Unless you count the UN GA....?

Posted by: Cobden | 04/16/2004 - 02:14 PM

"Party C has the right to say what it wants" post

If you are asking "Do you [Drew] think free speech gives people the right to say things they know are false in situations where their knowling lie will cause someone's death" then no, I don't believe in that much free speech.

OK - so now we now boil the concept of "free speech" down to legality? Where will we administer such International Law for "free speech" then?

Are we all to abrogate our National Sovreignty and Laws to a US Legal process? Or are we going to sit round a table and discuss things like Law, Human Rights, Interventionist Policies in an (imperfect) consensus way? Like we do at home?

Yes, the UK has it's own internal laws. So does everyone else. They are all different. So which one is right?

Some US argument on this thread seems to imply that theirs is the only "right". Via "might is right"?

Yet Don is professedly "pro-life" and his nation is pro- abortion? Does he charge about beating up doctors and nurses at home?

I am also still wondering if I will ever get answers to my previous questions, or more questions about "definitions" and "terms". Legalisms too. 8)

I presume you realise that this thread is in itself a microcosm of UN problems and issues - and (so far) it seems we are just the UK and US part of it! The "buddies"? Part of "Sam's gang"?


Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/16/2004 - 02:49 PM

"so now we now boil the concept of "free speech" down to legality"

No. Not Legality. Right and wrong. Moral and Immoral. Sometimes the morally correct choice has nothing to do with the legally correct choice. And for better or worse this State vs State stuff is not occuring in an area where there is any real, agreed upon Law.

Hmm, now you want me to define "good" and "bad"? "Good" is how you want other people to treat you. It is how you hope your children treat other children. Most people agree on some rule like that (which includes "Saying things you know are false when you know this will cause someone else harm is 'bad.' ")

Yes, Nations might (as individuals have) agree to sign over their rights to some Group Authority. But they haven't and I have trouble seeing them doing it soon.

I certainly don't see the UN as any precursor of such a Group Authority. As I told you, I think _all_ the actions of the UN Political Authority have either failed or caused harm. AQ is even harsher. He listed their failures (like bungling their protecton of Milosevic) as their 'finest moments.'

Posted by: | 04/16/2004 - 05:02 PM

"No. Not Legality. Right and wrong. Moral and Immoral."

Oh! I see.

OK. Yup! Forget legality. Chuck it out. Gone. woosh!

Morals then. Right and Wrong.


Whose morals are we talking about then? Yours, mine? Which ones shall we adopt, and how are we to decide?

Are we going to adopt ages old written moral values like - hey! - the Ten Commandments. That would be a good start for a "good" Christian "world moral stance". Yup. Let's do that - see where it goes.

Oh dear... which ones?

Oh dear. And we've only strayed into "christian/jewish" ideals here. How about Islam, Hinduism, Shinto etc etc etc,.

No - I most particularly do not want you or any other "individual" or "self appointed body" to define what is "good" or "bad". In the same way that a load of people didn't want the Pope, the Spanish Inquisition to define them either. Or Hitler, or... [add your chosen despot here]

We are now walking a path close to religeous convictions and beliefs. I am not religeous. I steer clear of such discussions for fear of sounding personally "anti" to some of the issues that topic raises.

No - I was not Christened. I was born in an atheist house in the middle of a jungle and delivered by a chinese midwife. I am therefore a genuine "heathen" -if you will? If I am wrong - I am going straight to hell when I die. No remission. No last appeal. No chance. A complete gonner!
Ho hum.

So morally I am potentially to be considered "untouchable" - or a target of "conversion" by the the various religeous groups? Hmmn. No thanks.

I have my own personal set of "morals" - but I don't really call them "morals" - I call them "common sense". Common, in that most people seem to work OK with them and law (in general) supports them too. (And yes - I'm pretty sure they are based on those 10 commandments - or one of the versions. They aren't exactly "mind-blowing" concepts. Even then.)

I didn't expect this discussion to get this far along the scale of "rational thought" towards "moral conviction". Oh well.

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/16/2004 - 06:31 PM

"Whose morals are we talking about then?" etc.

Wow! Where did _that_ come from? Take a step back. Take a deep breath. Take your Mellaril!

I agree, not all religions have the same tenets. Some are good. Others are evil and destructive. The good ones are all pretty much the same. And you don’t need to see look at your neighbors test paper to see what every one in the Consensus is doing to tell the one from the other.

Some say “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done back to you” and some say “Kill anybody who is the tiniest bit different.” If you can’t tell which of those is “good” and which is “bad” then, Houston, we have a Problem.

Do you want a situation where there is no law and no Big Religious Principle and where there is Good and Bad? How about the Supermarket (that is a ‘Merican word for the English “Saintsbury”). There are five people in line. You are in a hurry. Do you a) stand in line because they were there first or b) go to the front of the line because you are in a hurry? Neither is against the law. And let’s say for the sake of argument that you are in _such_ a rush you don’t have time to ask the other people what the Consensus is. And neither of those two choices are against any law.

This is not Rocket Science. Heck, it isn’t even Brain Surgery. At some point you need to stand on your own two feet and decide who you are and what you are.

Posted by: Drew | 04/16/2004 - 10:47 PM

A lot of comments since I last had time to go online. No time to respond to all the interesting comments, but let me clarify a few things.

Grenada: This thread – at least from the part I was brought into it – had to do with American military intervention. That is why I focused on the bloody 1983 coup. Someone asked for another source about the Governor General requesting assistance. I'm semi-familiar with the US government sites, so I went looking there. According to the US Government In October 1983, a power struggle within the government resulted in the arrest and subsequent murder of Bishop and several members of his cabinet by elements of the people's revolutionary army. Following a breakdown in civil order, a U.S.-Caribbean force landed on Grenada on October 25 in response to an appeal from the governor general and to a request for assistance from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. U.S. citizens were evacuated, and order was restored.

I could not find a transcript of the Governor General's exact request. However, that does not surprise me. Our government is still putting all of its records online, putting records of foreign correspondence online is definitely a very low priority. Perhaps one of the British members of this thread could search their own government's sites? At any event, barring someone finding a better source, I'll stick with the US government statement on this.

I also want to make clear that I never called Stephen Zunes a "mad" professor. I had actually read his exact article (published at a different site) before the initial reference. While I believe he sees things through a leftist bias, many of his points are well-founded. However, many are not. He makes sweeping generalizations (such as Of particular concern was the influence Bishop and his supporters--who were greatly inspired by the Black Power movement in the United States--could have on African-Americans. A successful socialist experiment by English-speaking Blacks just a few hours by plane from the United States was seen as a threat.) without any support. You and I try to do better than this and we write for free as part of personal discussions. Zunes is writing professionally, yet he makes other broad accusations without proof.

But I think we are beating a dead horse here. Drew has brought up perspectives from those who were actually there – perspectives woefully missing from the links of yours I clicked on (I admit, I only went to about 5 of them, the Zunes seemed the best of the ones I tried and they went downhill from there). I'm not defending all of the stuff the US allegedly did, if they actually did so, but given the bloody coup, I am proud the US showed the moral courage to put an end to it. You think this was an act of aggression (even though it may have been directly requested by your Queen's representative and was, at a minimum, indirectly requested). So we may as well move on.

Regarding the BBC: You say but as the BBC does not need to compete in exactly the same way as Commercial stations or newspapers do - they have more freedom (such as it is) to be non-sensationalist and just stick to facts?I believe that was the intent. It is also the reason given for tenure at American universities. I believe the results are the same. We can theorize about the reasons for this, but virtually everyone I know who reads a lot would put BBC on the far left side of the scale just as most people put Fox news on the far right. Sure, I can find people who find Fox (or the BBC) to be centered, but that tells me more about how that person sees the world than anything else.

As you say the nub of the matter is who controls when the US uses its might. You seem most upset when the US acted in ways where the UK disagreed (or at least when their PM and/or citizens disagreed). But nine times out of 10, the UK fought alongside with us. If the UK really disagreed with us, but came along just because you are good followers, then you have an internal problem.

Getting back to determining when the US uses its might: like any sovereign power, it will do so when it chooses. We will never, ever, give non-Americans the right to tell us what to do with our own resources. I can see what that might frustrate non-Americans, but I don't see why you fear it. From an American perspective, Europeans – as a whole – were responsible for much of the death in the twentieth century and Asian countries were responsible for quite as bit as well. The lesson most Europeans learned from this is to not trust nation states. The lesson most Americans learned from this is to attack tyrants early (and a skepticism about European leadership). So from a European view of the world (with a bias against nation states), America stands out as a danger. From an American view of things, Europe (as a whole, there are many notable exceptions) is filled with appeasers who would let another Hitler grow instead of taking prompt action. European inaction in Kosovo and Iraq (until the US decided to move with or without help) reinforces this perception. For my part I am glad many European nations decided to follow our leadership (and that Tony Blair was part of the leadership, not part of the problem), but I remain dismayed that not one European country was willing to even handle Kosovo until and unless the US got involved. So the two perspectives are far apart. They will probably grow even farther apart.

I appreciate your politeness and time in sharing your perspective. One of your comments illustrates the difference between European and American perspectives as I just described above. You said The "gun" IS big and powerful, but the hand seems to be "unsteady" and the intention uninformed? From an American perspective, the gun hand is firm and the intention steady. But some observers are quaking so hard their glasses are trembling resulting in blurred vision where appeasement looks good. I am sure you won't agree with my assessment (any more than I agreed with your assessment). But it does highlight the difference in how our cultures view things.

I would like to bring one point of American law to your attention though – it may make you feel a wee bit better about our gun hand. Our president does not have the power to wage war on his own authority. He has to get it from Congress. (The president can give orders for brief actions without Congressional approval, but anything that takes a lot of time and effort requires this approval).

One last comment, then I'm calling it a night. You ask for a consensus driven world where might does not drive the rules. As long as we are governed by human beings, it will not happen. And I doubt you could come up with a fair way to do it, even in theory. Should we go by the number of citizens? So if China and India vote together, that alone accounts for over 40% of the world's votes? After all, if you want a representative consensus, that is the logical result. Or do you want every tiny country to have the same say as a large country with many times its population? That hardly seems fair nor logical. But if you have some ideas, I am interested in hearing them.

When time permits, I'll try to answer your comments on the UN (one of the biggest wastes of US taxpayer monies in existence).

Posted by: Don Quixote | 04/16/2004 - 11:12 PM

I have added a new Sam story over at the bus ride blog. Check out Sam still rides the bus

Recall that the founders, including Roosevelt, were people doing actual things. Practical people winning WW2 and planning how the planet would look after 1948. They knew a good working compromise when they saw one. Later on purists could live in the nice safe world they made and choose to stamp their feet. So it goes.

Posted by: Cobden | 04/17/2004 - 05:50 AM

Our president does not have the power to wage war on his own authority.

Is this the War Powers Act?

I understood that more than one President viewed that as unconstitutional. There are fudges available to Presidents. Just as Congress exclusively makes treaties, the Executive makes "Executive Agreements" - scholars cannot tell the difference. Wasn't it Nixon who established that the President can bomb who he damn well pleases? I cannot recall anyone being brought to book for illegal ARCLIGHT operations over Cambodia and Laos.

Posted by: Cobden | 04/17/2004 - 05:56 AM

"Whose morals are we talking about then?" etc.
Wow! Where did _that_ come from?

It came from someone calling themselves "|"? Who was that?

You are now advocating qualities of "good" and "bad" and effectively prejudging moral sets and assuming a consensus?

“Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done back to you”. Sounds like you wouldn't mind if we invaded your country? Is the US following this cited "good"? Or merely "projecting" this "good" and breaking a few other "goods" because it is "justified" by other "goods"?

This all seems to have started from your accusation that Party C misrepresented its powers to Party B about Party A. Which under the 10 Commandments you could probably stretch the "bearing false witness" one around with a bit of leverage. Pop up a few levels and we find good ol' "thou shalt not kill". Which has been stretched and wrestled around so many issues it's hard to read the writing anymore.

We live in an imperfect world and one running high on emotional "righteousness". Islamic terrorists are on Jihad - they too are running on moral adrenaline. So who is to judge? God? Ultimately religeous people will say yes. We will all be judged. As an atheist this rather leaves me on the doorstep wondering what on earth is going on?

Here we have an issue in which He is a common factor amazingly enough. The Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God (Bush Nov 20)? They just have different Prophets? Different interpretations of His Will? Sorry, I am straying too far into territory I said I would avoid.

The basic problem is that us jogging mortals have to resolve these issues as they seem to be different. Sometime in the past someone decided that Crusades were "good" just as now some advocate that "Jihad" is "good". We also (as a species) have to accept that some religeons do not worship the same God. And some do not worship at all.

So who is to decide?

We still come back to that question I asked, the one about "might is right" or "consensus".

Your statement
If you can’t tell which of those is “good” and which is “bad” then, Houston, we have a Problem.

Now you see it. Yes. If you hadn't already noticed We (the world) do have a problem. Strange thing is - some believe that the US is that problem? Amazing? Not really.

So who is to decide?

The man with the biggest gun? Is reasoned debate not also a solution?

"Men with Guns" on your streets are governed by Laws your people have derived by consensus. I may be wrong but I'd guess that the Law against murder doesn't let him off because he he says he thought he was doing a "good" thing? No - you go to trial and get a consensus about whether he was doing a "good" thing. Law.

"Good" and "bad" changes. Both our nations (or parts of them) believed that slavery was "good" - or at least not "bad". Consensus didn't work for the US and you fought about it. Was that "good"? The Ten Commandments has no obvious law about slavery? "Not stealing" might count - but it doesn't define "ownwership". They do say "not kill" - yet the ACW was one of the worst killing sprees the US ever had.

"Good" and "bad" don't work without consensus.

So who is to decide?

In leiu of an answer to my "might is right" or "consensus" question - I'd guess that I'd have to assume you favour the former? The question wasn't entirely fair - I know, because I suspect you actually favour a "consensus of like thinking minds" as a sort of middle ground? Yes/No?

The problem with that - to my mind - is that this sort of consensus is "created". Hitler created one with the Nazis.

If we decide to do the same sort of thing now we merely polarise world issues and potentially plant the seeds of WWIII. That is what we learn from history...

Why not try a new path. Dialogue?

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/17/2004 - 08:02 AM

The right to declare war was given to Congress in our">">our Constitution (Article 1, Section 8). However, historically, minor actions do not require to consent of Congress. And a few times the President ignored this by not declaring war and a wimpy Congress allowed this. The War Powers Act (or War Powers Resolution) was a response to Vietnam, where a wimpy Congress refused to either buck the president or declare war, attempts to specify exactly how the President could use his authority as commander in chief.
Before starting the war to liberate Iraq, President Bush obtained Congressional approval. If you followed our democratic primary, you may have noticed Kerry taking some flack for voting for the war. He tries to have it both ways, but his defense is "I voted for war to send a message to Saddam, I never thought Bush was serious."

Posted by: Don Quixote | 04/17/2004 - 09:04 AM

One last thing, then I'm going offline for a while (this is fun, but the real-world calls). Americans are not for anarchy, we are firm believers in the rule of law. But we differentiate between laws that are seen as legitimate and laws that are not. For example, our domestic laws are created by our representatives through a democratic process. A few activists judges are trying to impose their own laws on us outside the democratic process and this is a big internal issue for us (most of us don’t respect these judges either and see these imposed laws as illegitimate).

International law is created by might and enforced (or not enforced) by might (or the lack thereof). So we have much less respect for it than we do for laws based on representation. In theory, this seems like your own attitude toward law vs. might.

I would cheerfully support the creation of an international body with representatives from democracies that would tackle international law. Until then, nothing will really change. Big powers will follow the traditional of international law until it gets in the way of something they feel strongly about. Then they will ignore it.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 04/17/2004 - 09:16 AM

Don, hi!

Grenada again. OK - follow the US Govt's "Truth". Your right to do so is not disputed. I was merely expressing a view that it is not the only "Truth" out there? I don't "know" if Zunes is correct or not, but the issues are still there and I would suggest that dismissing them summarily is not the right approach either?

Drew did indeed bring up a source who was there. Am I to dismiss it all because of one voice?

I will move on though.

What do we learn from History events like this? If at all? "Pre-emptive action" is sometimes "suspect"? Or "always correct"? Or "always wrong"?

Who decides?

As part of a Nation working under a consensus system I effectively elect and pay people to decide things like this for me on the international scene. I don't always agree with them but that's the system we operate.

OK. The US, the UN.
As yet I have tried to avoid involving either party politics (left/right) or UN specific mechanisms. I have, I hope, been argueing in favour of "dialogue" and "consensus" over "might is right". I don't have solutions to what changes should be made to the UN, I just believe that it is better to talk than to kill, and that assessments of past history are what created it in the first place. We should never have a WWIII.

I'm getting a "mixed message" about the "American Perspective" here.
"Europeans – as a whole – were responsible for much of the death in the twentieth century"
On the face of it - True. It does seem a curious stance to promote though? Were we wrong to fight two world wars? Are we wrong to try and learn from them? Now we are "filled with appeasers"? I took a moment to reflect on that one.
I don't see myself or any of us really in that light. We have tried to learn from our wars. Now we prefer to talk about things more and act on decisions formed from those discussions. Gulf 1/Kuwait is an example

The UN SC piled loads of resolutions against Iraq-list

The US ended up leading an interesting coalition of Nations to free Kuwait -

Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Honduras, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey, The United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States itself.

Is a list I found. That's an interesting list!!!? (agreed - not all were keen about it)

At the same time some US (and other nations') citizens were waving "No Blood For Oil" banners. It's a funny old world! 8)

So we come back to the same old questions. A minority (?) in the US objected to Gulf 1, but under a "consensus" system (Congress etc) the US supplied around 74% of the forces involved.
I'd argue that the UN "sanctioned" it. potted history

The UN is basically powerless, but it seems to have to pick up the pieces too.

"As long as we are governed by human beings, it will not happen."
Hmmmn. Prejudicial or what? I mean in the basic form of "judgement before... ".

My poor little brain is hurting from slamming it against a wall of "this is this - period" type statements like this. "the UN (one of the biggest wastes of US taxpayer monies in existence)."

Oh well. Grenada was OK - because despite any argument to the contrary - " barring someone finding a better source, I'll stick with the US government statement on this. I suspect I can never find a "better source" whatever I do? The world is not grey - it is black and white now. Ho hum.

Call me an "idealist" or an "idiot" if you wish - I am not clever, and I certainly do not "know" all the answers.

I support ideas like the UN because I believe it (or something similar) is the only rational way for the world to operate. Anything else is just "might is right"?
Down that path lies WWIII.

We have seen arguments about "good" and "bad" - is the UN "bad"? Are it's aims "bad". Sure - I'll happily jump on board with the argument that it isn't perfect. Then again, neither is Democracy.
You seem to support the latter, and may even want to perfect it. What precisely is the difference?

I have not at any time tried to suggest how the UN should be improved, I hope - nor have I advocated a "global proportional representation system" for it. I don't have answers to what should be done to improve it, but I still believe that it should be part of the Evolution of humankind just as the US Democratic System was part of the Evolution of the "United States".

The irony (in my view) is the acceptance of a "United States" and the fervent mistrust of a "United Nations". Curious? Is the USA _really_ that "United"?

Are the opinions being offered here the full and agreed opinions of the entire US population?

So who decides?

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/17/2004 - 09:53 AM

Don said, "Americans are not for anarchy, we are firm believers in the rule of law. But we differentiate between laws that are seen as legitimate and laws that are not."
Something puzzles me about law in the USA. From 8000 kilometres away it seems that almost everything can be overturned by one court or another. New business competitor? Simple, bogus lawsuit. City govt does something you don't like? Simple, lawsuit in higher (District?) court. Election going badly? Simple, stop counting and start a suit to freeze the result. Patents cost too much to examine? Simple, file 'em all and let the courts sort out the mess.
It is like there is no final authority. A perpetual game of "scissors, paper, stone" with the deepest pockets winning due to lawyers fees. In Britain Parliament is Sovereign (on behalf of the people) and gives Ministers powers and so down the pyramid.
I am sure that I cannot have understood the US law properly. Perhaps you could explain. But your media give this impression about suits and countersuits. This gives an impression that Americans do what they please and pay lawyers to clear up the paperwork later.
Do you declare laws you do not like as not legitimate?

Posted by: Cobden | 04/17/2004 - 12:23 PM

"But we differentiate between laws that are seen as legitimate and laws that are not."

Crikey. What can I say? Is this an new definition of the word "legitimate"? My dictionary does not contain that one I suspect.

I must assume you meant something else - but it isn't clear what?

"...most of us don’t respect these judges either and see these imposed laws as illegitimate"

Most? You've had a referendum then? What were the results?

An illegitimate law? Paradoxical? I don't really understand the issues here but it seems something "imperfect" is happening in your consensus system?

What I am reading, "between the lines", perhaps, is that you do not believe in your own consensus systems for law and such? I might agree with you... I have always discussed these issues here from a perspective that existing consensus mechanisms are imperfect. These mechanisms "evolve". If it is imperfect are you going to chuck out the whole thing - or work out a better way to do it? What mechanism will you use to do that?

The world is a world of compromise. It's the best way I can think of. I do not have a perfect solution for you either.

International Law.
I'm really pleased you have admitted support for the concept of International Law. Hooray! OK - there was a subclause - "democracies" only? Hmmn. Another "club", more polarisation? Who gets excluded and why? Also - didn't I read somewhere that the US had "unsigned" itself from the Rome Statute on the ICC?

Who decides?

A body like that might well decline into a "nodding shop" of "like thinking people" - arguably like NATO. Except France is part of NATO and the UN and is a Democracy. Are you now willing to sit at the table with them again?

Where do we draw the line? Britain is technically a Constitutional Monarchy, and by association so are Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a number of others. Do we/they qualify? Non-Royalist View?

A consensus based on "like thinking people" has a different name. That's an "Alliance". And is not a "world consensus" - in that not all "voices" are heard.

I mentioned before IIRC. There's not much point in a selective consensus. It defeats the object. It's a bit like the Democrats using a majority verdict to mandate that the Republicans are no longer allowed to vote? A bit?

A dialogue and consensus approach is pretty pointless if the "opposition" is excluded. I'd agree that it might sound odd, but if we don't invite the "non-democracies" we are effectively invalidating our own consensus approach?

This approach could be seen as an "invitational" stance as opposed to a "oppositional" stance. Whilst contentious discussion may be the result - membership of the forum should be "seen" as advantageous to the individual nations - not a disadvantage.

I'm no expert on these things - but I believe the UN is a "move" in the right direction.

Imperfect as it is, and our own legal and governmental systems are - what is there that is better?

On Pre-emptiveness have you guys looked at this site ?
Probably another bunch of "bleeding heart liberals" (pre-Iraq 2 analyses..)

Posted by: Cassivellaunus | 04/17/2004 - 04:51 PM

On the subject of intervention. I saw a rather boasting view of the (then upcoming) Gulf War when visiting Singapore in '02. I read a re-print in the Straits Times of a William Safire NYT article (registration required)(caution: apparently NYT is a hotbed of leftism).
This article had some choice bits like: After our victory in the second gulf war, Britain would replace France as the chief European dealer in Iraqi oil and equipment. Woo hoo! We get France's old share.
At the time I thought he was selling the lion skin before killing the beast. But on reflection it sounded like a mouthpiece, spreaking through a clown, to tell us all what the deal was and get the chips on the table. I predicted a March 1 start date for Iraqi Freedom, based on the GW1 timetable. I was 17 days off, probably due to Blair and the UN stuff.
In retrospect this is war by IPO. You estimate the gain, subtract the overheads and divvy the action amongst the players you invite. Of course you need an about the taxpayer?

Posted by: Cobden | 04/18/2004 - 12:23 PM

"caution: apparently NYT is a hotbed of leftism"

Yeah. They put Safire there as their "token right winger" as a trap for the unwary.

On a more serious note, there is the editorial opinions of the NY Times (on the editorial page) and the "news" on the front page. The problem with the NY Times is the "news" is also editorial opinion. They not only slant the stories as much as possible, they even publish stories that are flat made up.

Just like the BBC.

I realize all this is hard to follow because of the names involved:

"Blair Lied" when the NY Times says it means the PM of Britain.

"Blair Lied" when Fox says it means Jayson Blair, the NY Times writer who admits he just plain made up his stories.

"Gilligan Lied" when Fox says it means Andrew (Andrew Gilligan is the guy who Tony Blair, not Jayson Blair, bribed Lord Hutton to disparage in the Hutton Report)

"Gilligan Lied" when the BBC says it means he didn't tell the Professor, the Captain nor the Howells about the lion on the other side of the island.

You just need to keep your players straight.

Posted by: Drew | 04/19/2004 - 11:51 AM

This US media thing is very complicated.
So Safire is a "token right-winger". Sure fooled these good old boys over at the Daily Pundit.
The NYT seems simple compared to the layout of the rabid Daily Mail over here. They have the news (Blair lied about X), three (count them) opinion pages by gossip mongers, editorial (Blair concealed his lies about X) and also a daily essay (why being good is nice).
There is also the Daily Mirror which is the opposite. If you bring a copy of each together they disappear in a flash of gamma rays!

However it seems sad that the Straits Times was sold that rubbish. The good people of Singapore probably think we intervened in Iraq to take all of the French supply business. Of course this is not true - Blair is too much the trusting Boy Scout and probably did not get anything in writing.

Posted by: Cobden | 04/19/2004 - 01:46 PM

By "token right winger" I am not implying Safire is not on the Right. I think he is. By "token" I mean he is the one Right Winger the NY Times hired, so they could say "See, we have all sorts of views here."

BTW, was the Daily Mail talking about Tony or Jayson?

Posted by: Drew | 04/19/2004 - 01:51 PM

UN as ulitmate world authority:

I don't know how closely you are all following this, but there may be (i.e. they say they will do it, now let's see if they do) an investigation of the UN Oil for Food program.

See for example:


or (for those of Celtic persuasion)

(If you think I have a low opinion of the UN read how the guy in The Scotsman article describes them. He makes me sound as middle of the road as AQ).

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. One of the problems with "The UN is higher than any other authority" is obviously "Then how do you 'arrest and imprison' the UN when it does something wrong"

I wonder if Kofi and his son have private assurances of protection from members of the Security Council.

You know, like the assurances Manuel Noriega, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein all had.

Posted by: Drew | 04/21/2004 - 02:02 PM
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