Friday, September 01, 2006

International law, only if it fits the agenda

I have mentioned before that I am somewhat skeptical of international law and international organisations. I have recently seen two cases which underline one of my concerns. Many of the most ardent supporters of international law and its apparatuses, often seem to be more interested in using the principles involved to further what can only be termed nakedly political ends, while completely ignoring any principles or precedents which are unhelpful or contrary to those ends.
The first example I encountered this week comes from the Claremont Institute blog, The Remedy, and has to do with the right to self defense:
Glenn Reynolds alerts us to this U.N. Report which denies that there is such a thing as a right to self-defense in international law.
No international human right of self-defence is expressly set forth in the primary sources of international law: treaties, customary law, or general principles.
[...]People writing reports for the U.N. should consider what the founders of the modern ideas of the law of nations had to say about the subject. Hugo Grotius was quite clear on the subject. Emmerich de Vattel was too.
The U.N. is therefore wrong to say, "primary sources of international law: treaties, customary law, or general principles." Clearly the U.N. has cut international law off from its root.
Of course, as I have noted before the U.N., has grown to be hostile to the natural rights foundation of the United States by its very nature. At the foundation of the U.N.'s understanding of law is an idea that is irreconcilable with the natural rights foundation of the U.S. Hence the U.N. does not grasp the necessity of a natural right to self-defense, a right of inestimable importance to us, and formidable only to those who would be tyrants.
Do read the whole thing.
The second instance regards the West Bank, and the fact that some people claim Israel should not be allowed to enact a unilateral withdrawal. Apart from the fact that I find it unlikely that someone in good faith could expect Israel to establish its final borders in negotiation with an entity which does not recognize its right to exist tout cour and advocates its destruction, there was an article in the July-August issue of Commentary, Why Israel Is Free to Set Its Own Borders by Michael I. Krauss and J. Peter Pham (requires subs.), which explores some of the international law issues which are involved. It goes over the relevant history and has a concurrent legal discussion which is particularly interesting. Here is the conclusion:
None of this is to suggest that Israel's legal and historical claims to sovereignty in the West Bank require it to remain there. But neither is it required to consult either the Palestinian Arabs or the self-appointed representatives of the "international community" if it decides to withdraw from some territory and determine its own borders. As Ariel Sharon and now Ehud Olmert have argued, it may well be in Israel's national interest to disentangle itself, as much as prudence requires, from the Palestinians and the territory in which they predominate. As many Israelis see it, to do any less might court the risk of Israel itself becoming an "occupied territory"- and at the hands of a far less benign power.
It would be best to bring about any such disengagement through negotiations with a credible and well-meaning Palestinian counterpart. But for now and the foreseeable future, the seat on the other side of the table remains empty. In this circumstance, exactly as in the 1967 war of aggression that attempted its annihilation, Israel, if it chooses to do so, has every legal right to act alone.
A copy of the article can be found here (pdf). Do read the whole thing.

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