Friday, February 29, 2008

From Kosovo to Gaza and Beyond III

It seems to me that a “baseline of expectations” has to be developed that can serve as a general guide for the international community when it is confronted with demands to allow the formation and to fully accept the sovereignty of a new country.

I suggest that a pre-condition for even considering the creation of a new country in the 21st century is the absence of armed conflict between the ruling class or its agents (e.g., the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed) and those among the ruled who believe they suffer discriminatory treatment – whether from unofficial or official policy – on the basis of some common distinguishing characteristic.

This pre-condition would seem to introduce a bias against the “method” by which so many countries achieved self-rule in the 20th century either outright through armed rebellion or by succeeding in involving regional or even global powers in mediating settlements that provided for separation but not resolution of the underlying grievances that first impelled the resort to arms – and subsequently resurfaced in support for rebellions in adjacent countries. But the ever-increasing lethality of military “solutions” combined with the ever-increasing time and resources required to reconstitute an area devastated in war suggest that – as a general rule – the price of nation-state disaggregation via warfare is one that the international system as presently constituted can no longer afford.

Does not a prohibition against armed conflict as a path to nationhood condemn an oppressed group to unending subjugation? Not if the international community employs tools it has possessed but did not use in the last century or tools that have come into force in the current century.

In the former category is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, enacted by the UN General Assembly on December 10th, 1948, but largely ignored in the 45 year Cold War competition between the superpower military alliances.

In the latter category are two advances that give force to the Universal Declaration.

One is the creation of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute) as a permanent international venue with jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by individuals, including heads of state. The second is the evolution of restraints on the previously untrammeled sovereignty of a government over its internal affairs – an evolution from the right of the international community to intervene to protect a segment of a country’s population from depredations of government to a responsibility to intervene in such cases. It is under this latter rubric, broadly defined beyond the familiar role of UN or regional “peacekeeping” missions that are reactive to violence – that provides justification for international involvement in the first instance.

What is missing from this structure is a regularized methodology and a permanently constituted international quasi-judicial organization empowered to hear petitions for devolution and to issue binding arbitration where necessary.

But a greater deficiency exists, one traceable to the hodge-podge evolution of a system that is less concerned with the loss of individual rights and usurpation of civil liberties than with population control required to maintain the rulers in power. This deficiency is both the weakness and the strength of the process of building a strong consensus for globalization. Beyond a point, devolution becomes economically, diplomatically, and socially unsustainable as each subgrouping and then individuals concentrate on their own situation. In contrast, a more broadly based constituency anchored in an accelerating process of globalization offers the opportunity for greater returns on invested human energy and resources moving across all artificial barriers

Whereas the chief problems of the past grew from the failure of governors to govern is a new total reversal of the more effort on integrating different distinctive groups not only within existing national boundaries but to build stronger regional organizations that can search for solutions to the growing list of trans-national challenges stemming from the past narrow interests of individual countries.

In short, like it or not, we are in an age of escalating globalization in which even the most powerful countries can no longer be allowed to place their unilateral interests before those of the rest of the world. This may have been the pathway to power in the past, but attempted or perpetuated today it will be the road to ruin – for everyone.

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