Monthly Archives: July 2008
July has been a bad month for war criminals. On Monday, July 14, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court set in motion proceedings against Sudanese president Omar el Bashir for genocide. Exactly one week later Radovan Karadzic–wanted for genocide in the Balkans–was arrested in Belgrade.
What does one have to do with the other? To be precise: not much. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a separate institution from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. (ICTY). The latter is a temporary, ad hoc tribunal focused only on the Balkans. The former is a permanent institution with a global remit. Despite these differences, though, Karadzic’s arrest may offer a glimpse into how Bashir may one day face justice. It also shows why international war crimes tribunals can be such useful institutions to have around.
We seem to have reached the consensus that poverty–along with other grievances such as political oppression and cultural alienation–are not reliable indicators of future terrorist activity. Given the prevalence of these conditions throughout the Muslim world, the “root causes” approach overpredicts the level of terrorist activity that we should expect to observe. As Quintan Wiktorowicz notes in Islamic Activism, “[w]hile grievances are ubiquitous, movements are not.” The question remains, then, why almost seven years after 9/11, does the root causes debate still shape the counterterrorism discourse?
From a policy perspective, the approach is a seductive one: if we can identify the causes of terrorism, then we can eradicate the conditions that allow terror to take root. At one time or the other, policymakers on both sides of the aisle have found comfort in this formulation. As Peter mentions, this does not mean that global poverty reduction or similar measures shouldn’t be a goal of U.S. foreign policy, but the expectation that they will reduce terrorism may be misplaced.
Writing in Tuesday’s International Herald Tribune, three German scholars — and authors of a forthcoming study on “UN Peace Operations and Organizational Learning” — provide an accurate summary of the challenges facing UN peacekeeping and its new chief, Alain Le Roy. What makes this op-ed so compelling is its authors’ careful and consistent specification that member states — not the amorphous collections of these member states, such as the “UN” or the “Security Council” — are responsible for both the struggles of UN peacekeeping and their potential solutions. An example of this simple, but so frequently ignored, distinction:
UN member states have neglected making crucial investments in the support infrastructure for an expanding network of large peace operations with increasingly complex tasks, from protecting civilians to rebuilding defunct institutions in post-conflict states. [emphasis mine]
Far too often, the convenient shorthand “UN” replaces this specification, and the entire body is unjustifiably branded for the failings of specific countries to follow through on their words and commitments. This is why I was disappointed to read one particular word in the op-ed’s subsequent sentence:
As a result, the UN apparatus is severely overstretched, exhibiting increasingly serious pathologies ranging from sluggish deployments to shocking sexual abuse scandals.
These are not pathologies. For one, the sexual abuse scandals, while indeed “shocking” and certainly unacceptable, are the deviations of a relatively small number of peacekeepers, not the symptoms of a systemic disease in UN peacekeeping. And as specified elsewhere in the piece, slow deployment should be chalked up squarely on Member States’ insufficient offers of troops and political pressure. Yet the use of the word “pathologies” suggests that these blemishes — manifestations of Member State shortcomings — are somehow endemic to UN peacekeeping.
This is one minor slip-up, and goes against the tone of the piece as a whole, which I strongly encourage you to read, as it also offers welcome insight into the pressing — and dangerously increasingly ignored — stipulation that UN peacekeepers should only be deployed where there is a peace to keep.
I agree with the other panelists that no link can be demonstrated between poverty and terrorism. This is not to say that socio-economic conditions have no relevance whatsoever. The economic success of the American Muslim community (two thirds earn over $50,000) is one of the reasons why American Muslims have become so well integrated into American society. The fact that 22% of young British Muslims are unemployed does contribute towards feelings of alienation.
I’m currently in London looking into violent extremism in the UK. The dynamics over here have direct implications for the national security of the United States. In 2006 authorities thwarted an Al Qaeda plot by British-born Muslims to bring down up to seven airliners leaving Heathrow for North America. The threat has not gone away. Britain probably has more Al Qaeda supporters than any other western country, two thousand of which now pose a security threat according to MI5.
Today’s Washington Post features an article on how the upcoming trial of Radovan Karadzic presents an opportunity for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to improve its image following the somewhat tumultuous trial of Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic. However, even as the Post acknowledges the court’s accomplishments — indicting 161 people, only two of whom remain at large — it seems unnecessarily focused on the court’s (very reasonable) budget and overemphasizes the effect of Milosevic’s antics:
Critics have accused it of being too expensive and ineffective, bringing too few people to justice in view of its vast resources; Milosevic gave it a reputation for unruliness and indecision that lingers today.
First, more than anything else, Milosevic furthered his own reputation for unruliness. And the reason that the court did not come to a decision was because Milosevic died in custody, a development the court could do little about.
On a deeper level, the Post here is guilty of furthering what a spokeswoman for the court’s lead prosecutor called “the perception…that the only case we ever handled was Milosevic.” In fact, as she explains, the court’s work has actually increased since that trial, and, as the statistics cited by the Post attest, it has had an impressive record of success.
The Post‘s preoccupation with the Court’s budget is also unwarranted. As attested by law professor and war crimes court expert Michael Scharf, the court operates remarkably efficiently, particularly when compared to similar entities in the U.S.
A major trial at the tribunal costs about $50 million, according to Scharf. A “mega-trial” in the United States, such as the Oklahoma City bombing case, can cost $70 million or more.
And bringing a notorious war criminal and mass murderer to justice is a good deal, no matter what the price.
Any serious study of the facts has found that the more relatively educated people are the more likely they are to engage in terrorism, and the more money people have, relative to their peers, the more likely they are to engage in terrorism, defined as violence against civilians by non-state actors.
And so, projects to increase levels of education and income around the world are likely, on average, to create more terrorists, which is not an argument against education or poverty alleviation, but simply one of the rare cases where social “science” can make something of an accurate prediction about future outcomes.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.