A clip of Honduras President Manuel Zelaya at the United Nations yesterday afternoon. He is due in Washington, D.C. today.
Paul Collier has been on my mind recently. He’s written tons about coups and how they can sometimes provide useful checks on unrestrained power of emerging democracies. Of course, Honduras isn’t exactly and emerging democracy. It’s been there for years. Still, Collier, who wrote The Bottom Billion and, more recently, Wars Guns and Votes, is a wealth of knowledge about conflict in the developing world.
Here is Collier giving a Ted@State lecture at the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters earlier this month on how the international community can do post-conflict recovery better.
To begin with, Rothkopf repeatedly refers to the “U.N.,” when it’s clear that he’s talking about just the Security Council, the instance of the organization that handles matters of international peace and security. But to reduce it to a mechanism for conflict resolution, as Rothkopf does, misses the point. The theory underpinning the composition of the council, rather than elementary, is a rather nuanced and high-minded concept in international relations known as collective security. Put simply, an attack on one member state constitutes an attack on all. The logic behind the theory is to create significant disincentives for aggression, thereby increasing stability among the society of states. The best example of collective security at work was the council’s response to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
This is a good point — that the complexity underlying the Security Council system is often taken for granted, or, worse, misinterpreted as simplicity. Now, one might quibble that the composition of the Council as it actually exists means in reality that an attack on one member state that is supported by a permanent member of the Security Council constitutes an “attack on all.” But in this respect, one could even see the relative polarization of the Council’s permanent members — with the U.S., UK, and France often on one side, and Russia and China on the other — as a sort of benefit. Every country in the world is probably an ally of one of these five, so an attack on any will be strongly dissuaded.
The problem, of course, is that aggression is not limited solely to state-on-state invasion, and that the same alliances that dissuade this sort of aggression can make it more complicated to take collective action to stop a country’s internal strife (see, for example, Sudan). This dynamic, though, is not a fault of the construction, or peace and conflict function, of the UN Security Council; it is a development in geopolitics, with which international security norms, writ even larger than the Security Council, have not yet fully caught up. How to make “collective security” incorporate the safety and well-being of a particular state’s citizens, without impinging on that state’s sovereignty, is a question even bigger than the Security Council. As a mechanism for resolving conflicts and maintaining peace, the Council is in fact evolving along with international relations, as it has to — but, as, say, the contrasting cases of Kosovo and the second Iraq war suggest, this progression is not a neat and linear one.
(image from flickr user Dipp under a Creative Commons license)
I’m just returning from the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., where President Obama’s Special Envoy for Sudan Scott Gration is hosting a major conference to shore up the Comprehensive Peace Accord, which ended a twenty year conflict between the ruling Sudanese National Congress Party and South Sudan rebels known as the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement.
The CPA, which was spearheaded by the Bush administration and signed in 2005, is on the verge of unraveling. The CPA created a so-called National Unity Government that brought the SPLM into the governing structure in Khartoum until national elections can be held later this year early next year. Then, most forcefully, the CPA calls for a referendum on the status of South Sudan in 2011–and in all likelihood, southern Sudanese will vote to secede. The CPA was a remarkable achievement at the time, but is showing signs of faltering. Outstanding issues like the status of the oil-rich Abyei region threaten to undermine the agreement. Both sides are re-arming in advance of the 2011 secession referendum. The Enough Project says that a return to civil war is a distinct possibility if progress is not made in the near term.
To that end, Gration told a small gathering of journalists at the conference that the meeting was to stave off the disintegration of the CPA by “rekindling the same passion” that infused the original signing of the CPA. The meeting was intended to shore up political will to address some of the unresolved issues and to help prepare a “soft landing” when the south votes in its secession referendum. A “joint communiqué” between the SPLM and the National Congress Party is expected this afternoon, which will lay out the progress that has been made during this summer.
I asked Gration about a related issue: what, if any, news he can relay about Darfur/Sudan Policy Review that the president said would be completed within 60 days of his inauguration? I thought this was a prudent question because ss Colum Lynch reported last week, the “deputies committee” of the National Security Council (that is, the deputy secretary of state, deputy secretary of defense, etc) could not come to an agreement over the right balance of carrots and sticks in a new Sudan policy.
So, I asked Gration when can he expect the review to be completed? His answer was telling. “Inshallah” was all he said. Meaning, of course, “god willing” it will be completed at all. Not exactly a good sign.
There is a fascinating debate going on right now about the propriety of hacking Iranian government sites.
So far, the preferred method of attack for many online activists is something called Distributed Denial of Service attack, or DDOS attack for short. There are a variety of ways to mount this kind of attack, but the idea is basically to flood certain websites with too much activity for the sites or servers to perform properly. (There are even a number of websites one can visit and programs one can download to partake in a DDOS attack.)
As Evgeny Morozov explains, Twitter has been used as an organizing tool for launching DDOS attacks. And a number of high profile web-folk like this Daily Kos diarist and Tech President
founder contributor Patrick Ruffini are cheer leading for the cause. But as Morozov points out, these attacks may not just bring down Iranian government sites – it may threaten Internet access throughout all of Iran. If these attacks keep pace, online activists outside of Iran could unwittingly cause the entire meltdown of Iran’s fragile Internet infrastructure.
Not unlike a coordinated bombing campaign against duel-use infrastructure like bridges and roadways, an organized DDOS attack campaign raises a number of moral and ethical questions. DDOS attacks are, after all, attacks. They are real and can be as destructive as conventional attacks on a country’s bridges or roadways.
The problem is, it seems that the proponents of these attacks have not wrestled with the difficult moral questions surrounding the likely consequences of their actions. In particular, they don’t seem to have considered the so-called “double effect” of an attack on Iranian government websites. Simply stated, the Just War Theory principal known as double effect seeks to explain how one can justify the foreseen negative consequences of an action (like bombing civilians) if the intended end result (like ending a war) is sufficiently good. An oft cited example is the dilemma over whether or not to bomb a military outpost that is next to a school; the outpost will be destroyed, but so too might a school full of children.
I think there are similar forces at work in the debate over whether or not to continue the DDOS attacks. These attacks may disrupt government propaganda sites like IRIN News, but so too might these attacks end up disrupting critical modes of civilian communications. Also, as Michael Roston artfully explains, such attacks seem contrary to the principals of free speech and open access to information.
To be sure, there are conditions under which these kinds of attacks can be defended. But I have yet to see any proponent of DDOS attacks explain in moral terms how he or she can justify the likely harm that will be visited upon “non-combatants” should these attacks continue.
North Korea announced on Monday that it had successfully conducted its second nuclear test, defying international warnings and dramatically raising the stakes in a global effort to persuade the recalcitrant Communist state to give up its weapons program. …
Russia and Japan said the U.N. Security Council would hold an emergency meeting Monday.
Geological authorities in the United States, Japan and South Korea reported that the test triggered an earth tremor with a magnitude of between 4.5 and 5.3. The tremor emanated from Kilju, the same area where the North Korea carried out a test in October 2006.
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.