Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Aggression Pre-Emption

I say. That's rather good.

I read Reid's speech last night courtesy of Blairwatch. Reid argues that there is a need for change. But he doesn't actually get round to suggesting exactly what it is he wants instead of the current rules. Perhaps even he realises that what he wants is unspeakable.

Anyway, when reading the stuff about pre-emption, it just gets more and more bizarre. Here's what he said on that. I'll quote it all just for clarity.
Another specific area of international law we perhaps need to think more about is whether the concept of imminence - i.e. the circumstances when a state can act in self-defence without waiting for an attack - is sufficlently well developed to take account of the new threats faced

In 2004, my colleague the Attorney General explained the current position under international law when he said: "International Law permits the use of force in self-defence against an imminent attack but does not authorise the use of force to mount a pre-emptive strike against a threat which is more remote…military action must only be used as a last resort….the force must be proportionate."

Difficult as it is, I think all of us here – including representatives from academia, the legal profession, diplomacy and journalism need to consider these issues now rather than waiting for the next threat to come along, and I’ll explain why.

Afghanistan is a good example. There were clear legal grounds for the international community – led by the US – taking action against Afghanistan after 9/11. Al Qaeda had proved both the intent and the capability to kill thousands of innocent men women and children. The threat of them doing so again was clearly imminent for all to see.

But what if another threat develops? Not Al Qaeda. Not muslim extremism. Something none of us are thinking about at the moment. The proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction has coincided with the growth of those prepared to use them. We know that terrorist groups continue to try and acquire such weapons and that they have described their willingness to use them. We also know that they continue to seek opportunities to launch attacks on a similar or greater scale as 9/11. Hopefully, we would learn of any such threat before any atrocities had been committed. I believe we would have strong legal grounds to take action to protect ourselves against attack. I also suspect that others would disagree. A debate would centre around "imminence". The very significant consequences of action or inaction in these circumstances should give us all pause for thought.
What? Is he's saying that the current legal position, as described by the Attorney General, is not good enough? Because what he seems to be hinting at is that a new system should be created which would give carte blanche to every state with aggressive intentions towards another country. India wants to attack Pakistan (or vice versa)? Simply claim that there is a remote threat from terrorist attack inside that country and we're away. As long as the aggressor can convince enough people that they "genuinely believed in the threat at the time," it doesn't even matter whether it's real. All legal and above board. Look at the pretty mushrooms.

And then he says we need to create new rules to combat a boogeyman he readily admits doesn't actually exist. This is why I carry a steel umbrella with me everywhere I go. Although I've never seen a brick fall from the sky, I am mindful of the very significant consequences of it happening in the future. Bah!

What he seems to be saying is that nation-states should be free to take military action against threats which they believe exist, whether there is an imminent threat or not. So, to give another random example, the North Koreans could perfectly legally pre-emptively attack the South. It is, after all, undoubtedly a remote threat to the national security of the North. Under the current rules, that'd be a crime of aggression. Under the rules suggested by Reid (or hinted at by him anyway), the international community could have no complaints.

Russia could attack Ukraine if it though that a new western friendly government would be harmful to it's long term security (hypothetically, that's not how the election played out). China could invade Taiwan if they "sincerely believed" that an anti-Chinese government terrorist cell was being harboured there. Arab countries could legally invade Israel (they've got nuclear weapons and that's clearly a remote threat to their neighbours. What if they fell into the hands of Israeli Zionist extremists?). And Israel could invade it's neighbours to. There are all sorts of remote threats in that region. What Reid appears to be suggesting is that the rules which set out the conditions under which military action is acceptable should be substantially relaxed. Welcome to the 21st Century of perpetual warfare.

Reid, of course, actually thinks that any new freedoms to pre-empt remote threats should only apply to "us", not "them". I'd like to see how he intends to codify that under international law. He says he's not a lawyer. No shit.

One final point. Iran. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that this is partly the continuation of the softening up exercise to prepare for military action. US airstrikes, I reckon. The UK will probably not be directly involved but will silently acquiesce. Iranians of all views will rally behind their extremist government in the face of such an attack. The movement of moderates and liberals inside Iran will be set back for years to come. And if the US are still in Iraq when it happens, well, it won't be pretty.

Welcome to the 21st Century. It's a bit like the 20th, but now we've all got dangerous idiots and unthinking ideologues. Yippee!

Tags: , ,

No comments: