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International Relations Human Rights Conflict

Never Again to Genocide Trials

Srebrenica massacre memorial gravestones 2009
Srebrenica massacre memorial gravestones 2009. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

HEIDELBERG – Rarely does one read such hopeful news: in late June, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić of genocide. That might sound like a bad thing: Karadžić, who once warned Bosnia’s Muslims that war would lead them down the road to hell, surely deserves to be sentenced for the acts of which he was just acquitted – murder, siege, and slaughter almost beyond naming. But for genocide? Better not.

In fact, we would be better off getting rid of genocide as a crime altogether. The legal concept of genocide is so incoherent, so harmful to the purposes that international law serves, that it would be better if we had never invented it. Karadžić’s acquittal – precisely because he is still on trial on other counts related to the same atrocities – is an opportunity to move toward the sensible goal of retiring it.

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International Relations Security Foreign policy Conflict

Revolution in a Vacuum

Syrians rally in front of the US Embassy
Syrians rally in front of the US Embassy in Amman, Jordan. Photo: FreedomHouse/flickr.

MADRID – The Cold War may be over, but superpower rivalry is back. As a result, the international community’s capacity to unite in the face of major global challenges remains as deficient as ever.

Nowhere is this more clearly reflected than in the case of Syria. What was supposed to be a coordinated effort to protect civilians from ruthless repression and advance a peaceful transition – the plan developed by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan – has now degenerated into a proxy war between the United States and Russia.

Russia’s leaders (and China’s) seek to uphold an international system that relies on the unconditional sovereignty of states and rejects the Western-inspired, humanitarian droit d’ingérence. Concerned that the Arab rebellions would radicalize their own repressed minorities, they refuse to allow the UN Security Council to be used to promote revolutionary changes in the Arab world. And Syria, the last Russian outpost of the Cold War, is an asset the Kremlin will do its utmost to maintain.

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International Relations Foreign policy Conflict

The Logic of China’s North Korea Policy

DPRK: train from Pyongyang to Dandong
Train from Pyongyang to Dandong. Photo: kwramm/flickr.

US and South Korean analysts are annoyed and frustrated by China’s policy toward North Korea. In their eyes, Beijing’s policy not only jeopardizes the security of the US and the ROK and undermines international norms, but is detrimental to China’s own national interests as well. But judgments about whether China’s North Korea policy is illogical or self-defeating depend very much on what people see as China’s goals. Most Chinese analysts would argue that China’s policy has its own internal logic; whether the US and South Korea see that logic is a different matter.

The widely accepted assumption is that China has three goals when it comes to North Korea: stability (no implosion and no war), peace (diplomatic normalization between the US and North Korea), and denuclearization/nonproliferation. Among these three, China prioritizes stability over peace and denuclearization. The secondary status of denuclearization is a sore spot for Washington and Seoul, which see it as the most important goal (or should be). And while different priorities lead to different approaches, North Korean actions have been destabilizing. Therefore, China’s strategy is counterproductive in terms of its own priority, hence illogical.

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Uncategorized International Relations Government Security History Human Rights Conflict

Notes from BRISMES

Tawakkol Karman, the women who sparked the Yemen protests into life.
Tawakkol Karman, the women who sparked the Yemen protests into life. Change Square, Sanaa, Yemen, 15 April 2011. Photo: Kate B Dixon/flickr.

The final outcome of the political unrest that continues to shake the Middle East remains far from certain. With that in mind, on 11thJune more than 140 young scholars and students met at the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Middle East Centre for the Annual Graduate Conference of the British Society of Middle Eastern Studies. Change and Continuity in the Middle East: Rethinking West-Asia, North Africa and the Gulf After 2011 – sponsored by the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) and other donors – provided a forum for their views on a number of key issues.

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International Relations Security Foreign policy Human Rights Conflict

The Intervention Dilemma

Helmet and Flack Jackets of MONUC Peacekeepers
Helmet and Flack Jackets of MONUC Peacekeepers. Photo: United Nations Photo/flickr.

CAMBRIDGE – When should states intervene militarily to stop atrocities in other countries? The question is an old and well-traveled one. Indeed, it is now visiting Syria.

In 1904, US President Theodore Roosevelt argued that, “there are occasional crimes committed on so vast a scale and of such peculiar horror” that we should intervene by force of arms. A century earlier, in 1821, as Europeans and Americans debated whether to intervene in Greece’s struggle for independence, President John Quincy Adams warned his fellow Americans about “going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”

More recently, after a genocide that cost nearly 800,000 lives in Rwanda in 1994, and the slaughter of Bosnian men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, many people vowed that such atrocities should never again be allowed to occur. When Slobodan Milošević engaged in large-scale ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution recognizing the humanitarian catastrophe, but could not agree on a second resolution to intervene, given the threat of a Russian veto. Instead, NATO countries bombed Serbia in an effort that many observers regarded as legitimate but not legal.