- Dominique Strauss-Kahn was denied bail by a New York criminal court today.
- Trump is out. DCExile is shocked--shocked--by this announcement.
- Mayor Rahm Emanuel--no, not that Mayor Emanuel--was sworn in today.
- Mark Halperin is predictably flogging a movie based on a book he co-wrote that was pretty much nonsense when he wrote it.
- And, in the UK, sad reverberations of the Troubles continue to echo even now.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Some two weeks ago, the United States launched a daring raid and assault into Pakistan that ended in the death of Osama bin Laden. Since then, a debate has raged as to whether bin Laden’s killing was lawful—whether it was a good kill.
Much of the commentary in this debate has betrayed fundamental misunderstandings about the law governing the relations among states and the law governing relations among states and combatants in armed conflict. This includes both a tendency to confuse jus in bello and jus ad bellum, as well as a tendency to confuse the law governing self-defense with the law governing armed conflict. These confused commentaries do little to shed light on the operation, its legality, or advance an understanding of U.S. counter-terrorism operations.
The starting point of any analysis of the bin Laden raid must begin—explicitly or implicitly—with the UN Charter. Under the Charter—which has achieved jus cogens—use of force is prohibited except when authorized by the Security Council or when undertaken in self-defense. Of course, a state may use force within the territory of another state when the host state consents to that use of force. Regardless of the legality of the use of force itself, once force is employed it must conform to the law of armed conflict—so long as the use of force rises to the level of an armed conflict.
The bin Laden raid raises questions about the legality of the use of force from the inception and the legality of the kill itself. What is the legal justification for the raid? Regardless of that justification, did the kill conform to the requirements of the law of armed conflict?
While there has been much discussion that the raid was carried out in self-defense, the better explanation—and the more legally accurate one—is that the United States is engaged in a non-international armed conflict with al Qaeda. As such, the United States has the authority to lawfully use force against enemy fighters—combatants is an improper term for members of a non-state organized armed group—when those fighters forfeit their civilian status by directly participating in hostilities. Bin Laden, as an operational leader of al Qaeda, was such a leader and, therefore, was a lawful target. His was a good kill.
More problematic is the question of whether the U.S. incursion into Pakistan was lawful.
Don't call it a comeback, we've been here for....months...
- The space shuttle Endeavor is set to launch at press time, and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will be in attendance to watch her husband command the missions. This is the second to last space shuttle mission.
- The Arab Spring has arrived at Israel's doorstep as thousands of Palestinians living in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank descended on Israeli border outposts hurling rocks. Israeli forces opened fire killing 12 and injuring many more.
- Several conservative economists believe the United States should sell all the gold in Fort Knox and sell interstate highways to private concerns. In a bizarre quote, Kevin Hastett of the American Enterprise Institute declared, "If it can work for the River Styx, why not the Beltway." I'm not sure if he's announcing his faith in paganism or that we're all sailing to our deaths when on the U.S. interstate system. We report, you decide.
- Blackwater founder, Erik Prince, has been hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to create a 800 member battalion of foreign fights for the emirate's use. One of their writs will be to suppress dissent.
- IMF Chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was arrested over the weekend in New York City on charges that he sexual assaulted a chambermaid at a Manhattan hotel. This news has rocked the French political system(NYT) and the IMF.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich artfully rolled out his 2012 presidential campaign this week. Having officially announced his candidacy on Wednesday, he appeared on Meet the Press for fully half this week's episode. He handled himself quite well, was articulate, and displayed a remarkable (for current Republicans) degree of intellectual honesty. He also said overly nice things about Mike Huckabee--perhaps, a bit of foreshadowing. I'd say the GOP has its first legitimate candidate for 2012.
Friday, May 13, 2011
We've gone dark over at DCExile here lately, something we're going to remedy next week, but I read an article that I just have to comment on. I didn't want to write the "let's all hate on Pakistan" blog post, but based on comments coming out of the military leadership in that country, something is seriously amiss.
I'm referring to this article(NYT) that discusses how the Pakistani Army Chief is inclined to ignore U.S. demands for Pakistan's military to crack down on other militant groups in the wake of the targeted killing of OBL. So I want to draw out a couple quotes and then blast them. So first, from Gen. Javed Ashraf Qazi, former director of ISI:
“Without Pakistani support, the United States cannot win the battle in Afghanistan.”
I think Gen. Qazi greatly overstates our interest in "winning" in Afghanistan, particularly now that the boogeyman we sought to destroy has been destroyed. It's also worth pointing out that Pakistani reticence, likes oh say supporting the Haqquani network, makes if very difficult for the U.S. to make progress in Afghanistan. And yet, cutting support to the Haqquani network is exactly the kind of thing the Pakistani army chief doesn't want to do.
Quote number two:
"General Qazi said hard questions were being asked about whether the American financial support to the Pakistani military was 'worth the lives we have lost' in fighting Islamic militants."
You know what's a poorer bet then my Kentuky Derby wager on a horse I thought was named after the alias of King of the Hill's Dale Gribble (damn you Shackleford!)? Betting that not receiving aid from and not collaborating with the U.S. will convince Islamic militants to cease attacks against the Pakistani state.
And finally to poor a little salt in the wound, Andrew Exum reminds us that the Pakistan Army has never won a war. It makes one question the wisdom of such an army's leadership. Remove head from sphinkter, not because the U.S. is right or has always been a solid ally. That would be hard to back up, but because your alternatives are all worse.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Going to take some liberties this morning given the scope of the events the last few days.
- You may have heard this somewhere already, but Osama bin Laden is dead. After a national victory lap yesterday morning though, attention turns to what happens next. Pakistani President Zadari has an op-ed in the Washington Post this morning defending his country's resolve to battle terrorism and noting the sacrifice his country has made. That Pakistan has suffered greatly, there is no doubt, but when arguably the most wanted man in the world lives for months just 30 miles from your capitol city in a million dollar mansion it's hard not to reach just one of two conclusion. Either the country's forces were supporting him or were grossly incompetent. President Zadari's op-ed is tilting toward the incompetence argument.
- Afghanistan's leaders, meanwhile, got nervous yesterday that the death of OBL will decrease America's resolve to continue the fight in Afghanistan. It's a fair concern to have, as evidenced here(NYT). While nation-building has been part of the mission in Afghanistan for quite some time, that tedious effort been able to count on enduring support in no small part because OBL was still out there. With the boogie man now dead, one has to wonder why we should stay. On twitter, @abumuqawama doesn't think making the Afghans nervous about U.S. withdrawal is a bad idea. I'd tend to agree.
- It is incredibly important, from a threat assessment perspective to remember that Al Qaeda is now more a franchise(NYT), then a singular force. OBL's death is expected to have little impact(NYT) on Al Qaeda in Iraq.
- In Libya, a funeral was held for one of Qaddafi's sons after he was killed in a NATO strike on Saturday. Mourners vowed revenge. Meanwhile, Turkey's prime minister has made his most forceful call yet for Qaddafi to step down, worsening the regional diplomatic calculus for the dictator.
- There are reports out a Syria that thousands have been detained(NYT) in the government's continuing attempts to end protests there.
- And just north of the border in Canada, the Conservative Party made gains(NYT), while the Liberal party fell to third in elections there. It's worth noting the healthcare debate in Canada, and the Conservative Party's support of publicly funded healthcare.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
- A major shake-up is expected at the top rungs of President Obama's national security team this week. Of note, CIA Director, Leon Panetta, is in the lead position to take over from SecDef Gates. Ambassador Crocker will likely come back to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, reuniting Amb. Crocker with Gen. Petraeus, who could find himself soon appointed CIA Director.
- Syria's violent crackdown continues with lots of condemnation, but little action from the rest of the world. Britain's foreign secretary believes there is still time(NYT) for the Syrian government to change, but also believes Qaddafi's time is limited.
- An Afghan pilot opened fire on NATO forces inside a base in Kabul today killing nine.
- Federal Reserve Chairman will make history today as he becomes the first Fed Chairman to take on-the-record questions from the media.
- The Indian government is facing some backlash(NYT) from recently released internet rules that would compel sites people find offensive to be taken down.
- Republican senators have sent President Obama a letter, urging him not to sign an executive order that would require government contractors to disclose their contributions to political organizations.
- Donald Trump, a potential Republican candidate for president, has given 54% of his campaign contributions to Democrats. In a not entirely unrelated story, CNN traveled to Hawaii to confirm...again...that President Obama was born in the U.S.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
- 49% of Americans disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the war in Afghanistan, marking the first time disapproval outpaced approval (44%) for this president.
- Syria's brutal repression of dissent in the south continues, as Americans are advised to leave the country immediately.
- Two of the three hikers who mistakenly wandered into Iran in June 2009 will appear in court(NYT) in May for a third time since being arrested. They have spent the last 19 months in Iran's infamous Evin prison.
- Islamist militants in Pakistan bombed two navy buses in Karachi, killing four.
- China's security forces reportedly beat two Tibetan monks, in their 60s, to death last week.
- The Pew Research Center has conducted the first survey of Egyptians since the ouster of Mubarak. The survey finds the country in an optimistic mood.
- The Congressional Progressive Caucus says they can balance the budget by 2021, largely through tax hikes and defense spending cuts. No one has called their proposal heroic, despite the thought you can't run on a platform of raising taxes.
Monday, April 25, 2011
- NATO has bombed Qaddafi's compound in Tripoli. Senators McCain and Graham believe the U.S. should take a stronger leadership roll in the Libyan conflict.
- Violent repression continues in Syria, as security forces there have gone on the offensive to stymie the protests in Daraa.
- The Taliban dug a 1,000 foot tunnel and freed more then 450 prisoners from a jail outside Khandahar. The jail break was another black eye to US-Afghan efforts to enforce rule of law.
- A new study by the British Defense Ministry questions the use of drones in combat on several front, including asking if the ability to use drones will make war or state-based violence more frequent. The study also questioned the consequences if drones were able to fire on targets based on programming, not specific human commands.
- Even after Gbagbo, governance is tenuous(NYT) in the Ivory Coast.
- Nigeria held elections last week, and Goodluck Jonathan is the likely winner, however protests broke out in northern Nigeria. The Economist reminds us what true polarization looks like.
- The Economist discusses the rise of Singapore.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
We're back at it folks. Been a crazy week, but we return this morning with a very internationally minded Short List. Enjoy.
- Western forces have sent advisors to directly liaise with Libyan rebel, in an effort to try and break Qaddafi's resilient grip on the country. In Misurata, Tim Hetherington, director of the documentary Restrepo, and Chris Hondros, a Pulitzer Prize nominated photo journalist were killed yesterday. Two other journalists were injured as well, as Qaddafi forces rain down mortars on the rebel held city. **Editorial Note: If you haven't seen Restrepo go do it now. Incredibly intimate film making that brings the war in Afghanistan home. It's a terrible loss that the director of such a great film won't have the opportunity to share another story.**
- The Arab League has delayed a planned summit in Baghdad, citing civil unrest. Many analysts believe Arab leaders are afraid to leave their countries at this time.
- In the face of perceived corruption in the Western organized modern judicial system in Afghanistan, people have turned to traditional elder councils to resolve disputes. The U.S. government, initially skeptical of such informal courts, have begun to embrace the idea. These informal courts are the norm for the country, and it is unsurprising to see the system taking hold again.
- The Chinese faces calls of colonialism in Africa from Africans, even as China continues to actively do business on the continent.
- The European Commission has asked for a bigger budget in 2012, drawing a rebuke from members of the ruling Conservative party in the UK.
- Congressional Republicans have invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress. Inside the Obama administration, this is leading to diplomatic gamesmanship as to who can release the next Israel-Palestine peace plan first.
- BP has sued two companies in connection to the Deepwater Horizon incident, hoping to defray the cost the company will incur in the face of the disaster. One year after the incident, many people aren't yet whole.