Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

  • The U.S. Department of Justice announced charges for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others in Military Commissions. These Military Commission hearings will occur in lieu of a normal criminal trial. The Military Commission process has been notoriously inefficient--in stark contrast to the regular U.S. judicial system.

  • The World Health Organization added its voice to a growing chorus of warnings about cellphones causing cancer.

  • Pakistan has finally agreed "in principle" to launch an offensive into North Waziristan, a stronghold of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, among other non-state actors operating in Northwest Pakistan. Previous offensives in Swat, South Waziristan, and Orakzai have involved thousands of Pakistan regular forces; armored units, heavy artillery and the Pakistani air force; and displaced tens-of-thousands of Pakistani civilians. They have also been apparently fairly successful.

  • North and South Sudan (really, Sudan and soon-to-be South Sudan) agreed to demilitarize the disputed territory in their soon-to-be international frontier. This comes ten days after North Sudan sacked Abyei.

  • Ratko Mladic's has been extradited to the Hague.

  • And the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Russia's favor in the Khodorkovsky case.

The Short List - May 31, 2011

  • The House will have a vote on just the debt ceiling later this evening.  The vote is largely political theater as Republicans will bring it for a vote only to vote against it the day before a meeting with President Obama.

  • Heavy fighting has broken out in Yemen as government forces are clashing with one of the country's most powerful tribal leaders.  What could have been a bloodless revolution teeters on the verge of a civil war.

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared that all nuclear power plants in Germany will cease operations within 11 years.  The move is seen as continued political fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear incident.  Germany currently gets 25% of its energy from nuclear power plants.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

  • A terrible one for campaign finance regulation and, oh yeah, democracy.
  • Qaddafi is reaching out to all quarters in an effort to end NATO airstrikes--a sure sign that they are having their desired effect. Meanwhile, the G-8 has now promised $20 billion in aid for Tunisia and Egypt.

  • President Obama signed the Patriot Act reauthorization bill (passed yesterday) remotely, using an autopen. Because every novel thing President Obama does is controversial, some are raising questions of whether the bill is actually a law now or whether the remote signature violates the Presentment Clause: 

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it . . . .

The Short List - May 27, 2011

  • Secretary of State Clinton made a visit to Pakistan today, trying to bolster a struggling relationship.  The visit comes on the heels the Pakistani decision to allow the CIA to search Osama Bin Laden's compound and speak to several of his wives.

  • The G-8 summit in France ended with encouraging words for the Arab Spring, but no dollars for the still forming governments in Tunisia and Egypt.  Meanwhile Saudi Arabia continues its attempts, through cash and diplomacy, to contain, if not cease(NYT), the Arab Spring which has thus far passed the monarchy by.

  • The Syrian opposition has moved their protests to the night(NYT) in an effort to avoid government violence and identification.  The series of protests has persisted for nine weeks now.

  • The Supreme Court, in a 5-3 vote, upheld the Arizona law that would allow the state to strip the licences of companies that knowingly employ illegal immigrants.  The ruling is viewed as a narrow one that chips away, but does not topple the federal government's predominance in immigration legislation.  The more controversial 1070 law, where law enforcement must check immigration status for anyone they stop, has not reach the Supreme Court yet, but appears headed there.

  • Palin takes the bus and mills the big time, while Romney, Santorum, and Bachman look set to join the Republican field seeking the presidency.

  • FIFA is investigating its own president, up for re-election next week, facing charges of bribery.  The next leading contender to head FIFA is also under investigation for bribery.  Russia's and Qatar's winning bids seem increasingly shady.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

  • A bad day for NATO in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Der Spiegel has translated a German-language piece released earlier this week detailing face-to-face US-Taliban negotiations ongoing in Germany.

  • Yet more indications that Sarah Palin will run for the 2012 GOP nomination.

  • Arab Spring: Following US urging, the UK offers $180 million in aid to Egypt and Tunisia to bolster their revolutions; and the fighting in Yemen got worse (again).

  • Pakistan has granted the CIA access to bin Laden's compound--demonstrating that US-Pakistan relations defy easy characterization.

  • While there were lots of superlatives regarding the length of Ratko Mladic's manhunt, after 17 years on the run, Bernard Munyagishari wanted by the ICTR for his role in the Rwandan genocide, was captured in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today.

The Short List - May 26, 2011

  • In Serbia they are reporting that Ratko Mladic, the most wanted war criminal in Europe, has been arrested.

  • The G-8 gathers for two days in Normandy to discuss aid to the burgeoning Arab democracies and who should replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has been charged with sexual assault and it awaiting trial, as head of the IMF.

  • The Pakistani government has told the U.S. remove half of the military trainers stationed in Pakistan(NYT).  This decision was relayed to the Pentagon three days after the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, and is seen as another hit to U.S.-Pakistani relations.

  • Senate Republicans mostly held together to support Rep. Ryan's budget plan, which would end Medicare as American's understand the program.  The measure was defeated in the Democrat-controlled Senate.  Meanwhile, former President Clinton and Rep. Ryan were caught on tape discussing Ryan's plan and Clinton's fear that NY-26 will give Democrats an excuse to do nothing.

  • The Obama administration will send the head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to the American Enterprise Institute today to announce changes to regulations aimed at helping business save money and reducing redundancy.

  • Riot police have broken up(NYT) an opposition protest in Tblisi, Georgia over night.

  • The Syrian opposition is planning another protest(NYT) for Friday and has called on the Syrian army to join them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

  • Jared Loughner, the young man who attempted to assassinate Congresswoman Giffords, has been ruled incompetent to stand trial.

  • John Edwards, former U.S. Senator and two-time Presidential candidate (one time Vice Presidential candidate), will face criminal charges arising from his misuse of campaign funds in a failed attempt to coverup his affair with Reille Hunter.

  • Switzerland is set to decommission all of its nuclear power facilities.

  • Arab Spring: Egypt will open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza and fierce fighting raged in Sana'a for a second day.

  • Angle quits in the NV-2.

The Short List - May 25, 2011

  • New York's 26th Congressional District is represented by a Democrat for the first time since the 1960s.  County Clerk Kathy Hocul won 48% of the vote.

  • The U.S. has imposed sanctions on seven private firms that reportedly helped or are helping Iran buy petroleum products.  Also out of Iran today, the International Atomic Energy Agency is reporting it has evidence that Iran, recalcitrant in the face of the IAEA's push for inspections, work to build sophisticated nuclear triggers(NYT) designed to set off nuclear weapons.

  • The Obama administration has still not announced a new candidate for chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but it won't be Marine General James E. Cartwright, who many considered the front-runner.

  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slammed(NYT) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the U.S. Congress claiming distortions and reiterating that Palestine will seek recognition at the UN in September.

  • President Obama is in the United Kingdom today, and will address Britain's Parliament(NYT).  Robin Williams once described Parliament as Congress with a two drink minimum.  Good luck Mr. President.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

  • Bibi delivered a well-received, firebrand speech before a joint session of Congress today. Though reported as a plan for peace, the content of the speech offered no new positions or compromises and, in fact, took a predictably hardline.

  • More fighting in Yemen's capital.

  • Democrats are urging stalled Consumer Protection Bureau nominee Elizabeth Warren to consider a run for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. 

  • DCExile await anxiously returns from NY-26, a possible 2012 bell-weather. Polls in that district tightened remarkably over the last week. Turnout is reportedly high.

  • TPaw continues to take on ethanol in Iowa.

The Short List - May 24, 2011

  • NATO forces intensified their bombing of targets in Libya this morning, as British and French forces indicate they will deploy attack helicopter to the theater.

  • The U.S., EU, and  their Arab allies consider what to do with Yemen's President Saleh as he has refused all attempts at a deal to step down thus far.

  • A Pakistani-American terrorist has testified in open court that Pakistan's ISI assisted in the coordination of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

  • The Arab Spring finds a modest advance in Saudi Arabia, as some people there hoped to organize protests against the ban on women driving(NYT).  However, the government has already arrested the initial organizer of the protests.  Saudi Arabia is the only country with such a ban.

  • The Supreme Court has decided that California must release potentially as many as 40,000 prisoners from its prison system, due to overcrowding that the court deemed ran afoul of the Constitution.  The vote was 5 to 4.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

The Short List - May 23, 2011

  • Pakistan's military regained control of a naval base in Karachi, 16 hours after the Pakistani Taliban took it over.  Meanwhile, the Taliban is denying reports that Mullah Omar is dead.

  • Yemen's President Saleh has balked at a U.S.-backed deal that would have granted him immunity if he were to step down.

  • Obama followed up his speech on the Middle East, by taking the same message to AIPAC.  A bit surprisingly, there was applause when he reiterated his desire for two states based loosely on the borders that existed in 1967, a desire that has angered Israel PM Netanyahu.

  • Daniels is out, Pawlenty is in as the gaggle of Republican candidates begins to thin out and shape up.

  • China is changing the food industry, and food prices are unlikely to come down soon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

OBL Raid and International Law

As I noted earlier this week, the OBL raid presents myriad complex legal issues. And, unfortunately, the complexity is often exacerbated by silly errors made by commentators in their attempts to describe them. For instance, David Bosco writes:
But Koh says nothing about the most difficult question: Pakistan's sovereignty and the compatibility of the raid with the U.N. Charter's restrictions on the use of force. The administration is sticking to the justification that the U.S. is at war with al Qaeda and is clearly not interested in trying to delineate when that state of war permits nonconsensual operations on another country's territory.


This is in no way correct. In fact, Koh speaks directly to this issue when he writes:
In addition, bin Laden continued to pose an imminent threat to the United States that engaged our right to use force, a threat that materials seized during the raid have only further documented.
(emphasis mine). Koh is here speaking to the requirements of self-defense under international law; self-defense, as preserved by Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, empowers a state to use necessary and proportionate force when faced with an imminent armed attack -- even, in some cases, if that use of force violates another state's nominal sovereignty.

Bosco can be forgiven for his mistake -- after all, the United States continues to rely on both self-defense and the law of armed conflict to justify its targeted killing operations without articulate which of the two, separate justifications applies to any given operation. Koh did so in his ASIL speech in March 2010, and he did so again yesterday in his post on Opinio Juris. This confusing state of affairs preserves operational flexibility but does little to advance international law or quiet critics of targeted killings.

The more difficult questions of sovereignty arise when the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden is viewed strictly through the lens of armed conflict. Then, and only then, do Bosco's questions of sovereignty bubble to the surface.

The Short List

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Short List - May 18, 2011

Abbreviated Edition.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

  • Newt Gingrich demonstrates that you don't have to be Donald Trump to be in debt to Tiffany's like Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the WaPo muses over Gingrich's prospects--or lack thereof.

  • The New York Times says the BP-Rosneft deal is dead in the water. The Economist says not so fast.

  • The ICTR sentenced Augustine Bizimungu, head of the Rwandan Army during the genocide, to 30 years.

  • In case you missed it, Leon Panetta's letter to Sen. McCain regarding the role torture played in tracking Osama bin Laden down debunks that notion.

The Short List - May 17, 2011

  • The United States has reportedly sped up talks with the Taliban in an attempt to reach a framework before the draw down of U.S. troops begin in July.  A U.S. official is quoted specifically has saying that Pakistan has been briefed "only partially."  Meanwhile, early today NATO forces and Pakistani forces exchanged fire(NYT) near the border after NATO forces entered Pakistani airspace.

  • Sources in Tunisia are reporting that the Libyan Oil Minister has defected after crossing into Tunisia yesterday.  Qaddafi regime officials have said that the minister "is working in his office."

  • A bomb was found on a bus headed to Dublin earlier today, just as Queen Elizabeth II arrived to visit Ireland.  It is the first visit by the British monarch since Ireland achieved independence.

  • Rep. Paul Ryan was in Wisconsin defending his budget plan after coming under attack on all sides.  I have not read the whole speech, but it sounds pretty boiler plate, misleading, partisan stuff.  Here is Ezra Klein's take at first blush.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger has confirmed that he fathered a child with a long time member of his household staff.

  • The Economist reports that the Boston Consulting Group is advising many of its clients to set up factories in the United States again.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

A Good Kill

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.

The Short List - May 16, 2011

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

Newt 2.0

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

In which I blast Pakistan...

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

The Short List - 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.