On past as prologue [3]

From: Gil Loescher, “Refugees as grounds for international action” p. 36-37 in Edward Newman and Joanne van Selm (eds.) Refugees and Forced Displacement: International Security, Human Vulnerability, and the State (2003) —
There has been increasing recognition that massive refugee flows do in fact constitute a threat to international peace and security, and that they therefore invoke the enforcement powers of the United Nations. As a threat to peace and security, the imposition of refugees on other states falls under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and therefore legitimizes enforcement action not subject to limits of purely humanitarian action. This link has been recognized for at least the past 15 years. As early as 1986, the report of a Group of Governmental Experts on International Cooperation to Avert New Flows of Refugees recognized the “great political, economic and social burdens [of massive flows of refugees] upon the international community as a whole, with dire effects on developing countries, particularly those with limited resources of their own.” Accordingly, it recommended intervention by the international community through the good offices of the Secretary-General, refugee prevention actions by appropriate UN bodies (including the Security Council), and better use of aid programmes to deter massive displacements. The report was subsequently endorsed by the UN General Assembly, which explicitly defined such flows as a threat to peace and security, thus opening the door to action by the Security Council under Chapter VII several years later. It should be pointed out that Article 2(7) of the UN Charter, protecting the domestic jurisdiction of member states, specifically exempts from this protection enforcement actions taken under Chapter VII. In short, a country that forces its people to flee or to take actions that compel them to leave in a manner that threatens regional peace and security has in effect internationalized internal affairs, and provides a cogent justification for policy makers elsewhere to act directly upon the source of the threat.

This argument was also made over six decades ago by James G. McDonald, the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, when he resigned in frustration at the lack of international action to halt the persecution in Germany, which was causing refugee flows to neighbouring countries. In his dramatic letter of resignation of 27 December 1935, McDonald write that “it will not be enough to continue the activities on the behalf of those who flee from the Reich. Efforts must be made to remove or mitigate the causes which create German refugees.” Such efforts, declared McDonald, fell under the League’s authority to deal with any matter affecting the peace of the world, since “the protection of the individual from racial or religious intolerance is a vital condition of international peace and security.” The argument is also made by contemporary analysts of refugee issues: “When there is aggression by a state against its own minority such that the domestic issue becomes an international one and is perceived to threaten peace and security because the minority begin a mass flight, then defensive military intervention is justified.” Others point out that, if refugee flows constitute an “internationally wrongful act” or “international crime” under the principles of state responsibility, this is also a violation of the Charter and therefore responses to it are not intervention in a state’s domestic affairs.

[notes 13-16 not transcribed]


On girl crushes

Three lovely bits from a recent conversation with bell hooks and Emma Watson in Paper Mag:

[bell] hooks: …I have an overall obsession in my life with beauty. I’m always wanting to surround myself with the kind of beauty that uplifts you, that runs counter to some of the stereotypes of feminist women.

[Emma] Watson: Yes, yes. In Feminism is for Everybody I found a reminder of just what you were saying, “To critique sexist images without offering alternatives is an incomplete intervention. Critique in and of itself does not lead to change.”

hooks: I was thinking about what you were saying earlier — that I am funny. A lot of people think I am, but most people don’t. [Laughs] I was telling you that when we first met. That’s a pretty big stereotype about feminists, that we’re not fun, that we don’t have a sense of humor and that everything is so serious and politically correct. Humor is essential to working with difficult subjects: race, gender, class, sexuality. If you can’t laugh at yourself and be with others in laughter, you really cannot create meaningful social change.

On intervention and vacuums

I feel like the same point keeps popping up in discussions about interventions:

From David Ignatius in the Atlantic, on the spread of ISIS —

The story of ISIS teaches the same basic lesson that emerged from America’s other failures in the Middle East over the last decade: Attempts by the United States or Islamist rebels to topple authoritarian regimes—in Iraq, Libya, and now Syria—create power vacuums. This empty political space will be filled by extremists unless the United States and its allies build strong local forces that can suppress terrorist groups and warlords both. When the U.S. creates such local forces, it must be persistent. If it withdraws from these efforts, as America did in Iraq in 2011, it invites mayhem. Halfway American intervention has produced nothing but trouble. Rebels have gotten enough support to continue fighting, but not enough to win.

From the Brookings website for Jean-Marie Guéhenno’s new memoir, The Fog of Peace

Guéhenno grapples with the distance between the international community’s promise to protect and the reality that our noble aspirations may be beyond our grasp.

The author illustrates with personal, concrete examples—from the crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Sudan, Darfur, Kosovo, Ivory Coast, Georgia, Lebanon, Haiti, and Syria—the need to accept imperfect outcomes and compromises. He argues that nothing is more damaging than excessive ambition followed by precipitous retrenchment. We can indeed save many thousands of lives, but we need to calibrate our ambitions and stay the course.

From Ty McCormick’s piece in Foreign Policy on the Central African Republic, “One Day, We Will Start a Big War” —

Part of the problem has been the tendency for intervening parties to focus on what Nathaniel Olin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, calls “cheap solutions leading to quick exits.” As he writes in a new volume on CAR edited by Tatiana Carayannis and Louisa Lombard, “In the past, U.N. peacekeepers departed quickly after securing elections.” This left delicate political transitions in the hands of regional players like Chad and Congo, feeding into two other problems identified by Olin: the tendency of meddlesome neighbors to intervene in CAR in order to advance their own interests and for their forces to work at cross-purposes with one another. The latter problem was especially evident in the French and African Union intervention that preceded the current U.N. mission.

update: From David Rothkopf’s post in Foreign Policy’s Voice blog explaining the rationale behind the Obama admin’s recent decision to send troops to Syria, he predicts the endgame —

I understand the White House’s decision clearly. It makes some political sense. […] (And the reality of that end deal looks like this: Assad stays for transition, leaves with immunity, is replaced by Assad-lite alternative acceptable to Moscow and Tehran, and the United States gets a fig leaf of promise of a more inclusive Syrian government — one that is soon forgotten because everyone values stability above niceties like democracy or respect for human rights — while much of the country will remain in turmoil because Damascus doesn’t, and may never again, control it.)

(links in original; bold text not)