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April 4, 2002
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The United States is increasingly violating and undermining major international security treaties in a slide away from rule of law toward the rule of power, according to a new study released on Thursday.

The trend began under former President Bill Clinton but has accelerated under President Bush threatening the security of the United States as well as the larger international community, the study concluded.

posted by artifex (22 comments total)

 
Try just linking a part of the overall text, and not the entire article.

So what is your postition on this? No comments?
posted by da5id at 5:31 AM on April 4, 2002


Let's just note that the study was released by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy. If you check out their sites for a few minutes, you'll soon find that this "news story" is pretty much the equivalent of Noam Chomsky criticizing U.S. foreign policy. (Note: I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the points made -- just pointing out the source).
posted by pardonyou? at 6:16 AM on April 4, 2002


The article conveniently ignores the recent developments. Treaties and the rule-of-law mean nothing to terrorists, especially suicidal ones. I think a two-pronged approach is valid; that being (1) Overwhelming military force is used to bring about a halt to a terrorist group's actions then (2) Legal mechanisms are used to try and, hopefully, convict the perpetrators.

Since 'illegal' terrorist actions have to happen somewhere it is hard to make a distinction between bombing terrorists and bombing the country where a terrorist group operates. A treaty with that country would be meaningless w/r/t the terrorists and would only serve to tie our hands and leave us defenseless.
posted by plaino at 6:31 AM on April 4, 2002


Ultimately, though, the US has become the rogue nation that we have warned about over the last 15 years. We do what we want regardless of international law and existing treaty. I personally think that this doesn't help foster international community at all. Of course, I could be wrong.
posted by shagoth at 6:59 AM on April 4, 2002


First of all, this criticises the US for not abiding by a treaty it never ratified.

Second, the US is constitutionally prohibited from being constrained by treaties with foreign nations. This is formalized, legal recognition of the reality that all nations operate under: treaties will be followed so long as the projected net effect of doing so is in the nation's interest.
posted by NortonDC at 7:22 AM on April 4, 2002


maybe so, shagoth. But don't you find it somewhat ironic that whenever anyone in the world gets in trouble, they beg the U.S. for help, even though many of their fellow countrymen were happy when the U.S. was attacked?
posted by pardonyou? at 7:25 AM on April 4, 2002


International laws and treaties are nothing but gentlemen's agreements, really, and are completely unenforceable unless governments voluntarily accede to them, or military action is used to force compliance. They always have been and always will be ignored by every nation when they truly get in the way of something an individual nation deems truly important.
posted by aaron at 7:26 AM on April 4, 2002


aaron, NortonDC: true. But the more any given nation violates its own treaties, the less likely other nations will be to negotiate with them, the less likely "gentlemanly" solutions to problems will be arrived at, and the more likely any conflict will turn into a military conflict.

C'mon, didn'cha ever play Civilization?

As for the source of this report: it'd be nice if there were some totally uninvolved, unbiased, nonpartisan higher authority we could ask to write these reports. But there isn't, so we have to listen to the partisans on both sides, and draw our own conclusions.

It would be even nicer if the partisans would be more careful and logical; I too find including Kyoto on the list pretty iffy. But it does seem like America's been making up its own rules as it goes along for quite a while now... doesn't it?
posted by ook at 7:53 AM on April 4, 2002


Ultimately, though, the US has become the rogue nation that we have warned about over the last 15 years. We do what we want regardless of international law and existing treaty.

if this were true, we wouldn't have a state department. we wouldn't need or want a foreign policy.

we do not have a policy of disregarding the interests of other countries, international law, or existing treaties. (if you had any actual exposure to the foreign policy making process, you couldn't possibly in good conscience make a statement like that.) U.S. interests, however, sometimes trump those considerations, and that has been more the case with regard to arms control treaties in the last few years. the treaties are, and were never airtight. before you so casually judge the U.S., i'd suggest you take a look at the other signatories, and evaluate whether their behavior has been much different. many of those signatories are "nuclear clients" of the U.S., and aren't going to make a lot of noise when the U.S. defects because it's in their best interests to have the U.S. armed. this fluctuation in and out of compliance has been happening since the inception of multilateral arms control, and the U.S. isn't the only guilty party or the most frequent guilty party. the author that suggested this suddenly started happening with Clinton apparently missed the 50 years prior.

funny how people judge the U.S. in a vacuum. We arguably make more effort to test the international waters, build coalitions, and not only stick to, but *enforce*, multilateral agreements than any other country in the world. How many treaties are we *in compliance* with? In how many situations do we decline to "do what we want" because we want to maintain good relations with another state? How many other states make the same effort? How many other states voluntarily sacrifice their interests to keep another region of the world stablized? how many other states are told in the same breath that it's their *responsibility* to do this and also that they're *interfering* and should mind their own business. (I don't see anyone complaining that Switzerland didn't help out in Rwanda, or that Canada isn't brokering peace in the Middle East.) what would happen if the U.S. cut off all foreign aid? the 2 billion to Egypt last year - gone. The 75 million to the PLO - gone. who would fill that vacuum?

all of this begs the question - rogue state, as *compared to what*, shagoth?
posted by lizs at 8:57 AM on April 4, 2002


not only stick to, but *enforce*, multilateral agreements than any other country in the world.

You mean treaties like NAFTA? Where the US Commerce Department imposed a 34%! tariff on greenhouse tomatoes from Canada, despite all common sense.

This, of course, wasted everyone's time and a lot of money over the past year.

The main thrust for the tariff came from Texas and Florida tomato growers. They swore up and down that Canadian producers were selling below cost... despite the fact that simple math shows that they can't possibly be doing so: the Canadian producers would be bankrupt within a month!

Rather than tell the American producers that if they'd quit trying to run greenhouses in the south, where air conditioning expenses are 5x the cost of running a heater during the winter months up north, the USCD bought their line of bullshit.

Thank goodness the International Trade Commission has a clue, and put a stop to the tariffs.

It would be eversonice if the US would actually play fair with NAFTA. To wit, actually enforce it, instead of continually trying to use it like a blunt instrument for punishing their trade partners.

Don't get me started on the softwood lumber tariff, where American mills purchasing private timber from timber-starved states are upset that Canadian mills, with access to nearly unlimited public lease lumber, can produce studs more cheaply. Gah. That's like penalizing Costa Rica because it can grow bananas cheaper than Kansas.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:25 AM on April 4, 2002


c/public lease lumber/public lease timber/. Doh!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:26 AM on April 4, 2002


But it does seem like America's been making up its own rules as it goes along for quite a while now... doesn't it?

Actually, in our view the rest of the world has been making up its own rules and essentially demanding we sign on, then throwing tantrums when we don't, even though our form of government often specifically prohibits us from doing so, for reasons already listed above.

The US is in a really crappy position: The only superpower, expected to police the world and lead the world, yet also expected to play along with the socialist tendencies of the rest of the world at the same time, even though we have a unique form of government that forbids it. It's the ultimate "can't win" situation. So we've largely stopped playing, except as lizs expertly describes.

As for tariff disputes, I'll just say that despite NAFTA, the WTO and the rest, international trade remains a far more complex subject than most people on either side wish to believe.
posted by aaron at 9:44 AM on April 4, 2002


Oh yeah, forgot this paragraph, sorry:

aaron, NortonDC: true. But the more any given nation violates its own treaties, the less likely other nations will be to negotiate with them, the less likely "gentlemanly" solutions to problems will be arrived at, and the more likely any conflict will turn into a military conflict.

Actually, the chances of this are very low, because our position in the world requires them to negotiate with us, and almost no other nations have the military capability to give us any trouble. The EU gets almost all its military from us, most of the countries on other continents have none worth speaking of, and Russia and China are smart enough to know the real rules of the game, and don't have to gather together with 150 other tiny countries at the UN in order to feel like they have any power at all. Basically, the worst most nations can do is threaten to pick up their ball and go home, and to do that would hurt them more than it would hurt us. There's not much most countries can do, but in most cases it's the choice they intentionally made: to demilitarize, join together EU/UN-style, follow a single ideological path,etc. They made their decision to go soft and leave us to do the dirty work. And thus that's the world we live in.

Also, I'd like to note that the opinions of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy, whoever they are, probably don't mesh too closely with those of Russia's leadership. The US and Russia play by the rules of Realpolitik, or at least a post-Cold War watered down version thereof; these anti-nuclear groups simply issue ideological proclamations.
posted by aaron at 10:02 AM on April 4, 2002


So, basically what you're saying is, we do what we want because our guns are bigger than everybody else's. Which is basically what I'm saying. So I guess we agree. ;)
posted by ook at 10:43 AM on April 4, 2002


Heh, yeah, pretty much. But with the qualification that the rest of the world has largely ceded us our bigger-guns situation of their own volition, and should be more willing to accept the consequences of their decisions. (Not that they have any choice, but it would be nice if they'd own up to this reality.)
posted by aaron at 10:55 AM on April 4, 2002


The US played by its own rules when it wasn't the biggest dog on the block, and now that that practice has made the US the biggest dog on the block it's not really inclined to abandon them.
posted by NortonDC at 11:40 AM on April 4, 2002


Perhaps we should carry on the rest of this discussion here -- it seems oddly relevant...
posted by ook at 11:51 AM on April 4, 2002


Here's a link to the report itself:
Rule of power or rule of law?
An assessment of US policies and actions regarding security-related treaties
(1.13MB PDF)
posted by Owen Boswarva at 1:46 PM on April 4, 2002


So, basically what you're saying is, we do what we want because our guns are bigger than everybody else's. Which is basically what I'm saying. So I guess we agree. ;)

Actually, subtract the rest of the world's jealousy and resentment over the fact the US is the only biggie, and you have a much better picture.

Please find me many countries where the rule of law is better observed than the United States.

posted by ParisParamus at 2:06 PM on April 4, 2002


The United States of America: Home of the Nuclear Powered Cruise Lawyer
posted by NortonDC at 2:32 PM on April 4, 2002


It should hardly be any surprise that as time goes by, the limitations of treaties set in stone become more apparent.

The ABM treaty is the clearest example. The prima facie intent was to forestall an arms race in defensive weapons, but more to the point was the knowledge among both the US and USSR that it would undermine MAD. The likelihood that it would have a major effect was also very, very low ca. 1970 given the technology at hand, so it was very easy to sign this away. Today, the technological situation has changed, but the political situation has changed even more. Arguably, and depending on circumstances, Russia is now a more reliable ally of the US than France. How can a treaty written at the height of the Cold War have the same relevance today? Yet there it lies, set in stone, reflecting strategic consensus of a moment that is now taught in history classes.

The same is true of the issues raise regarding the NPT. The laser fusion research does involve what you might call a thermonuclear bomb in a magnetic bottle -- and in fact the scientists themselves use those words. But they're microscopic, and the goal of nuclear fusion is clearly a desirable one. Here technology has moved far beyond the thinking of the original treaty, and one really has to ask whether banning this under the schema of a generation ago is wise -- or whether "breaking" the treaty by pursuing this research really represents something practical, or something niggling and lawyerly.

Finally, one has to recognize that there is a certain class of people who explicitly state that they are more frightened of the power of the United States than, say, Saddam Hussein, and they believe that the purpose (not an effect, the very purpose) of international law should be to rein in and control the US, that the US should cede its sovereignty and decision-making power to unelected bodies representing the interests of other nations.
posted by dhartung at 4:33 PM on April 4, 2002


But it does seem like America's been making up its own rules as it goes along for quite a while now... doesn't it?

As has every nation - indeed, every species - throughout history, to whatever degree they have been able to.

Welcome to Earth.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:14 PM on April 4, 2002


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