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International Law

Elite impunity and the Chilcot Report – Will Tony Blair ever go to jail?

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What stands out in the British Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot) report is the sidestepping of the war crime issue. But then it was carefully placed outside its scope. This omission aside, the indictments remain, damning and morally appalling. Thus it confirms the war was launched on a false pretext. Major General Michael Laurie made plain in his testimony that Tony Blair’s notorious “dossier” was designed to persuade Members of Parliament to vote for the war: “We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war rather than setting out the available evidence.” In this, he echoes CIA Director George Tenet’s notorious “slam dunk case.”

So it was, a war based on hyped up intelligence instead of objective assessment; a fact clearly not overlooked by the inquiry when it concluded in its damming assessment (judgment?), that the invasion was not a “last resort” because peaceful options had not been exhausted.

If, in the judgment of the inquiry, the war was not a “last resort”, then it contravenes Article 33 (Chapter VI: Pacific Settlement of Disputes) of the UN Charter which states the parties “shall, first of all, seek a solution by inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.” These actions were far from exhausted leading to the unstated (by the inquiry) conclusion that the belligerents were guilty of a war of aggression. It was the Nuremberg Tribunal that famously called such a war, ” … not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

The unbelievable mess that is now Iraq, epitomized by the horrific recent (July 3) bombing in Baghdad killing over 250 people, is directly attributable to the war — the perpetrator ISIS did not exist before it. Horrific as the numbers are, they are but a drop in the ocean of misery as this neocolonial venture has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the displacement, internal and external, of at least ten million.

‘If only I had known’ or ‘I stand by my decision based on the facts at hand at the time.’ These protestations too have been knocked flat by the Chilcot report: “We do not agree that hindsight is required” for there were clear warnings of what has occurred. It was likely that the threat from al-Qaida, squashed and kept out of Iraq by Saddam Hussein, would increase — it has morphed into the ISIS colossus where the former regime’s capabilities are now evident.

To the unjustified certainty of WMD, the stated casus belli, the report adds further: “Despite warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated. The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate.” The war and, in particular, the bungled occupation have ignited sectarianism and terrorism across the region and beyond.

What more can be said after such damning indictments? The British who suffered 179 dead initiated this inquiry. Yet, the US system of democracy has managed to ignore the ultimate sacrifice of 4491 service members; it leads to the obvious question: Is a US president immune, or is any sitting president afraid of setting a precedent?

On the day the Chilcot report came out, Jeremy Corbyn, the present Labour Party leader, addressed the House of Commons: “On February 15, 2003 over 1.5 million people … marched against the impending war in the biggest demonstration in British history.,” At least in Britain, he went on, “… while the governing class got it so horrifically wrong — many of our people actually got it right.” Not so in the US, where public opinion was manipulated by a massive PR campaign and the likes of, “… we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

And so it is. Are we ever likely to see Blair, Bush or Cheney in the dock. Not even if hell freezes over as the saying goes. Even now Hillary Clinton is off the email hook, just the latest in a long history of sordid events; meanwhile, a woman has brought charges of rape, when she was only twelve years old, against Donald Trump, whose former wife accused him also of rape until a handsome settlement. Sexual assault upon a New York hotel maid resulted in charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former IMF head and putative French presidential candidate. The maid eventually being paid off, the charges were dropped.

When the political elite can act with impunity, it becomes a corrosive salt eating away at the framework of democracy. It is an ill omen.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.

International Law

Cooperation in a Changing World: A Discussion on New Regionalism and Globalisation

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The two main trends that have shaped the World Economic Order are 1) multilateralism, which sets global rules for international trade without favouritism, and 2) new regionalism, which sets up several zones of regional free trade and cooperation that can apply development and economic growth more quickly and flexibly but have a limited geographic scope.

Hettne (1995) says that “new regionalism” is not a single policy but a set of policies that focus on economics or other factors. “Regionalism” refers to a complex change process involving state and non-state actors at the global, regional, and national levels. Since actors and processes interact at many different levels and their relative importance changes over time and space, it is impossible to say which level is the most important (Soderbaun, 2001).

This article highlights the discussions between the experts on regional cooperation and integration and the supporters of multilateralism and globalisation. The objective is not to extend arguments that can be endless due to rich literature, however, it is to show the major points of contention that can lead to more research and discussions.

Gilson (2002) and other scholars argue that regionalism divides the international system into different and separated competitive blocks, despite arguments to the contrary from authors and analysts like Hettne (1998, 2005), Beeson (2009), and Dent (2004). Regionalism, especially forms of closed regionalism, acts as an obstacle on the path to globalisation (Dent, 2008).

Authors in the first category argue that globalisation and regionalism are not mutually exclusive concepts. Their reasoning rests on the GATT-WTO conception of regionalism and regionalisation as integral to and predating globalisation. As of 2022, the WTO had informed about 356 Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) in force (and its predecessor, the GATT), while several others are thought to be in effect but have yet to be reported (see: WTO, 2022 database).

 Regional trade liberalisation and cooperation arrangements have been considered important intermediate measures, enabling nations to cope with the risks and opportunities of the global market and embrace new multilateral regulations (Katzenstein, 1997). The developing tensions between economic regionalism and economic multilateralism directly result from the mutually reinforcing nature of regionalism and globalisation. As seen with the end of the Uruguay Round, when integration into the EU prompted some member states to adopt the GATT deal, and with NAFTA’s significant impact on the liberalisation of investments, regional cooperation can be a good stepping stone to an accessible international economy. According to Summers (1991), regionalism affects the multilateral international trade system and will increasingly serve as a driving factor towards liberalisation. Summers contends that regional liberalisation is the best approach towards liberalisation and globalisation.

In contrast, the second category of experts’ places greater emphasis on the notion that discriminatory regional and sub-regional accords are a response to globalisation. As an example, Bhagwati (1993) argues that protectionism, mercantilism and other regionalism delay global liberalisation and threaten the multilateral trading system. Bergsten (1997) says that the European Monetary Union (EMU) shows how it sets priorities that differ from those of the world. Furthermore, regional blocs can contribute to geo-economics conflicts, which may have political implications.

Three key issues are raised by those who want complete dependence on the multilateral approach (Bhagwati and Panagariya, 1996):

  1. Trade is diverted by regional cooperation.
  2. The distraction of attention.
  3. The geopolitical consequences of regionalism.

 First, they point out that trade is diverted by regional cooperation that provides members favourable treatment over non-members. Members may also profit from favourable policies and regulations for restricted content in addition to differential tariffs. According to opponents, the disadvantage of regional liberalisation can be more than overcome by the impact of preferences, resulting in a diversion of the trade balance.

Also, they are worried that transferring tariff revenues under a preferential arrangement could hurt the way one member’s income is split. The distraction of attention is the second point raised by critics. They say that if countries get involved in regional projects, they might lose interest in the multilateral system, which could stop its growth and possibly make it less effective.

The United States’ rapid change in trade policy since the early 1980s has drawn particular attention. The international system had previously received top attention from the United States. It declined to take part in regional economic integration. The main reasons the U.S. agreed to the creation and growth of European integration were political and security issues. The U.S. wanted to keep Europe safe and out of war.

The geopolitical consequences of regionalism are the third issue. Regional trade agreements (and economic groupings more generally) may have caused political and even military conflicts between governments in former times. While modern regionalist critics do not expect such severe results, analysts are concerned that close and intense regional links may cause aggravations and even conflicts that extend beyond economics to more generalised domains of global affairs.

Regionalism proponents hold opposing viewpoints on each of these topics (Bergsten, 1996). First, they contend that regional agreements advance free trade and multilateralism in at least two ways: first, that trade expansion has typically surpassed trade contraction, and second, that regional agreements support both domestic and global dynamics that increase rather than diminish the likelihood of global liberalisation. For developing nations, the internal dynamic is particularly crucial since regional agreements, which can be negotiated considerably more quickly than global accords, lock in domestic reforms against the possibility that succeeding governments will attempt to reverse them. Internationally, regional agreements frequently set the stage for liberalisation concepts that can then be broadly applied in the multilateral system.

Second, regionalism critics pointed out that it frequently has considerable, verifiable impacts. Regional integration will likely lead to further multilateral initiatives when officials, governments, and nations adapt to the liberalisation process.

Third, proponents of regionalism argue that it has had more positive than negative political consequences. Because of trade and closer economic cooperation, a new war between Germany and France was almost unthinkable in the European Union. Argentina and Brazil have used it to end their long-running rivalry, which has recently taken on nuclear implications.

APEC’s primary objectives include establishing the United States as a stabilising power in Asia and creating institutional ties between nations that were once adversaries, like Japan, China, and the rest of East Asia. Therefore, the potential of carrying up peace through cooperation is greater than the likelihood of generating conflicts.

Defenders of regionalism point out that regional agreements are permitted explicitly by Article 24 of the GATT and, more recently, the WTO, recognising their consistency with the global trading system. Three requirements must be met for these agreements to be effective:

  1. They must substantially encompass all trade between member nations;
  2. They must not erect new barriers for outsiders;
  3. They must accomplish free trade among members by a specific date (usually to be at most ten years from the starting date).

Although it is generally acknowledged that the most significant regional agreements (the EU and NAFTA) have fully or largely met these criteria, the GATT and WTO have been largely ineffective in certifying and overseeing their implementation. Because of this, the important regions have had many reasons to say that they work well with the multilateral system.

In conclusion, regionalism and globalism are linked, but only if the major countries involved in the process manage it well. History shows they can succeed if they try to improve things for both sides. The outcome in former eras shows that this is also reasonably achievable if they desire to pursue one at the expense of the other. The process’s inherent dynamics are sufficiently balanced for the participants’ policy choices to be decisive.

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International Law

Institution’s evolution

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As the human civilization is evolving, the institutions that were once very relevant and inevitable have been becoming archaic and irrelevant and alarmingly becoming deleterious if remain enacted and rigid. Standing mass armies is one of such institutions, which is losing its relevance that it once earned through conscription of human resource and extraction natural resources. With the emergence of democracy coupled with the dilution of borders by globalization, the armies have lost their stage and much eulogized roles as the defender, protector and invaders. The yardstick to measure the strength of any nation was their military’s might which has now been replaced with other well established indicators.

To shed light upon how and why the role of armies has been dwindled, we have to dive into the modern historical account of the events and reasons that once made the army inevitable and much desirable. As the raison d’etat for establishing the armies and galvanizing their influence   was to acquire the large swaths of land and the quantifiable amount of people to propel the engine of their state machine. Resultantly, the expanded territories were in dire need to be regulated and protected with the iron fist rule, which could not be done without strengthening armies.

Now the hitherto said aspirations have become obsolete and less desirable due to changing dimensions of a society as a whole thereby the military too. To give credence to these assertions it is adequate to allude towards the decline in the tendency of ragging the territorial acquisition wars specifically in the post peace era. Now there is no incentive to acquire the large latifundia or the large amount of people to be slave them as farm workers or to conscript them into armies.

As per the report of the freedom house, there were scant sixty-nine electoral democracies in 1990; today there are more than one hundred and fifteen electrical democracies, which are more than sixty percent. In recently emerged democracies, resultantly, the transition from the centrally planned economies to the economic liberalization spawned the era of entrepreneurship and innovation. Now these budding democracies have recently embarked on the journey towards more opportunities and rising incomes that remained chimera twenty years ago. To bolster this claim, the human security report is enough as it claims that state-based arm conflict has ebbed by 40 percent and which is waning the propensity of countries to wage a full-scale war.

Furthermore, well-established democratic peace theory hits the last nail in the coffin of the aspirations to reinvigorate the military might. The increasing number of democracies are less likely to wage a war with another democratic country, which in result declines the chances of war.

As initially claimed, the ab initio reasons of having standing armies have squarely been replaced; it comes naturally in mind what have replaced them. In a complex and entangled world woven with the fabric of trade, ideas, and innovations, the war-philic countries are the least fit for survival in the Darwinian sense. The countries who are doing wonders in the spheres of economy ideas, innovations inter alia services are less prone to war and aggression.

Many but naming few as the innovation, ideas, trade, and entrepreneurial tendencies have substituted the reasons, which once made the armies relevant and inevitable. Sweden, Norway, UK at the top of global innovation index 2021 and the countries deprived of bloated, mighty, and behemoth militaries, which are also circumscribed in the limited territories, are at the peak of ideas, prosperity, and innovation as compared to those who are bestowed upon with unassailable armies.

Ostensibly, after taking into account the recent shift in the reason of having large standing armies, it is now necessary to discuss about the nature of the future warfare which poses the threats, but here too while dealing with them make everyone wary of the institution of armies and militaries which are too rigid to abreast with the current dynamic nature of warfare, resultantly, they have to bear the brunt of their rigidity everywhere.

Therefore, the Character of the future warfare is dramatically changing which incorporates the novel means to materialize the desired and often mischievous aspirations. In this regard, hybrid warfare is one emerging character, which includes a diverse variety of activities and instruments to destabilize the society, which surely would be desirable for its user. These instruments are like interfering in the electoral processes in which the adversaries can influence the outcome of the electoral processes in the direction, which benefit the adversaries’ political aspirations – Putin’s interference in Trump’s election campaign and Cambridge analytica.

Other instruments are disinformation and false news, Cyber-attacks, and financial influence. Which all of them have already been employing in different dimensions and scales. In this domain, Russia is employing all of these instruments with great dexterity. To better deal with such recent emerging means and tools, it has become a need of hour to introduce the more integrated and sophisticated ways to deal with hybrid warfare and to replace the rigid, archaic and obsolete militarily solutions. In doing so, fostering democracy, inclusion of civil society investment in media literacy are few but viable solutions.

Succinctly, the justifications for raising the large armies, which were to expand the territories, to slave the people or to protect the volatile boundaries, have recently been replaced or become obsolete and irrelevant. Therefore, this institution should be abreast its pace with the dynamic and changing character of the threats posing the great dangers. Moreover, the gauge to quantify the power of any country has resultantly been changed from the strength of armies to the innovation, ideas, entrepreneurial spirit, trade, and socio economic and socio political stability. Contemporarily, it has become futile to strengthen and increase the sizes of armies, which have already lost their relevance, conversely, the changing Character of warfare or better known as hybrid warfare, demands more.

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International Law

Sanctions as Weapons: A Challenge in Addressing Our Global Collective Problems

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Since the Ukraine conflict, ‘Sanction’ has become a buzzword worldwide. It has become a new instrument for the West to coerce others to attain their interests. The impact of the sanctions imposed on Russia has already reached almost every corner of the earth. The sanctions subsequently bolstered the energy crisis globally. It has also disrupted Russia’s worldwide trade and commerce as payment gateways block transactions. However, Russia was quick to overcome the financial blockade. China and Russia are also looking for alternative gateways to reduce their reliance. The latest sanctions have only complicated world affairs, putting the great powers at dagger’s drawn.

Since the last decade, economic and Human Rights sanctions have become popular worldwide. But a decade later, these sanctions hardly solved any issues but put multilateralism under threat. And such weaponization of sanctions also poses challenges in addressing our collective global problems.

Our Global Collective Problems

Collective Global Problems refer to issues and problems that the world faces together. These issues are prevalent and have repercussions for almost all countries. In the 21st century, Human Rights and Democracy have become such issues. Deteriorating human rights standards and global democratic backslide have emerged as new collective global issues for us.

The ongoing global recession, commodity shock, and soaring inflation have also emerged as new global problems as the world suffers from these. However, the economic and Human rights sanctions by the West further complicate the scenario. The motivation of ‘One Size fits All’ is creating confusion and hampering global cooperation. The ongoing energy crisis is the result of such motivation. However, multilateralism is the best path for solving collective problems. But the sanctions and rivalries are polarizing the world and posing a severe threat to multilateralism.

Sanctions as Weapon

Sanctions emerged in the interwar period as a tool for the great powers as they significantly contributed to global and bilateral economies. The early pioneers developed it as an alternative to brute force to coerce the opponent to end or avoid war. Early ‘Sanctionists’ believed it was an effective tool to avoid bloodshed. However, it was used during peacetime in the 1930s. According to Nicholas Mulder, the author of ‘The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War’, the use of sanctions by the allied powers further radicalized fascists at that time also. Mulder also thinks the current situation parallels the scenarios of then. Advanced globalization and financial inclusion have created a complex interdependency among the nations that rely on a uniform system to conduct their foreign economic exchange and are becoming skeptical about it. Such skepticism also reinforces economic nationalism. And the sanctions aimed at rivals affect billions of ordinary citizens worldwide.

The use of sanctions has increased since Donald Trump’s ascension. The sanctions motivated by national interests and counter-sanctions have further complicated it. Between 2016 and 2019, the USA under Trump Administration imposed sanctions that constitute 40% of the total sanctions worldwide. The reliance on sanctions has also transformed it into a weapon. Sanctions also have an important role in Biden’s foreign policy as he has formulated his policy centering on Democracy and Human Rights.

Effectiveness in Question

During the last few years, economic and human rights sanctions became important. But many of them were motivated by national interests. As a result, the use of sanctions handicapped the scope for greater intervention. For example, when the Rohingya exodus took place, the West merely relied upon individual sanctions against the Myanmar Generals. The West thought it would serve their commitment as they have interests in Myanmar. But it seems the West could have a more proactive role in the Rohingya crisis to solve the problem. Again, the Biden administration announced sanctions on RAB and its 7 officials in Bangladesh last year on the allegation of human rights violation. But it seems the allegations are very few compared to the violations that took place worldwide, especially by the US allies.

Biden’s latest sanction schemes reveal that these are built upon controlling the global economy. For instance, the Russian sanctions attempted to exclude Russia from global transaction mechanisms. Both China and Russia have also acknowledged it and have made an effort to create a parallel system to avoid it. The attempt to internationalize the Ruble and Yuan is one example of such a claim. Hence, the sanctions are only creating confusion and turmoil in global politics. As a result, the effectiveness is in question.

In most cases, the sanctions only isolated the nations and backfired. Global Sanction Database recorded 1100 public sanctions between 1950 and 2019. The database also identified that the most common objective of sanctions imposed between 2016 and 2019 are human rights and democracy. However, only 42% of sanctions were partially successful.

A Challenge

Sanctions in the last decade motivated by national interest failed to uphold the public good. Instead, it is further polarizing world politics. It also creates distrust about existing global economic mechanisms among the great powers. The economic sanctions against the rivals also widen the gap between the great powers. Great powers like Russia and China are forced to establish an alternative economy to counter it. Such actions and counter-actions are challenging the uniformity of the global economy also.

Again, multilateralism is facing a crisis due to growing distrust and polarization. The ongoing economic recession, post-pandemic challenges, and soaring inflation require a multilateral solution. But the distrust is weakening the spirit. So, sanctions and the use of the global economy also pose challenges to our collective global problems. Therefore, sanctions are doing a great disservice than service.

In conclusion, Sanctions should not be an instrument during peacetime. It should only be reserved for wartime to avoid using brute force. Weaponizing sanctions and unilateral ‘abuse’ of the global economy and its control during peacetime threaten our multilateralism. In the current global context, it is posing a severe threat to addressing existing global issues. As the world is passing a tough time, Great powers need to come together and find solutions as their decisions affect all countries.

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