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Fragmentation, Aggression, Genocide: Deeper Meanings of Russia’s War Against Ukraine

Photo: © UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson

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“But tell me, my brothers, if humanity still lacks a goal, is humanity itself not still lacking? Thus inquired Zarathustra.”-Friedrich Nietzsche, Zarathustra

It’s hard to imagine anything decent emerging from Vladimir Putin’s genocidal aggression[1] against Ukraine, but there is one ironic example: enhanced human understanding.In essence, the multiple crimes now being unleashed by the Russian president are the result of a world legal order based upon fragmentation and disunity. To be sure, the primacy of a murderous dictator who remains committed to war-based belligerent nationalism ought never to be minimized, but even Vladimir Putin requires a propitious global context in order to implement crimes against peace, war crimes[2] and crimes against humanity.[3]

Quo Vadis? What paths forward still remain available to decent western democracies?[4] And what are the optimal paths?

A serious answer is identifiable. To suitably limit or “fix” ongoing Russian crimes, the world must first be understood structurally and holistically as an organic whole. Then, whatever the leaders of different nation-states might choose to describe as “rational” foreign policies would first have to be consistent with worldwide community interests. At that point, in brief, the presumed national interests of separate states could no longer remain at cross-purposes with broader global interests.[5]

There is more. Whatever scholars and policy-makers might prefer or wish to believe, history will remain unambiguous on two key points: (1) for the most part, Reason continues to yield to anti-Reason in world affairs;[6] and  (2) humankind’s national leaders have not yet positioned themselves to create any unifying infrastructures of “world order reform.”[7]

What is to be done? There are variously evident particulars.  Soon, though endlessly daunting, world leaders will need to strive to improve the underlying and determinative structures of global consciousness. Such an intangible imperative can never represent a manageable task for a major nation’s reigning politicos or apparatchiks. Nonetheless, it is high time for humankind to at least make a start.

“The visionary,” observed the Italian film director Federico Fellini, “is now the only realist.”

                It must begin with the microcosm. Always, intense national loyalties can be reassuring to individuals. Over time, human beings have easily accepted that hyperbolic patriotism represents an admirable and life-affirming personal sentiment.[8] Still, such self-congratulatory feelings ought never be ones of exaggerated national superiority. Indeed, what people might once have considered to reflect a purposeful and honest patriotism could now undermine literally any nation’s most vital survival interests.

                In some respects, it’s not complicated. Of plain necessity, all humans inhabit the same imperiled planet. And by unassailable definition, we humans are co-dependent upon one another. Whether we like it or not, our seemingly private errors and collective fates have already become deeply intersecting and intimately interconnected.[9]

At times, though more difficult to ascertain, they have also become synergistic.

               What does all this imply, both generally and specifically? What should be suggested here for better understanding and also mitigating the horrors of Vladimir Putin’s multiple Nuremberg category crimes against Ukraine?[10] What is it about traditional patriotism than now allows millions of Russians to side with their merciless leader’s genocidal war against children, hospitals, schools and the elderly?[11]

There is more. At the point where certain specifically injurious intersections have become synergistic, the “whole” impact of Russia’s aggression will palpably exceed the sum of its policy “parts.” In the conceivably next-to-worst case narrative, these cumulative impacts will be crime-magnifications of one sort or another.[12] In the most genuinely worst case scenario,[13] these war-inflicted enlargements could become nuclear.[14]

               Two further questions should now surface:

               (1) What correct policy inferences should be drawn from this plausible scenario by national leaders, and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

               (2) What impressively valid conclusions could we then expect?

               To respond meaningfully, it must first become obvious that in the assessments of Russia’s Putin, many apparent benefits of traditionally-defined patriotism are actually harmful and unpatriotic. Because the combined result of individual nation-state judgments that conflate belligerent nationalism with patriotism inevitably weaken all nation-states, it is high time for remembering Nietzsche’s call for an authentically unifying planetary goal.

                Soon, true patriotism in Russia must come to mean significantly more than mumbled empty witticisms or nonsensical cheers from a potentially murderous public “mass.”[15]  In this connection, a diametrically opposite and manifestly decent patriotism is readily discoverable in the Ukraine.

               As a start, or perhaps as a welcome resurrection of some civilizational and legal literacy, leaders should be reminded that history is worth close study and that it deserves a corresponding pride of place. Long ago, classical Greek and Macedonian war postures were based upon determinably sound theoretical foundations.[16] It is time for Americans leaders and others to recall and act upon such  vital foundations.

               Ancient security postures were founded upon variously calculable struggles of “mind over mind.” Whatever else their varying deficiencies, these postures were not crafted from the corrosively visceral chants of an unthinking “amen chorus.” They were not drawn from some atavistic mass that classical Greek thinkers would have called the hoi polloi.[17]

               Over the years, though not always embraced, such enviable “mind-over-mind” orientations provided an overlooked but perpetually-prudent model of national security planning.[18] Nonetheless, across almost the entire globe, national military planning efforts remain narrowly focused upon correlations of individual force structure and on disparate elements of  wrongly-presumed national interests. Always, the world must be considered as an organic whole. Inevitably, in such a rancorous world, zero sum national thinking is bound to fail.

               Before any improved analytic thought could be expected[19] concerning Ukraine and other war zones, national security policy planners would first need to become more attentive to complex policy intersections and interdependencies, including what we have already called “synergies.”[20] In any synergistic interaction, the policy behaviors of rival states could produce outcomes that represent calculably “more” than the simple sum of their constituent parts. A timely example for President Joe Biden might be prospective US-North Korean policies of crisis escalation, policies in which one side or the other (or both) would casually mistake the other’s moves and where results could be much worse than any simple arithmetic summation would have predicted.[21] Moreover, because the world must always be considered as a system, any further deteriorations in the Russia-Ukraine theatre could impact what happens in Asia between the United States, China and North Korea – and vice versa.

               Looking ahead to still-plausible crises between Washington and Pyongyang, each side (assuming basic and bilateral rationality) will be seeking to achieve “escalation dominance” and, simultaneously, to maintain national survival.[22] It follows from all this that whatever one’s own political inclinations or affiliations, these anticipated searches will be replicated or “inspired” by Russia-Ukraine interactions.

               Years earlier, Sigmund Freud, while not directly concerned with the particular dynamics of world politics or international relations, examined similar issues at the microcosmic or “molecular” level, that is, at the always-critical level of individual human beings. Looking over such psychologically focused examinations, Freud’s most rudimentary conceptual understanding – that unfettered “liberty” among individual human beings must invariably lead to uselessly antagonistic or “zero-sum” social conflicts – applies equally to nation-states. If left alone to pursue their collective lives “patriotically”- that is, within that anarchic global state-of-nature that seventeenth century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes had famously called a “war of all against all”[23] – the separate state actors would be forced to endure the dissembling conditions of  “permanent war.”[24]

               Amid any such continuously ferocious global anarchy – a structure of disorder originally bequeathed at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 – there could never arise any satisfactory forms of civilization. The prospects would become even worse were traditional anarchy transformed into a genuine “chaos.”

               There is more. Notwithstanding the bitterly anti-intellectual stance of former American president Donald J. Trump, history and learning must still have an indispensable place in United States foreign policy making. Recalling Thomas Hobbes Leviathan (1651, chapter XIII), the life of any states attempting to chase after narrowly nationalistic/populist goals must inevitably be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”[25] There would exist principal and palpable connections between traditional zero-sum notions of patriotism and what is now generally called “populism.”

               But how do we actually fix a global system founded upon and sustained by erroneous notions of belligerent patriotism? How should well-intentioned states (including the United States) plan their successful escape from the global “state of nature,” an escape for which there can be no viable alternative? There exist just two potentially coherent responses, and these responses need not be mutually exclusive.

               The first and most frequently recommended reaction focuses on changing a perpetually conflict-based mechanism of world politics. Even before the appearance of what was then called “World Order Studies” back at Yale and Princeton in the 1960s,[26] philosophers from Dante and Immanuel Kant to H.G. Wells, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Sri Aurobindo elaborated imaginatively on variable configurations of world government.[27] Today, even if we can convincingly oppose any or all such configurations, the underlying imperative to think in more disciplined fashion about “reordering the planet”[28] remains fully urgent.[29]

               The second reasonable response must transport analytic investigators back to true origins of the problem, that is, to the universally evident and undiminished imperfections of individual human beings.[30] With this suitably intellectual posture, one that would correctly regard all world politics as epiphenomena or as mere manifestation of far deeper causes, the scholar’s (and eventually policymaker’s) overriding emphasis must be upon “fixing people.”[31]

                If the first reaction could be critiqued as “unrealistic” or “utopian,” the second would qualify even more plainly for such pejorative characterizations.

               But how shall we proceed?

               The most promising answers will require a consciously transformational focus upon the individual human being, on the microcosm and on his or her primary place in pertinent “global rescue” preparations. So long as it remains fully predicated upon erroneous definitions of patriotism, our nation-state system of world politics will still be incapable of serving humankind’s most basic security and justice obligations. Earlier, German-Swiss philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had exclaimed prophetically in Zarathustra that the “state is the coldest of all cold monsters,”[32] a darkly accurate view later reinforced by Spanish thinker Jose Ortega y’ Gasset.  Observed Ortega, “The state is the greatest danger.”[33]

                But even the most refined prescriptions for improved global coordination or governance will require antecedent changes in human behavior. This is the case, moreover, in spite of the apparent improbability of any such “molecular” changes. In other words, much as we might still think such changes unlikely or perhaps even impossible, we have no alternative.

               Quite literally, the present-day time-dishonored “Westphalian” world system is destined to fail.[34]

               In essence, it is now most urgent that we learn to supplant the relentlessly belligerent aspects of traditional patriotism and military obedience[35] with more gainful visions of cooperation, interdependence and “oneness.” Apropos of such imperative learning, scholars and policy makers would be well-advised to recall the special wisdom of Jesuit French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.”

                This incontestable warning in The Phenomenon of Man assumes especially powerful relevance regarding Vladimir Putin’s crimes against Ukraine.[36] By definition, these refractory crimes are incompatible with any reasonably sought-after outcomes of world peace and justice. Instead, they point directly and unambiguously toward enlarged prospects of human insecurity and human degradation.[37]

               Though understood only by those who are still willing to undertake disciplined thought, there exist intimate connections between intra-national and inter-national power processes. Among other things, these linkages suggest that “fixing states” could represent the vital intermediary step between fixing individual human beings and fixing the wider world. Accordingly, in American universities, which are increasingly being given over to narrowly vocational forms of education, we need to bring-back and amplify “world order studies” as a designated field of academic inquiry.[38]

               For those prospective students still determined to study business, computers or technology, it will be worth keeping in mind that there can be no meaningful achievements of individual wealth or success when the world as a whole tilts further toward war, terrorism and genocide. Regarding Putin’s aggression against Ukraine,  the right of self-defense, we may learn from Emmerich de Vattel, gives rise to the “right to resist injustice.”  According to the Swiss writer’s oft-cited argument at Chapter V of the Law of Nations, or the Principles of Natural Law (1758), “On the Observance of Justice between Nations:”

Justice is the foundation of all social life and the secure bond of all civil intercourse.  Human society, instead of being an interchange of friendly assistance, would be no more than a vast system of robbery if no respect were shown for the virtue which gives to each his own.  Its observance is even more necessary between Nations than between individuals, because injustice between Nations may be followed by the terrible consequences involved in an affray between powerful political bodies, and because it is more difficult to obtain redress….  An intentional act of injustice is certainly an injury.  A Nation has, therefore, the right to punish it…. The right to resist injustice is derived from the right of self-protection.

               There is more. In general, before humanity can maximize any rule-based and value-based forms of global cooperation, there will first have to take place certain distinctly primary human changes. Although it may be premature to identify a systematic and sequential inventory of such required changes, the basic process is by no means ambiguous. Wittingly, this process would reject the distracting delusions of a society given over to amusements and would accept instead, much like the Founding Fathers,[39] a challenging set of intellectual imperatives.

               Ultimately, any suitably alternative forms of global cooperation will demand dialogue not only among endlessly fractious nation-states, but also among individual human beings.

               Such forward-looking and dynamic thinking can bring us back gainfully to French Jesuit philosopher Teilhard, and to the primary importance of system: “The existence of `system’ in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature…Each element of the cosmos is positively woven from all the others.” Complementary “lessons” can be found in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata; these lessons conveniently recollect what used to be called “cosmopolitanism,” or a determined ideology of global integration :[40] “Then you should card it and comb it, and mingle it all/in one basket of love and unity,/Citizens, visitors, strangers, and sojourners – all the/entire, undivided community.”

               In the end, any state’s true patriotic interests can be met solely by cultivating a greater and more unqualified loyalty to humankind in general. In the United States, this rationally redirected loyalty, which would still likely be labeled “unpatriotic” by most Americans (even after the Trump horror) will require a prior and more robust development of intellect or “mind.”  Such a development, by design, would be at definitional odds with any once-exaggerated expectations of Trump-era “populism.”[41]

               Nothing truly useful could be solved by adding more and more adrenalized encouragements of technology or entrepreneurship.

               The overriding problem of “creating a future” in world politics will not be solved by any new multiplication of “personal devices.”

               It won’t help individuals to “win” in a “shark tank” competition if the tank itself has already been poisoned.

                There is more. We will need to replace the recognizably false communion of nation-states – a pattern, like the High Lama’s Lost Horizon prediction, that is close to collapsing – with a new and authentic harmony. When such an ambitious replacement is successful, or is at least discernibly underway, we could finally take seriously an earlier promise of Sigmund Freud. While Freud was not focused on world politics per se, he would surely still agree with the following proposition: A greatly expanded or fully supplanting power of global community can make sense only if there can first be rejected an inwardly-rotten “balance-of-power” global dynamic, a dynamic that is based on fear, trembling and a near-perpetual dread.[42]

               One last summary observation will be offered here, one that points toward a key potential barrier to creating a more just and viable future – toward overcoming an impediment to all conceivably plausible forms of human transformation. The worrisome “fly in the ointment” here concerns the continuously problematic assumption of human rationality. Even before Freud, and most markedly in Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, we may read with long-term benefit about “mystery” or the “whisperings of the irrational.”[43]

               Much as we might try to deny it, irrationality – not rationality – has often been the foundation of national decision-making in world politics.[44]

               Though daunting and seemingly out of place, literary/philosophic recognition of the “absurd” –  Credo quia absurdum; “I believe because it is absurd” – must be incorporated into all proposed nation-state programs for world order reform. Without such indispensable incorporation, every otherwise carefully worked-out prescription for international law[45] and global civilization could still fail.

               A counter-intuitive truth appears. Traditionally combative or zero-sum expressions of nationalism can never be authentically patriotic. Though such expressions always “sound good,” they are nonetheless injurious to the celeb rants.

               Among even the most evident antinomies of the world, any truly promising spirit of patriotism must first acknowledge (1) the core singularity or “oneness” of our species;[46] and (2) the corollary interdependence of all nation-states. In the end, inter alia, any serious and decent forms of patriotism must plainly affirm that all human beings are enduringly and indissolubly interconnected.[47] The real enemy of the United States is never one particular ideology or another, but rather any orientation away from Reason, away from Science, away from Logic and away even from Truth.

               “The enemy,” in the words of 20th century German philosopher Karl Jaspers in Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time, “is the unphilosophical spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing of truth.” This has been the prevailing spirit of Trump Era patriotism in the United States.

                Its axiomatic. There can be no suitable foreign policy posture that is detached from the presumptive well-being of nation-states in general. Before this can be properly understood, however, it is vital that each nation’s still-serious political and legal thinkers heed Nietzsche’s timeless counsel from Zarathustra[48]: This is to “become accustomed to living on mountains, to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egotism beneath one.”[49]

               None of this will be created ex nihilo, out of nothing. It will require special and essentially unprecedented acts of “will.”[50] In the final analysis, all nations will need to  get far beyond what Nietzsche worriedly calls “national egotism.” This derivative ailment is rooted in various common human associations of personal significance with the nation as a whole.

                For Hegel, in The Philosophy of Right, the association is sacred. “The state is the actuality of the ethical idea….” Indeed, continues Hegel, the state is nothing less than “the march of God in the world.” In his posthumously published Lecture on Politics (1896), German historian Heinrich von Treitschke observed similarly: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.”[51] These corrosive views of Hegel and Treitschke represent the diametric opposite of what is required for a more decent and durable system of planetary politics. To wit, Treitschke ends his “sacrilization” of  the state with a bitterly grotesque declaration: “War is the only remedy for ailing nations.”[52]

               War is not what still-rational human beings should ever be seeking. Always, in the end, Realpolitik or power politics will prove its own insubstantiality. Therein lies a grave dilemma. Though Nietzsche calls upon us to “become accustomed to living on mountains, to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egotism beneath one,”[53] he also still expects us to oppose the “egotism” of states energetically; that is, with suitably intellectual underpinnings and with a boldly philosophic determination.[54]

               What now? Can these two seemingly contradictory imperatives – calm detachment and world order activism – ever be reconciled? How, precisely, shall scholars and policy makers soar above rancorous “herds” of the state and acknowledge that our conflict-centered world desperately needs “repair”?[55]

               Heraclitus tells us that “Men who love wisdom must inquire into very many things.”[56] Should we eventually fail in this many-sided inquiry, it will be because we first failed to recognize ourselves as the fundamental locus of human responsibility. The perfectly plausible idea that humankind produces its own misfortunes has endured for millennia. Aeschylus, Homer and Hesiod were correctly convinced that it is essentially our species’ persisting disregard for “wisdom” that accounts for its endlessly murderous history.

               “In the end,” says Goethe, “we are creatures of our own making.”[57] Such callous disregard for wisdom (which, since Plato, includes virtue) spawns a sea of boundless ruin. In such a turbulent sea, comments the King of Argos in The Suppliant Maidens, “Nowhere is there a haven from distress.” But some such haven is also indispensable.

               Significantly, the Greek idea of Fate does not imply any absence of human control or responsibility. But it does carry a penalty for failures to cultivate justice and peace. Though Realpolitik has ancient origins – at least in terms of its core dynamic of zero-sum competition – its tangible celebration represents a modern development. Also known as Machstaat, or power politics, per se glorifications of the state represent a distinct break with the traditional political “realism” of Thucydides, Thrasymachus (Plato) and Machiavelli.[58]

               Now the expectations of human subjects may even include immortality or power over death.

               From Hegel and Fichte to Ranke and Treitschke, Realpolitik has consistently become a more refractory barrier to human dignity and survival.

               Why then should it be encouraged to continue?

               Why should national policies off belligerent nationalism, have ever been thought purposeful or worthwhile?

               In the beginning, in that starkly primal promiscuity wherein the modern swerve toward Realpolitik first occurred, forerunners of modern world politics established a system of struggle and bitter competition that could never succeed. Still captivated by this failed system, major states allowed the pernicious spirit of power politics to spread across the entire spectrum of international interactions, like a palpable gangrene on the surface of the earth. Rejecting wisdom, virtue and all proper standards of logic, this spirit could never impose effective limits upon itself.

                It continues to be rife despite its evidence-based rebuffs. It still takes its long history of defeat for meaningful advances. In essence, this spirit has never “learned” anything.[59]

               Now, in the course of manifold Russian crimes against Ukraine, the nations may have one last opportunity to confront the refractory derangements of Realpolitik with affirmations of human “oneness.” In the absence of such urgently needed confrontation, future civilizations will likely examine the skeletal remains of this world’s last pre-nuclear war epoch with a well-deserved sneer. Far better for us and our blameless descendants that the United States and certain other major states now move toward various obligatory acknowledgements of international interdependence and human unity.[60] To make such an indispensable move and to avoid any future Ukraine-type crimes perpetrated by one state upon another, humankind will first need to agree upon one overriding goal; that is, to renounce any continuing segmentations of world politics and world law[61] as irremediably flawed and literally destined to fail.[62]

               Already, each and every state has an obligation to oppose genocidal crimes wherever perpetrated. Significant, in this connection, is the London Charter of August 8, 1945; the UN Charter (1945); the Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-Operation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (1970); Affirmation of the Principles of International Law Recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal (1946, 1950); and the International Law Commission (ILC) Articles on State Responsibility (2001).

               In its landmark judgment of 26 February 2007 “Concerning Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro), the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled, inter alia, that all Contracting Parties have a direct obligation to “prevent genocide.” Indeed, somewhat counter-intuitively, the ICJ even found it easier to acknowledge this obligation expressis verbis than the requirement “not to commit genocide themselves.”[63]

               Clearly, Russia’s ongoing war of aggression and genocide against Ukraine should be terminated as promptly as possible. At the same time, this conflict has its deepest and most refractory roots in human fragmentation and decentralized international law.[64] Similar conclusions can be reached about other major genocides, including Myanmar’s mass killings of the Rohingya Muslim minority, which began in 2017.[65]

               Unifying global goals are indispensable to genocide prevention. Until there is a more recognizable commitment to replace human fragmentation with human “oneness,” such crimes will be replicated in other places and with equal or even greater consequence. What we are witnessing today in Ukraine are egregious manifestations of long-standing global disunity. A meaningful commitment to global solidarity and interconnectednesscould represent the only possible remedy.

 Zarathustra would understand.


[1] In law, genocide and aggression need not be mutually exclusive. Historically, aggression has been the “gateway” crime to genocide, both in times of the Third Reich and in present day Russia-Ukraine. For the crime of aggression under international law, see: Resolution on the Definition of Aggression, adopted by the UN General Assembly, Dec. 14, 1974. U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), 29 UN GAOR, Supp. (No. 31), 142, UN Doc A/9631 (1975) reprinted in 13 I.L.M., 710 (1974).

[2] International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, comprise: (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules.  Codified primarily at The Hague and Geneva Conventions, and known thereby as the law of The Hague and the law of Geneva, these rules seek to bring discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into belligerent calculations.  On the main corpus of jus in bello, see: Convention No. IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, With Annex of Regulations, Oct. 18, 1907, 36 Stat. 2277, T.S. No. 539, 1 Bevans 631 (known commonly as the “Hague Regulations”); Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T.  3114, T.I.A.S.  No. 3362, 75 U.N.T.S.  85; Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T.  3316, T.I.A.S.  No. 3364, 75 U.N.T.S.  135; Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T.  3516, T.I.A.S.  No. 3365, 75 U.N.T.S.  287.

[3] Crimes against humanity are defined as “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population before or during a war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated….”  Charter of the International Military Tribunal, Aug. 8, 1945, Art. 6(c), 59 Stat.  1544, 1547, 82 U.N.T.S.  279, 288.

[4] In legal terms, such willingness is binding upon all states. See, especially: London Charter (August 8, 1945); UN Charter (1945); Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-Operation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (1970); Affirmation of the Principles of International Law Recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal (1946, 1950); and the International Law Commission (ILC) Articles on State Responsibility (2001). Moreover, in its judgment of 26 February 2007 “Concerning Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro), the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled, inter alia, that all Contracting Parties have a direct obligation to “prevent genocide.” Indeed, somewhat counter-intuitively, the ICJ even found it easier to acknowledge this obligation expressis verbis than the (expectedly antecedent) requirement “not to commit genocide themselves.”

[5] See, by Professor Beres, on Stoic visions of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations:  https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/louis-beres-america-first-2/

[6] See by this writer, Louis René Beres:  https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/11/21/reason-versus-anti-reason-americas-primal-struggle/

[7] The term world order reform has its contemporary origins in a scholarly movement begun at the Yale Law School in the mid-and late 1960s, and then “adopted” at the Politics Department at Princeton University in 1967-68. The present author, Louis Rene Beres, was an original member of the Princeton-based World Order Models Project, and wrote several early books in this scholarly genre.

[8] In his posthumously published Lecture on Politics (1896), German historian Heinrich von Treitschke observes: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.” Presently, the primal sentiments expressed by this observation (sentiments reflecting the continuing human search for power over death) continue to be individually compelling and widely conspicuous.

[9] Regarding such core intersections, we may learn from Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “”You are a citizen of the universe.” A still-broader idea of human “oneness” followed the death of Alexander in 322 BCE, and with it came a coinciding doctrine of “universality.” By the Middle Ages, this political and social doctrine had fused with the medieval notion of a Respublica Christiana, a worldwide Christian commonwealth, and Thomas, John of Salisbury and Dante were looking upon Europe as a single community. Here, below the level of God and his presumed heavenly host, all the realm of humanity was considered as one living “body.” This is because all the world had seemingly been created for the same single and incontestable purpose; that is, to provide the necessary background for the primal drama of human salvation. Only in its relationship to the universe itself was this world to be correctly considered as a part rather than whole. Clarifies Dante in De Monarchia: “The whole human race is a whole with reference to certain parts, and, with reference to another whole, it is a part. For it is a whole with reference to particular kingdoms and nations, as we have shown; and it is a part with reference to the whole universe, which is evident without argument.” Today, the idea of human oneness can and should be justified in more conspicuously secular terms of human legal understanding.

[10] See, by this author: Louis René Beres, at JURIST:  https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2022/04/louis-rene-beres-president-biden-call-for-putin-removal/ See also, by Professor Beres: https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/04/11/remembering-nuremberg-legal-obligations-to-remove-and-prosecute-vladimir-putin/

[11] See Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, opened for signature, December 9, 1948, entered into force, January 12, 1951, 78 U.N.T.S. 277. Although the criminalizing aspect of inter­national law that proscribes genocide‑like conduct may derive from a source other than the Gen­ocide Convention (i.e. it may emerge from customary international law and be included in different international conventions), such conduct is dearly a crime under international law. Even where the conduct in question does not affect the interests of more than one state, it becomes an inter­national crime whenever it constitutes an offense against the world community delicto ius gentium.

[12] Some of these egregious Russian crimes nay not be genuinely genocidal in literal jurisprudential terms, but nonetheless qualify as “genocide-like” crimes. For precise characterization of the concept “genocide-like crimes,” by this author, see:  Louis Rene Beres, “Genocide and Genocide-Like Crimes,” in M. Cherif Bassiouni, ed., INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW: CRIMES (Dobbs Ferry, NY:  Transnational Publishers, 1986), pp. 271 – 279.

[13] Nothing genuinely scientific can be said about actual probabilities here because they concern circumstances that are unprecedented or sui generis. In logic and mathematics, true probabilities must always be based upon the determinable frequency of pertinent past events.

[14] For early accounts by this author of expected nuclear war effects, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[15] “The mass-man,” says Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset in The Revolt of the Masses, “has no need for reason. He learns only in his own flesh.” On this point, Nietzsche generally preferred the term “herd” Later, Swiss psychologist Carl Jung favored “mass”); Sigmund Freud liked “horde, and Soren Kierkegaard “crowd.” Said the Danish philosopher famously, “The Crowd is untruth.”

[16] “Theories are nets,” reminds Karl Popper, citing to the German poet Novalis, “only he who casts, will catch.” See Popper’s epigraph to his classic, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959). Ironically, Novalis’ fellow German poet, Goethe, declared, in his early Faust fragment (Urfaust): “All theory, dear friend, is grey. But the golden tree of life is green.”

[17] Similar anti-populist sentiments would have been discovered among the Founding Fathers of the United States. See, by Professor Beres, at Oxford University Press: https://blog.oup.com/2018/04/american-people-hamilton-trump/

[18] See F.E. Adcock, The Greek and Macedonian Art of War (1962).

[19] Recall, in this connection, Bertrand Russell’s timeless warning in Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916): “Men fear thought more than they fear anything else on earth, more than ruin, more even than death.”

[20] See, by this author, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School:  Louis René Beres: https://harvardnsj.org/2015/06/core-synergies-in-israels-strategic-planning-when-the-adversarial-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts/  See also, by Professor Beres, at Modern War Institute, West Point:  https://mwi.usma.edu/threat-convergence-adversarial-whole-greater-sum-parts/

[21] See by Professor Beres at Air Space Operations Review, US Air Force https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portals/10/ASOR/Journals/Volume-1_Issue-1/Beres_Nuclear_War_Avoidance.pdf

[22] See, by this writer, Louis René Beres, https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/28931

[23] A bellum omnium contra omnes. This is, of course, a purely philosophic term. In pertinent jurisprudence, there are certain more explicit criteria of a “state of war.” More precisely, under authoritative international law, the question of whether or not a true “state of war” exists between states remains generally ambiguous. To wit, traditionally, it was held that a formal declaration of war was necessary before a true state of war could be said to exist. Hugo Grotius even divided wars into declared wars, which were legal, and undeclared wars, which were not. (See Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace, Bk. III, Chs. III, IV, and XI.) By the start of the twentieth century, the position that war obtains only after a conclusive declaration of war by one of the parties was codified by Hague Convention III. This treaty stipulated that hostilities must never commence without a “previous and explicit warning” in the form of a declaration of war or an ultimatum. (See Hague Convention III Relative to the Opening of Hostilities, 1907, 3 NRGT, 3 series, 437, article 1.) Currently, declarations of war may be tantamount to admissions of international criminality, because of the express criminalization of aggression by authoritative international law, and it could therefore represent a clear jurisprudential absurdity to tie any true state of war to formal and prior declarations of belligerency. It follows that a state of war may now exist without any formal declarations, but only if there exists an actual armed conflict between two or more states, and/or at least one of these affected states considers itself “at war.”

[24] Also, see Emmerich de Vattel, The Law of Nations (1758), “The first general law, which is to be found in the very end of the society of Nations, is that each Nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.”

[25] Significantly, Hobbes’ Leviathan was well-familiar to the founding fathers of the United States, especially Thomas Jefferson.

[26] This author, Louis René Beres, was a part of this original disciplinary inauguration at Princeton in the 1960s. In turn, much of this Princeton-based inauguration was derived from still earlier work done by Myres McDougal and Harold Lasswell at the Yale Law School.

[27] This writer’s own doctoral dissertation at Princeton, completed in 1971, explored the logical foundations of global legal centralization. See: Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (University of Denver, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 10, Monograph No.3., 1972-73), 93pp; also Louis René Beres and Harry R. Targ, Reordering the Planet: Constructing Alternative World Futures (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1974).

[28] See Louis René Beres, Reordering the Planet: Constructing Alternative World Futures (1974), above.     

[29] Here we may learn from the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s Endgame: “What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another, of seeking justification always on the same plane?”

[30] Similar sentiments can be found in the German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s metaphor: “Out of timber so crooked as that from which man is made, nothing entirely straight can be built.” This is the author’s own translation from the original German: “Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert warden.” See: Isaiah Berlin, The Crooked Timber of Humanity, xi (Henry Handy, ed., 1991) quoting Immanuel Kant’s Idee Zu Einer Allgemeinen Geschichte in Weltburgerlicher Absicht (1784).

[31] Rabbi Eleazar quoted Rabbi Hanina who said: “Scholars build the structure of peace in the world.” The Babylonian Talmud, Order Zera’im, Tractate Berakoth, IX

[32] The classic contra-view is offered by Friedrich Hegel in The Philosophy of Right, which calls the state “the march of God in the world” and “the actuality of the ethical idea.” This contra notion of the state as a sacred phenomenon was most dramatically formalized by fascist movements in the 20th century. Inter alia, the modern roots of such state-worshiping behavior lie most prominently in Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation and also in the assorted writings of Heinrich Treitschke.

[33] “The   State,” explains Ortega in The Revolt of the Masses, “after sucking out the very marrow of society, will be left bloodless, a `skeleton,’ dead with that rusty death of machinery, more gruesome even than the death of a living organism.”

[34] One may think here of the detailed warning by the High Lama in James Hilton’s Lost Horizon: “The storm…this storm that you talk of…It will be such a one, my son, as the world has not seen before. There will be no safety by arms, no help from authority, no answer in science. It will rage until every flower of culture is trampled, and all human things are leveled in a vast chaos…The Dark Ages that are to come will cover the whole world is a single pall; there will be neither escape nor sanctuary.”

[35] The principle has been well-established that orders pursuant to municipal law are no defense to violations of international law.  See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Art. 27, U.N. Conference on Law of Treaties, Doc. A/CONF.  39/27, May 23, 1969, reprinted in 8 I.L.M.  679 (1969); Free Zones of Upper Savoy and the District of Gex (Fr. v. Switz.), 1932, P.C.I.J. (ser. A/B), No. 46, at 167; Treatment of Polish Nationals in Danzig (parties abbreviated), 1932 P.C.I.J. (ser. A/B), No. 46, at 24; see also:  RESTATEMENT (second) OF THE FOREIGN RELATIONS LAW OF THE UNITED STATES.  Secs. 3.2 (collected in Legal Advisor), U.S. Dept. of State, Memorandum on the Application of International Law to Iranian Exchange Regulations (Feb. 15, 1984), reprinted in 130 Cong. Rec. S. 1679, 1682 (1984).

[36] In this regard, criminal responsibility of leaders under international law can never be limited to direct personal action or be limited by official position. On this peremptory principle of “command responsibility,” or respondeat superior, the Russian president shares all pertinent criminal responsibility with his soldiers’ murderous behavior in Ukraine, even in cases where Putin himself may not have known about specific pertinent crimes. See: In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1945); The High Command Case (The Trial of Wilhelm von Leeb), 12 Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals 1 (United Nations War Crimes Commission Comp., 1949); see Parks, Command Responsibility for War Crimes, 62 MIL.L. REV. 1 (1973); O’Brien, The Law of War, Command Responsibility and Vietnam, 60 GEO. L.J. 605 (1972); U.S. Dept. Of The Army, Army Subject Schedule No. 27 – 1 (Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Hague Convention No. IV of 1907), 10 (1970). The direct individual responsibility of leaders is also unambiguous in view of the London Agreement, which denies defendants the protection of the act of state defense. See AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS, Aug. 8, 1945, 59 Stat. 1544, E.A.S. No. 472, 82 U.N.T.S. 279, art. 7.

[37] For precise characterization of the concept, “genocide-like crimes,” see:  Louis Rene Beres, “Genocide and Genocide-Like Crimes,” in M. Cherif Bassiouni, ed., INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW: CRIMES (Dobbs Ferry, NY:  Transnational Publishers, 1986), pp. 271 – 279.

[38] See, for example, Louis René Beres and Harry R. Targ, Planning Alternative World Futures: Values, Methods and Models (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1975).

[39]The Founding Fathers of the United States were intellectuals. As explained by American historian Richard Hofstadter: “The Founding Fathers were sages, scientists, men of broad cultivation, many of them apt in classical learning, who used their wide reading in history, politics and law to solve the exigent problems of their time.” See Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), p. 145.

[40] A wonderful “summary text” of these complex issues remains W. Warren Wagar’s Building the City of Man: Outlines of a World Civilization (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1971), 180 pp.

 

[41] Still the best source of explanations for this “barrier” is Jose Ortega y’ Gasset’s seminal The Revolt of the Masses (1930).

[42] Always a key component of this dynamic is the imperative of national self-defense in a “Westphalian” (anarchic) world system. Integral to this imperative is the idea of a permissible preemption or “anticipatory self-defense.” The customary right of anticipatory self-defense has its modern origins in the Caroline incident, an event that concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, against British rule. Following this incident, the mere threat of a serious armed attack could sometimes be taken as sufficient legal justification for preemptive military action. In an historic exchange of notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that did not require a prior attack. Here, a proportionate and discriminate military response to military threat was judged permissible, as long as the danger posed was determinably “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” The term “Westphalian” references the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which formally created the current system of global Realpolitik.

[43] See Karl Jaspers, Reason and anti-Reason in Our Time (1952): “There is something inside all of us that earns not for reason, but for mystery – not for penetrating clear thought but for the whisperings of the irrational….” (p. 67).

[44] One element here is the always-crucial link between religious faith and diminished death fear. “`I believe,'” says Oswald Spengler, “is the great word against metaphysical fear, and at the same time it is an avowal of love.'” See his The Decline of the West, his Chapter on “Pythagoras, Mohammed, Cromwell.”

[45] International law is ultimately deducible from Natural Law. According to Blackstone, each state and nation is always expected “to aid and enforce the law of nations, as part of the common law, by inflicting an adequate punishment upon offenses against that universal law….” See: 2 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 4, “Of Public Wrongs.” Lest anyone ask about the significance of Blackstone, one need only point out that Commentaries are the original and core foundation of the laws of the United States.

[46] Says the Talmud: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.” On this human singularity, the most evident and unassailable commonality is our mortality. Whatever our other differences, in the end, we all die.  Moreover, Epicureanism, Stoicism and Buddhism all acknowledge an harmonious conflation of self and world. While each instructs that the death of self is meaningless, perhaps even a delusion, all still agree that the commonality of deathcan overcome corrosive divisions. This recognized “oneness” can provide humankind with certain authentic sources of expanding global cooperation. Whether or not we can ever get beyond our fear of death, it is only this conspicuous commonality that can lift us far enough above planetary fragmentation and explosive global disunity.

[47] To be sure, any such affirmation seems improbable. Nonetheless, reminds Italian film director Federico Fellini insightfully: “The visionary is the only realist.” Similarly, from the German philosopher Karl Jaspers: “Everyone knows that the world-situation in which we live is not a final one.” (Man in the Modern Age, 1951).

[48] In “The drunkard’s song,” a passage in Zarathustra, Nietzsche sums it all up with unparalleled simplicity and insight: “Tief ist ihr Weh” (“Deep is its pain”) says the philosopher about the world. This “lied” was put to music by Gustav Mahler in his Third Symphony, 4th Movement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aM9hezKudY&list=RDuPQSokfeQN8&index=2

[49] During the dissembling Trump years, large numbers of Americans, misdirected by a president who opposed Reason and Law at every turn, abandoned science and medicine in a reassuring preference for ignorance.  Twentieth-century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset clarifies the generic bases of such a leader-induced declension in his The Revolt of the Masses (1930):  “It’s not that the vulgar believes itself to be superexcellent and not vulgar, but rather that the vulgar proclaim and impose the rights of vulgarity or vulgarity itself as a right.” It is precisely this perverse “right of vulgarity” that still animates docile Trump legions of cultivated thoughtlessness and inconscience.

[50] The modern philosophic origins of “will” lie most prominently in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, especially his The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration, Schopenhauer drew freely upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely and perhaps even more importantly upon Schopenhauer. Goethe was also a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, author of the singularly prophetic twentieth-century work, The Revolt of the Masses (1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very lofty essay, “In Search of Goethe from Within” (1932), written for Die Neue Rundschau of Berlin on the occasion of the centenary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948), and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).

[51] See by this author, Louis René Beres, at Horasis: Switzerland https://horasis.org/soaring-above-politics-death-time-and-immortality/

[52] Treitschke, of course, lived before the nuclear age. Would he have proposed this same “remedy” were his country discoverable in extremis atomicum?

[53] See by this writer, at Modern Diplomacy: Louis René Beres,  https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/12/01/living-on-mountains-antecedents-of-a-dignified-and-secure-world-order/

[54]Recall here the Joseph Goebbels Third Reich party line that “Germany needs leaders with instinct, not intellect.” Said Goebbels at a Nuremberg party rally in 1934: “Intellect rots the brain.” Declared US presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016, and at several of his own Republican party rallies: “I love the poorly educated.” Later, Trump claimed that Covid19 “will disappear on its own,” ingestion of household disinfectants can help protect Americans from the Covid19 virus, that the 18th century American revolutionary army “quickly took control of all United States airports,” and that we should consider using nuclear weapons against hurricanes.

[55]See, by this author, Louis René Beres: https://www.21global.ucsb.edu/global-e/march-2018/repairing-world-its-source

[56] Fragment, 49.

[57] Faust, Part One.

[58] In the Melian Dialogues, Thucydides notes famously about the Peloponnesian War, “The standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel,” and that “the strong do what they have the power to do, and the weak accept what they have to accept.”  In Book 1 of The Republic, Plato has Thrasymachus explain to Socrates that “Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” Machiavelli’s Prince places the presumed advantages of raw power at the very center of his political theory.

[59] Just having been born augurs badly for immortality. In their desperation to live perpetually, humankind has embraced a broad panoply of faiths that promise life everlasting in exchange for an “undying” loyalty. In the end, such loyalty is transferred from the Faith to the State, which then battles with other States in what is generally taken to be a “struggle for power,” but which is often, in a deeper reality, a perceived Final Conflict between Us and Them, between Good and Evil. The advantage to being on the side of “Good” in any such contest is allegedly nothing less than the promise of eternal life.

[60] But by this author, at Oxford University Press, see:  Louis René Beres,  https://blog.oup.com/2017/04/america-first-war-politics-human-community/

[61] International law is an integral part of the legal system of all states in world politics, and assumes a reciprocally common obligation of states to supply benefits to one another. This assumption of jurisprudential solidarity is known formally as a “peremptory” or jus cogens expectation, that is, one that is never subject to question or reversal. It can be discovered early in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis, Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace (1625) and Emmerich de Vattel, The Law of Nations or Principles of Natural Law (1758).

[62] Says French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man (1955): “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.”

[63] See especially Art. 16 of Articles on State Responsibility, which notes that both above-mentioned obligations already represent authoritative expressions of customary international law (per Art. 38 of the UN Statute of the International Court of Justice).

[64] These long-standing conditions are being worsened by United States unwillingness to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a member nation.

[65]See:  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-60820215

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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International Law

An interview with Joel Angel Bravo Anduaga: Are international organizations still relevant?

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With recent developments in the international arena, and ghost conflicts from the past exacerbating contemporary global issues, it is inevitable to question what is happening with international organizations in different regions across the globe. Joel Bravo shares his insights about the importance of international organizations nowadays. Mr. Bravo is an international affairs practitioner with more than twenty years of experience managing design and implementation of strategies aimed at institutional strengthening and governance. Joel is a former electoral adviser for the United Nations to Ivory Coast (West Africa) and Timor-Leste (South-East Asia), respectively. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in Processes and Political Institutions at the University Adolfo Ibañez in Chile and a Professor at the Tecnologico de Monterrey University in Mexico. His ample experience in the field of international affairs as well as his theoretical and practical knowledge and expertise in international organizations, is crucial to help us understand the current state, challenges, and opportunities organizations faced by ongoing international conflicts.  

What is the current role of international organizations?

For starters, Joel Bravo made it clear that is very important to take into account the period we talk about when explaining the role of international organizations because different periods in time have called for different roles. There must be a differentiation between what these organizations should do and what they can do. There are two levels of analysis towards them. First, the operational level which entails the everyday actions. Second, what the mass media portrays the actions of the organizations to be. There is a lot of speculation in the media about whether the United Nations (UN) works or if the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has a fair agenda, however in the operational sense they still work every day. Hence, the true answer lies within the background and the essence of each organization; circumstances and the purpose of each one are key.

From your personal experience in the peace missions of the Ivory Coast and Timor-Leste, what is your opinion about the influence of international organizations when it comes to conflict resolution?

To begin with, Mr. Bravo explained that the interests of world powers and regional powers are crucial factors. In both cases mentioned, it logically depended on the context of the countries directly involved and the external countries as well. So, it is a mix of variables that must be considered to see what the influence of an international organization in these situations truly is. Meanwhile, in Ivory Coast, at some point, the peace mission led to elections after a certain time; the peace operation from the Security Council was one of accompaniment. In contrast, the mandate that was held in the different missions in East Timor gave the United Nations more power, not only to organize the elections from a logistical and operational point of view, but also to make political decisions.

How do international organizations influence the exercise of democracy?

Joel Bravo shared that sometimes democracy can be seen simply as a concept and other times as a system or a way of living; it stretches and lengthens according to conditions and needs. Elections are a clear example of this. In the case of Ivory Coast, the efforts to hold elections started in 2005 and did not happen until 2010 because there were no appropriate internal or external conditions. On the other hand, in East Timor in 1999, when the referendum was held and then the presidential elections occurred, it was because there were conditions to do so. Additionally, it is crucial to understand what as well the underlying interest of each international organization is: to hold elections first, and then pacify the country, or pacify the country first then hold elections. Thus, the process of adaption also proves to be a strong challenge. Many factors must be taken into consideration to have a successful democracy in practice and not only in theory, understanding democracy in a broad sense and not simply from the electoral perspective.

Do you consider that international organizations are essential so that the citizens of a country can fully exercise their rights and freedoms? Why?

Initially, Mr. Bravo began explaining the difference between international organizations being essential or necessary. He claims they are not essential but rather necessary, because in many cases there have been accusations of international organizations working in favor of specific interests and being co-opted by world powers. Nonetheless, specifically for the citizens, with the idea of liberal democracy in mind, non-democratic countries would definitely need more the support of international organizations. Yet here we come to a paradox, because if a country is not democratic, thinking for example of North Korea, it is not going to allow an organization to carry out supervision, both in internal and external matters. Then, yes, the presence would probably become essential, but it is not decisive. On the other hand, these matters should be dealt with carefully because, sometimes, the media places excessive responsibility on international organizations. It is true that they help countries, and provide validation, but, at the end of the day, they are still constrained by the context and environment of each case.

Are international organizations accountable?

All organizations, or at least the most important and most robust have internal instruments, instances of accountability, of transparency; to a certain extent they self-monitor. Nevertheless, for example, security organizations such as NATO, due to their nature it is difficult for there to be proper transparency because it would be a matter of national security for the members and the region. It depends on the organization, there are some that can be more controlled. There are some that are highly questioned, for instance, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, both which possess control mechanisms, but the question is who determines those mechanisms. Before the West was the main axis for how accountability is and is delivered; it was not questioned because there was no counterpart. China and Russia are now acting as a counterpart and there is a questioning of that order.

What impossibilities can international organizations have that do not allow them to operate as they are expected to do so in theory?

First of all, the nature of each organization is key. Nation-States are the first and focal factor. Anyhow, any international organization also considers at least two other variables, two other types of actors: economic interests represented by the companies that do lobbying and organized civil society; both of which influence decision-making and public opinion, more so in this age of social networks and cyberspace. The word international is now set too short, it would be better to called them world organizations, global organizations or regional organizations but speaking in terms of international continues to think of the Nation-State as the center, constraining its potential.

With new international conflicts developing, how does the role of international organizations change? Are they still relevant?

From a traditional point of view, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict logically has relevance, and it has been proven that international organizations sometimes fall short. Thinking, for example, of the United Nations, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which to a certain extent could not have prevented the conflict but do have a leading role. On the contrary, if these new conflicts are unknow territory, for example, what happens in the cyberspace, then international organizations are falling behind. Current conditions are shaping up to a hyper-specialization of international organizations. They are becoming increasingly technical, focusing on what needs fixing and working to agree on very specific issues. For these reasons, international organizations are in a process of adaptation. It would seem like it is still slow due to bureaucratic processes, but their relevance is still present.

What is the future of international organizations?

Mr. Bravo answered that there will be a greater presence of regionalization in international organizations that goes hand in hand with specialization. This occurs for example with NATO: in its name it continues to apparently be regional, but it is expanding.  Also, the creation of new organizations is happening, like AUKUS, which on the one hand seems to be new, but it is a continuation of political dialogue mechanisms that were already established and that are now becoming more structured. Whilst the power structure is not perceived clearer, a global restructuring of international organizations cannot be mentioned. However, what can be mentioned is a sense of greater conformation, reactivation, and strengthening of the schemes. There is a cohabitation to a certain extent of the old, traditional organizations that come from the second post-war period that have been adapting, with the new problems and the new-old problems that evolved. Especially technology, social networks and the internet have a lot to do with these transformations.

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The Noble Nobel

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One of the most coveted awards in human history, the Nobel Prize was created by the last will and testament of Alfred Nobel, inventor of the “dynamite”. These are essentially personal awards from his private estate but has since evolved into something much larger. All the Nobel Prizes are awarded in Sweden except for the Peace Prize given in Norway. Alfred Nobel flourished during the Industrial Revolution, when the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway were still together, amassing his fortune making military weapons. Some argue that these prizes were posthumously conceived to improve his reputation.

Nobel Prizes are awarded in the fields of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Literature, and the most coveted, the Peace Prize. In his will, Alfred Nobel characterized the Peace Prize to be given “to the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses”.

More than a century later, has the Nobel Peace Prize lost its luster?

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, a five-member committee appointed by the Parliament of Norway chooses the recipient. Interestingly, despite being appointed by Parliament, the committee is a private body tasked with awarding a private prize. Unless the Committee becomes inclusive, it will lose its moral authority in an increasingly divided world.

Russian journalist, Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov, drew international headlines after auctioning off the Nobel Peace Prize he had won last year for a record $103.5 million to aid Ukrainian refugees.

In doing so, he showed a level of responsibility and moral leadership that has unfortunately been lacking in the institution of the Nobel Prize itself.  This auction presents a moment to reflect on the future of the prestigious award.

Since its inception, nearly every winner of the Nobel Prize for Science has been a “white” man – as almost no scientist that were female or of any other ethnicity were deemed worthy enough to win this illustrious award. Not only this, but only four of the 200 winners in the history of the Nobel Prize for Physics have been women. The committee’s nomination and selection processes are reflected by the institution’s lack of diversity, tainting the reputation of a prize intended to celebrate humanity. This matters especially today because moral leadership is needed more than ever.

In these testing times, when the global powers are wrestling against the climate crisis, terrorism, population growth, food insecurity, refugee crisis, religious violence, Islamophobia, racism, and conflicts like the Russia-Ukraine war and its repercussions on world peace, the Nobel committee must demonstrate moral leadership. And it can only do so by redressing its centuries’ old gender and racial disparities against nominees.

The Nobel Prize committee has been on shaky ground in recent times. In matters of war and peace, the stakes are higher. In retrospect, the last two times it selected a head of state were a disaster. In 2009, the committee selected then-President Barrack Obama at the beginning of his presidency. The award was given in the hope that President Obama might change the direction of his country after he had campaigned for the office in part of his opposition to previous heavy-handed military interventions in the Middle East – notably in Iraq. This anti-war sentiment was what the Nobel committee likely honed in on when selecting him for the award.

Yet, President Obama authorized a military surge in Afghanistan and the invasion of Libya. The botched Libya invasion did remove Muammar Gaddafi, but it also helped destabilize the Sahel region, instigating a state of instability and chaos that is still with us today.

The Nobel Committee was on firmer ground when it chose Muratov along with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

Ressa is considered a brave journalist, but many in the Philippines will say otherwise and even wonder if the award was given erroneously.

Furthermore, in the case of Muratov, it is worth asking if the undisclosed bidder for his Nobel Peace Prize – was, in fact, the Norwegian government. What we know for sure is that Norway recently handed 4 million Euros worth of seized Russian media assets to Muratov.

Cordell Hull, who secured the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his role in establishing the United Nations, was the same person who turned away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust by redirecting their ships to the infamous concentration camps. On 5 June 1939, he returned a ship carrying 937 passengers. Over a quarter of them ended up dying in the Holocaust.

There have been some glaring omissions as well. At least one is worth noting. Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most significant persons of our time. Even today he is a byword for peace activism. Yet even he failed to win the Nobel Peace Prize, despite being shortlisted five times. In 2006. the former director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, said the most significant omission in the prize’s history was never awarding the peace prize to the Indian political activist Mahatma Gandhi. However, the committee’s Euro-centric inclinations kept him from receiving the prize.

The sad reality appears to be that the Nobel Peace Prize committee blurs the lines between being an independent institution guided by clear moral principles and one that is a realpolitik instrument of Norwegian foreign policy. It was only in 2017 that the committee prevented current members of the Norwegian parliament from serving on the committee. However, the membership of the committee is currently selected by Norway’s Parliament and perhaps not surprisingly includes four politicians. Two of whom are former government ministers.

With Russia invading Ukraine, China making its own bold land grab in the South China Sea, disinformation on the rise, and many democracies in OECD countries facing a populist if not putschist threat, clear moral leadership on the international stage is needed more than ever.

The Nobel Prize Committee, in this context should take several reforms designed to make the organization more representative.

Firstly, the organization should clearly establish itself as a civil society organization – not an arm of Norwegian foreign policy. The presence of former or current politicians on the committee should be limited if not removed entirely. More civil society leaders like human rights experts would go a long way here.

Second, the committee lacks diversity considering it is composed of entirely of people from white, Christian backgrounds and, of course, Norwegian. Why aren’t representatives of Norway’s immigrant communities or even the ethnic Sami people a key feature of its famed instrument of soft power?

Thirdly, the committee should not be afraid to revoke the Nobel Prizes given to individuals who later betray its principles.

Again, these are extraordinary times, and the Nobel Committee is an important institution whose peace prize is closely followed globally. With Western institutions under pressure, the Nobel Peace Prize is an entity worth saving. The choice is Norway’s.

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International Law

Regulate outer space before it is too late

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The war in Ukraine has reached outer space as Russia and the United States lock horns in flag-waving catfightsin the International Space Station, long heralded as the epitome of international co-operation. This is the second international conflict manifesting itself in space in just over a month. A few weeks ago, the collapse of the Kleo Connect joint venture between Europe and China, aimed at producing hundreds of Low-Earth Orbit satellites, highlighted the fragility of the space domain.

These developments are a timely reminder that the EU’s new multilateral space initiatives are not sufficient and need to be accompanied by a durable framework for cooperation and non-conflictual competition in space.

Outer space is a global commons, which means it is in everyone’s interest that new codes of conduct and treaties are implemented to ensure greater collaboration between states and private space actors. So how do we keep the peace in space while still encouraging healthy competition the fuels innovation? The key lies in smart regulation and strong multilateral consensus. Given the intimate connection between space security and terrestrial security, a simple yet compelling principle must guide space security and inter-state relations down here on Earth: if outer space becomes critically unsafe, it will be unsafe for everyone without exception. 


The rules, or lack thereof, that govern space today, are already directly impacting our relations here on Earth. The quest for space supremacy has catalysed the increasingly fraught relations between the U.S., China and Russia, as well as between the UK and the EU, as Brexit forced Britain to leave the EU’s Galileo system.


Competition in the space domain is crucial for the development and improvement of increasingly complex space technologies. However, this unchecked, and potentially conflictual competition, has come hand in hand with an increasingly insecure space frontier. The global race for ever more accurate satellite infrastructure has induced a rise of increasingly hostile cyber operations. The transmission of counterfeit signals, known as spoofing, the intentional interference of signals, known as jamming, hijacking and even direct kinetic attacks are likely to become more frequent as they given the cloak of national security. They are a growing concern for sustainable global security.


Despite its limitations, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, established over half a century ago, remains the foundation of international space law and is the most important of the UN’s five major space treaties. The lack of a renewed treaty capturing all the technological advancements achieved over the last decades has created a vacuum in the space domain that has been filled by increasing anarchy and narrow unilateral geopolitical goals.


While the 1967 treaty critically prohibits the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in outer space, it does not prohibit the launch of ballistic missiles through space. It also does not prohibit the placement of non-nuclear weapons in space. In short, the treaty does not prevent all forms of escalation, and it leaves many issues unaddressed, particularly in the age of new weapons and cyber technologies. The unwillingness of the signatory parties to develop their space capacities exclusively for “peaceful purposes”, as stipulated in the treaty, has set a precedent for accepting militarised space use, which continues today.


While space infrastructure undoubtedly holds an important role in national defence and security, it also plays a pivotal role in our global economy. Our global communications systems powered by satellites allow us to closely monitor the trillions of dollars’ worth of goods being traded every day. We receive crucial intelligence regarding geological and meteorological developments through our satellites that allow us to thwart natural disasters saving trillions of dollars and thousands of lives in the process. Satellites now also play a decisive role in our ability to monitor and track worrying changes in our climate and environment. More resources need to be allocated into these crucial activities and away from reckless military escalation.


The use of the ISS for national propaganda and the collapse of the Kleo Connect joint venture illustrates that the trust and cooperation needed for rival countries to navigate the space economy are still in short supply. The EU’s new Space Traffic Management initiative aims to develop an EU strategy to ensure the safe and sustainable use of space while preserving the EU space industry’s competitiveness. It is a step in the right direction but it is not enough to defuse tensions in space. Given the critical role of outer space both for civilian and military purposes, a carefully managed, well-regulated and cooperative framework is indispensable moving forward. Gaps in space law, such as over space mining and debris and the role of private actors, will need to be addressed responsibly within international fora with legally binding agreements. Other neglected areas include space debris mitigation, situational awareness and space traffic management rules. The same ethos that spearheaded the successful Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Partial Test Ban Treaty must steer our space relations. 

Our advanced societies are becoming increasingly and irreversibly overdependent on outer space in our daily activities. Therefore, any disruption or conflict in outer space, intentional or accidental, will be at the detriment of us all. Regulating space is an urgent priority for the global community – it is high time that it is treated as one.

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