24 August, 2009 — MRZine – Monthly Review
It was just a matter of time before members of the collapsing left enlisted in the imperial attack on the most fundamental principles of the UN Charter, and added their voices to the growing chorus of support for Western power-projection under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine (R2P) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). But this has now been done in Foreign Policy in Focus by John Feffer, Ian Williams, and David Greenberg.1 That such a rightward turn could find a home at the Institute for Policy Studies, whose biweekly bulletins still arrive under the heading “Unconventional Wisdom,” and which connects the “research and action of more than 600 scholars, advocates, and activists seeking to make the United States a more responsible global partner,” we find deeply troubling.
Chapter I of the UN Charter states: “To maintain international peace and security,” all member states shall respect the “principle of the sovereign equality” of their fellow members, “settle their international disputes by peaceful means,” and “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”2 These principles rest on the fact that at the end of World War II, in 1945, it was understood that the greatest threat to world order was posed, not by events occurring inside single countries, whether caused by natural or human agency, and no matter how catastrophic the loss of life, but by aggressive, cross-border wars waged by states — “not only an international crime,” in the Nuremberg Judgment‘s famous phrase, rendered 15 months after the UN’s founding conference in San Francisco, but the “supreme international crimediffering only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”3 Article 2(7) therefore wisely removes the temptation to intervene, with its unlimited potential for abuse by the greater powers, from even the United Nations itself: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” It is not by fetishizing “national sovereignty” over human rights (though this canard has spread like a weed the past 20 years4), but by raising a barrier to aggression and its threat to human rights that the Charter organizes its world order. When purported “revolutions” in the advancement of human rights and international justice are purchased at the price of overturning this order, we ought to regard them with the utmost skepticism. Particularly when the cases in hand reveal no real difference from the past.