Thursday, July 11, 2013

What is International Law? Is International Law Real? Is it Just?

It is difficult for me to view international law without also identifying the consolidation of imperial power, which shifted into economic globalization through centuries of colonial imperialism, two so-called World Wars, and the final victory for private sector capitalism after the Cold War.

The basis for so-called international law can be found in “treaties and conventions” among large groups of states, especially in cases when a majority of global states agree on the issue at hand [1]. I purposely utilized the phrase large groups to distinguish between larger treaties, such as the one that created the United Nations, and bilateral treaties, usually solidified for economic trade motives, which only bind the two states signing the agreement. When it is a small number of states signing a treaty or convention between multiple states, the agreement can “only apply to those states that have signed and ratified” the treaty or convention, it not does not automatically “create a new rule of general international law” [2]. Unfortunately for supporters of law and equality, if the signatories of these treaties and conventions are economic or military giants of the private sector global market, or the consolidated alliance formed from the ashes of both World Wars, with the World Trade Organization and the Bretton Woods financial creations backing them, smaller states usually have no choice except to adhere to so-called international law or be economically isolated. In the same manner, “states that specifically refuse to acquiesce in the new rule”, or submit on bended knee, “by refusing to ratify the treaty or adhere to it are” often sanctioned, economically isolated on the global stage, or is often stricken by a sudden regime change courtesy of a foreign military intervention and occupation (such as Iraq).

History clearly shows us that capital runs the globe, and that the United States does not have to adhere or comply with these rules established as so-called international law. The United States pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2001 and never ratified the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, which was signed into international acceptance in September of 1996 [4]. There are a handful of these examples concerning the United States with no international challenge or consequences. Other examples include: 1) The Mine Ban Treaty of 1997, which places the U.S. as the only unsigned NATO member to that treaty. 2) The Convention on the Rights of the Child, unsigned only by the U.S. and Somalia. 3) The Convention on discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an unsigned convention leaving the U.S. alongside other unsigned states such as Iran (who the U.S. has the nerve to push sanctions against on the international stage) and Sudan [5]. It is obvious that the U.S., nor its allies, have to obey international treaties or conventions when it boils down to it.

While economic and military powers such as the United States and the members of the UN Security Council (with their international vetoes) are not required to follow international treaties and conventions, smaller states also receive favoritism. How many times has the United States issued a veto to block international condemnation in the United Nations criticizing Israeli aggression? While the U.S. refused the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty and withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, as a military and capital power on the global stage, they are unchallenged in pushing harsher sanctions on Iran (the same sanctions which led to an unchallenged unilateral military regime removal on Iraq by the U.S. and a 10 year occupation) based on unfounded accusations (not proof) of nuclear weapons development. At the same time, Israel, who has been heavily funded and protected by the U.S. since the 1960s, is internationally known to have nuclear weapons, but has never signed the international non-proliferation treaty and refuted calls in 2010 to sign the treaty [6].

In closing, international law is identical to domestic law in the United States as both are controlled by capital. The system looks to work because it is a wide structure of many different international issues that the most powerful states adhere to because most of the issues are not threatening to international capital accumulation or the current military balance of power (or should I use the word hegemon) on the international stage.

[1] Gerhard von Glahn and James Larry Taublee, Law Among Nations: an Introduction to Public International Law 9 (2010), p. 45.

[2] Gerhard von Glahn and James Larry Taublee, Law Among Nations: an Introduction to Public International Law 9 (2010), p. 46.

[3] Gerhard von Glahn and James Larry Taublee, Law Among Nations: an Introduction to Public International Law 9 (2010), p. 46.

[4] Paul Kurtz and Matt Cravatta, America’s Shame: Neglected Treaties, Council for Secular Humanism (Accessed July 11, 2013 at 16:25), http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=kurtz_28_3

[5] Paul Kurtz and Matt Cravatta, America’s Shame: Neglected Treaties, Council for Secular Humanism (Accessed July 11, 2013 at 16:25), http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=kurtz_28_3

[6] Joseph Nasr, Israel rejects Call to join anti-nuclear treaty, Reuters, May 29, 2010 (Accessed on July 11, 2013 at 17:20), http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/05/29/us-israel-nuclear-treaty-idUSTRE64S1ZN20100529

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