A Cure for Assadism

Consider the vexing situation that Bashar al-Assad has created by employing chemical warfare against his countrymen.  As things now stand, the world community t has only three means of responding to a crisis such as this:

  • One, it can simply ignore the issue in the expectation that its significance will fade in time.
  • Two, the United Nations can deliberate the issue and, provided it can muster sufficient unity, issue a formal condemnation possibly backed by sanctions against the perpetrator.  Or…
  •  Three, individual nations can take it upon themselves to forcibly punish the offender’s regime.

Assad’s crime is just one more example illustrating the inefficacy of all three options.  To do nothing is to encourage the use of poison gas by others in the future.  Hardly a propitious outlook for a peaceful world.  To turn the issue over to the United Nations for no further action beyond an outward show of toothless disapproval.  And, as far as the third option is concerned, the notion of any nation taking upon itself the roles of the world ’s judge, jury, and enforcer is, on the face of it, unworkable.  Upon entering into the fray on the side of virtue, the do-gooder’s motives are likely to be unappreciated by the suspicious victim, unwelcomed by the aggressor, unaffordable for the noble rescuer, and unacceptable to everyone else.

Limited to its three options, the world community is thus left to helplessly stumble from one dilemma to the next, hoping against hope, that the next will not be the “one dilemma too many”–that is to say, the one that will be the ruination of us all.

What could be more obvious than the need for a fourth option: a lawful,  effective, muscular means of dealing with recurring threats to the peaceful enjoyment of life by the world’s inhabitants?  Put another way, what could be more obvious than the need for an expansion of the proven means by which the populace of civilized countries now secure their personal safety?  In short, what could be more obvious than the need for an International Constabulary?

Back in October, 2006, the World Future Society carried my report entitled “The Case for a World Police Force”as part of their web “Global Stategies Forum.  Not content to let a good idea go to waste, I included the report’s main provisions in this blog on April 1, 2011 within four posts advocating a step-by-step evolution of a world government.  The unspeakable gassing of men, women, and children in Damascus brought these efforts to mind.  Sections from this report, somewhat revised to bring them up to date, are reprinted below:

THE LIMITS OF NEGOTIATION

This globe of ours is such a troublesome, contentious place that it is  too much to hope that the settlement of violent  outbreaks is always susceptible to negotiation no matter how artfully conducted and well intentioned.  There are simply too many breeding grounds for extremism: the pressure of overpopulation; food, water, and energy shortages; environmental degradation; and a full tinderbox of economic, racial, national, religious, and ethnic tensions.   And, if history is any judge,  there is every reason to expect that a variety of nut-cake extremists will always be on hand to capitalize on the misery arising from these problems—each eager to contribute his own ingenuity to the horrific acts of his predecessors.  Nor should we be surprised if, some day in the future, one of these gentlemen shows up armed, not just with Saddam Hussein’s pretend H-bombs, but the real thing.

Even the most casual survey of recorded history should convince anyone that past armed conflicts between nations, however unwelcomed, have played a dominant role in reshaping the political map of the world.  Thus any vision of the future, that did not take into consideration the continued role of force, is either dangerously naïve or altogether foolhardy.  The question becomes, then, what kind of force will be encountered, legal or illegal?  Allow me to explain.

THE FALLACY OF LAW-AND-ORDER:

Oddly enough, those who claim to be the most devoted to world peace have also been the most adamant in resisting the only realistic means of attaining it: prompt forceful intervention—in other words, force as the first resort.  Force as the first resort?  Yes, I know.  The thought alone is enough to send cultured young ladies swooning onto the nearest divan, United Nations delegates dispatching word to their capitals of yet another trigger-happy American cowboy run amuck, and pacifists herding their children out of earshot.  Nor is it hard to imagine what responses such apostasy might provoke among these groups: “barbarous!” “insensitive!” “gross disregard for human life!” “why the very idea is a throwback to the Middle Ages.”

The watchword of diplomats is, of course, the opposite.  Peace, or at least the illusion of it,  must reign.  To promote it they have erected the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, International Criminal Court, and a number of other such tribunals.  And these formidable institutions are served by the International Law Association with fifty regional branches around the world whose lawyer members are dedicated to such issues as compensation for the victims of combat, protection of persons and property, international civil litigation and so on.  On paper, it is a formidable array to be sure.

On the ground, however, the application of justice is somewhat more problematical.  The refugees in Darfur, the slaves in Niger, the malnourished peasants in North Korea, the downtrodden multitudes in the Middle East, the survivors of the ethnic wars in the Balkans, and other oppressed groups around the world might be forgiven for wishing that the legions of attorneys, marching back and forth between courthouses, would march to their rescue instead, trading in their briefcases for AK-47s along the way.

This is not to disparage the role for peaceful settlement in world affairs.  It is, of course, a vital part of the law-and-order paradigm that underlies western civilization.  But it is only half the story.  The other half is “order,” and it is the purpose of this posting to contend that we will never enjoy a peaceable world until international order and international law are indivisibly linked in that order.

THE VIRTUE OF ORDER-AND-LAW:

The notion that we can place total reliance on peaceful means to resolve world conflicts is all the more inexplicable when one considers that the notion would be considered laughable by one and all in every jurisdiction but the international.  At the national, state, and local levels the sequence of order-before-law is universally practiced if not commonly enumerated.  In the event of a holdup, for example, government officials do not rush an attorney to the crime scene with instructions to deter the criminal by reciting the precise legal code he is in the process of violating.  Nor is any attempt made to warn the criminal that, should he persist, volunteers from the Salvation Army will hunt him down and demand that he thenceforth pursue the ten steps to righteousness.  Practical experience suggests that neither of these stratagems would be particularly helpful—the criminal mind being less susceptible to peaceful persuasion than we might like.  When a crime is committed we have learned to dispatch policemen first and involve attorneys second.

The reason a policeman is effective in quelling crime on the street (and an attorney is not) is that the former is empowered to use brute force.  At his waist he carries a hand gun, his squad car contains more lethal weaponry, and on his chest he wears a badge that entitles him, under prescribed circumstances, to execute his fellow human beings.  And if he alone cannot supply the requisite force in any given situation, he is equipped with a radio that can summon as many similarly armed colleagues as necessary to overpower any opposition with overwhelming strength and prompt dispatch.

Yet despite the formidable force that the police can bring to bear, we welcome their being afoot and reserve the bulk of our complaints to there not being enough of them.  And if by any chance we forget that civil peace rests upon their presence, there are incidents enough worldwide to remind us of reality.  The looting of Baghdad in April, 2004 serves as example of what can happen to a city when there are no police on hand. Post-Katrina New Orleans is another.

Nevertheless, when it comes to international matters the fundamentals of law enforcement, so universally accepted at every other level,  are not merely ignored, they are harshly condemned.  Apparently no United Nations delegate worth his salt dares raise his voice regarding a dispute between nations without first proclaiming, “force must be a last resort” by which he means, “negotiations are the first-through-the-penultimate last resort.”  Thus he is certain to argue for reasonableness, negotiations, moral consensus, and express good will as the means of settling the dispute.  With, I might add, the same results speculated upon earlier in conjunction with an attorney’s hypothetical attempt to halt an ongoing robbery.

The question thus arises, why is there universal acceptance of force within national boundaries and why is it universally condemned without?  Logic would seem to argue that, if anything, the opposite were true.  At their very worst, internal rogues might be responsible for a score or so deaths; external rogues have proven themselves capable of producing millions of them.

LEGAL vs ILLEGAL FORCE

Moreover, historical trends would seem to argue for ever more encompassing law enforcement.  The personal safety enjoyed today by the inhabitants of developed countries is a relatively recent phenomenon.  One doesn’t have to go back many centuries to a time when marauding brigands, local feuds, and arbitrary rule made life for the average person a chancy proposition.  Gradually, in many parts of the world, populations learned to protect themselves by setting up institutions at the local level, then regionally, and finally countrywide—the governing principle being that the scope of law enforcement had to be comparable to that of the criminal activity it was assigned to overcome.  As a logical extension of this process, there would be good reason to suppose that the umbrella of safety provided by local police will continue to widen so as to cross national boundaries.  Indeed, the threat posed by international terrorism and nuclear armed ballistic missiles that can be targeted anyplace on earth, would seem to make this natural culmination of an age-old self-evident trend mandatory.

Much of the blame for the world’s failure to submit to the rule of law can be laid, of course, to short-sighted, xenophobic national interests.  But there is also honest, if misplaced, confusion between illegal force and force that is legally authorized.   Unfortunately, thus far on the international scene, the world has known only instances of the former: marauding armies, the violation of humane norms, the oppression of peoples, the destruction of cities, and so on.  Since the end of World War II, there have been some two-hundred and fifty “illegal” wars throughout the world—an average of over four per annum.  It would not be surprising, therefore, if these are the brutal images that come to mind in connection with an international police force.

On the other hand, the world community has no experience with an effective international legalized force.  When at the end of both world wars their horrors were fresh in people’s minds, efforts were made to institute one but they were promptly squashed by xenophobia concerns.  Clearly, the time has come to rethink matters in a world more fraught with danger than ever.  There is, as they say, no time to lose.  The world must adopt a system of law enforcement that is both powerful and empowered.  And the best place to start is what we already know works, the tried and true  local police force.

THE FUNCTIONS OF LOCAL POLICE:

One area in which police have an essential function is the enforcement arm of the justice system such as defending minority civil rights and the performance of routine duties such as traffic control.  And in these cases they are, of course, subservient to government control.  Whether any or all of these duties should be internationalized is outside the province of the force envisioned in this essay.

Separate from what can be called the police civil duties mentioned above are its peace-keeping operations that are so integrated into our society’s makeup we never give them a second thought except when needed.  But consider that the set of rules now governing them is the result of a trial-and-error evolutionary process going back centuries.  And the fact that it has been adopted in more or less the same form by every democratic country attests to its efficaciousness.  In outline form, these are stated below:

a) An essential duty of the police is to promptly quell disturbances to the peace with minimum loss of life and property.  An emphasis on promptness is warranted.  The earlier a disturbance is confronted, the more easily it can be repelled.  In addition to merely reacting to violent incidents, the police are also expected to anticipate them and respond proactively.

b) In order to accomplish its peace-keeping function, the police must be empowered to act autonomously.  A policeman need not, for example, get approval from the city mayor before chasing after an escaping bank robber.

c) Whether the disturbance involves an unruly crowd, a gunfight with a gang of terrorists holed up in a building, or a prison riot, the police are expected to apply overwhelming measures to quell it including, if necessary, deadly force.

d) Police are expected to enforce existing law including the strict implementation of its minor provisions—nipping trouble in the bud, as it were—to discourage major incursions of the law.

e) In none of the above functions do the police have a judicial responsibility other than in peripheral matters such as the collection of evidence and holding suspects until they can be turned over to the justice system.  It is explicitly outside their realm to decide issues of guilt or innocence and to decree punishment.

THE SHAPE OF AN INTERNATIONAL CONSTABULARY:

Projecting the above time-tested, salient features of peacekeeping onto the international scene allows us to get a general picture of what an International Constabulary, or IC, might look like if it were in place today.

Structurally, the IC is composed of individual standing units each operating within a proscribed geographical limit and each drawing largely upon the manpower and resources available within its region.  Typically, regional units are of division strength numbering about 15,000 soldiers and equipped with enough armor, transport, engineering, and supplies to operate independently and backed up by air support.  Should its size prove inadequate to handle a particular situation, it can call for help from as many other regional forces as necessary.

During its formative period (see below) the cost of each regional IC is borne by the nations to which it is linked.  Eventually, after the regionals are consolidated, their cost is borne by a tax assessed upon all countries in proportion to their GDP’s.

It’s mission, as I have said, is to quell any major outbreak of violence in its territory whether resulting from a territorial dispute, insurrection, violent demonstrations, revolutions, widespread anarchy, or ethnic and religious disputes.  In cases of threatened violence such as the development of weapons of mass destruction, it might act unilaterally or, in less clearcut situations, voluntarily seek authorization from a world body.  Its most important contribution to peace, of course, is simply its ability to discourage violence by its mere existence.  In any case, IC activities are limited to the restoration of peace.  Final adjudication of disputes rests with the international courts.

THE CREATION OF AN INTERNATIONAL CONSTABULARY

Does the notion of an International Constabulary strike you as an unrealizable fantasy?  It needn’t.  No more than that of a medieval coachman waylaid by highwaymen on a country road and left wishing that something ought to be done to prevent such lawlessness.  History records that, in fact, something was done.  A sheriff eventually was appointed and given enough support to make travel in his borough safe.  To my mind, it does not take too great a stretch of the imagination for the public to lose patience with present-day highwaymen and demand that an organization be formed to stop them.  Certainly the stakes in today’s cops-versus-robbers game are a hell of a lot higher.

But, however desirable an international police force might be, there is virtually no way that it could be imposed top-down upon all the nations of the world in one fell swoop.  There is simply too much distrust between them, too huge an expenditure required, and too many unknown ramifications entailed in such a radical reconfiguration of the world’s power structure.

Consider an alternative approach in which an International Constabulary would develop over a period of time in stages.  For starters, the United Nations could convene an international conference for the purpose of drafting a model, uniform code under which components of a future IC could begin to operate.  And once such a model code was in existence, a number of countries would, I believe, find good reason to put it to use in their own special situations.

a) Begin with Syria now racked by internal strife.  Would not substituting neutral IC battalions for its own security forces encourage the insurgents to lay down their arms and take their dispute to the international courts? And would this not offer promise for an earlier and fairer resolution to the conflict?

b) Then consider the not uncommon situation in which two adjacent countries, let’s say India and Pakistan, are engaged in a border dispute.  Would they not be well advised to support a regional IC to patrol the disputed boundary rather than continuing to incur the risk and expense of stationing hostile forces in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation?

c) How about the country, Ukraine for example, that has reason to fear a second Russian invasion?  Surely the presence of a branch of the IC would furnish a more effective deterrent to the would-be aggressor than the threatened nation could post on its own.

d) And what if the Scandinavian countries elected to replace their independent armies for a regional IC simply for the savings it offered?

e) And then there are the Sub-Saharan countries in Africa plagued by bands of marauders. Would not a substantial regional IC help stabilize their integrity.

These are just a few of the situations in which regional ICs might well offer speedier, cheaper, and fairer resolutions of common conflicts.  There would be good reason to hope, therefore, that over time they would proliferate.  Assuming they all subscribed to the original model code, it would not take too great a leap of faith to imagine that, thanks to the power of self organization, their eventually being aggregated, in a bottom-up fashion, first into regional groupings and eventually into a truly international body.  And were this to happen, the world would be entitled, I believe, to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

A WISTFUL FINAL NOTE

Returning to the Syrian situation, had the world been fortunate enough to have sheltered under the umbrella of the International Constabulary for the last forty years, Bashar al-Assad’s poison gas attack would never have happened.  In 1982, when his uncle, Rifaat al-Assad , ordered the execution of thousands of presumably disloyal civilians in the Syrian city of Hama, the IC would surely not have countenanced this gross violation of human rights.  The constabulary’s forces would have promptly rounded up the key figures in the Assad regime including, of course, Bashar’s father, Hafez, the country’s president.  Thus Bashar, who, at the time of the massacre, was in London quietly pursuing a career in ophthalmology, would have been allowed to continue practicing his chosen profession, his doctor’s pledge “to do no harm” remaining inviolate and, in 2013, some 400 Syrian children allowed to enjoy a normal life.

 

 

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