International Law



U.S.-Taliban meetings in Doha reach an impasse, as enormous humanitarian disaster approaches

With the Americans and the Europeans firmly set in their demands that the Taliban provide guarantees for the respect of human rights before assets can be freed or aid can flow, the Afghan economy appears on the verge of collapse.

As winter is fast approaching, a humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions becomes more likely very day.

It is difficult to see either side yielding, while diplomacy is awkward and takes a lot of time.

In these circumstances, it seems likely that millions of Afghans will starve to death before the assistance they so desperately need reaches them.



Abandoning Afghanistan: The moral costs

President Joe Biden ridiculed the Afghan soldiers who did not fight after the American withdrawal left them with no prospect of holding their own against the Taliban. Biden’s remarks were a cruel attack upon soldiers who had founght valiantly over the years, at a cost of some 68,000 lives.

He didn’t mention the girls of Afghanistan, who for 20 years displayed great courage in going to school, too many times at the cost of their lives. Angelina Jolie pays tribute to these girls and women, and their courage.


The U.S. “playbook” for drones and self-defense under international law

See, Charlie Savage, “Afghanistan Collapse and Strikes in Somalia Raise Snags for Drone Warfare Rules; But the Biden administration is close to finishing a new…


The Big Picture: President Biden’s Decision to Withdraw from Afghanistan

The decision to surrender to the Taliban and abandon our Afghan allies and supporters is among the most craven and dastardly decisions in U.S. military and foreign policy history. One searches in history for a decision of such dishonorable magnitude.

The comparison that comes to mind is the agreement by Neville Chamberlain of England and Ėdouard Daladier of France with Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgarten in October, 1938. The agreement, known as tge Munich Pact, has become synonymous with betrayal and appeasement

That will be Joe Biden’s legacy, unless he changes course, which seems unlikely.



Afghanistan and the Decline of Enlightenment Values

The withdrawal of the U.S. and its allies from Afghanistan, and its inenluctable consequences, represent a signal retreat by the U.S. and its democratic allies from the defense of democratic values and the ideal of democracy.

The great tragedy is that 20 years of support for the democratic project in Afghanistan had produced impressive progress, in what was necessarily a long-term project. The failure of U.S. military and political leaders to understand and accept the long-term nature of the project—framing the question of Afghanistan as one of “When can we bring the troops home?”–was the fundamental and ultimately fatal flaw in U.S. strategy in the country.

Powerless. That’s how I and many others feel in the face of President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw completely from Afghanistan. Despite the wholly predictable consequences of that decision, Biden remains stubbornly defiant, ignoring or indifferent to the realities unfolding before him.

Powerless, as undoubtedly many millions of Afghans in Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and other cities must feel today.


We have forgotten the lessons of the 20th Century. International Peace and Security cannot be taken for granted. They depend on support of and adherence to international law, and the constant reaffirmation of international law, including human rights law and humanitarian law.

We have fogotten the lesson that aggression and crimes against humanity and war crimes must be vigorously resisted, or their perpetrators, like Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, will triumph.

We have forgotten the lessons of Srebrenica, that crimes against humanity must be resisted, stopped, and punished.

Ultimately, there is no rational defense of stupidity. Stupidity may accompany a lack of empathy or sense of moral imperatives to defend sacred moral values.

Regardless of whether it is the product of callous indifference or brute stupidity, or a combination of the two, Biden’s withdrawal decision seems to be set in stone. And even the rational analysts’s observations, like those of the historians, may fall like ashes into the dark canyon of oblivion.

Will the values of the Enlightenment be saved, resuscitated to light the way of a stumbling humanity which has lost its way?

It all depends on us. With deep faith in humanity, surely on a brighter day, those of us who are creatures of the Enlightenment and who still believe in the highest values of humanity, will again somehow find our way.

For we must.



Israel and Gaza: The world without international law

Hamas has been firing rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip in violation of international law. Specifically, it has been violating the prohibition of the use of force contained in article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter. This prohibition is contained in a norm of jus cogens or peremptory law, from which there can be no derogation by agreement.

Israel has the right of self-defense against an armed attack in accordance with Article 51 if the U.N. Charter and general international law.

However, the exercise of this right is subject to two conditions:

First, the use of force in self-defense must be necessary to stop the armed attack to which the country is being subjected. Here, that means the force used must be aimed at stopping the armed attack, and rationally related to that objective.

Second, the use of force by Israel must be proportional to the threat posed by the armed attack by Hamas.

Regardless of whether or not Israel can sustain its argument under international law, as interpreted by impartial experts, that its use of force against Gaza is a necessary and proportionate response to Hamas’ rocket attacks against Israel, Israel is legally obligated to comply with international humanitarian law (the laws of war).

International humanitarian Law prohibits the targeting of civilians, including news agencies. The Israeli military gave residents of a residential building in which the Associated Press and Al Jazeera had their offices one hour to evacuate the building before it was bombed.

This warning constituted undeniable evidence that this residential building, filled with civilian residents and workers, was deliberately targeted.

Consequently, the bombing of this building would appear to constitute an egregious war crime by Israel. Bombings of other civilian targets also represent presumptive war crimes.

The United States should not veto any Security Council resolutions necessary to take these steps.

The steps suggested above would lead back to the path of international law and a cessation of hostilities.

The alternative is a continuation of the the illegal actions we have witnessed in recent days, and a progression toward a wider war.




China and Russia form common front against the West

One such mistake has been to grant unscripted interviews on television. In his interview with George Stephanoupoulis, on ABC-TV, Stephanapoulis asked him if he thought Vladimir Putin was “a killer”. Biden, unaccompanied by his handlers and off-script, naively answered, “Yes.”

The answer enraged Putin, who at a press conference, said,

“What would I answer him? I would tell him: be healthy,” Putin said. “I wish him good health. I say this without irony, no jokes. This is first of all.”
CNN

So, Biden’s first big mistakes vis-à-vis Russia and China were to publicly call Putin a “killer” and to adopt a confrontational attitude at the first bi-lateral meeting between foreign ministers with China.

In both cases, Buden and Blinken were playing primarily to their domestic audience. The point is not that Biden and Blinken should not have spelled out in detail their criticisms of China. The point is this was the wrong time and the wrong place.

The common front against the West should come as no surprise. Its timing has at least symbolic significance.


Khashoggi assassination: To really sanction MBS, minimize U.S. and allied dealings with him

Now, the U.S. can send a subte message to King Salman and the Saudi Royal family by having minimal contact and interaction with the Crown Prince.

The Saudis can choose whoever they want to be King.  But they should know that Americans will never forget or forgive the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.

If the Saudis enthrone MBS they are likely to have one kind of relationship with the United States. 8ut if they choose someone else to be King, they could have another kind of relationship.


Where can Trump go to escape the law? Israeli settlements in the West Bank?

First, because it is occupied territory it is far from clear that the U.S. extradition treaty with Israel would be held to apply. In any event, if an extradition request were made to Israel, the treaty’s dubious applicability to the occupied territories would offer Trump and his co-conspirators ample opportunity for litigation and delay–and, if need be, escape.

Second, if Trump becomes the object of an extradition request, or an INTERPOL “red ticket” for his arrest, should his West Bank settlement refuge become risky, he can always slip over the border into Saudi Arabia.

If Saudi Arabia represents a strong and secure fall-back location for Trump and his co-conspirators, the West Bank represents a huge potential for real-estate and other developments by Trump and his minions.

One can easily imagine one or more West Bank Trump Tower and Golf Resorts  in the West Bank.  The weather is ideal during the winter months in Europe, which is a relatively short plane ride away (six or seven hours from Paris).

But it is time to act.  The clock is ticking.



Fighting continues over Nagorno-Karabakh; ceasefire does not hold

Fighting continues in and over Nagorno-Karabakh. The Russian-brokered ceasefire agreed upon in Moscow on Saturday is not holding. It is time for the U.N. Security…