[extropy-chat] Does international law exist and is it intheinterests of US citizens?

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at bigpond.net.au
Mon Aug 16 16:35:57 UTC 2004

Brian Lee wrote:

> .. The problem with international law is that there is no one willing
> to threaten enforcement.

I can't agree with you on that Brian. (I'm talking from memory rather
than giving you specifics so reserve the right to tidy my language if
this argument gets interesting), in the case of the first gulf war on
George H W Bush's watch, the UN Security Council authorised
the use of force to eject Saddam from Kuwait.  International law 
in this case the UN Charter which is sort of a like the constitution
for internation law, not only threatened enforcement, it delivered 

Speaking loosely again I'm a humanist rationalist atheist - I don't
normally talk in terms like righteous and just war but that one was.
And George H. W Bush got criticised for not exceeding the authority
of the existing UN resolution but in my opinion that restraint was to
his credit as a statesman.  

I think the real problem with international law is that in a world with
only one remaining military super power the temptation to bulldust and
spin gets very high and the citizens of most of the developed western
nations which have an understanding of their own laws and constitutions
(sometimes) don't really have much of an understanding of how the
UN security council works. This is understandable but I think it is
a big part of the problem. If the US citizens had had a better
understanding of the UN Charter I think that George W Bush would
have more domestic pressure and more good advice and he may have
found a better solution to the new post september 11 problem of rouge 
countries having weapons of mass destruction.  He may have IF he
was operating in good faith which I am less confident of now than
I was at the time of Resolution 1441.

> I don't see the US signing up for any international law program 
> because it doesn't benefit. If you take a look at stuff like WTO
> and NAFTA then that's more likely the only international law 
> that will hold any power.

The US was a founder of the UN. It not only signed the UN charter
but it holds (from memory) all the original signatures. The UN Charter
is the document into which (I think from memory) almost all other
international laws bolt in. 

The power behind the UN Security Council is the power of the 5
victorious countries in WW11 that make up the permanent members.
The US, the UK, Russia, China, France. There are 10 other
non permanent security council members that are elected from
time to time. 

Because the UN Charter is mostly aimed at maintaining international
peace and security the security councils powers are limited. Any
one of the permanent 5 can veto and action that the others might
want to take thereby making a resolution unreachable and no lawful
action taken. If you consider the cold war and that China and Russia
were often on different sides of political issues to the US, the UK
and France then it is not so surprising that these 5 often could not
come to agree that certain actions should be resolved to be taken
- often it was one of these five that was causing the problem in the
first place. 

To understand the UN charter its necessary to understand that
none of the permanent 5 could have a UN Resolution passed to
enforce international law upon them because they'd veto it. 

Most lay-folk don't get that.  The whole subject area seems to
esoteric or boring to them. Its not where they live.  Thats unfortunate
because international law, its development and existence is the
best hope for the future of just about all of them.  Without it I
think the free market may produce an Orwellian future.  

I don't think transhumanist causes have a hope without international
law. (I should be honest here and say I don't think a lot of transhumanist
causes have much prospect anyway). Conflicts will distract too much 
of the attention.  Terror (that which is real and that which is contrived
by domestic politicians for their political advantage) will not give hope
a chance. 

Brett Paatsch

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