Quotulatiousness

September 7, 2017

QotD: The United Nations, the “ratty old sofa of geopolitics”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Years ago I asked my father why a ratty old sofa was still in the house. He replied simply: It’s there because it’s there. The words had a strange finality about them. Almost metaphysical in their profundity. What we were talking about was a sofa purchased years ago, used and abused by the family, and then unceremonious shunted into an obscure room when the newer model arrived. As I recall on delivery day there had been talk of carting away the ratty old sofa. The haulers had offered to take it — for a price. My father balked and so it has remained. A dusty old sofa living out its days, slowly crumbling into the parquet.

The philosophy of furnishing a suburban home is important. It reveals something about the human psyche. When we spend a lot of time and effort bringing something into our lives, we become reluctant to dispense with it. When that particular something is a big and bulky item, requiring much effort to remove, lethargy places its death grip upon it. Think of how many things in your life where you can say: It’s there because it’s there.

Gingerly moving from the life of individuals to the life of nations we run into the same problem. Things that are there because no one has bothered to get rid of them. In the dim and distant recesses of the national memory a purpose was once understood. That purpose is long done and gone. Habit and lethargy defend the otherwise indefensible. This brings us to the ratty old sofa of geopolitics: The United Nations.

In one of those fits of New Deal liberalism that has cost America so much in treasure — and occasionally blood — it was resolved after the Second World War that world peace would be secured by creating a council of nations. This was suppose to be a new and improved version of the League of Nations. The much maligned League had been set-up after the First World in a fit of Wilsonian liberalism. It too was designed to secure world peace. Rather than junk the original concept entirely the United Nations simply tweaked it. As generations of history textbooks have wisely explained the neo-league had a Security Council which recognized the reality of Great Power politics.

[…]

The UN has been far more successful than the League of Nations in one very important way: It has survived. The most important thing for any bureaucracy is to survive. Accomplishing its intended goal is secondary if not outright dangerous. If the War on Poverty had been won why would we need three-quarters of the federal government? If complete world peace existed then the UN would look even more pointless than it does now.

The key to the UN’s survival has been one thing: Guilt tripping the United States. Suggesting that if the US failed to fund the UN it would lead to war and devastation through out the globe. Financially the UN cannot survive without American largesse. Diplomatically it exists at the sufferance of the American government, occupying prime Manhattan real estate in defiance of economics and common sense. Had they put the General Assembly building in Newark perhaps the foreign diplomats would have all gone home by now.

Richard Anderson, “The Greatest Waste of Money On Earth”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2015-09-29.

September 4, 2017

QotD: Even a world of perfect abundance would not be a crime-free world

Filed under: Books, Economics, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

So, when I woke up this morning I woke up thinking of how time is different in different parts of the world, which is what the people (Heinlein and Simak included) who pushed for the UN and thought it was the way of the future didn’t seem to get (to be fair, in Tramp Royale it becomes obvious Heinlein got it when he traveled there, and realized it was impossible to bring such a disparate world under one government.)

A minor side note, while listening to City, there is a point at which Simak describes what he might or might not have realized was Marx’s concept of “perfect communism” where the state withers away because there’s no need for it.

Simak thought this would be brought about by perfect abundance. There are no crimes of property when everyone has too much. There are no crimes of violence either, because he seems to think those come from property. (Hits head gently on desk.)

This must have seemed profound to me when I first read the book at 12, but right now I just stared at the mp3 player thinking “what about people who capture other people as sex slaves?” “What about people who covet something someone else made, including the life someone made for themselves? Just because everyone has too much, it doesn’t mean that they don’t covet what someone else made of their too much.”

Which is why I’m not a believer in either Communism or for that matter big L Libertarianism. I don’t believe that humans are only a sum of their material needs and crime the result of the unequal distribution of property. (There is also the unequal distribution of talent, or simply the unequal distribution of happiness, all of which can lead to crime — after all Cain didn’t off Abel because he was starving.) And I don’t believe humans are ever going to become so perfect we can get away with no government, because humans will always (being at heart social apes) lust for power, recognition and heck simply control over others (which is subtly different from power.) So we’re stuck with our good servant but bad master.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “Time Zones”, According to Hoyt, 2015-06-23.

June 15, 2017

Activists lobbying the UN to make cultural appropriation an international crime

The stupid, it burns:

Due to the fact that the United Nations doesn’t have anything more important to deal with, delegates from 189 countries, including the United States and Canada, are lobbying in Geneva for the organization to institute laws to make cultural appropriation illegal – and for those laws to be implemented quickly.

The delegates are a part of a specialized international committee in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which was founded in 2001 to expand intellectual property regulations to protect indigenous art, forms of expression like dance, and even words.

According to CBC, James Anaya, dean of law at the University of Colorado, said that the United Nations document should “obligate states to create effective criminal and civil enforcement procedures to recognize and prevent non-consensual taking and illegitimate possession, sale and export of traditional cultural expressions.”

Not only could the state put you in jail for cultural appropriation, those who feel as though their culture is appropriated would be able to sue you for damages. In other words, you could go to jail for making and selling burritos if you’re not Mexican, or wearing a kimono while white.

There has never been a human culture that has not “appropriated” from other cultures except for those so isolated that they never encounter other cultures. Appropriation is literally older than civilization, and no action of WIPO is going to change that. It may, however, provide even more ways for emotional and legal blackmail to be made profitable, and give even more tools to those who long to force others to bend to their will.

Ed Krayewski has more at the Hit and Run blog:

What sort of appropriation does the committee want to stop? University of Colorado Law Dean James Anaya, an indigenous leader and a technical analyst for the IGC, points to products that purport to be made or endorsed by indigenous groups but aren’t. At the Geneva meeting, Anaya offered Urban Outfitters’ “Navajo line” as an example. The Navajo Nation actually brought suit in U.S. court against Urban Outfitters over that line of products in 2012, and the case was settled out of court last year. It’s unclear how an international intellectual property bureaucracy would improve the situation.

But it’s clear how it could create new avenues for rent-seeking. The World Intellectual Property Organization generates revenue from fees, such as the ones it charges for international trademarks. Any system the IGC creates is likely to include a similar international mechanism for registering whichever “traditional cultural expressions” get protections. Such a setup could have a chilling effect on any commercialization of folklore, even by members of the original indigenous communities.

After all, the same forces of globalization and decentralization that have made intellectual property laws more difficult to enforce offer the potential to drastically expand native producers’ reach. KPMG has noted, for example, that the internet offers a “new potential for indigenous Australians in regional and remote areas to access global audiences.” An IGC-style intellectual property regime would inevitably require such entrepreneurs, not just the big corporations accused of cultural appropriation, to get additional approvals for their activity.

Meanwhile, the same governments with long histories of abusing indigenous populations would be responsible for deciding who belongs to such populations and who faces criminal penalties for not meeting the governments’ definitions. Kathy Bowrey, a law professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia, tells Reason that she would love to see the IGC succeed in setting up an system that genuinely protects indigenous culture. But she has no hopes that it will. Given the “racist practices that mark everyday lives of First Nations people domestically,” she says, “I’m not sure why there is an expectation that these states would operate differently on the international stage.”

April 15, 2017

Federal marijuana bill “is about as good a framework as we had any right to expect”

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Chris Selley looks at the Trudeau government’s marijuana legalization framework, as revealed on Thursday:

The fact is, though, this is about as good a framework as we had any right to expect from the Canadian government. The feds will insist upon a safe and controlled supply chain, with licenses and inspections; you may keep four plants at home — an indulgence I would have bet against; promotional materials will be severely restricted in much the same way as for tobacco; the minimum age will be 18; and the maximum limit on the amount of dried flower you can carry around in public will be 30 grams — same as it is in Washington state and Colorado.

Retail and all the questions that go with it are the provinces’ problem, just as they should be. (In theory, a buzz-kill province could set the legal age at 105 and the public possession limit at zero, though the government says mail order would be available in provinces that don’t have a retail sector.)

The feds will balance out all this wanton permissiveness with tough talk of putting “organized crime” out of business and protecting our children from weed. (The maximum sentence for giving marijuana to a minor is 14 years in prison!)

And now we see whether it actually happens — by summer 2018, or at all.

The news Thursday was full of worries and concerns and potential reasons why it might not. They range from legitimate-but-surmountable to downright silly.

Yes, the science of THC impairment behind the wheel is inexact. So I guess pot-consuming car-drivers had better take that under advisement. THC-impaired driving is already illegal, after all.

There is the bewilderingly persistent supposed issue of Canada’s obligation to prohibit drugs under UN conventions on narcotic and psychotropic substances. This week, the University of Ottawa’s Global Strategy Lab released a 27-page paper explaining “how Canada can remain party to the conventions without either withdrawing … or amending them.” It’s all very interesting, but why not just withdraw from the damn things?

[…]

Frankly, I’m amazed the Liberals have come even this far at a time when they’re walking on eggshells around the Trump administration. To the extent it has articulated a pot policy, it has been the opposite of the relatively laissez-faire approach the Obama administration took toward states that decided to legalize. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions talks about marijuana the way General Ripper in Dr. Strangelove talks about communists.

That will make legalization all the more impressive an achievement if the Liberals pull it off — and all the more damaging a self-inflicted wound if they don’t.

March 21, 2017

The “happiest” country in the world?

Filed under: Asia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Julie Burchill on the topic of happiness:

When we are stroppy teens, we often declare mulishly that we’d rather have an interesting life than a happy one, seeing cheeriness as something suspiciously shallow. Each time we hear the vulgar street exhortation “Cheer up, it might never happen!” we dig our dismayed heels in further. But before we know it, we’ve gone from exquisitely doomed youth to grumbling old git. Look at poor Morrissey! Like Maoism and love bites, miserabilism only looks good on the young.

The country with the best “happiness equality” in the world is Bhutan, the United Nations tells us. I’m not sure how happy I’d be in a country where homosexuality is illegal, where abortions are so hard to get that many women have to cross into India to find even a backstreet termination and where citizens married to foreigners are not permitted to hold civil service positions. Is it just because Bhutan is so cut off that no one knows any better?

The position of those on the left when it comes to immigration is strangely inconsistent. On the one hand, they like to present England as a joyless hellhole (which I always think says far more about them and their joyless mates than the country I’ve had such a smashing time in during my long, lush life): on the other hand, they want everyone to come here. Is this what the young people call “humblebrag”, perchance?

March 15, 2017

Sensible reasons to reject a Canadian peacekeeping mission in Africa

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ted Campbell explains why it would not be a good thing for Canada to send a peacekeeping force to Mali (or to anywhere else in Africa right now):

The Globe and Mail, in an editorial, asks the key question:

“Is there a Canadian national interest in sending troops to Mali?”

I suggest that unless and until the Trudeau government can say, “yes,” and can explain that vital interest to most Canadians that sending Canadian soldiers off to Africa on a United Nations operation is problematical. “The Canadian Armed Forces shed blood and lost lives during the decade-long mission in Afghanistan,” the Globe‘s editorial says, “Sending them into a similar campaign in Mali may further Liberal political interests. But does it serve the national interest?

Now, I believe that I can make a sensible, mid to long term case for Canada to be “engaged,” politically, economically and militarily in Africa:

  • Africa will be, after Asia, the “next big deal” for economic growth, trade and, therefore, profits;
  • Canada will want to be involved as a trusted friend when Africa is ready to “blossom” and have an economic “boom” of its own; and
  • Despite Chinese and French incursions there are still plenty of opportunities for Canadian engagement.

In other words, we have interests in Africa; even, perhaps, in the mid to long term, we have vital interests, at that.

I cannot make a case for getting involved in any United Nations mission in Africa. I cannot, even with rose coloured glasses, see one single United Nations mission in Africa that is working, much less succeeding and doing some good.

I’m not opposed to the UN. In fact, I’m one of those who says that if it didn’t exist we’d have to invent it. The current UN is better than the old League of Nations, and some UN agencies, like the International Telecommunications Union, for example, do good work for the whole world and are, alone, worth our entire UN contribution, but we ask too much of the UN and it is neither well enough designed or led or organized or funded to do even a small percentage of what is asked of it. Peacekeeping is one of the things that the UN cannot do well in the 21st century. Peacekeeping was fine when it was ‘invented’ (circa 1948, by Ralph Bunche, and American and Brian Urquhart, a Brit, not by Lester Pearson in 1957, no matter what your ill-educated professors may have told you) but it could not be adapted to situations in which there is:

  • No peace to be kept;
  • A plethora of non-state actors who are not amenable to UN sanctions.

A few days ago I wrote about the risks involved in sending soldiers to Africa. The Globe and Mail‘s editorial just adds some more fuel to that fire.

February 16, 2017

QotD: The imperfectability of man

Filed under: Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

And then you get to things like City or some of the Heinlein juveniles, where you’re assured that the UN brought rationality to the world, one world government is wonderful and, as superabundance set in, humans shed religion as unneeded, and went forward to be perfect angels.

I’m not sure what caused this blindness that affected smart men in the fifties and sixties, and still affects academics, idiots and Marxists today, but I read that and I think “Okay, I can see how you thought this was plausible if what you looked at was the intellectual portions of middle America where religion was a social thing, and where the whole “brotherhood of man” was a believed fable. But can you imagine making Islam just “wither away” without major persecution, war and executions? Oh, heck, even Catholicism in the more traditional regions.

[…]

And then there’s tribalism. Perhaps the EU has made the Portuguese and the Spanish live in peace with each other (I think they’re biding their time, but that’s something else) what about the myriad little tribes in Africa, or even racial/tribal minorities in Asia.

How could they think the nature of man would pass away so completely?

I attribute it to lack of contact with other lands. I mean, the US is a huge country, and back then the industrial-news complex had absolute primacy. You really only got the other countries filtered through the lens of your colleagues in the media. And you only got even other segments of your own country filtered that way.

This was not malice, either. I’m here to tell you that understanding another culture — or even understanding that another culture really exists, and they’re not just sort of playing at it — is REALLY hard. Humans are very good at absorbing the conditions they’re born into and internalizing them as THE conditions, i.e. the only true ones, and then thinking of everything else as a bizarre variation.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “Time Zones”, According to Hoyt, 2015-06-23.

January 14, 2017

“We call it diplomacy, minister”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Another brilliant bit of realpolitik from Yes, Minister, disguised as humour:

July 17, 2016

Peacekeeping today is not like the peacekeeping Canadians remember

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell is not in favour of the federal government’s nostalgic view of peacekeeping:

Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS wants us to follow France into the peacekeeping business because modern, 21st century UN peacekeeping can be, in some respects, seen as unwarranted Western interference in the internal affairs of Islamic states. Many Islamic leaders believe and teach that Islam is a complete socio-economic-political ‘package’: all that on needs to live a good life in this world and achieve paradise in the next is to obey the holy Quran. There is no need for laws or courts or institutions or banks or schools or anything else … just obedience, submission, to Islam.

[…]

Let us understand that the United Nations, as currently constituted and managed, is a failure at peacekeeping. It wasn’t always this way … there were times and places ~ Kashmir and Palestine in the 1940s, the Egypt-Israeli borders in 1956 when there was a peace to be kept between belligerents who actually wanted peace, albeit, in the case of Egypt’s Nasser, only until one felt ready for war again in 1967. It began to go wrong in 1960 … with the first UN mission to the Congo. There was no peace to be kept … a UN Force was inserted into a failed state and left to its own devices while a civil war raged around it. The UN used second rate troops (Irish, Malaysian and Swedish) where first rate ones might have done some good and the civil and military leadership, from Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld on down was somewhere between inept and ignored. In fact the UN peacekeeping effort was being used (misused) as a proxy for the larger Cold War. Canada and a few others became proxies for the Western allies; Poland a a few others stood in for the Warsaw Pact members and Sweden and India represented the non-aligned nations. It got worse in Cyprus, although a few lessons about the quality of troops were learned, as the mission devolved into a semi-permanent “holding action” that recognizes the de facto partition of the country. The UN has, literally, become a significant component of the (failing) Greek Cypriot state and the UN force because part of the status quo, making peace even more elusive.

Most UN peacekeeping missions since 1960s have been failures … some abject, others only relatively so. Mostly the UN “kept the peace” as an adjunct of the cold war. There is, in the 21st century, too often, no peace to be kept, especially not anywhere in Africa nor in the Islamic crescent that stretches from the Atlantic coast of North Africa all the way through to Indonesia and the Southern Philippines. and the UN does not want a mandate to make peace. The internal politics of the UN prohibit members from interfering in the “internal” affairs of others ~ notwithstanding what advocates of R2P (Responsibility To Project) (or even more ill considered doctrines like W2I (the Will To Intervene) propose ~ unless government almost totally breaks down. Then the UN may step in, under certain very controlled conditions: in Africa, for example, a robust, useful peacemaking force will not be tolerated, the force must be from the African Union and it must, first and foremost, protect the interests of the failed states neighbours. If the failed state is in “French Africa” then the French may send in the Foreign Legion to protect French interests. And this is the situation into which Justin Trudeau wants to send Canadian soldiers ~ preferably, he suggested during the 2015 election campaign, French speaking female police officers ~ to be UN peacekeepers.

As a quick rule of thumb, you only send in peacekeepers where there is already something resembling a peace to be kept. You don’t send in peacekeepers to create peace. That’s not their role: they’re not equipped or organized (or ever in sufficient strength) to do that.

April 20, 2016

Creating a real Palestinian state

Filed under: Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At Sultan Knish, Daniel Greenfield calls for the establishment of a true Palestinian state:

A Palestinian state has never existed during any period in human history. Let’s change that.

The United States has spent billions of dollars trying to create a Palestinian state. It’s time that we finally got our money’s worth.

We’ve been putting money in the broken Palestinian slot machine in the metaphorical Palestinian casino (the real one was shot up when terrorists turned it into a base) for decades. It’s time to finally get our Palestinian jackpot.

But to make it happen, we need to be realistic.

Forget the peace process. Forget negotiations. They’ve never worked before. They’re not going to now. And there’s nothing to negotiate anyway.

There are almost a million Jews living on territory claimed by the PLO. Removing them would be the single greatest act of ethnic cleansing against an indigenous population today. It would also be impossible. But the same people who insist that the United States, a country of 318 million, can’t deport 11 million illegal aliens, think that Israel will somehow deport 1/8th of its own population if they just chant loudly enough about “occupation” outside Jewish businesses in London or San Francisco.

Ethnically cleansing 8,000 Jews from Gaza/Gush Katif led to nationwide civil disobedience, riots and, eventually, the fall of a political party and three straight terms for Prime Minister Netanyahu. Now imagine trying to deport 800,000 people from their homes simply because they’re Jewish.

And it wouldn’t just be the Jews alone being rounded up into trucks, buses and maybe boxcars.

52 percent of Arabs in East Jerusalem would rather be Israeli citizens than live under the PLO. Are we support to deport 100,000 Arabs from Jerusalem to make way for this imaginary “Palestinian” state?

How much ethnic cleansing do we have to do to make the Islamic colonial fantasy of Palestine real? It’s not going to happen.

Let’s create a real Palestinian state instead. And I don’t mean the PLO’s President for Life Mahmoud Abbas going down to the UN to give another speech. Abbas is on his 11th year of a 4-year term. The US spent $4.5 billion promoting “Palestinian democracy” and the last PLO election was ten years ago.

December 3, 2015

Even the IPCC agrees that corn ethanol is a waste of effort and resources

In Forbes, James Conca wraps up the latest IPCC Working Group reports’ comments on the viability of biofuel production from corn:

OK, can we please stop pretending biofuel made from corn is helping the planet and the environment? The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released two of its Working Group reports at the end of last month (WGI and WGIII), and their short discussion of biofuels has ignited a fierce debate as to whether they’re of any environmental benefit at all.

The IPCC was quite diplomatic in its discussion, saying “Biofuels have direct, fuel‐cycle GHG emissions that are typically 30-90% lower than those for gasoline or diesel fuels. However, since for some biofuels indirect emissions — including from land use change — can lead to greater total emissions than when using petroleum products, policy support needs to be considered on a case by case basis” (IPCC 2014 Chapter 8).

The summary in the new report also states, “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity” (WGIII).

The report lists many potential negative risks of development, such as direct conflicts between land for fuels and land for food, other land-use changes, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and nitrogen pollution through the excessive use of fertilizers (Scientific American).

The International Institute for Sustainable Development was not so diplomatic, and estimates that the CO2 and climate benefits from replacing petroleum fuels with biofuels like ethanol are basically zero (IISD). They claim that it would be almost 100 times more effective, and much less costly, to significantly reduce vehicle emissions through more stringent standards, and to increase CAFE standards on all cars and light trucks to over 40 miles per gallon as was done in Japan just a few years ago.

August 20, 2015

QotD: Defining “social justice”

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Still, though, what is social justice? That’s harder to figure out. Indeed, one of the fascinating aspects of “social justice” is that it sounds so pleasing and innocuous, a term any politician can use in a speech or signing statement. But each time someone tries to define it, the idea becomes more radical. The Green party is one of the few organizations that get into specifics, and its platform goes on for pages and pages delineating what “social justice” means — everything from “a commitment to ending poverty” through “welfare” to “open dialogue among all residents of Hawai’i on the sovereignty option of full independence.”

Meanwhile, a major report from the United Nations insists that “social justice is not possible without strong and coherent redistributive policies conceived and implemented by public agencies.” Typical U.N. statism? Perhaps, but it’s downright Jeffersonian compared with the more concentrated and pernicious asininity to follow. The U.N. warns: “Present-day believers in an absolute truth identified with virtue and justice are neither willing nor desirable companions for the defenders of social justice.” Translation: If you actually believe in the antiquated notion that rights exist outside the schemes of governments and social planners, then you are not part of the global effort to promote goodness.

I don’t have space here to detail the intellectual history of the term, but the sad irony of its birth is worth noting. In 1840, the theologian Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio came up with the concept as a way to defend civil society from the ever-increasing intrusions of the state. Social justice, according to Taparelli, was the legitimate realm of justice beyond formal legal justice. Since then, the term has become completely inverted: “Social justice” has become an abracadabra phrase granting the state access to every nook and cranny of life.

The reason Hayek refers to the “mirage of social justice” is quite simple: There’s no such thing. “Only situations that have been created by human will can be called just or unjust. . . . Social justice,” Hayek concludes, “does not belong to the category of effort but that of nonsense, like the term ‘a moral stone.'” The assertion that high unemployment is “unjust” is dangerously misleading nonsense. Justice creates a claim on others. So who is being unjust? The employers who cannot afford more workers? The consumers who refuse to create enough demand to justify more workers? The government, for not raising taxes to pay for labor that isn’t needed? Social justice is based on rights — social rights, economic rights, etc. — that cannot be enforced in a free society. It’s like saying “Let the market decide” in North Korea.

The only way for social justice to make sense is if you operate from the assumption that the invisible hand of the market should be amputated and replaced with the very visible hand of the state. In other words, each explicit demand for social justice carries with it the implicit but necessary requirement that the state do the fixing. And a society dedicated to the pursuit of perfect social justice must gradually move more and more decisions under the command of the state, until it is the sole moral agent.

Jonah Goldberg, excerpt from The Tyranny of Clichés, published by National Review, 2012-04-22.

April 15, 2015

QotD: The secret weapon of the bureaucracy

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… boredom is the deadly secret weapon of the bien-pensant technocrats of the EU and the UN. “They wear outsiders down with the tedium of their arguments and the smallness of their fine print, so that by the time anyone else notices what they’re up to the damage has been done and it’s too late to do anything about it.”

James Delingpole, “Green Global Governance: How Environmentalists Have Taken Over the World”, Breitbart.com, 2014-06-25.

February 16, 2015

QotD: The impotence of the League of Nations

Filed under: Britain, History, Japan, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Within a couple of months of the Invergordon mutiny, Japan intervened in Manchuria, deaf to all the entreaties of the League of Nations. While, today, we are used to the fact that a ringing denunciation from the United Nations is probably the single most ineffective tool in international relations, the revelation of its predecessor’s impotence came as a disagreeable surprise. So many statesmen had placed their faith in collective security that the naked aggression of the Japanese left them floundering for a response. In 1931 the British people had more pressing concerns than remote Asian wars, but the lesson was not lost on Germany’s rising political star Hitler, nor the posturing Mussolini in Italy whose Fascist Party dreamed of a new Roman Empire.

Max Arthur, The True Glory: The Royal Navy 1914-1939, 1996.

February 10, 2015

The cautionary tale of the Kosovo intervention

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Michael Brendan Dougherty looks back at the UN’s intervention in Kosovo and the situation in Kosovo after more than a decade and a half:

It’s been almost 16 years since a NATO coalition banded together to defeat Serbia’s Slobodan Milošević in Kosovo. Ever since, it has been exhibit A in the case for “humanitarian intervention.” A swift short war, a thug removed from power, a series of oppressions redressed. After the hostilities ceased, Kosovo’s government was overseen by the United Nations, and declared full independence from Serbia in 2008.

In the meantime, the U.N. bungled possibly the easiest show-trial in world history, letting Milošević score a lot of points from the stand as the trial dragged on longer than it took F.D.R. to declare war on Germany, mobilize a few million men, and beat Hitler. Milošević died of a heart attack in prison before his trial finished. NATO troops are in Kosovo, a decade and a half after the “short” 78-day campaign.

What’s the political scene like in liberated Kosovo? Well, here’s a story. Last week Aleksandar Jablanovic, an ethnic Serb who served in the cabinet as minister of communities, was sacked by Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, in order to appease ethnic Albanians who were planning riotous protests against him. Kosovars threw rocks at government buildings. About 170 people were injured in the clash between protesters and police.

What did Jablanovic do to cause the unrest? He had described a group of Albanians as “savages” in January. Why? Because they had blocked (with the threat of violence) the route of Serbian Christians making a traditional pilgrimage to a monastery in Western Kosovo.

Sounds unpleasant, right? It gets worse. Unemployment in Kosovo is around 45 percent. (That’s not a typo.) The electricity is very unreliable, and Kosovars often don’t pay their electricity bills to the state. The government is considering canceling all debts that citizens owe to the government, to rebuild trust (and popularity) and start putting services on a firmer footing. About a third of Kosovars live on less than $2 a day.

[…]

But there’s also no doubt that Kosovo should serve as a permanent warning against the idea that humanitarian interventions are easy. The bombing was a perfect example of the moral hazard involved in “Responsibility to Protect” interventions. The roar of NATO jets so raised the stakes for Serbian forces and for Milošević, that Serbians killed five times as many people after the intervention became a fait accompli than they had before that time, under the theory that rubble makes less trouble.

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