Saturday, February 18, 2006

Italian court acquits in terror charges

Opinio Juris has this extremely interesting post on the acquittal by an Italian court of three North African men of charges of international terrorism. The men were accused of having been recruited to go to Iraq to kill American soldiers. The court, as far as I can tell from reading the post and the links, seems to have said (a) going to Iraq to engage in armed resistance is not international terrorism under Italian law and (b) under Italian law, international terrorism only applies to attacks directed against civilians, not to attacks against soldiers. (Update, February 19, 2006: See also this post by Lorenzo Zucca, at Transatlantic Assembly, here.)

I found this very striking in part because I have just been writing on the definition of international terrorism for a seminar discussion at Harvard Law School next week with Jack Goldsmith and Ryan Goodman. The issue in the definition of international terrorism that interests me in this seminar is not the usual exception for anti-colonial, racist, occupation, etc., stuff, nor the "one man's terrorist is ..." My interest, rather, is exactly the point raised by (b) above, that international terrorism does not include attacks directed against militaries, but only those directed against soldiers.

As I have noted earlier on this blog, this tracks the proposed definition of international terrorism for purposes of a comprehensive treaty against terrorism. This treaty, including this definition, was a high priority of both the UN Secretary General and the US in UN reform discussions that took place in September 2005 at the opening of the 60th General Assembly session. It harks back to a draft comprehensive anti-terrorism treaty offered for discussion by India in the Sixth Committee of the GA way back in the 1990s - 1996, if I recall when it started. It was then endorsed by the Secretary General High Level Panel report, and by the Secretary General, in his UN reform proposal, In Larger Freedom. The limiting of the definition of terrorism to attacks directed against civilians is taken from law of war concepts - a peacetime analogue to the idea that direct attacks on civilians is always and under all circumstances prohibited. The difficulty with the definition, of course, is that it essentially says, by implication, that attacks against military are never terrorism.

This is not something that can make the US happy, thinking about the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, the UK happy thinking about IRA attacks on British soldiers, or Spain happy thinking about ETA cross border attacks against Spanish soldiers from France, or any of many other situations around the world. Those are all situations where the states involved clearly characterize the attacks against military targets as terrorism, but they would not fall under the international definition in a supposedly comprehensive convention. I have mixed feelings about this, as I'm sure the US government does. For example, I spoke with Israeli military officers about this issue who, while readily conceding the conceptual point, said flatly that they, as military, would be willing to be targets if it meant that general acceptance of the point that civilians could never be the direct object of attack.

On the one hand, getting to a clear acceptance of the principle that civilians may not be the object of attack would be a huge step forward in establishing a definition of terrorism, getting to neutrality and universality, and getting rid of all the arguments of moral equivalence about "state terrorism" and "terrorism," and all the exceptionalism for terrorism based on resistance to occupation and so on. On the other hand, this definition leaves out a big category that governments have always regarded as terrorism - peacetime attacks on the military by nonstate actors. In going for the "neutral" definition of terrorism taken by analogy from the law of war, the US in particular is conceding in advance matters of terrorism that it is unlikely to be willing to concede when the situation comes up. Is the US likely to concede that a future USS Cole attack is not terrorism? I very much doubt it. That is, however, what it is essentially saying - as the Italian court might be read to have found - by accepting the proposed comprehensive definition that refers to civilians only.

But there is another and even larger implication here. If you draw the new 'neutral' and 'universal' definition of terrorism from the law of war, and the rule prohibiting direct attack on civilians, it is arguably the case that you also thereby accept the rest of what the law of war says about attacks - viz., that if you attack a military target, then if the collateral damage to civilians is proportionate, etc., etc., then it is legal.

Given that the law of war allows combatants a certain latitude in judgment about what constitutes legal collateral damage - judgments about proportionality and what you can know about that in the circumstances of launching an attack being by their nature subjective and uncertain - the most important result of a rule drawn from the law of war might be very considerable civilian casualties as justifiable damage collateral to an attack directly upon military targets. Kevin Jon Heller, guest blogging at Opinio Juris, suggests that the rule should be that "suicide bombing that is exclusively directed at soldiers does not qualify as terrorism, a suicide bombing that targets soldiers but also injures or kills civilians does." The problem with this is that it does not follow from the analogous law of war rule, which accepts a prohibition on direct attacks against civilians while also accepting direct attacks on military with proportionate collateral damage. And it is noteworthy that the further restriction has not been proposed, so far as I know, in diplomatic discussions about this proposed universal and neutral definition; I think people understand what they are saying by implication about collateral damage.

Claudia Rosett on Kofi Annan's $500,000 environmental award

The amazing thing is that without Claudia Rosett letting us in on the little secret that this environmental award was not just a piece of paper but came with a cash prize of $500,000 for Annan personally, it is pretty darn near certain that no press story would have mentioned it. Let's see - do we think that Linda Fasulo, reporter on the UN, frequent commentator on the UN for NPR and elsewhere, and utter cheerleader for the UN and Kofi Annan in her little book, An Insider's Guide to the UN, would have mentioned this? Would Warren Hoge of the NYT, who does quite excellent coverage of Bolton - but would he have thought to mention this little fillip? Alas, not likely. On the other hand, the Washington Post rightly noted, in its article on former Fed chief Greenspan giving a paid speech to investment bankers - the amount, and the raised eyebrows of former Fed colleagues, even though it was indisputably permitted for Greenspan to give the speech and take the fee. But Kofi Annan is well-liked by just about everyone, so why mention the minor items? What elected official in any functioning democracy would be allowed to collect a cash award of this kind and, moreover, where the picking committee almost entirely depends on that official for a job? (And, no, in functioning democracies, even corporations, and accountable organizations generally, it does not solve the problem that you use the money - as Annan says he will do - to set up a foundation. Rich people set up foundations so that they can control them and what they do, which is fine, but it is a very significant perk of receiving money if you can determine what charity you spend it on.) Claudia Rosett, here, in the Weekly Standard. Thanks to Instapundit. Text:

The U.N. secretary-general wins a half-million dollar prize in Dubai.
by Claudia Rosett

Weekly Standard
02/27/2006, Volume 011, Issue 23

DESPITE FREQUENT DECLARATIONS OF REFORM, it seems that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has learned nothing from the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food scandal, in which Saddam Hussein's billions corrupted the U.N.'s entire Iraq embargo bureaucracy. Earlier this month, Annan accepted from the ruler of Dubai an environmental prize of $500,000--a fat sum that represents the latest in a long series of glaring conflicts of interest. Call this one Cash-for-Kofi.

Annan received his award at a glittering February 6 ceremony in Dubai, as outlined in a press release from Annan's office that noted the honor, but neglected to mention the half million bucks that came with it. Surrounded by presidents, businessmen, and nearly 130 environmental ministers, Annan collected this purse as winner of the biennial Zayed International Prize for the Environment, given out by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

So entwined were Annan's own U.N. colleagues in the process that selected him for this award that it's tempting to relabel the entire affair as one of the U.N.'s biggest back-scratching contests. Chairing the jury panel, which voted unanimously for Annan, was the executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, Klaus Toepfer, and among the jurors was the U.N. undersecretary-general for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo. Both men owe their current jobs to Annan. Serving as an "observer" of the jury panel was Pakistan's ambassador to the U.N., Munir Akram, who just finished a term as president of the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council, which works closely with Annan. On the website for the Zayed prize, the public relations contacts include a U.N. staffer, Nick Nuttall, listed complete with his U.N. email account and phone number at the Nairobi headquarters of the U.N. Environment Program.

But let us assume these folks were impartial. It's possible that with the Zayed prize already handed out in earlier years to Jimmy Carter and the BBC, the depleted global pool held no candidate more worthy than Annan.

The real issue is why on earth Kofi Annan thinks it a good idea while serving as secretary-general to accept $500,000--for any reason--from a high-ranking official of a U.N. member state. Sheikh Mohammed is not only the ruler of Dubai but the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. No doubt he bestowed this award as a gesture of appreciation. But if the other 190 U.N. member states were to follow his lead, Annan would be rolling in $95 million worth of personal prize money. Once the secretary-general allows himself to become a collector of cash awards, where's the line to be drawn? If Syria were to offer him a $10 million environmental prize, or China were to up the ante to $100 million, should he grab a suitcase and go pick it up?

Annan accepted the Dubai prize on the heels of setting up an ethics office within the U.N. Secretariat just last month. He has recently issued guidelines requiring staff to report any gifts of more than $250, down from previous guidelines that smiled on the acceptance of doo-dads worth up to $10,000. Staff rules do not apply to the secretary-general himself, who is presumed to operate as an exemplary civil servant. But one wonders what U.N. employees will make of their boss's big purse. Just last summer, a former U.N. procurement officer, Alexander Yakovlev, pleaded guilty in a U.S. federal court to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes involving taxpayer-funded U.N. contracts. Annan's secretariat has yet to get to the bottom of this still-spreading scandal in its own procurement department. Imagine for a moment that U.N. contractors were to start holding contests for the world's finest procurement officer, and began handing out big cash prizes to U.N. officials. Should the secretary-general then congratulate the winners--or investigate them?

Not unaware of appearances, Annan announced at the Dubai award ceremony that he would be using his prize as seed money for a foundation he plans to set up in Africa, devoted to agriculture and girls' education. To date, he has provided no information about what this promised foundation might be or who will run it, or what perquisites might go to its founder, or to anyone else associated with it. Asked recently for details, Annan's spokesman replied, "When we have more information, we'll pass it on to you."

Such non-answers have a familiar ring to anyone who has followed the saga of the sporty green Mercedes, shipped into Ghana in 1998 by Annan's son, Kojo Annan, who saved $14,000 in customs duties at the time via inappropriate use of his father's name and U.N. privileges. In that instance, the transaction was obscured behind a humanitarian façade, with the U.N. Development Program office in Ghana setting its U.N. seal on the paperwork. Annan, despite wiring his son $15,000 to help pay for the car, claims he knew nothing about it, and that it had nothing to do with him or the U.N. Perhaps Annan intends to more carefully supervise and account for his prize-seeded future foundation; but it must be admitted that the Mercedes experience is not a promising portent.

Nor is it a good sign that Annan, while enthusing about his prize in Dubai, appeared to have forgotten--if he ever took it on board in the first place--that from 1999-2003, Dubai was one of the hubs of kickback activity under the Oil-for-Food program. According to the U.S. Treasury and the U.N.'s own probe, led by Paul Volcker, at least two major front companies for Saddam Hussein's regime set up shop in Dubai: Al Hoda and Al Wasel & Babel. Between them, they secured more than $500 million worth of U.N.-approved contracts, and funneled tens of millions in kickbacks to Saddam. Volcker reports that a Dubai businessman, Ibrahim Lootah, owned 51 percent of one of these companies, Al Wasel & Babel, which received a commission for kickbacks processed through its account. Asked last year by Volcker's investigators about this commission, Lootah replied, "Why not get easy money?"

Why not, indeed? While the United States, India, Australia, and even France have investigated Oil-for-Food wrongdoing by their citizens, there is no sign Dubai has opened any such inquiry. Nor is there any sign that Annan ever brought it up with them. That's no surprise, given that in London, a week before receiving his prize, he brushed aside the entire Oil-for-Food debacle with the astounding phrase, "If there was a scandal."

If this year's Zayed prize money from Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai is to be dedicated to helping Africa, as we have been told, there is no good reason to channel the funds through the wallet of the U.N. secretary-general. Under the U.N. charter, Annan is paid to serve as the U.N.'s chief administrative officer, not its Prize Recipient-in-Chief. If Annan feels he cannot with good grace reject the honor of the Zayed prize, then in the interest of curbing future scandals, he might at least return the purse.

Claudia Rosett is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ross Douthat reviews Harry S. Stout's Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War

I strongly recommend Ross Douthat's review (via RCP) in Policy Review of Yale historian Harry S. Stout's new book, Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War.

I tend to read a lot of Civil War and Lincoln books, because I am slowly preparing to do a short book manuscript on the ethics of war in the Second Inaugural Address (based in part around a review essay I did a couple of years ago, in 2003, in the Times Literary Supplement, here). Stout's book is particularly interesting to me, because it is one of the few books to take up the questions of jus in bello, the conduct of war, rather than jus ad bellum, the justification of the resort to force, in the Civil War. And his is the very rare account indeed of the conduct of the war at the micro-level of jus in bello - at the level of individual atrocity, murder, (apparently) pointless sacrifice of soldiers in useless battles, prisoner of war camps, etc.

I agree with Douthat's basic point that Stout's book founders on the contradiction between his denunciation of the expansion of the North's strategy to one of total war, the demolishing of the South's way of life, the infrastructure of civilian life that supported the military, precisely as its war aims expanded. It makes sense, if you think that the restraint of methods of war is the most important moral consideration, for Stout to praise so highly Lincoln's highly restrained, but also highly incompetent commander, George McClellan. But perhaps incompetent is not the word - McClellan did not share Lincoln's war aims at all; he was perfectly comfortable with the preservation of slavery and the finally the dissolution of the Union, as his run as a Copperhead, Peace-now Democrat in the second presidential election showed.

Stout has plenty of company in the global view that the worst feature of war is its conduct, and that the issues that divide people by war are less important morally than the question of conduct. Inevitably, a genuinely neutral organization like the International Committee of the Red Cross tends to cross from silent neutrality on the issues of why people fight to a neutrality that moves from a refusal publicly to address the issue to a pox-on-both-your-houses. This is not finally the right moral stance - neutrality is absolutely vital for those who play the very special, very morally particular role of ministering to the needy and suffering of both sides. But it is finally a residual moral category - a world of moral neutrals is a world in which evil, not good, triumphs. There are indeed wars in which the causes on either side are equally unjust and equally not worth the use of force - but there are also many wars in which the issues at stake are urgent and vital.

Neutrality as a permanent moral stance is thus both residual and artificial. It is not right, in the face of aggression either against oneself or against others, to be silent, be neutral, or stand aside - and if one does, one needs a special justification. The standpoint of the neutral is one of publicly suspending public judgment of right and wrong, in order to serve an urgent cause of humanitarian relief. But that is always a suspension of moral disbelief, a residual and artificial category with respect to justice. (I discuss this question of the morality of neutrality, toward the end of this article, here.)

Nor does Stout, as Douthat ably points, want to adopt at all points and across his book an entirely above-the-fray neutrality in the manner of a humanitarian organization. Being an American, he also want to endorse the grandest goals of the Civil War, the elimination of slavery and, inevitably, the elimination of a way of life. Of course he is right to do so. And of course he is right to argue that one should do so consistent with the most restrictive jus in bello methods that will accomplish that purpose and win the war.

The problem with Stout's book is that he wants to have his cake and eat it, too - he wants to end slavery, end the 'peculiar institution' and the Southern way of life that depends upon it, while wanting nothing in the way of the methods of war that will actually accomplish it. This is not an endorsement of atrocity; it is a recognition that you can be Lincoln's man, or you can be McClellan's man. The latter will kill far fewer people, fight with far greater circumspection when he fights at all - but, unlike the former, McClellan is willing to settle for the end of the Union and the continuation of slavery.

Put another way, everyone always wants to remember the Lincoln of the Second Inaugural who called upon us to be "with malice toward none." We are far less desirous of being what Lincoln was, the most ruthless and stubborn war leader this country has ever known, the president who called upon the nation, prior to a reconstruction of the Union with malice toward none, to go forward and "finish the work we are in." It was a work inevitably of Grant and Sherman, not McClellan - something that Lincoln knew, but which Stout, at crucial points in his narrative, seems to know not.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Althouse on sociology of blogging right and left

Really interesting post, via Instapundit, from Ann Althouse on her perception of a difference between the Althouse blog (and I agree that her blog is pretty darn close to the model of "moderation" in politics and interest in rational discussion and complete distaste for craziness of any kind) and how it is utilized by blogs right and left. A rightwing blog generally links to her when it agrees with her. The left generally attacks when it disagrees with her, ignores her when it agrees. Here. What explains the asymmetry? (Or, maybe, complementary asymmetry? Complementary symmetry? Heck. What do you call this configuration?)

For what it's worth, as a liberal turned centrist conservative, it seems like this. The conservative bloggers, despite having somewhat more than half the country with them, still feel, in any intellectual endeavor, like a counter-culture. If you're part of a counter culture, you get tired of always feeling like the counter culture, and you seek validation for your views.

If you are part of the left, you are used to being the folks who dominate in all these discussions - and you are terribly worried that you are losing your intellectual hegemony. Your instinct is not to seek validation - why, when you already have it? - but instead to maintain hegemony, de-legitimizing and stigmatizing counter-hegemonic views. Eventually that process has to seem, to frustrated liberals forever characterizing everyone who disagrees with them as wicked and/or stupid, as a little like herding cats, and I assume that ratchets up the invective.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

How not to win the Miss America contest

(Via NRO blog.) Crystal Wosik, Miss Nevada 2005 (right in photo)

Contestants for the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas, Nev., were subjected to the usual pre-pageant interviews by the panel of judges. The questions are apparently directed toward issues pertinent to the interviewee's state. Miss Nevada, a fetching 23-year-old blonde named Crystal Wosik, was asked about the Yucca Mountain repository for spent nuclear fuel, a sore point for anti-nuclear activists in Nevada. Replied the winsome Ms. Wosik, perhaps driven by an excess of pride in her home state: "It has to go some place, and that was the best-built facility in the country." But what if people die? asked the flabbergasted judges. Replied the lady: "We just have to take one for the team."

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff on the Muhammad cartoons, tolerance and intolerance

This is a very sensible op-ed in the Washington Post by a journalist with the Die Zeit, a leading German newsmagazine. Here. Surely it is crossing some people's minds in Western Europe that it might not be such a great idea to allow these folks to have nuclear missiles pointed in your direction - a welcome change from the Schroeder era, as Tod Lindberg, attending the Munich Nato meeting over the weekend, and hearing an impressive speech by Merkel, notes, in the Washington Times, here.

I myself have published the cartoons, a couple of them bit by bit, not because I am happy about gratuitiously offending people, and not merely because they newsworthy today, but because it is critical to lay down a principled marker for free expression. Recall, as Mark Steyn notes, that the reason the cartoons were commissioned was not for gratuitous insult, but because the newspaper noted - correctly - that there was an insidious form of multiculturalist self-censorship going on, in which everyone knew that standards which some Muslims had decided applied to all Muslims also applied to non-Muslims - and applied not through perfectly legitimate means of peaceful protest, such as boycotts, letters to the editor, press campaigns, and so on, but by violence, murder, and threat of murder. Shades of Theo van Gogh.

At that point, offense is the point, not to give in to threats - and especially threats uttered by those who exercise the free speech that came about, in no small part, because of struggles in the European past to establish the right not only to free speech in general, but to blasphemous speech in particular. And by those who are organized by a Syrian regime exulting in the opportunity to shore up its domestic support and deflect attention from it to Western Europe.

There is not compromise on the issue, which is why the US State Department's reaction was so appalling, and likewise Bill Clinton's share your pain and censor yourself posturing. Meanwhile, I suppose the final result of this in Western Europe will be an agreement to support free speech - but just this once - and from now on, we all understand that self-censorship will be firmly in place. My guess, too, though, is that this will prompt some quiet, unadmitted rethinking on immigration into Europe. When the Guardian editorializes in favor of deporting those legally deportable and advocating violence in the "Behead blasphemer" posters in London protests, then something feels a little different. And this in a country whose minister of prisons recently forbade the flying of the British Union Jack in prison yards because its basis in the cross of St Andrew might give offense to those lawfully imprisoned therein.

Text of the Kleiner-Brockhoff piece:

Tolerance Toward Intolerance

By Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff
Tuesday, February 7, 2006; A21
Washington Post, op ed

Last week the publication I work for, the German newsweekly Die Zeit, printed one of the controversial caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. It was the right thing to do.

When the cartoons were first published in Denmark in September, nobody in Germany took notice. Had our publication been offered the drawings at that point, in all likelihood we would have declined to print them. At least one of them seems to equate Islam with radical Islamism. That is exactly the direction nobody wants the debate about fundamentalism to take -- even though the very nature of a political cartoon is overstatement. We would not have printed the caricature out of a sense of moderation and respect for the Muslim minority in our country. News people make judgments about taste all the time. We do not show sexually explicit pictures or body parts after a terrorist attack. We try to keep racism and anti-Semitism out of the paper. Freedom of the press comes with a responsibility.

But the criteria change when material that is seen as offensive becomes newsworthy. That's why we saw bodies falling out of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. That's why we saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib. On such issues we print what we usually wouldn't. The very nature of the discourse is to find parameters of what is culturally acceptable. How many times have we seen Janet Jackson's breast in the course of a discussion of the limits of family entertainment? How many times have we printed material that Jews might consider offensive in an attempt to define the extent of anti-Semitism? It seems odd that most U.S. papers patronize their readers by withholding cartoons that the whole world talks about. To publish does not mean to endorse. Context matters.

It's worth remembering that the controversy started out as a well-meaning attempt to write a children's book about the life of the prophet Muhammad. The book was designed to promote religious tolerance. But the author encountered the consequences of religious hatred when he looked for an illustrator. He could not find one. Denmark's artists seemed to fear for their lives. In turning down the job they mentioned the fate of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist for harshly criticizing fundamentalism.

When this episode percolated to the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, the paper's cultural editor commissioned the caricatures. He wanted to see whether cartoonists would self-censor their work for fear of violence from Muslim radicals. Still, the European media ignored this story in a small Scandinavian country. It took months, a boycott of Danish products in the Arab world and the intervention of such champions of religious freedom as the governments of Syria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Libya (all of which withdrew their ambassadors from Copenhagen) for some European papers to reconsider their stance on the cartoons. By last week it was not an obscure topic anymore but front-page news. And it wasn't about religious sensibilities as much as about free speech. That's when the cartoons started to show up in papers all over Europe.

Much of the U.S. reporting about the fracas made it appear as if Europeans just don't get it -- again. They struggle with immigration. They struggle with religion. They struggle with respect for minorities. And in the end they find their cities burning, as evidenced in Paris. Bill Clinton even detected an "anti-Islamic prejudice" and equated it with a previous "anti-Semitic prejudice."

The former president has turned the argument upside down. In this jihad over humor, tolerance is disdained by people who demand it of others. The authoritarian governments that claim to speak on behalf of Europe's supposedly oppressed Muslim minorities practice systematic repression against their own religious minorities. They have radicalized what was at first a difficult question. Now they are asking not for respect but for submission. They want non-Muslims in Europe to live by Muslim rules. Does Bill Clinton want to counsel tolerance toward intolerance?

On Friday the State Department found it appropriate to intervene. It blasted the publication of the cartoons as unacceptable incitement to religious hatred. It is a peculiar moment when the government of the United States, which likes to see itself as the home of free speech, suggests to European journalists what not to print.

The writer is Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly Die Zeit.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby on Islamofascists and the cartoons

Boston Globe editorials have rewarded the Islamic crazies and sided with the censors, all in the name of a puerile multiculturalism. At least Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby has the guts to buck his own paper. Here. As he says, we are all Danes now - well, excepting, of course, the "brave" editorialists of the Boston Globe.

And this also by The Right Coast's Tom Smith, here:

"I think to view this whole episode as raising any serious questions about free speech is silly. The only question it raises is whether free speech is possible in a country that has a substantial number of people in it who do not believe in free speech. The answer appears to be, maybe not. Some Labour MP has opined that, if the women holding the placards saying "Those Who Insult Islam Should Be Butchered" can lawfully be deported, they should be. Sounds about right to me. That's a little bit of diversity we can do without.

Not all Muslims, of course, are nutballs. There are the reasonable Muslims, some of whom are actually speaking up now, which is certainly welcome. But I suspect there are also sophisticated people in places of power in Saudi Arabia and Syria and other such places, quite happy to see the mobs unleashed to rattle the confidence of poor old Europe. These are not the people throwing firebombs, but rather the people making phone calls to tell the police chiefs in Damascus to go easy on the demonstrators. It is a strange, little controversy, but it does give the Muslim world an opportunity to demonstrate its strength, for the Muslim Street to flex its muscles."

WSJ's Daniel Schwammenthal on the Muhammad cartoons

Here. Text:

Europe's New Dissidents
Middle Eastern repression comes to the Continent.

Sunday, February 5, 2006 12:01 a.m.
Wall Street Journal

BRUSSELS--Four months ago, Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper published 12 caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. At first, the cartoons elicited little interest.

But in December Danish Muslims circulated them in the Islamic world. They added two particularly inflammatory drawings that had never been published by the paper--one involved a pig's nose and the other an indecent act with a dog. Street protests erupted from Lahore to Gaza. Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait withdrew their ambassadors from Copenhagen, calling for an apology and punishment of the editors. Danish products are being boycotted in the Middle East, where state-controlled media speak darkly of a conspiracy against Islam. Palestinian terrorists have declared Danes and other Europeans as legitimate targets. Journalists at Jyllands-Posten have received death threats. Danish flags, whose design is based on a Christian cross, are being burned. So much for religious respect.

For four months, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Jyllands-Posten staunchly refused to apologize. But last week, with little support from the rest of Europe against this orchestrated assault on Denmark's press freedom, the paper caved in, much to the government's relief.

Were the cartoons disrespectful? Certainly. In Islam the drawing of any image of Muhammad is forbidden and so religious Muslims might feel offended. As might millions of Christians when Jesus is depicted as gay or defiled in a thousand other ways every day. But that's what letters to the editor are for.

Moreover, the cartoons didn't mock Islam as such but its abuse by militant Muslims. One cartoon showed Muhammad with a turban in the form of a bomb. The issue, though, is much larger than the question of how to balance press freedom with religious sensibilities; it goes to the heart of the conflict with radical Islam. The Islamists demand no less than absolute supremacy for their religion--and not only in the Muslim world but wherever Muslims may happen to reside. That's why they see no hypocrisy in their demand for "respect" for Islam while the simple display of a cross or a Star of David in Saudi Arabia is illegal. Infidels simply don't have the same rights.

The murder in 2004 of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim fundamentalist in Amsterdam demonstrated the kind of risks critics of Islam are exposed to these days--even in Europe. Fundamentalists can find good cover--and followers--among the millions of Muslim immigrants on the Continent. Jyllands-Posten decided to publish the cartoons after complaints from an author that he could not find an illustrator who dared to draw images of Muhammad for his book. It was this atmosphere of fear and intimidation that the newspaper wanted to highlight. The Muslim reaction to these pictures only confirmed how relevant the topic is.

Using their combined economic muscle, death threats and street protests, a combination of state and nonstate actors are slowly exporting to Europe the Middle East's repressive system. What Jyllands-Posten's editors are enduring is not unlike what dissidents under communism had to go through. The Islamists can't send the journalists to a gulag but they can silence them by threatening to kill them. Bomb threats twice forced the journalists to flee their offices last week.

Reminiscent of Stalinist show trials, the paper was in the end forced to show public remorse. The cartoons "were not in variance with Danish law but have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologize," the paper said Monday. "I would have never chosen to depict religious symbols in this way," the previously defiant Mr. Rasmussen added. But just like the original show trials, the "admission of guilt" won't cut the Danes much slack. Muslim organizations in Denmark rejected it as not "sincere" and the death threats, protests and boycotts continue.

Just as was the case with communism, Islamic totalitarian impulses find their apologists in the West. Last Monday in Qatar, former President Bill Clinton decried the "totally outrageous cartoons against Islam." EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said the journalists "have to understand the offense caused by cartoons of this nature."

The support shown in the past few days by newspapers around Europe reprinting the cartoons is very welcome. But the vast majority of Europe's media didn't join the battle. And so in the end, it was too little, too late, coming just after the Danes were forced to "confess."

"Those who have won are dictatorships in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia, where they cut criminals' hands and give women no rights," Jyllands-Posten's editor in chief, Carsten Juste, told the AP.

But what really sealed the Danes' fate--and possibly Europe's--was the lack of solidarity from other governments. The European Union likes to call "emergency meetings" for the most trivial topics, from farm subsidies to VAT rates. But when one of their smallest members came under attack for nothing else than being a European country, for defending the values and norms the EU is based on, there was nothing but silence from Europe's capitals. That silence has been heard and understood in the Muslim world.

Mr. Schwammenthal is an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.

(Update, February 5, 2006: Postman Patel, in the comments below, notes that he and a few others were actually on top of the cartoon issue clear back in November - glad someone was on top of it.)

Has Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International said anything about the Muhammad cartoon controversy?

Always nice to see people exercising their freedom of speech, while calling to behead other people who exercise theirs ...

Perhaps I have missed something, but I have been unable to find a press release or statement by either of the world's two leading human rights monitors, Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, on the Muhammad cartoon controversy, the violence, the free speech and expression issues, or anything else. Could someone point me to the right web page if I have missed something? It has been weeks now and I have been greatly surprised that apparently neither of these two watchdogs has weighed in. But maybe I have simply missed it.

(Update, Monday, March 13, 2006. Human Rights Watch did finally manage to post a briefing paper - on February 15, 2006. I must say I am puzzled at how long it took HRW - ordinarily responding within nanoseconds to the latest developments - to respond on an issue that might have been thought to be a pretty easy call from the standpoint of the organization's trademark liberal internationalism. I say more about this issue in a later post, here (scroll down to footnote six at the very end), which is a footnote in a paper I am publishing next month, which I'll post to SSRN.)

Mark Steyn on the Muhammad cartoon issue and sensitivity

Mark Steyn on sensitivity and the Muhammad cartoon controversy, here. For those who believe that the Danish newspaper was merely being gratuitously nasty and hence deserves no support, Steyn crucially sets the record straight:

Jyllands-Posten wasn't being offensive for the sake of it. They had a serious point ... The cartoons accompanied a piece about the dangers of "self-censorship" -- i.e., a climate in which there's no explicit law forbidding you from addressing the more, er, lively aspects of Islam but nonetheless everyone feels it's better not to.That's the question the Danish newspaper was testing: the weakness of free societies in the face of intimidation by militant Islam.

Unfortunately, in Europe - and one fears in America as well - it is perhaps an attempt to lay down the markers of a liberal secular society too little, too late.

'Sensitivity' can have brutal consequences

February 5, 2006
Chicago Sun Times

The difference between living under Exquisitely Refined Multicultural Sensitivity and Sharia.

I long ago lost count of the number of times I've switched on the TV and seen crazy guys jumping up and down in the street, torching the Stars and Stripes and yelling ''Death to the Great Satan!'' Or torching the Union Jack and yelling ''Death to the Original If Now Somewhat Arthritic And Semi-Retired Satan!'' But I never thought I'd switch on the TV and see the excitable young lads jumping up and down in Jakarta, Lahore, Aden, Hebron, etc., etc., torching the flag of Denmark.

Denmark! Even if you were overcome with a sudden urge to burn the Danish flag, where do you get one in a hurry in Gaza? Well, OK, that's easy: the nearest European Union Humanitarian Aid and Intifada-Funding Branch Office. But where do you get one in an obscure town on the Punjabi plain on a Thursday afternoon? If I had a sudden yen to burn the Yemeni or Sudanese flag on my village green, I haven't a clue how I'd get hold of one in this part of New Hampshire. Say what you like about the Islamic world, but they show tremendous initiative and energy and inventiveness, at least when it comes to threatening death to the infidels every 48 hours for one perceived offense or another. If only it could be channeled into, say, a small software company, what an economy they'd have.

Meanwhile, back in Copenhagen, the Danes are a little bewildered to find that this time it's plucky little Denmark who's caught the eye of the nutters. Last year, a newspaper called Jyllands-Posten published several cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed, whose physical representation in art is forbidden by Islam. The cartoons aren't particularly good and they were intended to be provocative. But they had a serious point. Before coming to that, we should note that in the Western world "artists" "provoke" with the same numbing regularity as young Muslim men light up other countries' flags. When Tony-winning author Terence McNally writes a Broadway play in which Jesus has gay sex with Judas, the New York Times and Co. rush to garland him with praise for how "brave" and "challenging" he is. The rule for "brave" "transgressive" "artists" is a simple one: If you're going to be provocative, it's best to do it with people who can't be provoked.

Thus, NBC is celebrating Easter this year with a special edition of the gay sitcom "Will & Grace," in which a Christian conservative cooking-show host, played by the popular singing slattern Britney Spears, offers seasonal recipes -- "Cruci-fixin's." On the other hand, the same network, in its coverage of the global riots over the Danish cartoons, has declined to show any of the offending artwork out of "respect" for the Muslim faith.

Which means out of respect for their ability to locate the executive vice president's home in the suburbs and firebomb his garage.

Jyllands-Posten wasn't being offensive for the sake of it. They had a serious point -- or, at any rate, a more serious one than Britney Spears or Terence McNally. The cartoons accompanied a piece about the dangers of "self-censorship" -- i.e., a climate in which there's no explicit law forbidding you from addressing the more, er, lively aspects of Islam but nonetheless everyone feels it's better not to.

That's the question the Danish newspaper was testing: the weakness of free societies in the face of intimidation by militant Islam.

One day, years from now, as archaeologists sift through the ruins of an ancient civilization for clues to its downfall, they'll marvel at how easy it all was. You don't need to fly jets into skyscrapers and kill thousands of people. As a matter of fact, that's a bad strategy, because even the wimpiest state will feel obliged to respond. But if you frame the issue in terms of multicultural "sensitivity," the wimp state will bend over backward to give you everything you want -- including, eventually, the keys to those skyscrapers. Thus, Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, hailed the "sensitivity" of Fleet Street in not reprinting the offending cartoons.
No doubt he's similarly impressed by the "sensitivity" of Anne Owers, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, for prohibiting the flying of the English national flag in English prisons on the grounds that it shows the cross of St. George, which was used by the Crusaders and thus is offensive to Muslims. And no doubt he's impressed by the "sensitivity" of Burger King, which withdrew its ice cream cones from its British menus because Rashad Akhtar of High Wycombe complained that the creamy swirl shown on the lid looked like the word "Allah" in Arabic script. I don't know which sura in the Koran says don't forget, folks, it's not just physical representations of God or the Prophet but also chocolate ice cream squiggly representations of the name, but ixnay on both just to be "sensitive."

And doubtless the British foreign secretary also appreciates the "sensitivity" of the owner of France-Soir, who fired his editor for republishing the Danish cartoons. And the "sensitivity" of the Dutch film director Albert Ter Heerdt, who canceled the sequel to his hit multicultural comedy ''Shouf Shouf Habibi!'' on the grounds that "I don't want a knife in my chest" -- which is what happened to the last Dutch film director to make a movie about Islam: Theo van Gogh, on whose ''right to dissent'' all those Hollywood blowhards are strangely silent. Perhaps they're just being "sensitive,'' too.

And perhaps the British foreign secretary also admires the "sensitivity" of those Dutch public figures who once spoke out against the intimidatory aspects of Islam and have now opted for diplomatic silence and life under 24-hour armed guard. And maybe he even admires the "sensitivity" of the increasing numbers of Dutch people who dislike the pervasive fear and tension in certain parts of the Netherlands and so have emigrated to Canada and New Zealand.
Very few societies are genuinely multicultural. Most are bicultural: On the one hand, there are folks who are black, white, gay, straight, pre-op transsexual, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, worshippers of global-warming doom-mongers, and they rub along as best they can. And on the other hand are folks who do not accept the give-and-take, the rough-and-tumble of a "diverse" "tolerant" society, and, when one gently raises the matter of their intolerance, they threaten to kill you, which makes the question somewhat moot.

One day the British foreign secretary will wake up and discover that, in practice, there's very little difference between living under Exquisitely Refined Multicultural Sensitivity and Sharia.

As a famously sensitive Dane once put it, "To be or not to be, that is the question."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Thoughts on free expression and Muhammad cartoons

My view is pretty straightforward. I have zero interest in gratuitously offending a person's faith. On the other hand, when that person demands censorship, and censorship at the point of a gun, then it is an issue no longer of decorously and generously avoiding giving gratuitous offense, but of protecting the free expression of speech, even speech which I myself would not have offered.

The right to blaspheme, hard-earned in the European past and never undertaken in the Muslim world, is a cornerstone of Western freedom today. Today's American Catholic intellectuals, for example, are among the largest moral beneficiaries of the secular enlightenment's past battles to dismantle blasphemy having the force of law - for those same thinkers depart with impunity from what their own Church officials say and sometimes appear never to give a thought that they might have been jailed, tortured, or executed in times past.

The ever-sensitive Westerners who promptly cave on the cartoon issue, issue apologies, beg forgiveness, call for laws restricting free expression, show their "moderation" and "pragmatism," and back a return of what amounts to a law of blasphemy - well, I stand with Voltaire.

And Jefferson. And Thomas Paine. And with the rest of our enlightenment founding fathers who said, Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. The radical Islamists taking up their guns and declaring jihad are uncivilized barbarians. And likewise the Muslim masses who cheer them on. Each reinforces the other. Uncivilized barbarians. Impolite? Hurtful? All true and, at this juncture, necessary to say loudly? Yes.

Europe has never truly embraced free expression as a value, not even in Britain; it has merely allowed to flourish a certain libertinism that long ago ceased to offend. Europe has long confused the fact of having less demanding sexual standards than America's with having a more liberal culture. Not so. If anything, it has always been more conformist, even though it had different cultural standards to conform to, and ever willing to hedge on issues of individual liberty in the interests of a social consensus. Not having defended genuinely offensive free expression robustly in recent times, it is nearly impossible for Europe to reach back to its own secular past to defend it when challenged. Its nuances sink it. I wish the Danes well in the defense of their secular enlightenment culture and stand with them; I have doubts that Western Europe as a whole is up to the task.

Once upon a time Europe had a noble tradition of anti-clericalism - I say that with immense respect and admiration, even as a religious person, in part because I once lived in Spain near a street still called today La Calle de la Inquisicion. Europe seems no longer able to summon that spirit except when silencing traditional Christians and conservative Catholics - easy targets, always - and even though it thinks of itself as heroically secular. It is secular, to be sure, but purely in a passive, "lifestyle" sense - no longer a principle to be defended, and which in part sheltered the religious by allowing them space to dissent without fear of legal persecution. Secular used to mean, in Europe, a proud spiritual tradition of freethinking; not any more.

I think ever less well of craven journalists wringing their hands and agonizing over how not to take a stand in what should be their most important issue and finest hour. I have no time for human rights groups that invent all manner of new and refined "rights" but cannot bestir themselves to defend free expression, and instead, follow the multicultural pc line that speech that offends specially favored groups can be banned as incitement to religious hatred, etc., etc.

There are issues on which you cannot square the circle and cannot equivocate. If it offends, it offends. This is one of them. Who would have thought that we should have to refight this issue? What about you?

(Update, February 3, 2006. After castigating Europe's lack of will to defend its own secular culture, let me say how appalled, embarrassed, and disappointed I am that the Bush administration today chose the path of cultural appeasement. See the post above, here.)

NYT on UN Human Rights Commission reform draft

The NYT has a news story today describing the state of play over reform proposals and drafts for replacing the UN Human Rights Commission. It comments on the drafts and then describes the level of US engagement with the process. NYT, international news, February 3, 2006. Here, behind a firewall. Excerpts:

February 3, 2006
New York Times

With Its Human Rights Oversight Under Fire,
U.N. Submits a Plan for a Strengthened Agency


UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 2 — United Nations negotiators circulated a draft resolution on Thursday for a Human Rights Council that would have standards for membership, means for timely interventions in crises and a year-round existence.

The proposed 45-member council is meant to replace the widely discredited 53-member Human Rights Commission, and its creation this month is seen as a critical test of whether the United Nations can adopt meaningful reform and redeem its scandal-tarnished reputation.
The commission is scheduled to begin its annual six weeks of sessions in Geneva on March 13, and diplomats believe the new council must gain General Assembly approval by Feb. 15 to be able to replace the existing body on time.

The commission has been a persistent embarrassment to the United Nations because membership has been open to countries like Cuba, Sudan and Zimbabwe, current members who are themselves accused of gross rights abuses.

In introducing his recommendation for the new council last March, Secretary General Kofi Annan said such countries sought participation on the panel to block examination of their own records, a practice he said "casts a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations as a whole."
Thursday's proposal, a refinement of a draft circulated in December, leaves open for further negotiation a critical element of Mr. Annan's recommended plan — a requirement that new members be elected by a two-thirds vote of the 191-member General Assembly.

Put forward as a way of weeding out notorious rights violators, the requirement is a step backed by the United States, European countries and human rights groups.

"The new text substantially advances the discussion and gives a good basis to achieve a stronger human rights council, assuming there is a decision to have members of the council elected by a two-thirds majority," said Peggy Hicks, the global advocacy director of Human Rights Watch.
The proposal maintains the right of regional groups to put forward a slate of candidates, but adds the requirement that there be individual secret ballot votes in the General Assembly on each country. Every country on the council will also be subject to a review of its rights records at least once during its three-year term.

Nations would not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms, meaning they would have to step aside for a year before reapplying.

The proposal also says that the General Assembly should "take into account" whether applicant countries have been cited by the United Nations or "whether there are situations that constitute systematic and gross violations of human rights."

The new text strengthens the council's ability to respond promptly to human rights crises but weakens the language on preventing crises by stressing the need for "dialogue and cooperation" with offending countries. Late last year, human rights groups faulted the United States for scrimping on its support for the council, but Ms. Hicks said Thursday that the American engagement had "intensified substantially."

Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for John R. Bolton, the American ambassador, said the United States had no immediate comment on the revised resolution. "We have just received the text and we are studying it closely," he said.

Richard Holbroke on UN SG contenders

Richard Holbroke, former UN ambassador in the Clinton administration, writes an op-ed today in the Washington Post describing the competition to replace UN Secretary General Kofi Annan when his term ends at the end of December 2006. I frequently disagree with Holbroke (I think, especially, that he conflates the need for institutions that play some or many of the roles now played by the UN with the UN itself as the indispensable institution to play them) but he is a very astute foreign policy observer and diplomat, and this is a shrewdly observant article. Here, Washington Post, February 3, 2006.

The Next 'S-G'At Stake in This Election: U.N.'s Future, Asia's Clout

By Richard Holbrooke
Friday, February 3, 2006; A19
Washington Post

Almost invisible to the general public, a major international election campaign is underway. It is the equivalent of primary time now, and candidates are flying quietly into New York, Washington, Beijing, Paris, Moscow and London, meeting with foreign ministers and other officials with little or no fanfare, and slipping out of town again, often denying they are running for anything at all. Although most Americans have not yet heard of any of the candidates, the winner will instantly become a major world figure.

The job they are running for is, of course, secretary general of the United Nations; Kofi Annan's term ends Dec. 31. Historically, the job rotates by region, and by tradition it is Asia's turn. But things are never simple at the United Nations, and other regions and nations are disputing Asia's claim to the next "S-G." Eastern Europe, in particular, says that it now constitutes a separate regional grouping that emerged after the Cold War, and two people greatly popular in Washington, former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, have tossed their hats into the ring. But any one of the five permanent members of the Security Council can veto the choice of secretary general (it was this power that President Bill Clinton wisely used in 1996 to block a second term for Boutros Boutros-Ghali), and Russia seems virtually certain to oppose any candidate from what it still regards as its former "space."

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has said that the world body should not be bound by the rotation system; let the best man or woman be chosen. Nothing wrong with that theory, but, as with our own election system, certain traditions are difficult to discard. I seriously doubt that the Asians, having allowed Africa to hold the position for 15 straight years (Boutros-Ghali and two terms for Kofi Annan), and not having had an Asian secretary general for almost 40 years (since U Thant of Burma in the 1960s), will allow the brass ring to pass them by again. Especially for China, the next S-G -- who would be the first Asian in the post since Beijing took over the Chinese seat in 1972 -- offers a major opportunity that coincides with their newly assertive diplomacy throughout the world. And remember: No one who is not acceptable to both Beijing and Washington can get this job, and the two countries have significantly different views of what the role of the United Nations should be. The Americans will presumably want a more assertive, reform-minded and interventionist secretary general than China.

Bear in mind also that at the United Nations, Asia may not be what you think. For bureaucratic and historical reasons, the Asian group runs from the shores of the Mediterranean to the far islands of the South Pacific; it includes most of the Arab world and even Turkey, which has, in Kemal Dervis, currently head of the U.N. Development Program, an excellent dark-horse candidate respected by all.

A handful of other names have begun to emerge, but I warn the reader inclined to handicapping: The next S-G may well come from names that have not yet surfaced. The possibilities include:

· Surakiart Sathirathai, Thailand's deputy prime minister, has been running openly since last year and has visited dozens of capitals around the world. He has the formal endorsement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a solid base from which to launch a candidacy.

· Ban Ki Moon, South Korea's impressive foreign minister, has excellent relations with both Washington and Beijing. But would China accept a secretary general from a treaty ally of the United States, and a diplomat who is deeply engaged in sensitive six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programs?

· Jose Ramos-Horta is foreign minister of East Timor -- the newest nation in the world and, until recently, itself a war-torn half-island in the South Pacific administered by the United Nations. Ramos-Horta is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and is well known internationally, but his country is tiny, with only 800,000 people.

· Jayantha Dhanapala, a respected Sri Lankan, served as U.N. undersecretary general for disarmament and as ambassador to the United States. He has been openly campaigning for over a year, but some question the selection of another U.N. bureaucrat right after Kofi Annan.

Anyway, you get the idea. As I said, the next S-G may not be on this list at all. The former prime minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong, could, for example, emerge at the very end. Another dark horse, Prince Zeid Raed Hussein, the deft and elegant young Jordanian ambassador to the U.N., deserves closer scrutiny. My guess is that the final decision will not come until at least the end of September, during the annual convention of foreign leaders at the U.N. General Assembly. Then, with a deadline staring them in the face, the leaders of the Big Five and other major powers, including India and Japan, will get down to it. It is not coincidence that all U.N. secretaries general since the first (from Norway, but pre-NATO) have come from nonaligned countries (Sweden, Burma, Austria, Peru, Egypt, and Ghana). Big aligned countries tend to cancel each other out.

But the job does matter. A weak S-G means a weaker United Nations, and although that may please some die-hard U.N.-haters, the United Nations has been an important part of American foreign policy on many issues since the end of the Cold War. Right now, for example, the Security Council is about to become a major focal point for the Iranian nuclear issue. The secretary general can play an important role on such issues, and it is in the American interest, more often than not, to have a strong secretary general exerting pressure on reluctant or rogue states. The same may not be true of China. The drama coming up, especially between Beijing and Washington, will be interesting to follow, and will tell us a lot about both the future of the United Nations and the long-term intentions of China on the world stage.

Richard Holbrooke, an ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration, writes a monthly column for The Post.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rank speculation and gross generalizations about the future of transnational civil society advocacy over the next twenty five years

I was recently asked to participate in a discussion on the question of transnational advocacy by nonstate actor networks - global civil society, international NGOs, etc. As part of that, I prepared a brainstorming memo offering my crystal ball predictions about where this was going over the next twenty five years. Well. I have read very carefully Richard Posner's book on public intellectuals and the dangers of being a futurologist. Nonetheless, I put all my qualms aside and let rip. I have excerpted, below. If all this turns out to be so much silliness, when someone acccidentally finds this blog post twenty years from now, doing intellectual archaeology through the dead, long gone worlds of the net, I accept no responsibility. (Photo is cover of John Keane's provocative 2003 book.)

Speculations on the future of transnational nonstate actor advocacy networks:

Advocacy as such. Where do advocacy networks come from? Advocacy networks are actually quite old, even though laboring under historical constraints of travel and communication. Anti-slavery societies, for example, have a long history in Europe and the United States, including networking across borders to share ideas, strategies, solidarity, etc. The social dissemination of Enlightenment ideals was advanced considerably through networks of Freemasons across borders. Advocacy organizations were active from the end of the Second World War – in the founding of the United Nations, for example, and many of the especially advocating organizations had their roots in international progressive causes, especially disarmament in the inter-war period – and many, of course, were international labor organizations or socialist solidarity groups. Nonetheless, at risk of a qualified generalization, advocacy was less important prior to the 1980s than afterwards – organizations that delivered social services either within or across borders, such as health, food, educational networks were more important than pure advocacy organizations. And much of the advocacy that went on took place as a function adjunct to the organization’s main “service” function – the advocacy depended on the credibility for experience, expertise, and competence that went along with delivering services.

This changed in the 1980s, beginning with the rise of human rights as a separate moral and ideological movement. Its moral claims did not depend on the delivery of services at all. It was about the oppressed, but not about the delivery of services by the advocacy organization. It was about the obligations and sins of governments, but not in any sense that required social service action by the organization itself.

The shift can be seen by comparing the traditional mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the rise of Human Rights Watch. The ICRC sees its mission as a single one of “protection,” but it includes in that mandate both legalistic human rights issues, such as access to prisoners in war, but also the obligation to relieve suffering of populations in war. That dual mandate has caused the organization many difficulties – its mission to relieve suffering has led it to a policy of not saying publicly what it sees in its monitoring activities for fear of loss of access to the needy populations, and was of course the cause behind the break-off of newer groups such as Medecin sans frontiers and others. But HRW came on the scene in the 1980s with solely a monitoring and advocacy mandate – it had no obligations to provide services. As a practical matter, it could be louder, could focus on creating informal alliances and networks with the media and friendly governments against unfriendly ones. HRW was freed from the constraints that bound the ICRC and able to focus directly on advocacy and the special public relations alliances that shape it. But what was its special claim to expertise and competence, which had typically provided the moral basis for why anyone should listen to NGOs in the past? Not services – but instead its expertise in human rights law itself, in neutrality in reporting, and objectivity in factual reporting. Its expertise was a certain morality itself, not any physical services to suffering or needy populations.

The rise of transnational advocacy was in part a function of the rise of ideologies that allowed pure advocacy. Human rights was one; environmentalism was another. But once it was accepted that transnational NGOs did not need to “do” anything other than advocate to have credibility and that their expertise was, so to speak, their mastery of their ideology, then the door was really thrown open to advocacy as such.

From NGO to global civil society. A second, far-reaching step in the evolution of transnational advocacy occurred in the 1990s, when transnational NGOs began to think of themselves – and established an entire identity around – as “global civil society.” The concept was that NGOs in an established domestic society are what we call “civil society” – entities that lie outside either the state or the private business sector. Some of them are political and advocacy; most are simply associations of people doing what they want. The importance of civil society in domestic democratic society has been analyzed – the innovation of global civil society was to claim that transnational NGOs were the “global civil society” of a globalizing world, in which revolutions in communications, transportation, and so on were creating a global society.[1] Why did the label matter? It mattered especially for advocacy NGOs. What it did was attach to these NGOs a claim of more than expertise, competence, or the credibility of an organization that was experienced in doing something for someone in need – it said, we are civil society, and you have to listen to us. We represent the peoples of the world – directly, and not mediated by governments or other institutions.

This claim was addressed to the “international community” – in effect, it was a claim that, if you conceived of the international arena as a “society,” then this was the demos, the people of this community. In particular, however, the claim was addressed to national governments and international organizations of all kinds – the UN, the World Bank, and so on. It was a very special claim – the claim of representativeness. It got going perhaps most strongly in the 1990s in the campaign to ban landmines – Jody Williams’ Nobel Prize speech relied explicitly on the claim that we, the people of the world, got together and forced unrepresentative (even though sometimes democratic) governments and international organizations to do something. And we, the NGOs, are the world’s civil society and the people are represented through us.

The claim always had a certain problem. International society is only very tenuously a society in the sense of domestic democratic society – by analogy, as it were. And a flawed one at that – NGOs in a domestic democratic society do not “represent” the people – the people represent themselves at the ballot box. Advocacy organizations represent only themselves. The lack of a connection, except by analogy, to the actual people of the world left advocacy NGOs, styled as civil society, open to the strong criticism that they were unaccountable. The levels of unaccountability are sometimes astonishing – Sebastian Mallaby, for example, recounts going to Africa to track down a local NGO touted as a major social movement against a hydroelectric dam; it turned out to have fewer than 25 members.[2]

But the question of global civil society as representative of the world’s peoples found an eager audience in a particular institution – the UN. The UN has long been in search of legitimacy to take on the increasing tasks that it sometimes is given and sometimes takes on as a means to increase its own standing in the world as something more than merely a collection of member states. Forward looking UN leaders – Secretary General Kofi Annan, especially, but also other “modernizers” such as Mark Malloch Brown – seized on NGOs as global civil society as representatives of the world’s peoples as a means of legitimacy that avoided the legitimacy of the member states. It provided an independent ground of legitimacy apart from the member states, and hence an independent source of authority. This formed the centerpiece of Annan’s Millennium address in 2000 to the assembly of NGOs – and his Davos speech in January 2006 makes clear that he sees this as a central legacy. Advocacy NGOs thus gained immense traction within the “international system” even without having to show expertise, competence, or experience, merely by being styled as “representative,” and international organizations gained a constituency outside traditional nation states. At the same time, this was all subject to at least four major objections: (1) The NGOs in fact represented no one but themselves, despite their moral claims, (2) The lack of actual representation meant that they were given the privileges of access and influence without political accountability, (3) The NGOs actually had less incentive than before to show expertise, competence, or experience – why, if you were representatives of someone? (4) This is all very undemocratic, in the ballot box sense of things, and civil society is not a substitute for that.

We can add to this account, of course, the technological drivers of communications technology, the internet, and email. They have indeed transformed the landscape. Their value was first proven in the landmines ban campaign in the 1990s, and things have only gotten more sophisticated since.

Into the future. That is where matters stand now. So what does this bode for the next twenty five years? Since transnational NGOs tend to reflect the issues in global public debate, answering this question peculiarly depends in large part on what you see those issues being over the next twenty five years. Not entirely – questions such as technology changes in communications also have a large effect – but the agenda is one which is set by broader forces in international public opinion.

The advocacy issues of the past twenty years have been set largely by the progressive internationalist political agenda. What are those? Human rights, the environment, gender and sexual identity questions that cut across societies but which are particularly important to the transborder bourgeoisie. (It is striking that peace and disarmament movements have, since the Cold War ended, had less importance – partly because there is less attention to the underlying issue, but also partly because peace as a transnational value has lost ground to the value of human rights. These questions take on an international and local dimension – the local opposition to, for example, a third world dam project and the backing for the local NGO provided international civil society; as noted there are questions about how widely representative these organizations are, but the dynamic organizing model of local-international is widespread today. Then there are issues of ethnic identity, religion, and race which in some cases are tied to a particular geography but increasingly are transnational and specifically migratory issues – refugee and asylum movements, for example. And then there is international economic development and humanitarian work.

None of the above issues is going away in the next twenty five years. I would guess that global warming will increase considerably activity on both environmental and energy fronts. However, I query whether that transnational advocacy activity will look quite the same as the Greenpeace, etc., forms of mass-and-committed-activist organization we see today. If, as I think likely, even the US government accepts climate change caused by human activity as a fact, then there may be a move to forms of advocacy that are more cooperative and have more shared factual premises. Human rights seems to me a maturing industry that is already settling into a sort of comfortable middle age form of advocacy – its discourse will not go away or diminish in importance, but as an advocacy form, it has already been highly institutionalized – I hesitate to use the word “tired,” but within a couple of decades, it may have a somewhat dated quality to it – it will not be less important, but its importance will be as part of the background “buzz” of global political culture. Economic development and poverty reduction issues are also not going away as advocacy issues across borders – but I think there is much questioning today about the right substantive approach to it, in particular in the role of private capital, foreign direct investment, the lessons from China and India, and the role of NGO and government aid itself – and the dynamics of that debate are unsettled now and unclear for the future, as the development community potentially fragments around different views.

We are currently, however, at this very moment, in a period of relative retrenchment for international NGOs. The high point was the Millennium summit in 2000. Even at that time, though, two critiques were building into a backlash of sorts – the claims of democratic states, even poor ones, to represent their peoples and serve as the mechanisms for setting social and economic agendas and, closely related, the critique of the lack of accountability. September 11 then put security, and hence the traditional nation state and its prerogatives, firmly back on the table. The attention to accountability has clearly put NGOs on a bit of the defensive – witness the whole series of remarks by different NGO leaders, backing off the heady days of the late 1990s, saying in 2000 and 2001 that they are not representative of anyone but themselves. Likewise, there is a sort of intellectual backlash in favor of the value of democracy and sovereign democracy – it is not merely post 9-11 security issues that have put sovereignty back on the table, but a serious intellectual movement that argues that sovereignty is important because it provides the protected space for the values of democracy within a self-governing political community. Ideas and ideology were immense drivers in the rise of the transnational advocacy movement; ideas that challenge that movement also matter.

While the democratic sovereignty movement is currently a US intellectual movement among political conservatives opposed to liberal internationalism and its agenda to erode sovereignty, I would suggest that it is likely to gain considerable traction in Western Europe as the question of the defense of a liberal secular society in the face of demographic changes and immigration gains intellectual respectability. Perhaps demographic changes will push toward greater European integration, but I would argue that instead it will cause progressive liberals in Europe to look for intellectual bases on which to defend their progressive values and those of their societies. Multiculturalism is the official ideology and will be for a long time to come, but it would not surprise me to see the growth of networks of secular and progressive activists in Europe seeking to defend secularism across borders, but on the basis of defending a vision of their own particular societies, linked by the resurgent idea of sovereignty in the service of democratic values.

At the same time, I would anticipate seeing a much higher and more sophisticated transnational organization by Muslim groups in and entering Western Europe – using the mechanisms of transnational civil society, the intensity and group solidarity of religious and ethnic identity, with the effect of networks that facilitate religious and group solidarity and immigration.

This does not mean any lessening of the existing networks of progressive political and social causes using technology to act across borders – human rights, the environment, religious groups, and so on. But how much traction they get in international change is to a large extent a function of whether they are able to create a sort of global bourgeoisie, interlinked by values and concerns and even by lifestyle across borders. What I do not see is the gradual entry of these groups further into governance. The moment when global governance was pushed as a kind of partnership between international organizations and global civil society, in the 1990s – indeed the reason for the evolution of the term from global government to “governance” – is over. I believe it has been effectively discredited – because of the gap with accountability and democracy.[3]

Beyond transnational NGOs. What is left instead is the new idea of networks of government-to-government officials and judges and bureaucrats. This is the New World Order championed by Anne-Marie Slaughter, and it is the brightest move in the global governance debate – which is, really, what the global advocacy groups are about in the international political sphere – in a decade. When a committed liberal internationalist such as Professor Slaughter says flatly that it is not legitimate for transnational NGOs to “govern” – because they are not accountable and not democratically representative, and that only democratic governments can play that role – then it is a sign that the governance agenda for NGOs has really come to an end. Professor Slaughter’s idea is that this role will be filled by legitimate representatives of governments – but that they will somehow cross two roles, a national role and an international one. I have argued that this ultimately collapses into either a purely national role or an international one – it cannot remain poised on the edge – but I believe that this will be the trend for the next decade at least.[4]

The question of how effectively transnational advocacy groups are able to influence those new kinds of government networks is fundamentally a social question – how much are they able to be part of and construct a transnational bourgeoisie. It is no surprise that the theorists most engaged in elaborating these scenarios are concerned less with politics than the social conditions necessary to create something like a class, with class interests, to carry out this agenda. This will sound silly perhaps, but as important as political integration of these people will be their social integration – will the members of these groups, governmental officials across borders, and NGOs, and in-between, marry each other, produce children, produce and reproduce a society and social relations, or at least a class with class interests, over the course of the next two generations? We have not, so far, confronted the intergenerational shift of the NGO movement as we know it, which as in straight advocacy is only a single generation old. What will the generational transition look like, in general sociological terms - i.e., the production and reproduction of a social group?

Speculating about technology. In addition, transnational NGO advocacy networks may be affected by technology in some surprising ways. Of course, the fundamental technological factor has been communications technology – more exactly, the astonishing fall in the price of communications around the globe. It is not far above zero at this point from the standpoint of the end user sitting in an NGO in some third world capital - Peru or Guatemala or somewhere.

But also of considerable importance, although less than communications, is the price of transportation around the world. Transnational networks are more dependent on the ability to meet face to face around the world than we ordinarily think, being used to considering only the marvels of virtual communication. But transnational networks have also benefited from the global deregulation of air travel and the resulting decline in costs and extension of networks to underserved places. One question is what will happen to communications in the next twenty five years – but I think we can safely anticipate that it will get cheaper and more efficient still. But a second, more speculative, question is what will happen to transportation. Over twenty five years, it is at least possible that it could become relatively more expensive – it might benefit from new technologies that would lower costs, but given resource restraints, etc., it might become more expensive. I speculate that if that were the case, transnational networks might find themselves less powerful than they otherwise would be, because they would be less physically connected – and they might have to make adjustments, such as greater decentralization and more virtual operation. Maybe, maybe not.

With respect to communications technology and the internet, I would add one caution. We assume that it is always barrier-removing. The chances seem quite good that China, in particular, will continue to filter the internet – and Western companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo will cooperate ever more extensively in the censorshihp but in more subtle ways facilitated by new technologies. This will cramp the development of internal civil society in the PRC and its abilities to join broader activist communities abroad. But it is also possible that, around the perfectly understandable goal of creating an internet that uses Chinese characters, a more or less alternative, vastly more Chinese government controlled and censored, and non-interconnected, internet will emerge in China – disconnected or tightly controlled in its connections from the internet of the outside world. The ramifications for transnational advocacy organizations are enormous – China barely figures in transnational advocacy networks now. But as Europe shrinks in importance and China grows, the landscape could be changed enormously by such technological changes.

India, on the other hand, seems altogether likely to join such advocacy in greater amounts, as its middle class reaches across borders in this as in every other way, and drawing on the long tradition in India of social activism and the long tradition of universalist social thought. The question is in what directions the entrance of many Indian participants in transnational advocacy moves the agenda and whether it moves it away from the issues that currently predominate – my guess is that increased Indian participation will not strongly shift the agenda.

Shifts in the agenda. The question is what will shift in the global agenda of transnational advocacy by NGOs in the next twenty five years, what will be different from the publicly visible secular progressive agenda of human rights, environmentalism, etc.

We should note, first, that although this is the agenda that occupies the nexus of public NGO discussion, media, and international governance, in fact there is a very large alternative agenda even in the West of religious organizations concerned about a range of issues from development aid to abortion – their agendas sometimes overlap with the secular progressives but sometimes, abortion especially, they do not. These organizations are simply below the radar screen of most studies of transnational civil society, although their financial and organizational impact, especially in the case of religious organizations is enormous in the global south. (Consider, for example, the statements sometimes heard from traditional Christian groups that in the next twenty five years, the Christian re-evangelization of the West will be performed by missionaries from Africa and Asia – this may well be right, and be an important shift in transnational advocacy.)

Among the new issues that may arise for transnational NGO activism, the possibilities of cross border epidemic disease suggest new areas of advocacy and activism. Activism directed toward drug companies, supply of anti-viral drugs in the developing world – many of these issues are presaged in the HIV campaigns already, but the possibility of pandemic spread of a virus raises new issues for campaigning.

The most important shifts in the agenda of transborder NGO advocacy will arise, I suspect, from the importance that demography and migration will take on globally. Economic globalization has been largely about capital up to this point, and about trade in goods. Migration of people is looming ever larger on the horizon, as a cultural and political fact, and I suspect that transnational civil society will shift to take account of it.

In what ways? Most important, I would guess, transnational advocacy groups will increasingly organize among the migrant populations themselves, from their countries of origin to their new homes. Part of this will facilitate greater immigration, and part of this will be used to organize greater political power in their destination countries. The most conflicted part of this shift will involve Muslim immigration to Europe; transnational advocacy will have religious as well as cultural dimension, and will be communally based rather than an expression of universal secular progressive values that have dominated up until now. Sharia law is already an immensely important – if invisible to Western secular eyes – part of civil society organizing especially through the internet, and because it is essentially about ideas and culture, it is well suited to propagation and organization through the internet.

(The gap in thinking about this by Western intellectuals is underscored by the fact that, for all the talk of ways in which transnational civil society has reshaped and raised the importance of international law, including the International Criminal Court, etc., etc., the most important movement in transnational law, global law, is not “international” law at all, but the spread of Sharia to govern the lives of hundreds of millions more people now than twenty years ago, the same period of time as the phenomenal rise of human rights international law. Seen neutrally – from Mars, as it were – an observer might well say that the spread of Sharia law's reach is actually much more significant than the spread of “international” law – both have spread through transnational advocacy networks, but only one of them is visible on CNN while the other is visible from the ground up. What's the most important, spreading, and dynamic part of the global law governing women and children? CEDAW, you say? The children's rights convention? Think again - maybe we should say, Sharia law in vast areas of Nigeria, and vast other areas besides.)

But I think new developments in transnational advocacy movements will also be part of Latin American, especially Mexican and Central American, migration to the United States. Transnational advocacy networks will be of great importance in tying these communities back to their home cultures – as places like Salvador or Guatemala are increasingly seen as poor ethnic suburbs of the United States – as well as forming political bases for advocacy in the United States itself.

Note that all of this involves a shift away from “universal” issues, and instead focuses on large but nonetheless particular communities. And to a large extent, I think it will go unnoticed by the existing transnational advocacy community, because that community tends to look only at universal issues. But I suspect that transnational advocacy will increasingly tend to be dominated, if only beneath the surface, by groups and issues generated by migration.

But, then, about all of the future speculation, I could be very, very wrong.

(Note on the working definition of transnational nonstate actor advocacy networks:)

The working definition of transnational nonstate actor networks offered to kick off this brainstorming exercise starts from the idea of “networks of entities that act across state borders,” and then offers a very broad list of such organizations. It includes not only the usual NGOs and civil society groups, but also the media – which are typically corporate entities or state business entities –and local or national governments. The breadth of the list raises a question as to whether the question under consideration is really about transnational nonstate actor networks, or really – since it includes governments – networks that seek transborder social transformations of one kind or another. The transformative possibilities of crossborder NGOs, even when working with governments in quasi-partnership or in tandem with global media, are significantly different from that of governments or private media businesses operating for their own aims and in their own networks. I will therefore focus on transnational NGOs, and only briefly address networks of governments or networks of media businesses.

In that sense, the definition seems too broad to be useful for discussing modes of social transformation. But it also seems too narrow in some surprising ways. The list does not specifically mention trade unions and the international labor movement. In particular, however, the list of organizations does not mention churches – and yet, for example, the Roman Catholic church is the world’s largest and historically perhaps the world’s most successful transnational nonstate network. One could look to other religious examples, such as the Mormons or the Pentacostals, or one might look to the spread of Wahabbism in Islam. I agree that it makes sense to exclude the criminal or terrorist transnational networks from this type of discussion. But if the aim is to understand the future possibilities of advocacy networks, religious networks across borders are the historically defining case.

Notes (I've kept them very light for this memo and mostly cited - me!):

[1] Among the voluminous literature, see, e.g., John Keane, Global Civil Society (Cambridge 2003). The indispensable sourcebook on transnational NGOs is the yearbook Global Civil Society (Sage). It is essential because it is the only serious attempt to do empirical surveys of the international NGO field.
[2] Sebastian Mallaby, Foreign Policy, September-October 2004. His adventures have sparked furious replies from the environmental NGOs, but I do not think he can be seriously gainsaid.
[3] See Kenneth Anderson and David Rieff, “Scepticism about global civil society,” Global Civil Society 2004/5, eds. Helmut Anheier, Marlies Glasius, and Mary Kaldor (Sage 2004), at 26.
[4] Kenneth Anderson, “Squaring the Circle: Reconciling sovereignty and global governance through global government networks,” 118 Harvard Law Review 1255 (February 2005), review of Anne-Marie Slaughter, A New World Order (Princeton 2004).