Part of what makes this book so impressive is that its radical vision is sustained and deepened by sophisticated reference to the ideas of many of the leading European political philosophers of the last hundred years and by a social science methodology that relies on an ethnographic record compiled by a participant-observer who doubles as author.
This fine, memorable book possesses a theoretical and practical significance that extends well beyond the confines of the WTI experience. For anyone concerned about political activism, transnational organizing, a new progressive agenda, international law, the ethics of resistance, and the post-colonial, post-Cold War world order this book is required reading. I continue to worry about the disunity of anti-Trump America, and its danger of giving Americans, and indeed the world, four more years of cruel and dangerous governance almost certain to erode the quality of democracy for decades, but there are several major caveats that qualify this anti-Trump priority.
Above all, the realization that both parties have affirmed an unhealthy war-mongering approach to Middle East politics, including unconditional support for special relationship with Israel and Saudi Arabia that overlook, if not being complicit with the criminal wrongdoing of both governments. As well, the Democratic Party establishment still obsessively seeks to push the anti-Russian line in extremist directions that risk a second more volatile Cold War.
Those who speak on behalf of the DNC Democratic National Committee also are clearly unready to repudiate the predatory capitalism of neoliberal globalization that flourished since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This predatory behavior since the end of the Cold War underscores the practical insight that capitalism grows extremely abusive and detached from human wellbeing when not challenged by a socialist alternative as endorsed by a sizable proportion of working people.
Long before the political tragedy of Trumpism, the overwhelming majority of the American people were being exploited and politically pacified by the bipartisan embrace of Wall Street Economics, which is humanly as detrimental to the society as is the persisting bipartisan embrace of militarism.
Unfortunately, the eight years of the Obama presidency, admirable in some ways, did little to challenge these two deadly pillars of the bipartisan consensus that emerged after Sanders invokes the New Deal and the legacy of FDR to insist that this is the most authentic and progressive form of American political leadership, and its absence from recent governance trends is what has alienated, enraged, confused, and disempowered many American citizens contributing to the.
She is showing herself to be an improved campaigner, consistent in values and outlook, setting forth a rich offering of progressive programs in key areas of voter concerns.
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She also is someone that has demonstrated the ability to get things done while serving in the Senate. Warren comes across as a voice of intelligent, trustworthy, and compassionate concern that avoids any superfluous ideologizing of her political agenda. In light of this hard choice, I relegate Sanders to my second tier of preferred candidates, and add to that group Pete Buttigeig, an oversight on my part in the earlier post.
He deserves to be there, more or less for the same reasons as Obama deserved to become president in He is intelligent, informed, fluent, youthfully sympathetic, and has already taken brave steps toward the kind of leadership America needs by presenting himself as a gay man happily married to another gay man. This strikes me as a good list of viable candidates, although I expect the further stages of the campaign to select a nominee will highlight individual strengths and weaknesses not presently apparent.
This will undoubtedly alter these rankings in both directions. My other change of heart since the earlier post, is to worry less that Biden will somehow maintain his frontrunner status. Having observed Bidenin action, I have become more confident that he will self-destruct, or at least remove himself from the running. I share the view that the Biden of today, having suffered personal losses that enlarge moral sensibilities and having been pushed to reconsider some of his past policies, and even behavior, is a wiser, more humane person than the opportunistic politico of past years, and yet that does not make him qualified to be president of this complex country at its most perilous time since the American Civil War, maybe even more perilous because of the global setting.
In light of these considerations, I am reposting my earlier blog with a new title more responsive to the central issue. I have not done this before, but I think the issues are of sufficient importance to make an exception. I also underscore my rejection of the view that because there are serious concerns about the underpinnings of the Democratic Party, the outcome of the election is inconsequential, making it a waste of time even to vote. We should not at this critical juncture give up on democracy even in the face of its seriously deficient functioning.
As Europeans found out in the s, fascism is far worse! Such a view does not invalidate the imperative need for radical restorative reforms if we want to make democracy a progressive reality with respect to the 21 st Century array of challenges, especially the blending of the economic and ecological spheres in sustainable and equitable local, national, regional, and global linkages. In my view the best way to move down this benevolent path at the moment is to nominate, and then elect, Elizabeth Warren as the next American president. I feel depressed with this assessment, or at odds with it, for two reasons: first, I doubt that Biden is a stronger candidate than was Hillary Clinton in , although he might do a bit better with disaffected Midwestern workers and older voters, but likely worse with others.
My other reason for being a Biden doubter is more substantive. Name recognition is good to get a veteran politician out of the gate, but as the race itself commences, substance and political magnetism matter more and more. I do not envy Biden the challenge of debating Trump should he gain the nomination, and I would be surprised if he were successful.
Trump has greater clarity in his delivery, and more punch and style in his swing. If I were a cagey Republican strategist I would do all in my power to exhibit fear of a Biden candidacy precisely because he would likely be a pushover. There is something else about a Biden candidacy that will surely alienate the folks backing Sanders, and likely some of the others among the more progressive candidates. Selecting Biden would represent the DNC and the Democratic Party Establishment as again lining up behind a candidate that is an organization man rather than a political leader with progressive passions and consistent views.
Biden, whether reasonably or not, will be perceived by the body politic as Clinton redux. A Biden presidency would waste no time restoring the Cold War bipartisan consensus, which will probably mean confrontational geopolitics with Russia and China, as well as threatened and actual interventions in the Middle East.
In this sense, should we not be patient, allowing the candidates to achieve a rank ordering on the basis of their performance on the hustings? It is difficult to get a sufficient read on the whole field, but a few stand out in my mind, sufficiently for me to believe they could deal effectively with Trump and yet not be disillusioning to people like myself. I do not dissent from the view that Democrats are much more likely to prevail in the elections If they find a unifying candidate.
At present, despite the large field none of those seeking the nomination, including Biden, or Sanders or Warren for that matter, seems a credible unifier. For this reason, it may still yet be beneficial for Sherrod Brown to come in from the cold, reconsidering his decision not to run. I feel that Brown by his record and his outlook to have the potential to be that much needed unifier with the added bonus of coming from Ohio, a state that could quite possibly decide who will be the next president of this now troubled country.
I personally prefer Warren or Sanders because of their integrity and programs, but I recognize for a variety of reasons neither will be an anti-Trump unifier due to ideological reasons. Many rich and elite Democrats reject candidates who are strident in their attacks on Wall Street, inequality, free trade, and militarism, and seek the bromide of a Biden type candidate. Just because such an approach failed in is no reason for such folks, so it seems, not to try again. I felt this sentiment as informing the pro-Biden advocacy of some of my friends that I mentioned above, feelings disguised a bit by claiming that Biden had the best chance of dislodging Trump.
For now, I support Sanders and Warren, not as a joint ticket, but as alternatives for the top spot. Despite my deep disillusionment with the behavior of American democracy in this period, as evidenced by the. This forthcoming electoral struggle is almost certain to dominate the American political imagination in the year ahead, and determine whether as a nation we recover hope or flounder in despair. And should these preferred candidates fall by the wayside, then I would place a long odds desperate bet on a resurrected Sherrod Brown, but this will not even be an option if the man offstage waits much longer before stepping forth.
Where asymmetries of power exist, as in competing claims of sovereign rights, with respect to the delimitation of territorial boundaries or upholding the right of self-determination, law validates grievances, motivates resistance, but cannot shape political outcomes. Asymmetries of power are conventionally associated with relative military capabilities, but this has been demonstrated to be misleading in post international relations.
A major recent prominent example is the overall success of the anti-colonial movement. In case after case a mobilized popular resistance of the nation overcame the superior military capabilities of the colonial power. The exceptions to this pattern involve settler colonial societies in which the native population was exterminated or marginalized as in North America, Australia, New Zealand, or somewhat assimilated as in most of Latin America. Relative military power is still highly relevant in conflicts between states, but not in their subsequent occupation. In the instances of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq, the military superiority of the United States prevailed in the attack phase of warfare, yet during the subsequent occupation phase it endured a political defeat that basically nullified the military victory.
In the post-colonial world, popular sovereignty when effectively mobilized as resistance can often challenge geopolitical maneuvers, upholding basic rights, but at great human cost. Legitimating resistance through law as occurred in the course of the great anti-colonial struggles of the last half of the 20 th century may have been the greatest contribution of the United Nations to peace and justice.
Erakat, in contrast, explores how law has been twisted by governments to serve geopolitical interests at the expense of basic Palestinian rights, and yet normative discourse nevertheless currently serves the struggle of the Palestinian people and strengthens the political will of transnational civil society to challenge Israel. Richard Falk is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years.
He initiated this blog partly in celebration of his 80th birthday. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Sign me up! Global Justice in the 21st Century. Home About.
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The text below has been somewhat modified. It is a case of geopolitics eclipsing moral and legal accountability exposing the lack of political will to protect the innocent and vulnerable from abuse by the vindictive and militarily powerful. For Whom? Presidential elections. What do you anticipate to be the outcome of the US elections in if the trade war with China. A poll of voter preferences was recently arranged by Fox News, the chief media sponsor of Trump, that shows that Trump has less voter support than five Democrats, including Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.
Given the fact that the poll was held by Fox News, how do you evaluate such results? I recognize that there have been some differences between Trump and Fox News recently, which may make these resulting less important than they seem. Despite my deep disillusionment with the behavior of American democracy in this period, as evidenced by the inexplicable loyalty of the Trump base or the implacable failure to protect our citizenry by the kind of gun control that exists in other comparable societies or the refusal of the Democratic leadership in Congress to begin impeachment proceedings or a hundred other causes of my discontent, I still feel that such principled candidates not only offer a brighter future for the society but that they would be probable winners.
I think we should defer such an unpleasant conversation until the reality is upon us, which I am optimistic enough to believe will be never. Law as such is a neutral instrument, historically invented to serve the purposes of the strong, and more recently seen as useful for the weak in certain settings. When law is aligned with injustice it gives rise to resistance, which historically is associated with the hallowed tradition of civil disobedience, influential with Tolstoy, Gandhi, and more recently, Martin Luther King, Jr..
In these contexts civil disobedience can involve the nonviolent transgression of any legal norm that calls attention to the specific injustice. For instance, a refusal to pay taxes or trespass on a military base are illustrative. Armed struggle may also achieve law-generating legitimacy as was the case in the decades after World War II for anti-colonial wars or wars of national liberation. So far, there is no traditional of international or global civil disobedience. In a globalizing world, transnational activism needs such a means to protest injustice. This assertion is more innovative than it appears at first glance.
Instead of stressing the regulation of behavior of sovereign states, Kennedy believes that international law is primarily useful for purposes of intra-governmental and inter-governmental communication, helping policymakers determine how policy should be framed and justified. The challenge for most moderate governments is to exercise their discretion in ways responsive to a range of concerns, including humanitarian, security, and strategic. For overall discussion see Kennedy, Of War and Law There is a further point. In effect, language being inherently malleable, it is always possible to interpret the law to conform to preferred policy options reflecting societal roles and normative background.
For this reason, in matters that challenge major state interests law serves mainly to communicate and clarify, but lacks the political traction to restrain.
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Law does allow the strong to vindicate their claims of belligerent rights as in war crimes trials of the leader s of defeated countries. A recent instance is the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein orchestrated by the victorious law-violating aggressor. By contrast, in Revisiting the Vietnam War I contend that American policies in Vietnam after were unlawful in various ways, with a special stress on the U. In effect, international law, as well as the UN Charter, sought to be regulative with respect to behavior, as well as the incidental benefit of offering a framework for discourse among diplomats.
Further, that regulative intentions giving rise to such legal norms were seeking to restrict recourse to international force to situations of self-defense strictly defined. The overriding goal of the. UN Charter is war prevention. Article History is relevant. When the grief and tragedy of war remained an active memory restraint followed, not only because the law so decreed but as a reflection of the psychological anti-war mood that then briefly prevailed.
Such a regulative view of international law rests on a premise that there are correct and incorrect or better and worse modes of interpretation with respect to the application of legal norms. This premise does not entail a positivist approach that restricts the meaning attributed to legal norms to the language used in formal texts or customary rules.
A more appropriate interpretative approach can be adopted, enlarged to take account of context, including ethical, sociological, and historical considerations.
When a country has recourse to force, claimint to act in accord with its right of self-defense or contends that its uses of force are proportional and discriminate a regulative approach can disagree by offering contrary factual and interpretative evidence. The absence of authoritative interpreters of international law make theses assessments rest to a greater degree on supposedly neutral scholarly or expert opinion, which is deemed more trustworthy as not forthcoming from a partisan source. Of course, scholars disagree just as judges disagree.
As their work was rooted in the global setting of the Cold War their inclinations were to find that American foreign policy was in most instances compatible with international law as it was assumed guided by a commitment to promote free world values and by reliance on capabilities able to bring effective power to bear on the behavior of political actors. Such a jurisprudential perspective regards international law as a geopolitical instrument evaluated as good or bad by reference to the normative credentials and material capabilities of political actors.
These credentials are given concrete significance by assessing the degree of adherence of a domestic public order system to the values of a free society.
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The West, from this point of view supposedly adhered to such values, while the Soviet bloc did not. Such a framework was deeply ideological as in contested situations, for instance, Vietnam, where the differences between the Soviet and American forms of government should not have affected the legal assessment of violations of the sovereign rights of Vietnam. The tribunal was charged with determining whether political leaders, military commanders, and corporate officers should be held personally accountable under international criminal law.
Admittedly, this is a somewhat misleading way to conceive of the central mission of the Iraq War Tribunal. This appropriation of law by those acting on behalf of civil society are doing so on the basis of already formed judgments that reflect moral convictions. Putting the point differently, these kinds of civic initiatives are undertaken because of anti-war sentiments being considered applicable to the judgment of belligerent behavior being challenged and the failure of formal institutions, including the United Nations, to protect a sovereign nation, in this case Iraq, from military attack and occupation.
It is not an inquiry as generally understood, but a gathering of evidence and interpretative argument to mount a challenge directed at a controversial policy of a government, usually a government that enjoys impunity with respect to its wrongdoing. The conclusions of such a tribunal is ultimately an appeal to international public opinion, but usually falls short of its goals because of limits on funding available to disseminate results and antipathy of mainstream media to these activities.
These tribunals are portrayed by the media as usurping the role of formal institutions and are constituted without any acceptable constitutional mandate. The underlying question is whether civil society has any lawmaking authority deserving respect. As such tribunals challenge the new political norms of post-truth society, some view their role as benevolent, others as irrelevant if not malevolent. Such influence tends to be more evident in democratic societies. Tribunals established by citizens is a dissident mode of participatory democracy, and more important for this reason than as a contribution to upholding the rule of law.
Power, Conflict, and Democracy: American Politics Into the 21st Century
Academic international law specialists rarely acknowledge any legal, moral, and political relevance to civil society initiatives that claim a residual authority to act when governments and the UN fail to do so. In this sense, the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II also proceeded on the basis of predetermined results, but because constituted by sovereign states as represented by governments, their undertaking was generally viewed as deserving of respect. The documentation of criminality was widely regarded as an invaluable form of political education. What little criticism of these legal initiatives by academic specialists did occur focused on the fact that the crimes of the victors, including the atomic bombing of Japanese cities, were excluded even from inquiry, much less accountability.
But equally important, they were strands that had to be kept operationally separate and functionally distinct. During the s, that division fatally eroded. Despite its labor reform rhetoric, the Knights of Labor attracted large numbers of workers hoping to improve their immediate conditions.
As the Knights carried on strikes and organized along industrial lines, the threatened national trade unions demanded that the group confine itself to its professed labor reform purposes; when it refused, they joined in December to form the American Federation of Labor afl. The new federation marked a break with the past, for it denied to labor reform any further role in the struggles of American workers. In part, the assertion of trade union supremacy stemmed from an undeniable reality.
As industrialism matured, labor reform lost its meaning—hence the confusion and ultimate failure of the Knights of Labor. Marxism taught Samuel Gompers and his fellow socialists that trade unionism was the indispensable instrument for preparing the working class for revolution. That class formulation necessarily defined trade unionism as the movement of the entire working class.
The afl asserted as a formal policy that it represented all workers, irrespective of skill, race, religion, nationality, or gender. But the national unions that had created the afl in fact comprised only the skilled trades. Almost at once, therefore, the trade union movement encountered a dilemma: how to square ideological aspirations against contrary institutional realities? As sweeping technological change began to undermine the craft system of production, some national unions did move toward an industrial structure, most notably in coal mining and the garment trades.
But most craft unions either refused or, as in iron and steel and in meat packing, failed to organize the less skilled. And since skill lines tended to conform to racial, ethnic, and gender divisions, the trade union movement took on a racist and sexist coloration as well. For a short period, the afl resisted that tendency. Formally or informally, the color bar thereafter spread throughout the trade union movement.
In , blacks made up scarcely 3 percent of total membership, most of them segregated in Jim Crow locals. In the case of women and eastern European immigrants, a similar devolution occurred—welcomed as equals in theory, excluded or segregated in practice. Only the fate of Asian workers was unproblematic; their rights had never been asserted by the afl in the first place.
But the organizational dynamism of the labor movement was in fact located in the national unions. Only as they experienced inner change might the labor movement expand beyond the narrow limits—roughly 10 percent of the labor force—at which it stabilized before World War I. Partly because of the lure of progressive labor legislation, even more in response to increasingly damaging court attacks on the trade unions, political activity quickened after Henceforth it would campaign for its friends and seek the defeat of its enemies. This nonpartisan entry into electoral politics, paradoxically, undercut the left-wing advocates of an independent working-class politics.
That question had been repeatedly debated within the afl , first in over Socialist Labor party representation, then in over an alliance with the Populist party, and after over affiliation with the Socialist party of America. Although Gompers prevailed each time, he never found it easy. In response, the trade unions abandoned the Progressive party, retreated to nonpartisanship, and, as their power waned, lapsed into inactivity.
It took the Great Depression to knock the labor movement off dead center. The discontent of industrial workers, combined with New Deal collective bargaining legislation, at last brought the great mass production industries within striking distance. Lewis of the United Mine Workers and his followers broke away in and formed the Committee for Industrial Organization cio , which crucially aided the emerging unions in auto, rubber, steel, and other basic industries.
In the cio was formally established as the Congress of Industrial Organizations. By the end of World War II , more than 12 million workers belonged to unions, and collective bargaining had taken hold throughout the industrial economy. In politics, its enhanced power led the union movement not to a new departure but to a variant on the policy of nonpartisanship. Not only did the cio oppose the Progressive party of , but it expelled the left-wing unions that broke ranks and supported Henry Wallace for the presidency that year.
The formation of the afl — cio in visibly testified to the powerful continuities persisting through the age of industrial unionism. Above all, the central purpose remained what it had always been—to advance the economic and job interests of the union membership. Collective bargaining performed impressively after World War II, more than tripling weekly earnings in manufacturing between and , gaining for union workers an unprecedented measure of security against old age, illness, and unemployment, and, through contractual protections, greatly strengthening their right to fair treatment at the workplace.
But if the benefits were greater and if they went to more people, the basic job-conscious thrust remained intact. Nothing better captures the uneasy amalgam of old and new in the postwar labor movement than the treatment of minorities and women who flocked in, initially from the mass production industries, but after from the public and service sectors as well.
Thus the leadership structure remained largely closed to minorities—as did the skilled jobs that were historically the preserve of white male workers—notoriously so in the construction trades but in the industrial unions as well. Yet the afl — cio played a crucial role in the battle for civil rights legislation in That this legislation might be directed against discriminatory trade union practices was anticipated and quietly welcomed by the more progressive labor leaders.
But more significant was the meaning they found in championing this kind of reform: the chance to act on the broad ideals of the labor movement. From the early s onward, new competitive forces swept through the heavily unionized industries, set off by deregulation in communications and transportation, by industrial restructuring, and by an unprecedented onslaught of foreign goods. As oligopolistic and regulated market structures broke down, nonunion competition spurted, concession bargaining became widespread, and plant closings decimated union memberships.
The once-celebrated National Labor Relations Act increasingly hamstrung the labor movement; an all-out reform campaign to get the law amended failed in And with the election of Ronald Reagan in , there came to power an anti-union administration the likes of which had not been seen since the Harding era. Between and , union membership fell by 5 million.