"Peace of Paris?" Balakrishnan on Bobbitt
Green: OSCE Participating States
Tan: Partners for Co-operation with OSCE
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Some readers will recall my earlier post concerning a review by Gopal Balakrishnan, "Algorithms of War" (New Left Review 23, September-October 2003), in which he critiques Philip Bobbitt's Shield of Achilles. I've not read this earlier work by Bobbitt but Balakrishnan's review serves to illuminate Bobbitt's thinking in the more recent Terror and Consent, which I have read.
In a section titled 'Dawn or dusk at Paris?', Balakrishnan questions Bobbitt's understanding of the "Charter of Paris for a New Europe":
Bobbitt portrays what he calls the Peace of Paris -- the 'Charter for a New Europe' adopted by the CSCE [i.e., Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe] in late 1990 -- as the diplomatic stage upon which the liberal-democratic constitutional norm of the victorious West finally achieved the universal recognition it missed at Versailles. The importance of this moment for the architecture of Bobbitt's narrative is decisive: it is the true hinge of contemporary history, on which the present continues to turn. Yet just at this crux, the third and most fundamental aporia in his construction breaks open. For on the one hand, the Peace of Paris signals a new constitution of the society of states, based on worldwide legitimation of democracy, human rights and the market economy. As such it provides the empowering charter for military interventions to secure these norms wherever they are too grossly defied. As Bobbitt puts it:Balakrishnan would appear to have raised a devastating point in citing the precise words of the Charter of Paris for a New Europe:The Peace of Paris ought to settle this constitutional question for the society of states: no state's sovereignty is unimpeachable if it studiedly spurns parliamentary institutions and human rights protections. The greater the rejection of these institutions -- which are the means by which sovereignty is conveyed by societies to their governments -- the more sharply curtailed is the cloak of sovereignty that would otherwise protect governments from interference by their peers. us action against the sovereignty of Iraq, for example, must be evaluated in this light. So too, he adds, the Peace of Paris strips the mantle of national sovereignty away from any government seeking nuclear weapons that fails to conform to its norms, warranting pre-emptive strikes against the delinquent.  In this register, the Charter of 1990 appears as the lineal successor of the Congress of Vienna, setting the terms of legitimate diplomacy and war for an entire epoch, the period ahead.
The briefest glance at the text of the Charter, however, makes clear that the 'Peace of Paris' bears no relation to this construal. It expressly rules out the actions Bobbitt would have it endorse. 'In accordance with our obligations under the Charter of the Nations and commitments under the Helsinki final act,' declared its signatories, 'we renew our pledge to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or from acting in any other manner inconsistent with the principles or purposes of these documents. We recall that non-compliance with obligations under the Charter of the United Nations constitutes a violation of international law'.  That this was no mere clause de style can be seen from the reaction of the figure who was historically speaking its most significant signatory -- given that most of the document was standard boiler-plate for Western politicians -- namely Gorbachev: who denounced both NATO’s attack on Yugoslavia and the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
Footnote 16: "SA, p. 680."
Footnote 17: "'No state that does not derive its authority from representative institutions that coexist with fundamental rights can legitimately argue that it can subject its own people to the threat of nuclear pre-emption or retaliation on the basis of its alleged rights of sovereignty because the people it thus makes into nuclear targets have not consented to bear such risks. At a minimum, the Peace of Paris stands for this': SA, p. 680."
Footnote 18: "See 'Charter of Paris for a New Europe': http://www.osce.org/." This footnote refers to page five of the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, which is located on the website for The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
"we renew our pledge to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or from acting in any other manner inconsistent with the principles or purposes of these documents. We recall that non-compliance with obligations under the Charter of the United Nations constitutes a violation of international law."On the face of it, this pledge would seem a rather clear affirmation of national sovereignty. Yet in looking closer, I note that the point seems to be about "territorial integrity or political independence," which I take to mean that no state can attack another to incorporate some or all of its territory. Moreover, this Charter of Paris refers to "obligations under the Charter of the United Nations," which is surely ambiguous wording. Granted, Balakrishnan is correct that this Charter of Paris announces no ringing endorsement of limited national sovereignty, but since this charter refers the reader to the United Nations, one would need to analyze what the UN allows in terms of interventions.
This might explain why Bobbitt, in chapter 10 of his more recent Terror and Consent -- "Mise-en-Scène: The Properties of Sovereignty" -- turns to an analysis of what is allowed by the United Nations.
Perhaps I'll look further into this tomorrow, but that's enough for now. A new semester has started, and I've now accepted a new position, at Ewha University, where I'm teaching undergraduate students the techniques of essay composition . . . and, for this semester at least, teaching graduate students the finer points of Gnosticism and Johannine theology.