Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Philip Bobbitt's Response to Critics?

UN Security Council
Construing the UN Charter
Implications for the Charter of Paris
(Image from Wikipedia)

As I noted yesterday, Philip Bobbitt's chapter 10 of Terror and Consent 'appears' to present a response to critics of The Shield of Achilles who argued that he had misconstrued the Peace of Paris as legitimating military intervention for humanitarian reasons.

Recall the words of the "Charter of Paris for a New 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." (Page 5, Charter)
I noted that this is no ringing endorsement of intervention but that some ambiguity remains due to an appeal to the UN Charter. Consequently -- or so one might suspect -- on pages 453-454 of Terror and Consent, Bobbitt argues:
Humanitarian intervention would also appear to be a violation of the text of the charter [of the UN] and its notions of opaque sovereignty [i.e., a state's "supreme authority to govern matters within its domestic jurisdiction," among other powers] . . . . Nevertheless, humanitarian intervention has been endorsed by the Security Council. This brings intervention on humanitarian grounds within the custom and practice of the [UN] charter, which has recently come to reflect ideas of translucent sovereignty. On this view, anticipatory intervention can be lawfully undertaken, but only with the [Security] Council's blessing. (Terror and Consent, 453-454)
Does this answer Bobbitt's critics? I'm no lawyer, but I do know that interpretations of constitutions evolve in practice, and I imagine that the same can hold for interpreting a charter.

In reflecting upon Bobbitt's 'answer', I noticed that he doesn't explicitly mention the Peace of Paris in chapter 10 of Terror and Consent. I looked over the chapter twice after reading critics attacks on Bobbitt's construal of the "Charter of Paris for a New Europe," and unless I overlooked an explict reference, then none appears. That absence left me wondering if Bobbitt was consciously responding to critics, so I emailed him and inquired:
Was this chapter a response to your critics concerning the significance of the Peace of Paris?
I received a quite prompt reply, within hours, in fact:
I am at present . . . in Vineyard Haven with only a Blackberry to respond and I wonder if you might wait until I return to NY in mid-week for a proper response?

The short answer to your question is that I do not read the UN Charter, as construed by the Security Council, in the same way as my reviewer and therefore did not think it necessary to defend my claims about the Peace of Paris which, as you know, goes well beyond the Charter of Paris.

The fact that my most recent book appears to buttress my earlier claims is either a lucky fortuity or merely a reflection of a deplorable lack of imagination on my part. I was not consciously responding to the review, only a small part of which I have read.

Many thanks for writing and apologies for the fragmentary nature of my reply.
Bobbitt's reply clarifies one point. He didn't compose the chapter as an intentional response to critics' remarks on his reading of the Peace of Paris. However, it raises other questions for me. By "Peace of Paris," Bobbitt means more than the literal "Charter of Paris for a New Europe," a point that I had missed -- probably because I was relying on the critics for my knowledge of what he argues in his earlier book, The Shield of Achilles. What, precisely, Bobbitt means by "Peace of Paris" is therefore a question that I must answer for myself by reading that earlier book . . . maybe over the winter break. I'm also left wondering about Bobbitt's understanding of the UN Charter since he mentions that he does not read it the same way as his critics. Plus wondering about how he views the UN Security Council's construal of the UN Charter.

Perhaps if Bobbitt has time midweek, we'll hear more about these things.

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At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your latest blogs re. the UN charter and other references are beyond my expertise, that being limited to how to drive a nail and saw a board, so although I am interested, I don't feel qualified to respond.
Son #3 James is now at NATO headquarters, and events over there are of great interest to me, especially Russia vs Georgia.
Someone sent me a story that he was talking to a sure 'nuff Ozark hillbilly, and he said "He had gone to Wal Mart and bought up all their ammunition....If them Russians invaded Georgia, he wouldn't say 'nuthin, but they better not come to Arkansas,
fur he was ready!"

At 6:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, to get to Arkansas, the Ruskies would have to cross Tennessee first, and that might prove difficult, given the military prowess of folks in the Volunteer State.

I'm surprised, however, by how quickly Georgia fell...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please note that at no time did I identify this Sho-nuff Ozark hillbilly as being a certain "JK" from Melbourne.....by the way....what has happened to our blog pal? Is he sitting in his hideout with loaded weapons, awaiting the possible invasion?
I think Jeanie is having tests being made at Mayo clinic, nephew Bill is on the road hauling vehicles to various places, but I have no idea where my "friend" from Melbourne could be.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Perhaps JK has driven over to Georgia to conduct a futile but gloriously courageous rearguard action.

Jeffery Hodges

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