January 17, 2007


Rogue State America: Has America become a rogue state? (John B. Judis, 1/17/07, TNR Online)

What exactly are we doing in the Horn of Africa, where we have encouraged the Christian government of Ethiopia to invade Somalia and replace its Islamic government? As far as I can tell, we have violated international law, committed war crimes, helped Al Qaeda recruit new members, and involved ourselves in a guerrilla war that could last decades. It's Iraq writ small. And it can't be blamed on Donald Rumsfeld.

There's an old principle of international law, going back to the seventeenth century, against one nation violating the sovereignty of another. It was often breached, but, after two world wars, it was enshrined in the United Nations charter. We criticized the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and justified the first Gulf war on these grounds. The purpose of this principle has been to prevent wars that could arise if more powerful countries simply took it into their hands to dominate smaller, less powerful ones. [...]

In the 1990s, foreign policy experts, eager to identify a new enemy, hit upon the concept of a "rogue state." A rogue state operated outside the bounds of international norms and had to be restrained. The obvious candidates at the time were Libya, Iraq, and North Korea. But the Bush administration has turned the United States itself into a rogue state. Tough-minded conservatives, flexing their "muscular" inclinations from comfortable sinecures in Washington, may dismiss concerns about international law and war crimes as inventions of silly panty-waist liberals. But these inventions, which, in the modern era, were championed by Theodore Roosevelt, were meant to protect Americans as well as other peoples from the wars and the inhumanity that prevailed for thousands of years. We ignore them at their peril, whether in Haditha or Ras Kamboni.

Mr. Judis is correct about the intervention being a mistake vis-a-vis the Somali people, but if he's just now noticing that we're a rogue state and sovereignty is a dead letter he doesn't pay much attention to American history.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 17, 2007 7:13 PM

International law is what the US says it is.

By the way, even based on his assumptions, he is wrong about the legality of the Ethiopian invasion. They were invited in by the UN regognized "provisional" Somali government so no breach of "soverignity" is involved.

Posted by: Bob at January 17, 2007 9:16 PM

Very good. Sovereignity redefined and world government redefined, with a touch of Jupiter and the cow thrown in.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 17, 2007 9:20 PM

Judis says we have helped recruit new Al Qaeda members. Since when did being isolationist cause goodness and light in the rest of the world?

He says we have ignited a guerilla war that could last for decades. Hasn't the Horn seen fighting since 1990 (really, since about 1984)?

And aren't the Democrats supposed to be hopped up on fighting Al Qaeda? I thought it was Iraq and Iran we were supposed to be ignoring?

Does he really believe 'inhumanity' is of a better quality when the US is hamstrung by the UN? What would a Rwandan say? A Srebernican? A young girl from the Congo? And so on.

Pretty funny to see him use the word panty-waist while wearing a flowered skirt.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 17, 2007 11:36 PM

Until Pearl Harbor, America had been an isolationist nation not caring about the rest of the world. How could we be a "rogue state" for most of our history when we've been mostly isolationist?

Posted by: dna at January 18, 2007 5:50 AM

Isolationist? Were there 13 states in 1941? Who won WWI? What ended the Depression (hint: not the New Deal)?

America has periodic snitfits of "isolation" that are really just brief respites from our generally massive interventions: the Barbary Coast wars, Manifest Destiny, the Civil War, the Spanish-American, WWI, WWII, the Cold War, the WoT...

Posted by: oj at January 18, 2007 8:33 AM

"Noun: rogue state
A state that does not respect other states in its international actions, i.e. a nation that routinely violates international laws"

More specifically, its come to mean 3rd world nations that sponsor terrorism.

So how has America always been a Rogue State?

As for your examples:

Barbary Coast wars, self defense agains pirate predations

Manifest Destiny, standard imperialism

the Civil War, by definition an internal affair

the Spanish-American, more standard imperialism

WWI, WWII, the Cold War, the WoT... more self defense agaist agressor nations.

By your examples, every nation participating in colonial expansion or a major war or a civil war is a "rogue state". Which means nearly every nation is a "rogue state".

So why don't you go back and check your definition of "rogue state"?

Posted by: dna at January 18, 2007 11:19 AM

You're both wrong. The modern definition of a "rogue state" is the United States during any period when (1) a conservative Republican is in the White House, (2) US troops are actively engaged in combat against an enemy, and/or (3) US foreign policy is not 100% congruent with the then-current desires of the anti-American Left.

Please note that, by this definition, the US has been a rogue state for nearly all of the last century, except for the period between the fall of Saigon and the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, and the Clinton administration.

Posted by: Mike Morley at January 18, 2007 11:56 AM

When has America ever obeyed international law? We make up our own.

Of course all our wars are "self-defense" every war ever fought has been fought under that claim.

Posted by: oj at January 18, 2007 12:24 PM

Please provide an example of America flouting international law, and how this act is in any way different than any other country's actions.

Posted by: dna at January 18, 2007 1:07 PM

Please provide an example of America flouting international law, and how this act is in any way different than any other country's actions.

Posted by: dna at January 18, 2007 1:12 PM

Different? No one respects international law. It's just usually meaningless when they don't but epochal when we don't.

Posted by: oj at January 18, 2007 1:16 PM