Term Paper: Multinational Conflict Management Does the Concept Conflict With Sovereignty

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Political Science

Multinational Conflict Management:

Does the Concept Conflict with Sovereignty?

Conflict among nations and peoples is old as humanity itself. Throughout much of human history, these disagreements have been solved by violent means. The belief that "might makes right" ensured that war remained a major instrumental of policy. However, the devastating military conflicts of the Twentieth Century, the resultant carnage and economic destruction, has caused a re-thinking of this most basic premise of international and inter-group relations. Accordingly, since 1945 a number of multinational organizations have been established, the primary purpose of which has been the resolution of conflict by other means and the maintenance of peace, and fostering of cooperation, among nations and peoples. Foremost among these organizations has been the United Nations itself, but also more recently, the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice (both of which have been referred to as the "World Court"), and various international tribunals created for the prosecution of war crimes such as those of Nuremberg and Tokyo, and also the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. While many of these permanent and temporary institutions have been praised for what they have accomplished in terms of civil and economic rights, they have also been criticized for the way in which they have been used by various concerned parties. Many see such organizations as gross violations of traditional national sovereignty. For those who hold to this view, multinational conflict management increasingly takes policymaking out of the hands of domestic authorities, and subordinates national laws and customs to international agreements and potentially controversial "universal" principals of human and civil rights.

Nuremberg was perhaps the first great example of an international tribunal. It was in that historic German city that the victors of the Second World War assembled to try the Nazi leadership for the cruel and wanton murder of more than six million Jews, millions of Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, and other "undesirables" - all in blatant violations of not only pre-Nazi German law, but of basic principles of human rights. Years later, in 1998, the Treaty of Rome codified many of the precepts behind Nuremberg, creating an international criminal court for the purpose of trying as individuals those leaders of nations, and officials of those same nations, who might violate what were considered to be established norms or human and civil rights. The Treaty effectively overturned centuries of existing international law, a corpus of international agreements and traditions that insisted only states themselves might be held liable for the crimes committed in their names.

Under the new system, individuals are essentially subjected not only to the norms of international law, as opposed to the dictates of their own states, but also to a host of internationalized juridical procedures. In just one example, a hypothetical American citizen brought before the court would be subject not to the legal guarantees of the United States Constitution, but to whatever arrangements should be decreed by the International Criminal Court, one notable difference being that - in accordance with the procedures followed by many Rome signatories in their own nations - defendants in a civil case do not possess the right to a trial by jury.

Defendants who therefore claim to be acting on the orders of their own governments cannot even claim the protection of their government's laws. The change reflects a process that is described by Francis Deng as "irreversibly advancing" toward the imposition of international standards onto sovereign states.

Where once it was individual sovereign states that set the norms of international behavior and individual action, it is now the "international community" that determines standards that then filter down into individual polities.

The trial of Slobodan Milosevic, president of what remained of the former Yugoslavia, represented the second major attempt at an international criminal prosecution of violations of norms of human and civil rights. Milosevic's trial was also the first to be carried out in accord with the principles of the Treaty of Rome. The United States, an original signatory of Rome, was instrumental in seeing that Milosevic was brought to justice. It was the United States, under President Clinton, that led the NATO coalition against the Serbs, and was also largely responsible for building international support for the recognition of Serbian attacks on Bosnian Muslims as yet another instance of genocide. Under President Bush; however, the United States withdrew its signature from the Treaty of Rome citing what are now the standard arguments against such attempts at multinational conflict resolution in extra-national courts of law. A Congressional Research Services Report concluded that, "[a]t the core of the U.S. objection to the ICC Treaty is the fear that other nations would use the ICC as a political forum to challenge actions deemed legitimate by responsible governments."

In essence, the United States was raising the argument that citizens should not be held criminally responsible for actions deemed legal by their own governments, and committed at the behest of their governments. A major objection raised by American officials to tribunals such as the International Criminal Court has been the fear that American citizens will be the victims of frivolous prosecution as a means of exacting retribution for what it deems perfectly lawful United States government actions. So alarmed was the Bush Administration by the prospect of surrendering American sovereignty to the procedures established by the Treaty of Rome, that it actually sought out a United Nations resolution granting Americans immunity from prosecution, at the same time as it pressured "vulnerable nations to agree to special deals releasing the United States."

Clearly, the Treaty of Rome was viewed by the Bush Administration as a threat to its own unfettered exercise of American sovereign power. Given the Administration's aggressive international agenda, it could not possibly afford to overlook the implications of a system of multinational conflict management.

Yet another front on which President Bush attempted to slay the specter of international adjudication was to be found in the realm of global economics. In an increasingly global world, American multinational corporations find themselves faced with not only their own domestic regulations but those of the world community as well. As concerns grow in regard to global warming, environmental degradation, and abuse and exploitation of workers in Third World countries, American companies face a possible onslaught of litigation. The United States attempts to pursue its own selfish national interests while compelling other nations to adopt supposedly "globally-friendly" solutions to such problems as illicit trade, currency regulation, international debt, and other economic problems of grave concern to America.

When George Bush's government invaded Iraq, divided up its assets among American corporations, and cried foul over China's continued policy of pegging its currency to the dollar, it demonstrated an insistence upon an absolute notion of national sovereignty and self-interest. War and international economic sanctions undertaken at the behest of single sovereign states do not mix well with multinational conflict resolution plans. Indeed, many who recognize the role of economic exploitation in climate change have found litigation their only means of even attempting to fight the Bush Administration. And despite domestic opportunities for such litigation, the opposition of a Bush Administration makes the necessary international changes in policy almost impossible. In the opinion of environmental lawyers and activists, the World Court is the only viable legal option at this time, even the Kyoto environmental accords having lacked any real teeth to make them effective.

If no nation can challenge America (or any other future superpower) militarily, a world court, or courts, can afford the less powerful nations of the world a forum for justice. Though multinational systems of conflict resolution may have their drawbacks in terms of loss of national sovereignty, there are cases where they may be necessary. When individual governments refuse to hold their citizens accountable, there must be some… [END OF PREVIEW]

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