Friday, September 25, 2009

Comment on The Belmont Club

WMD and one shot delivery systems and asymmetric warfare terrorist proxies can wound the US. Given the downward spiral that any ruler like Chavez, or Ahmadinejehad or Kim imposes on their societies just how much of a serious threat do any of them pose? Are they worthy of confronting because they can serve as a base for other threats, as the Taliban did? Is it right for an outside power to impose regime change out of a decent respect for the victims of these rulers and should we include in our calculations the wealth and creativity thwarted by these poisonous egos? Those opportunity costs make the world poorer for having these men around. Those same costs make their regimes less of a threat.

Is the answer reviving the very 17 - 19th centuries concept of different classes of nations? The civilized nations that were treated as legal and moral equals in the post Westphalian order, especially in the post Napoleonic world order, included the Powers of Europe (Britain, France, Spain, HRE-Austrian Empire, Russia, and by special dispensation the Ottoman Sublime Porte.) These were joined at the table by the Low Countries, the Scandinavians, the Holy See and Poland while it lasted. Later America got a seat. China was a case closer to the Ottoman Caliphate in that it's pretensions so far exceeded its reality that it was more propped up by jealous outside rivals than by it's own efforts. Near the end Italy and Germany were admitted as equals. The vast majority of the planet was seen as inhabited as other nations which were deemed incapable of conducting the business of diplomacy and abiding to basic norms regarding law, contracts and impartiality at the level practiced by members of the civilized club.

Both the British Empire and the League made the division into different classes of nationhood explicit. The British Empire was never a single unified structure but rather a series of bilateral relations that reflected the status of the parties. The League indicated the different classed of members or potential members both in the Council and Assembly structure and in the Mandate system.

Those members of the Empire deemed capable of self government and most important of contribution and participation in external affairs up to European standards became the Dominions. In other cases there were a hodgepodge of differing grades of dependency. In India some Princely States, Hyderabad is an example, were in effect independent countries in a treaty of alliance with the Crown. Other nations became Protectorates. A relatively few places became pure colonies ruled directly by Britain and inhabited by a native population with only limited self government.

In the League the Council included Japan and Italy as being among the first rank nations but not America, or Russia. Germany. was restricted to the Assembly where they were eventually joined by the Russians. There were three classes of Mandates for nations not deemed ready to assume the considerable responsibilities that came with membership. Mandates were territories surrendered by the defeated Central Powers and reassigned by the League to other members for a period of tutelage and development under the supervision of the assigned Mandatory Power and of the League. The League was after all both a legal system, with members pledged to abide by the standards of International Law, and a treaty of alliance with members pledged to undertake military burdens in a collective security pact.

Class A Mandates were expected to rapidly assume full independence and become full members of the League. They had or were assumed to have internal cohesion, that is an effective native government that could execute the laws and control defined borders over a territory inhabited a defined population. Those were the traditional attributes of sovereignty in international law. In addition they were reasonably solvent and potentially prosperous. One example of a Class A Mandate was Mesopotamia. Upon further reflection we may ask how this territory invented by the British by cobbling together Ottoman Viliyats and importing a Hashemite Prince could have been judged to meet the listed criteria. It was however one of the best developed territories and started with high hopes. All of the Class A Mandates were former Ottoman territories. Remember that I mentioned above that treating the Ottomans as a rough equal had been a principal of the pre-war international system. Therefor it was easy to assume that territories separated from the defeated Ottomans were nearly ready for independence.

Former German colonial territories were to be reorganized as Class B Mandates. In practice this meant that they were open to periodic inspection by representatives of the Mandate Committee with the long term goal of preparing them to move up to Class A status. I am unaware of any territory that made that transition.

Class C Mandates were considered special territories with almost no capacity for self government. The Japanese received the Marianas Islands as a Class C Mandate and the South Africans received South-West Africa. Other Pacific territories were assigned to Australia and New Zealand.

Former territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire did not become Mandates. They were reorganized as independent countries and admitted directly to the League.

In the 2009 Freedom House ranking of 193 countries and 16 dependent of disputed territories they showed fewer than half as Free and things are not getting better. My proposition is simple. Anyone who represents one of the 42 "Not Free" countries should have no say at all in determining international law. They have not earned a vote. They should not be admitted to the table or the podium used by the Free. They should be kept in a separate room, one with rubber walls.

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