December 02, 2008

Sovereignty Is Not a Shield

Memeorandum is tracking the buzz on a Rabert Kagan op-ed in the Washington Post, where Kagan offers the idea of—more or less—repossessing the parts of Pakistan where terrorist groups operate and placing them under some sort of international control. The proximate cause of his screed is the multi-day assault carried out by terrorists against civilian targets in Mumbai, India that places nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan on a potential course for war.

He's considered an intellectual for this.

Rather than simply begging the Indians to show restraint, a better option could be to internationalize the response. Have the international community declare that parts of Pakistan have become ungovernable and a menace to international security. Establish an international force to work with the Pakistanis to root out terrorist camps in Kashmir as well as in the tribal areas. This would have the advantage of preventing a direct military confrontation between India and Pakistan. It might also save face for the Pakistani government, since the international community would be helping the central government reestablish its authority in areas where it has lost it. But whether or not Islamabad is happy, don't the international community and the United States, at the end of the day, have some obligation to demonstrate to the Indian people that we take attacks on them as seriously as we take attacks on ourselves?

Would such an action violate Pakistan's sovereignty? Yes, but nations should not be able to claim sovereign rights when they cannot control territory from which terrorist attacks are launched. If there is such a thing as a "responsibility to protect," which justifies international intervention to prevent humanitarian catastrophe either caused or allowed by a nation's government, there must also be a responsibility to protect one's neighbors from attacks from one's own territory, even when the attacks are carried out by "non-state actors."

In Pakistan's case, the continuing complicity of the military and intelligence services with terrorist groups pretty much shreds any claim to sovereign protection. The Bush administration has tried for years to work with both the military and the civilian government, providing billions of dollars in aid and advanced weaponry. But as my Carnegie Endowment colleague Ashley Tellis has noted, the strategy hasn't shown much success. After Mumbai, it has to be judged a failure. Until now, the military and intelligence services have remained more interested in wielding influence in Afghanistan through the Taliban and fighting India in Kashmir through terrorist groups than in cracking down. Perhaps they need a further incentive -- such as the prospect of seeing parts of their country placed in an international receivership.

I agree completely with Kagan on the key point: nation-states that cannot control their territory and have effectively ceded control of large portions to terrorist groups or other "non-state actors" also cede their claims of sovereignty. If a nation-state is attacked from within terrorist-controlled territory, they have the moral right—and I would argue, prime responsibility to their citizens—to respond with crushing military force.

But his solution—"seeing parts of their country placed in an international receivership"—must surely be a joke, or the harried keystrokes of a malformed column that was expelled in grotesque stillborn form.

If the international community were serious about contributing to helping settle territories controlled by terrorists, then Afghanistan would be a nation awash in foreign soldiers on peacekeeping duties and aid workers lavishing the bounty of developed nations on the backwards and downtrodden. Of course, that has not occurred. America's military fights with a largely symbolic handful of allies, most cursed with a lack of support from their home nations and hampered by rules of engagement that preclude them of being any practical use. Aid workers are few and far between in Afghanistan and constantly at risk; infrastructure improvements that would help change ancient incubators of extremism are few and far between. Kagan's idea was debunked by years of international apathy before it was ever written.

Being an intellectual, of course, Kagan feels compelled to re-offer this vinegared vintage yet again, hoping that someone will swallow it.

The simple, pragmatic fact of the matter is that no nation wants the responsibilities of another nation's struggles, but they do have every natural right to defend themselves from attack.

What Kagan cannot bring himself to write is that his beloved international community is disinterested in raising up those fractured territories. As a result of their apathy, they condemn these territories and states to be led by rogue actors, and for those within those areas to suffer reprisals. Some will deserve to die. Some will be innocents. Such is the nature of war.

Pakistan has failed to stop non-state actors from using their territory for international terrorism against their neighbors, and has morally forfeited any claims of sovereignty over the rogue regions of their nation. Indian military forces have every moral right to engage terror bases located in eastern Pakistan, as Afghani forces and coalition allies have even moral right to engage terrorist training camps and bases in the west.

This of course, will not assuage those who claim to represent "peace." Though militant Islam has been constantly at war since 632AD, these idealists, unable to understand other cultures do not think as they do, think negotiating is an answer. The militants, quite rightly, view forcing negotiations upon a far stronger power as evidence that their militancy works.

Among the polite and demure, there simply isn't understanding that sometimes, force can only be met with an overwhelming and punishing response. History shows us that terrorism stops when terrorist groups are crushed, are fractured, or are victorious. All three of those conclusions are dictated by violence.

The question is how much more innocent blood civilized societies will see run in their streets before the inevitable and overwhelming violent response that is required is finally deemed necessary.

Update: Ed Morrissey notes another reason to ignore Kagan's suggestion, primarily, how it would be used against Israel.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 2, 2008 12:04 PM

These cats will not be belled merely by invoking 'the international community' any more than Italy was belled by the League of Nations.

If you want it done, you got to do it.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at December 2, 2008 02:34 PM

In answer to your question, "how much more innocent blood civilized societies will see run in their streets before the inevitable and overwhelming violent response that is required is finally deemed necessary?"

I think that your question, and a very good question at that, will be answered within the next 10-20 years. As evidenced by events in Europe over the last 3 years or so and, of course, 911 here on our own soil, the problem is no longer just "over there somewhere".

By most folks' definition of the word I am a moderately liberal Democrat and make no apologies for it. Having said that I can tell you that I truly believe that there is no such thing as negotiating our way through the problem of radical Islamic fundamentalism. Islam is being hijacked by the radicals in the same way that Christianity was in centuries past (and still attempting to be hijacked to this day by some people who call themselves Christians, even in our own country).

The only way to stop the radical elements of Islam is to crush them completely. One of the major problems that the Western Mind has is wrapping our heads around the reality that this is what happens when radical religion has too much influence on the affairs of government. In many Islamic nations religion and government are one and the same. And, in many of those nations that's how a majority of the people prefer it. In fact, some of those nations are our alleged "allies".

Christians and Muslims have been fighting each other for nearly 1400 years now. I'm a Christian. Knowing that Christianity has been perverted in many cases over the Centuries,(if we use the Bible as our standard of what it means to be a Christian, and that IS all that we have), I decided to read the Koran to see what it had to say.

I found nothing at all in that book that would make any reasonable person who believed it to be the word of God (which I certainly don't believe to be so) think that its teachings justify the actions and goals of Islamic radicals. They have simply perverted its teachings. Period.

It's going to be very ugly when the West finally deals with this problem in an effective way. The rules that modern societies play by are going to be out the window.

Can it be stopped? I think so. Do we have the stomach for it? I think only when we have no other choice will we finally deal with it, as surely we must.

God help us all! It ain't going to be pretty.

Posted by: Dude at December 2, 2008 04:29 PM

Wow. This was a darn good post. Straight to the point and just flat out persuasive. Not a lot of wasted motion. At first I thought I was going to disagree, but I couldn't find anything to grab onto. Nicely done.

Posted by: brando at December 2, 2008 10:30 PM

I've been to Kashmir, and honestly I have no idea why this piece of land has caused so much fighting. If I were either Pakistan or India, I'd be begging the other side to claim it.

Posted by: Voice of Reason at December 3, 2008 03:46 AM

What exactly is 'international receivership'? I know what happens when you put a business into receivership and it is never good and the result is usually the end of the business.
The U.N. is going to lop off part of Pakistan and what, make it its own country and this will resolve the millenia old religious clashes.
And how come he is now raising the spectre of the obligation of the U.S. and the international community (apparently the U.S. is not part of it). The last time the U.S. followed this line of thinking (among others used), we invaded Iraq, which freed millions of people from an oppressive regime, but has generated strong backlash in this country and from the international community.
But this time, it would be ok, because Kagan says so. In the end, still invading a foreign country, regardless of the pretty language you use. And what are the objectives, what are the ROE?
Does anyone think the Pakistani's would accept this meekly? And they have nukes.
What is it with these intellectuals? Did he trade in his ability to reason for his degree?

Posted by: Penfold at December 3, 2008 01:37 PM

except for the international component this is basically a recapitulation of the Bush doctrine. You harbor terrorists and your sovereignity is forfeit for whatever actions are required to kill said terrorists.

Posted by: RC at December 3, 2008 01:42 PM

He's asking for a Somalia Redux.

Only the totally insane will expect a better result.

Posted by: Neo at December 4, 2008 12:08 AM

Not satisfied with Bush's blatant violation of international law by declaring the right to "preventive war," a clear violation of the UN Charter and a policy that even Henry Kissinger said was not permissible for other nations (for obvious reasons,) Confederate Yankee wants to take it up another notch and nullify any nation's sovereignty that he deems to be not handling its terrorists to his satisfaction. The President wouldn't even have to declare another nation a threat before starting another war, he could just say they aren't being tough enough on terrorists and BAM! Permission to bomb! Don't even have to make up a story about being threatened. That's efficient.
Of course, unlike Kissinger, Yankee doesn't see how he's suggesting gutting international law and the US becoming an outlaw state. Doesn't bother you, does it, because you're scared to death of the terrorists getting you.
Do you not understand that after WWII the nations of the world realized that violating another nation's sovereignty was impermissible? And so they agreed no one is permitted to do it own their own initiative.
Do you understand? Have you no respect for the rule of law? Because the Constitution of the United States- its about the rule of law.
Irony! In the same breath, you complain about the UN! You do realize that only the Security Council can compel any country to do anything, and that the US has the veto, which it has used more than any other nation on the planet. I'm sure you don't acknowledge any connection between the veto and nothing getting done.

Posted by: smellthecoffee at December 6, 2008 11:15 PM