A couple of legal minefields have hit the news this past fortnight. Firstly, the content of the US’s legal justification for drone attacks resulting in the deaths of US citizens, has been released to the Senate intelligence committee. Secondly, China is aiming missile radar at Japanese military targets. The first is a bit self explanatory, while the second is a pretty blatant threat of force under UN Charter Article 2(4) in my very humble opinion. So while this is all legal fun, why does this matter outside interesting legal stuff?
This is another one, and here the choice is between openness, transparency, a new culture of security through communication and regressing towards open realism, self help, secrecy and disregard for the rule of law. The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, said ”At a time when there were signs that there could be talks between China and Japan, it is extremely regrettable that China should carry out such a one-sided provocation”. This is basically the point in a nutshell. So we have two economic and political world powers advancing down paths of what they perceive to be the highest return; the most rational choice.
These particular incidents are both strongly linked to the rights of individuals under international law, and will come to reflect how individuals’ rights are treated by states at the beginning of this century. The US issue is so clearly troubled by violating the constitutionally guaranteed rights of US citizens, not only domestically but world-wide, while China has reacted to the actions of private individuals with inter-state threats. In the choice between transparency and realist dogmatism, the fate of the individual is one of the key issues before the international community. This is in particularly sharp relief here in literal life or death circumstances.
On the one hand, we can see the potential for realist rationalism to lead to liberalist collective security through time strengthening trust and eventually a hegemonic balance of power becoming a sort of benevolent dictatorship, and finally the sovereign equality and cooperation traditional Liberals hypothesise. Very Kantian. On the other hand we can see the interests of economy and power being prioritised over stability and international reputation leading to the aforementioned regression into armed self help.
So with a drop in faith in the US around the world and China pursuing violations of international peace and security, who will the world turn to follow? Who will decide what truly is the path of least resistance?