General Question

noly's avatar

Should there be a world police to oust dictators who unlawfully cling to power?

Asked by noly (227 points ) December 23rd, 2010

Despite the word outcry about Burma military junta,Ivory Coast president ,Robert Mugabe and north korea leaders clinging to power against the will of their people,nothing has changed.Should the free world and the UN consider military retaliatory measures?

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79 Answers

world_hello's avatar

We tried this and it was bad policy.

iamthemob's avatar

@noly – We have a long way to go before we have anything similar to a world police. The problem with international law, whether it be jus cogens (laws that there is no excuse for violating), customary international law (laws that are universally recognized as valid) or emerging is that we don’t have a strong enforcement mechanism to hold people responsible.

I disagree with @world_hello that we’ve tried this. I don’t think we have. UN peacekeeping forces, which could be the closest thing, are subject to the Security Council’s ability to invoke its sanctioning authority. Of course, the UN is based on a basic fundamental premise of state sovereignty – that domestic affairs are for the state, and only when a conflict becomes or threatens to become international should other nations consider violating the boundaries of the sovereign. And because the UN has to invoke this authority through diplomacy, it’s near impossible to do it in an effective manner. Further, because the big five have veto powers, the power balance is very uneven.

I do, however, think there’s a trend towards a more international aspect of prosecution. The International Criminal Court is a great example. Individual nations have also attempted to exercise universal jurisdiction over heads of state (Belgium the most notorious). I just don’t see it happening in an official capacity in my lifetime.

Summum's avatar

No until man can live together without war, hate and prejudice and until we can respect everyone as being equal it wouldn’t work. You could force some issues upon some people but in the long run it would back fire on you.

tedd's avatar

Amerrrriiiicccaaaa… f*ck yah!!!!!..... coming to savveeeee, the mother f*ckinggg dayyy yahhh.

No seriously great movie. But fully loaded question.

iamthemob's avatar

@tedd – I love that movie. And I think you’re right to bring it up. In many ways, the US acts as a de facto world police. I DON’T think that’s a bad thing, by necessity.

It has some terrible aspects in practice because (1) you have to get the people of the US behind it, which means manufacturing an enemy (WMDs, anyone?), (2) therefore, the ideology behind going to war is often publicly different from the real reasons, (3) the subsidiary reasons for going to war that show the personal stake of the US are obscured by US propaganda supporting the war, and (4) there’s the inevitable concern regarding puppet governments.

For instance, I think that moving into Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein was actually a completely legal maneuver, arguably, form an international legal context. The man had committed genocide, violated the sovereign territory of another state, subjected the people of his nation to various human rights violations – the one thing that people seem to agree on, in fact, is that Saddam Hussein was a really, really bad guy.

But, we instead used the shaky “Bush Doctrine” of preemptive strikes regarding a threatening state. We ideologically (although not directly in a strong way) connect it to 9/11. In the end, we look like liars. But in order to get the people behind the war, you can’t make it about helping others – you make it about what is a threat to them…or a benefit to them. Then there’s the whole money/oil issue, which because of the fear generated towards Iraq seems like conspiracy theory at times.

The problems with using domestic forces as an international enforcement mechanism are rampant – but I don’t think that means the US shouldn’t police the world.

Summum's avatar

Another answer to this would be, would the police take care of poor nations without an agenda to other issues? For instance why are the police not in Africa where millions are dying? But there are world police in Oil nations?

iamthemob's avatar

@Summum – There really are no world police, so I don’t quite understand what you mean…

noly's avatar

@Summum They are in Congo,in Sudan,Ivory Coast..

FrBrown's avatar

Who are we to decide what is “lawful” or not? You cannot just assume that your laws are valid in other countries.

Summum's avatar

Well in a way there is a world action going on with troops from several nations in two different oil nations. But my mistake calling them police. I keep forgetting you have to be completely correct on this site or get told. Sorry

Bluefreedom's avatar

There already is a world police and it’s the United States military. I know that sounds facetious but there’s some truth in it that America has sent troops to various places throughout the world, through history, to help out with other countries who are having problems.

There is no question that this has had both good and bad consequences on a number of levels and history has shown that also. As a military member, I feel there are advantages and disadvantages in trying to help countries where other developed nations won’t step forward to assist at all but there are just so many unknowns about what the eventual outcomes will be. An example would be the American military being sent to Mogadishu, Somalia to oust the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid which culminated in the partly disastrous events that were chronicled in the movie and book, Black Hawk Down.

Additionally, sometimes there is no involvement at all in a country’s problems, by anyone, and horrific things take place such as the 1994 Rawandan Genocide where an estimated 800,000 Tutsi people were killed by Hutu extremists. No one offered help except for a little ineffectual intervention by UN forces. The world stood by and watched and that’s shameful in my personal opinion. It can be very hit or miss about who helps and who doesn’t and I believe that many times these decisions to help or not are based on political agendas or reasons and that can be a tricky (and distasteful) situation also.

The most current group we have in place for a world police is the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces and I have to say, they haven’t been largely successful in maintaining the peace and stability in different regions they’ve been sent to around the world. It’s hard to completely blame them also because, for different reasons, they don’t always have everything they need to be at their best such as enough troops, better equipment, no reinforcements, and unclear directives on exactly what they can and can’t do in the country they’re sent to.

I personally think that there is a lot of evil in the world and evil leaders and I wish there was a way to help them all efficiently and safely but there’s no realistic way to make that happen. It would go a long way to improving the world if the free world came together in a collective voice to help and if the United Nations could be a more effective agency. As it stands now, I have very little faith in the United Nations.

noly's avatar

@FrBrown there are rights to which all human beings are entitled.

iamthemob's avatar

@Summum – That seemed to be more about you than about me. ;-) I thought I just asked you for a clarification…I didn’t know I was “telling” you…

@noly – The Sudan is an oil nation. I don’t know about the others, but I’m sure that there are some resource values there.

@Bluefreedom – I pretty much 100% agree with you. Having drafted a couple UN General Assembly Resolutions regarding issues on legally suspect heads of state, it is clear that much of the purpose of the Resolution is to make a statement that everyone can agree on, so it ends up being so soft much of the time that it can’t be a call to action, and yet still hoping that it will suggest to state governments that an action taken by them might be warranted by the international community.

@FrBrown – Indeed – it is as @noly states. These principles are covered under the UDHR, ICCPR and ICESCR.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
iamthemob's avatar

@noly – I was going to commend you on this question. We’re glad to have you!

Bluefreedom's avatar

@noly. Welcome to Fluther, first of all! Secondly, you’re going to find that Fluther is an excellent place to get answers to your questions and engage in intellectual and interesting conversations about so many different things. Great to have you as a new Jelly! Happy Holidays!

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It’s a foolishly naive idea for several reasons that should be obvious:
1. Who decides on a case by case basis what “laws” have been broken? Do we judge by US law? The law of the nominally sovereign nation (as in the cases the OP cited: North Korea, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast?), and in that case, of what use is their own court system – and are they really a sovereign nation?

2. Will we make “international law” governing such things as elections for nominally sovereign nations? How will we do that? What form will the parliament or congress take to pass such laws? Will it be a “democratic” assembly, so that the US vote can be cancelled by a single vote from, say, Andorra, or Libya, or North Korea, for that matter?

3. Who, aside from the UN, will provide the troops and transport and supply capability?

The list of objections to such a policy grows too quickly for my poor, tired fingers to keep up with the keyboard. This isn’t just a bad idea, it’s a terribly bad idea.

iamthemob's avatar

@CyanoticWasp

It’s not foolish if you consider such a group should have limited power:

(1) There is a good body of well-settled international law by which this can be judged. The ICJ (judicial branch of the UN) has been developing a specific body of jurisprudence for over 50 years, and there are several ad hoc tribunals and many, many domestic courts that have handled issues. There are clear violations of international human rights law under this body, and we can start with limiting the power to the gravest – there are some clear examples of genocide, for example.

(2) There are many cases where it is clear that the government in power is not legitimate. And regardless of whether they gain legitimacy, there are times when the laws are clearly tailored to ensure that they will remain in power. If you look at the situation in Burma – where elections have been tailored in a manner to specifically prevent the democratic leader from either taking a rightful seat or from being re-elected, you’ll see. It will clearly have to be a democratic international system – however, it’s clear that it would have to be a supermajority of some sort before any action is taken.

(3) I think that the UN would have to be drastically reformatted if it’s going to be the governing body here. But, I don’t think that we’re talking about actions that will be so frequent that we’re looking at huge outlays constantly. I would place the financial outlay squarly on developed nations, but troop outlay should be based on, for instance, something more along the lines of per capita population.

cazzie's avatar

What colour is the sky in your world, Baldrick?

iamthemob's avatar

@cazzie – directed at…

Summum's avatar

@cazzie It would depend on which world you are on. :)

cazzie's avatar

@iamthemob it was directed at the person who asked this question.

laureth's avatar

My first thought upon reading this question was, “If there were such a thing as World Police, wouldn’t some crazy folks, especially fringe Americans, be all offended about a ‘one world government’ conspiracy and start trying to elect their own (usually right-wing) wanna-be dictator to put the smackdown on the rest of the world? The U.N. is close enough to this to make those fringies nervous.”

This looks a little ironic if you consider the U.S. military to be the “World Police.” Dear Fringe Americans: you’re the closest thing there is to the One World Government that you fear. Be very afraid?

iamthemob's avatar

@cazzie – Does that mean that you don’t believe in the idea of a “world police” – I mean…as a separate entity from the states themselves.

cazzie's avatar

@iamthemob First off…. the whole ‘The States is the police force of the World’ is absolutely absurd. And the idea that there would be a consortium of independent, un-self interested people that would be able to be judge jury and executioner of the power structure in an entire country…... even more absurd.

iamthemob's avatar

@cazzie – I don’t see why it’s “absurd.” I don’t see why lack of self-interest is a prerequisite to anything here. Mutual self-interest, in fact, is more likely what would the basis of any organization. Considering the increasingly global interdependence of the economy, global stability is more and more important. As borders are more economically permeable, it’s not absurd to assume that government sovereignty might follow suit to a certain extent. Therefore, ensuring that a state, which is a potential labor/resource market, does not fall under the veil of a dictatorship is more and more inherently in the economic interest of developed nations.

I mean, I think it’s totally reasonable when you consider that money comes into play. Lost economic opportunity is probably the most common reason people end up changing their minds about traditional structure (although, you know, not necessarily that it’s admitted. ;-)).

chyna's avatar

@FrBrown I would say genocide would be a world wide unlawful act.

iamthemob's avatar

Genocide is definitely the main one, @chyna (although piracy kind of has a longer – much longer – history). But the formation of the UN was in many ways spurned on by WWII and the genocide related to the holocaust. The convention has been ratified widely, and it’s recognized as a jus cogens norm in most circles.

Trillian's avatar

We’re working on it. Just as soon as we win the war against Eurasia.

iamthemob's avatar

@Trillian – Was that a 1984 reference?

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
iamthemob's avatar

@Trillian – How would a world police force, responsible for monitoring criminal behavior of state leaders, relate to 1984?

Trillian's avatar

Gee, global power in the hands of a small, select group. I don’t know. I don’t feel like getting into this with you either. You clearly think it’s a great idea. I disagree. I prefer to leave it at that.
I’m baking cookies and relaxing before I go to work. If you want to feel that I cannot “justify” feelng the way I do, go right ahead. I’m sure there are other people on this thread who will be more than happy to argue with you.

iamthemob's avatar

@Trillian – If you want to minimize the idea, that’s fine. But if you don’t want to flesh out your critiques – that’s on you. I’m not looking to argue about it – I have my doubts if it’s at all possible. However, I think that (1) the global economy breaks down classic notions of sovereignty, and (2) when a state head is violating the rights of the people in a manner that may require urgent action, the current system requires a near-universal recognition of international criminal violations and a state to step up and convince its people to potentially sacrifice their sons and daughters to fight for the freedoms of another country, or just hope that the people will find the power (even though oppressed) to overcome the head themselves.

That’s problematic. But if you didn’t want to get involved in a discussion about it and instead make vague, critical comments and then “rise above it” – well, I believe it was you that said in another thread that if you post something silly – expect to be called out…

Trillian's avatar

Well, since I was addressing the OP to begin with, and not you, and since the OP seems to be looking for opinions of others and not to ram his/her opinion down their throats like a fundamentalist Christian but rather to get a feel about how others feel about it withot having to read several books; ok.
Asnwerin the OP’s question without being drawn into a discussion seems like a reasonable expectation to me.
Please, rant on. I have cookies to get to.

iamthemob's avatar

“We’re working on it. Just as soon as we win the war against Eurasia.”

That was an opinion? That would clearly give someone an idea about your feeling? And asking how the reference would relate to the book was trying to argue with you and draw you into a discussion when you didn’t want to and then asking why you start jumping on me about asking and calling such a question is ranting?

Weird…Perhaps it is better that you get to the cookies. ;-)

Nullo's avatar

Ah, but how would you like it if those world police deciding that you’re not progressive enough (or whatever enough), and so warrant world-arrest? If these cops want to have any legitimacy, they’d only have jurisdiction in countries that have signed over their sovereignty to whatever regulating body fields the police; otherwise, they’re just an invading force. I do not see Kim Jong Il doing that.

jerv's avatar

This is where things get tricky.

I think the first question that needs to be answered here is, “Who watches the watchmen?”.

We can’t even get a consensus within our own nation, a comparatively homogeneous culture, on many issues such as gay rights. Do you really think that a world police force would be anything other than either a sovereignty-stealing uber-government or a supreme example of the fun of cat-herding?

flutherother's avatar

Yes, it is the United Nations which aims to promote cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace and it deserves our support.

jerv's avatar

@flutherother The UN is fairly toothless and has a few flaws, the biggest one being that the US can make or break them. Our military might makes it difficult for other UN member nations to succeed without us and impossible to succeed against us. And we also wield veto power over anything the UN does; that is a large part of why Israel gets away with as much as it does.

You can have every other UN member nation vote in favor of something, but if one of the “big five” (of which we are one) says no then it wont matter, and how fair is it when one vote counts more than 191?

Jaxk's avatar

Great Idea. But who’s values do we use. It seems that Muslims control a large part of the world. Do we then impose Sharia Law? I know, we’ll just limit what they can do. But who enforces that limit, they do. They’ll just restrict themselves to a tiny fraction of the world’s grievances. Now there’s a likely scenario.

We’ll insure that only the worst offenses can be monitored by this world government. Things like, oh I don’t know maybe, blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad. Frankly you’d get a lot of support for that one in many third world and Muslim countries.

Basically, I don’t want my rights monitored by the rest of the world. Hell, I have enough trouble with our own government let alone governance by Zimbabwe. Bad Idea!!!

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk ~When our government monitors us and restricts our freedom, it is for our own protection and to keep us safe from others who want ot restrict our freedom.

iamthemob's avatar

@Jaxk – Nope. There are already international crimes that are ready to be covered by such a force, developed through centuries of international relations. The practical concern, though, is whether there would be sufficient power in the force to ensure that minority opposition as to whether genocide, for excample, was occurring, in order to remove the head of state.

And, let’s be clear on what we’re talking about. Let’s say for some reason, the president was engaging a conspiracy to install himself permanently in the U.S government to push an anti-asian agenda. If we were unable to remove him, we’re talking about the force removing him, prosecuting (with the state’s assistance), and ensuring that a new stable government emerged.

noly's avatar

@jerry there are things we can agree on as the sanctity of life,and there are many other of them of this kind.This is a start.We should seek a conssensus on things we all deem unacceptable.It happened in the past.There was a broad consencus to invade Irak when Saddam Hussein invaded Koweit.Even countries with conflictual strategic interest are threatened by terrorism or financial crisis,They have to cooperate and defend common interests.
@Jaxk i think decision making should be based on facts and evidences,not on religious believes.The west has the upper hand because of his superior economic and military power.The world would be a different place if Iran had the economy and military might of America.As we work together we must advance these universal values that transcend culture,religion or race and make sure that no head of state should feel safe if he doesnt grant basic human right to his citizen.

Jaxk's avatar

@jerv

You can’t be serious with that ‘It’s for our own good argument’.

@iamthemob

If you talking about the International Court, that is used primarily to punish the losers.

@noly

Unfortunately when you give them the power they base their decisions on whatever they want. And if you create this world government, the west no longer has the upper hand. The third world countries do. There’s more of them.

flutherother's avatar

@jerv The UN is a very imperfect organisation and the countries which make it up are themselves very imperfect but we’ve got to have hope. I believe a moral consensus is possible for the good of all humanity and we should begin by removing the beam from our own eye. With consensus the UN could act very effectively even without teeth.

iamthemob's avatar

@Jaxk – the ICJ has been around for only as long as the UN – I’m talking about that plus state practice over centuries.

There’s a limited body of set peremptory norms that should be the jurisdiction of any world criminal body. These jus cogens norms are clear, and concern about whether “state law” would be involved are irrelevant in that context.

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk You missed the ~, didn’t you? It was sarcasm.

Jaxk's avatar

@iamthemob

From your post:

There is no clear agreement regarding precisely which norms are jus cogens nor how a norm reaches that status, but it is generally accepted that jus cogens includes the prohibition of genocide, maritime piracy, slaving in general (to include slavery as well as the slave trade), torture, and wars of aggression and territorial aggrandizement.”

It’s the old problem of “I can’t define pornography but I know it when I see it”. Everybody is left their own interpretation. Over time more and more winds it’s way into the purview of the Global body, whatever that is. And the decisions are based on the ideology or culture of the global community not necessarily the same as ours. We have enough disparity in the US that we agree on very little. Add in the global community and it gets worse not better.

iamthemob's avatar

@Jaxk – That’s why I stated that there would be practical issues in ensuring that the body had a power to ensure that even if there was minority resistance as to whether the crime actually occurred. But the disagreement as to which norms are peremptory is about whether certain of them qualify – but there is agreement as to core ones – those on the list. Those are clearly wrong and can never be justified. You will not find a legal opinion, I’m certain, that is accepted as valid in any way that will state that any of the four above can be contracted around on a treaty basis. The lack of clarity is regarding such crimes as “terrorism” among others.

But because the crimes are so big, there is always going to be dispute along the pornography lines. That doesn’t make the crimes unworkable at all. Whether or not a leader can be found guilty of genocide doesn’t mean that, if they are found not guilty, it was not appropriate to remove them. If they didn’t want to eliminate the group, but really only reduce their numbers to a manageable amount – well, that’s a regime that needs to be removed.

In the end, we’re not talking about whether the removal was proper, in the same way that when someone is arrested for suspicion of first degree murder when they kill someone doesn’t mean the arrest wasn’t proper because they were found guilty of manslaughter in the end. If there is evidence that supports a conclusion that genocide is happening, something is horribly wrong with the nations government. These are not crimes that are subject to the vagaries of comparative ideologies – it is only whether the very specific crime that was committed will be under dispute.

cazzie's avatar

Oh, look, people… in a perfect world, we would have such black and white rules and regulations and outcomes, but it doesn’t happen. People suck. They are greedy and ignorant and have no sense of history. Lessons learned by one generation are hungrily replaced by the inebriated and anestesised pursuit of monetary and material comforts. Not enough people really give a shit. And that is the reality of it. Like I said…. colour of the sky? Mine gets pretty damn grey and cloudy.

Jaxk's avatar

@iamthemob

Everything is clear in theory but much less clear in practice. We had some pretty clear rules about what the Federal government could do and what the States could do. But the line between the two has changed. What the Federal and States can do is quite different than it was back in 1776. Scopecreep.

In fact we fought the bloodiest war in our history to prove that you could not withdraw from the agreement. I’m not sure I want to go through that. If you create a world government, and give them power, they will increase that power over time. The grey areas never show up in theory but in practice they become contentious.

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk That difference between theory and practice is why you and I have had so many disagreements over economics :P

I just wonder how the US would fare under such a system. I mean, during Bush-43’s term, much of the world thought of the US as imperialistic, and given that about ⅔ of Americans (anybody within 100 miles of the US border, where most people live) have their 4th amendment rights curtailed, it could be argued that we are dictatorial as well.

cazzie's avatar

‘Mutual self interest’ is just fancy talk for ‘I want to exploit your country and the working population.’

iamthemob's avatar

@Jaxk – We’re not talking about a world government here. We’re talking about removing bad, bad people from power. That’s it.

The problem with the concern about power increasing over time is simply that it’s an _extra_governmental body. In the case of a federal government (1) the US is a very different country than it was back then, and (2) there were always external forces that the country as well as the states were pitted against. All of the power of this body depends on international agreement. But also, I don’t really see how, if the international community (or the most powerful members) all agreed on a certain path, and one decided not to honor the agreement…well, this just seems like par for the course in the international community. Countries that band together and pool forces to force another to comply would happen regardless of any extragovernmental body.

@cazzie – no it’s not. It can be. But that is a sweeping statement.

jerv's avatar

@iamthemob International agreement? We can’t even manage interstate agreement here, and that should give you a clue as to what sort of cat-wrangling would be involved in coordinating multiple nations.

cazzie's avatar

@iamthemob please give me an example.

iamthemob's avatar

@cazzie – Of what?

cazzie's avatar

@iamthemob you mentioned that mutual self interest can be something other than the larger party telling the smaller party that there is no prospect of exploitation. Please. An example?

iamthemob's avatar

@cazzie – Mutual self interest is a foundation of consensus building among minority populations (feminist and gay coalition groups assisting each other as each gain for either community reinforces and beats a path for the other). It’s a foundation of the protection of civil rights in a democratic society (rulings supporting suppression of evidence that clearly shows guilt for a criminal gets the criminal off, but it’s necessary to ensure that our rights are protected generally). It’s part of the reason for employer group health care (employers have happier and healthier workforces with a good care program).

jerv's avatar

@cazzie @iamthemob And Americans are in the minority worldwide. Even the most devout Roman Catholics abroad think that, in some ways, we Americans are too uptight. And there are many Muslims who actually treat women as equals as opposed to cutting off their noses.
Again, it is a matter of whose standards.

Jaxk's avatar

@jerv

Ain’t that the truth. See we don’t always disagree.

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk I think we have already established that we may not see eye-to-eye on details, but are not far apart on principle.

Jaxk's avatar

@iamthemob

It’s never as clear as it seems. Say we outlaw genocide and remove any dictator/ruler that performs it. First we need a good definition of genocide. How many people do you have to kill, 10,100,1,000, 10,000? It always seems clear when you look at someone killing a million, but where’s the line. If you kill one person, your a murderer. If you kill a million, your a conqueror. Ok that’s off point.

If Obama shoots a Hellfire Missile into Yemen to take out Al Qaeda leadership and kills some civilians (hell even if they’re not civilians). Can he be accused of killing Muslims, just because they are Muslims? There’s a lot of Muslims that think so. Should he then be pulled from office and tried? Or does it matter how many were killed? Do we want to let the third world make this decision for us?

Conceptually, I have a problem putting the US under the control of any international body. Not limited to but especially when giving them the power to oust a sitting government.

Kraigmo's avatar

Idealistically, that police force would be the United States of America.

But we lost our moral authority to do world policing, under George Bush, and also under Ronald Reagan and others. We have showed the world that we are incapable of intelligently removing dictators. There are exceptions. Most of the world agrees with Clinton’s use of force against Milosovich. That also proved to the world (at the time) that we are willing to help Muslims at the expense of extremist Christians.

If the United States regains its moral authority, it would do well to occasionally and (relatively) cleanly remove dictators, the way Clinton did.

But only when done for human rightness, and not done for corporate security state profits.

jerv's avatar

@Kraigmo I think it will be quite a while before we regain that moral high ground. We lost a lot of street cred under W, and like the economy, it isn’t going to e quick or easy to get out of the hole that got dug.

Nullo's avatar

Perhaps not a police force as such, but you could put together a lame superhero team whose function would be to depose heads of state who refuse to leave office when their own laws say that they ought. You could call them “The Facilitators” and give them their own comic book and eventual miniseries and movie.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

Isn’t that what we ( the U.S.) did in Iraq?

Bluefreedom's avatar

@Russell_D_SpacePoet. And in Afghanistan, Somalia, Grenada, various South American countries (i.e. – the Banana Wars), South Korea, Vietnam, Europe, and on and on and on…......

iamthemob's avatar

@Jaxk – Genocide is already illegal. The treaty on it, containing the definition, is cited above. No law covering any crime of significant magnitude has a clear definition (first degree murder, for instance, is generally “an intentional killing with malice aforethought.” Requiring that a crime have a clear-cut definition so one can point to an event and say “This was clearly x crime” would make the justice system administrative rather than investigatory/adversarial. We would not need criminal or civil courts, or juries – simply administrative courts and the code.

Because it is not only a jus cogens norm, but also codified in treaty, it is clearly a crime. It is, in fact, one of the few international criminal treaties that requires that any state party declaring or when it is declared that a particular act is genocide actually creates positive duties for the state parties to the treaty – they are required to take action to prevent it. So, although informal, there is a world police power when it comes to that crime. The Rwandan genocide is a lucid example – no one really called it such until well into the action because doing so would have required a state to invest military support. In a rare example, Colin Powell was the first to call it one. The reluctance to do so was based in many ways on the positive duties.

Again, and though you stated the number argument was off point, the fact that it is genocide doesn’t really matter if it appears to be. What the base number is is really beside the point – if a leader is systematically killing the citizens of a nation, or if it is acting on civilian targets with regularity, we should and as an international community have intervened.

The Obama question has an answer, that has already been demonstrated by (1) the internationally accepted criminal definition of genocide, (2) general state practice, and really (3) common sense. No, absolutely not. Isolated events such as the one described don’t meet the definition. States have not gathered to move forward on prosecution of individuals with international support for such events as genocide. And the example wouldn’t be reasonably argued as genocide by anyone who would be taken seriously.

The problem with not placing a third party “in control” or at least as an accepted watchdog is that you have individual nations taking actions anyway that everyone might not agree with, might not be acceptable, and might be with the intent of setting up shadow governments or pushing particular ideological agendas. The US/USSR cold war actions in various East Asian and Latin American/Caribbean nations are the clearest examples. The problem with any such extragovernmental body is likely not what you seem to think of – an expansion of power such that individual countries come under it’s control in a way not considered, but the opposite – that there will be less action in terms of genocide, for example, as there would need to be consensus on it.

So, these things already happen clearly. But they happen based on agendas or decisions by states in power that can do it, and arbitrarily decide when it’s worth their while. Extragovernmental authority would refine the action rather than expand it, and further clarify situations where it’s proper.

@Kraigmo – I think the above supports your assertion, although I disagree that it “should” or “would” be the US. Although practically we are, we should not be the force responsible for policing the world – the world should be required to step up and take some of the responsibility for itself.

@Bluefreedom – I think you’re right with many of your examples – however, much of the US involvement in Vietnam/East Asia and South America has more than troubling implications of solely self-interested motivations as opposed to moral motivations of a universal nature. Vietnam was, of course, a prime example of putting US interests above those of the people of a sovereign nation, which was attempting to establish independence following protracted French colonial rule. Much of the Latin American conflict was motivated by the same anti-Communist rhetoric, while further adding a more significant desire to protect US financial interests in a sort of “economic colonialism” ideology. These demonstrate the problems, I think, of allowing world policing of countries to be left in the hand of, let’s face it, superpowers.

Jaxk's avatar

@iamthemob

I think you’ve got me convinced. A world police force would be a benevolent force for good rather than a tyrannical force for evil like the US is. The world would certainly be a better place if we had not gone into Europe or Korea or Viet Nam or any of the South American countries. We need to drop our support of those places and any support for Israel and Taiwan, get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Turn it all over to an international police force that would never abuse their authority. Institutions like the UN are the most rational international bodies we have.

Hell I can see this panacea on the horizon but can’t quite touch it.

iamthemob's avatar

@Jaxk

Panaceas are like that. ;-) In the end, it’s not about whether it will function perfectly, but whether it would be objectively better than what happens now.

Regardless, I don’t see it ever occurring. Hopefully, mutual self interest will end up making the individual states act more responsibly, more generally in a global scale.

mattbrowne's avatar

Ideally, yes. Today, the civilized world still lacks the resources to deal with all dictators.

Nullo's avatar

In his book, Massively Parallel, Howard Tayler makes the observation that dictators aren’t necessarily evil, nor (by extension) the will of the people necessarily good.
Being something of a comedian, he goes on to say that it is bureaucracy that is inherently evil.

GracieT's avatar

One problem. I know that there are some things, such as murder, that are irrtfutable. But exactly who decides which country has rules that we all should be subject to?

iamthemob's avatar

@GracieT – The international standards of the crimes we’re talking about are pretty clear.

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