March 18, 2005

Prof. Rabkin Speaks on Int'l Law

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Prof. Jeremy Rabkin, government, delivered a lecture entitled “Faltering Hopes: Why International Law Is in Trouble” yesterday afternoon.

The lecture was sponsored by the Peace Studies Program.

The first major point Rabkin brought up were the overly ambitious and implausible expectations the international community held in the 1990s. One example he gave was the 1997 Kyoto global warming treaty where the 22 advanced world economies agreed to reduce their carbon dioxide omission over a 15-year period by an average of 8 percent.

However, according to Rabkin, “this was 8 percent below the 1922 level,” which means that by now, the percentage is much higher. Rabkin claims that the international community should “slow down global warming but no one’s doing it. Countries can’t honor it because it’s gotten too expensive. They should have been prepared to implement this in the last seven years but they didn’t.”

According to Rabkin, what brought the international community “back to Earth” was Sept. 11 and Bush’s reelection by prompting them to realize that there was no time to negotiate or cooperate.

“We have to do what we need to do to protect our country,” Rabkin said.

Rabkin’s second major point was that the nations that were elected into the Human Rights Commission were the most tyrannical in the world. He stated that places like Iraq and Nigeria where civil wars and chaos are rampant were “backward countries” that do not produce reliable court rulings. Rabkin said that many countries want to be in the commission because their participation can be used as a defense against international criticism.

He referred to the commission as a “pig pen. You can’t even look at it without being nauseated. It is really hypocritical and abusive. It is abusive because rulings are made by men from abusive governments.”

Rabkin also claimed that the “world today is less civilized than it was 100 years ago,” because the oldest and most basic rules are no longer strictly adhered to. One rule, according to Rabkin, is that “you don’t interfere with diplomats.” During the Boxer Rebellion, many foreign diplomats were killed and injured and “every great power sent troops to free the diplomats.” According to Rabkin, this is why even though Europeans impose treaties on China, trials are held in Europe. China is very resentful about this but European leaders believe that China can’t administer acceptable justice.

Rabkin ended with “we live in a world that’s less adapted to rules and international understandings.”

Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government, holds a different view. She said that “international law doesn’t work if the U.S. doesn’t work with it … if we are supportive of new cooperative institutions, international law would have far better prospects.” She said that if the hegemony ignores and sometimes opposes international law, it can’t work under such circumstances. Prof. Matthew Evangelista, director of the Peace Studies Program, was the coordinator of this event. He said the lecture was “very lively and interesting and relevant to many interests of the Peace Studies Program.”

“The lecture gave a somewhat pessimistic view because many assume that following international law was the direction countries were taking but today’s lecture brought a reality check that showed that this was clearly not the case. It gave a very realistic look on how international law is today because it’s not exactly progressing forward,” said Andrew Yeo grad.

Archived article by Virginia Nam
Sun Contributor