Just remember, neoliberals know better than we do what’s good for us

Updates

  1. Originally published, January 23, 2020, 7:02 pm.
  2. January 23, 8:10 pm:
    • The Doomsday Clock is now at 100 seconds before midnight. They’re counting down in seconds now, not minutes.[1]

Rohingya

I remember, somewhat dimly now, that when I took an international relations class, the professor explained that compliance with international law was mostly a matter of a handshake; enforcement mechanisms are weak. But particularly problematic in the case of formerly colonized countries, including Burma, is that the grounding for this legal system rests in a European (the colonizers) treaty, the Treaty of Westphalia, that established the legal groundwork for state sovereignty and a protection for religious minorities meant to limit the perceived need for neighboring states to militarily intervene in each other’s affairs.[2]

The International Court of Justice (based in Europe) ruling against Burma in the matter of the Rohingya genocide[3] is certainly laudable. I don’t know how the Court enforces it. (Spoiler alert: It can’t.[4]) Which, for me indicates extreme cynicism in interpreting this:

“Right now, we can’t say what exactly our next steps will be,” [Myo Nyunt] said, expressing sadness at the court’s ruling. “We have to study and learn what the impact of this decision will be on our state, which is a sovereign state.”[5]

“The impact of this decision . . . on our state” would seem to refer explicitly to concrete enforcement, which is to say, none, at least for the moment. The reaffirmation of Burma as a “sovereign state” reaffirms a claimed legitimacy to state violence that is a defining characteristic of sovereignty and which constitutes Burma’s rationale for the genocide in the first place.

It gets worse and this is why I hate realism theory (“realpolitik”). Note that this is not because the theory, albeit flawed, particularly with regard to non-governmental actors, is incorrect: It, too often correctly, elides any moral basis for action, relying exclusively on “state” (for which, read “ruling class”) interests.

The Court has no enforcement power itself.[6] Enforcement by the international community typically takes two forms: First, economic sanctions, which typically end up affecting ordinary civilians much more than ruling elites, and are applied in varying degrees depending on the extent to which other countries feel their interests are at stake; and second, military intervention, which typically occurs only if other sufficiently powerful countries views their interests as being at stake. I don’t know that Bangladesh is sufficiently powerful. If other countries surrounding Burma have said a word about the plight of the Rohingya, I missed it—it was an African country, Gambia, far away from Burma, that brought the case.

Which means that the fate of the Rohingya really rests where it always has. That’s pretty cold, if not positively frigid, comfort.

British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029

Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html


Hillary Clinton

“Apparently SOMEBODY likes him!” Democratic strategist and former Obama adviser David Axelrod quipped Wednesday, referring to Hillary Clinton’s controversial comments about her 2016 primary opponent.[7]

Like I said yesterday[8] and before.[9] Damn, this bitch is an idiot.

But oh yeah, let’s not forget she’s the most qualified woman ever for the presidency. Oh yeah, and these are the idiots who think they know better than we do what’s good for us.

Veronica Stracqualursi and Gregory Krieg, “Clinton says ‘nobody likes’ Sanders and won’t commit to backing him if he’s the Democratic nominee,” CNN, January 21, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/21/politics/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-documentary/index.html

Eric Lutz, “Turns Out Lots of People ‘Like’ Bernie Sanders,” Vanity Fair, January 22, 2020, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/01/cnn-poll-bernie-sanders-joe-biden


Doomsday Clock

Andrew Sheeler, “Jerry Brown urges America to ‘wake up’ as Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight,” Sacramento Bee, January 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article239564083.html


  1. [1]Andrew Sheeler, “Jerry Brown urges America to ‘wake up’ as Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight,” Sacramento Bee, January 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article239564083.html
  2. [2]This is all from memory and may accordingly be flawed. I took the class while at California State University, East Bay, where I finished my Master’s degree in 2009. Indexed references to the Treaty of Westphalia are sparse in my book collection, at least in the books I thought to consult, but Theodor Meron writes “that the Peace of Westphalia (1648) .nbsp;. . introduced a system of modern nation-states and international relations governed by sovereign equality” in Henry’s Wars and Shakespeare’s Laws (Oxford, United Kingdom: Clarendon, 1993), 212. He goes on to say that protections for prisoners of war and for civilians—this latter could be from acts of war—originated at about this time. I am unable to discern much from the archaic language of the treaty itself, which seems to require a historical understanding well beyond that which I possess.
  3. [3]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029; Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html
  4. [4]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029
  5. [5]Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html
  6. [6]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029
  7. [7]Eric Lutz, “Turns Out Lots of People ‘Like’ Bernie Sanders,” Vanity Fair, January 22, 2020, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/01/cnn-poll-bernie-sanders-joe-biden
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Your job sucks. Thank neoliberals,” Irregular Bullshit, January 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/01/22/your-job-sucks-thank-neoliberals/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Hillary Clinton needs to just shut the fuck up,” Not Housebroken, October 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/10/22/hillary-clinton-needs-to-just-shut-the-fuck-up/