Me, Guest-Blogging

by Kenneth Anderson

My thanks to everyone at Opinio Juris for inviting me to guest blog this week. I am a very big admirer of this blog and have been since its beginning – I admire its political balance, its civility, and the high intellectual standards it sets. Plus it’s fun to read. I’ll try to live up to those standards over the course of the week. But the topics I am currently interested in are a little different, and a little broader, than public international law as such.

My day job is professor at Washington College of Law, American University in Washington DC and research fellow at the Hoover Institution – I’ve stuck a little potted bio at the bottom here, of the kind used in grant applications and when you want people to give you money. I don’t teach public international law most of the time – my usual courses are international business transactions, corporate finance, nonprofit organizations, and private equity in the last couple of years, plus business associations as needed. I’ve taught seminars on laws of war, just war theory, international economic development theory, Lincoln and the Second Inaugural, human rights, UN, global civil society and global governance. But mostly I teach business law, even though my writing interests in the last few years have been in public law areas.

What are some of the topics I plan to blog about this week? Well, they reflect mostly my current writing interests, or areas that I have plans to write about in the next while:

Method in international law scholarship. Okay, it involves a certain amount of embarrassing professional navel-gazing. But I came to teaching law in 1996, from a background as a human rights and civil society activist who did not have a lot of patience for international law theory. It has taken a long time for me to try and figure it out. Now I’m interested. But I’m interested these days not so much in the traditional issue of international law scholarship – political commitments – but instead the shifts in method, toward social science, rationalist and empirical methods. Peter Spiro was kind enough to invite me up to Temple a couple of months ago to talk on exactly this topic, with David Zaring commenting, and it seemed to me a pretty rich area, involving generational changes in scholarship and method, from normative to social science, from Kantian ethics to utilitarianism, from (as David noted) humanities to social science. This is also interesting to me as a matter of general American legal scholarship, and the rise of a new legal realism based around utilitarian ethics and cost benefit analysis as a method. I’m a finance professor – by nature I’m intrigued by the idea that the social world can be modeled by reference to discount rates and net present value and capital budgeting for the private firm. Not entirely convinced, possibly because I am a finance professor, but … intrigued.

Autonomous battlefield robots. Or as I like to refer to them, because no editor can resist this … Ethics for Robot Soldiers. This speaks for itself.

Just war theory and laws of war. I’m active and interested in matters of just war theory and the ethics of war more generally as well as the laws of war; for several years I’ve been working on a long term book project on a restatement of just war ethics.

Strategy and tactics in US responses to terrorism. I’m on the Hoover Institution’s task force on national security and law, and one issue I find myself returning to again and again is the question of the frame of response to terrorism. On the one hand, writers as politically divergent as Sunstein and Posner share a common methodological response to terrorism – cost benefit analysis. Cost benefit analysis is, in Philip Bobbitt’s phrase, “unrelentingly tactical.” Is there no space, on the other hand, for a genuinely strategic analysis of terrorism and responses to it, whatever the actual content of it might be and however much people might disagree over it?

Books I’ve been reading. I like to read. Indeed, one friend, concerned about my general low levels of scholarly productivity, or at least how much I bemoan my low levels of productivity, advised me that I read too much. I’d do better, he suggested, to treat books less as books and more as reference tools – don’t read the whole dang thing, just consult the bits you need. Hmm. What do you think? Anyway, I plan to put up some posts on things I’ve been reading not directly related to stuff I’m writing about.

That’s a sampling of some of the things I’d like to take up this week. I realize they aren’t very directly involved in public international law as such. But I hope people find them interesting and I look forward to comments.

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My money-seeking bio, for use with foundations and grant applications:

Kenneth Anderson is professor of law at Washington College of Law, American University, and a research fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University as well as member of its Task Force on National Security and Law. Professor Anderson has taught the laws of war and armed conflict, just war theory, and Lincoln’s war ethics over many years; he has taught just war theory and laws of war at Columbia Law School (where he took over the course for Telford Taylor and Jonathan Bush), at Fordham Law School, and at Harvard Law School, where he was a visiting professor (2000) and John Harvey Gregory Lecturer on World Organization (1993-95). Professor Anderson is the author of numerous articles on the laws of war, just war theory, and international law and human rights; he also served as legal editor of the first edition of the book Crimes of War (Roy Gutman and David Rieff, general eds., WW Norton 1999). Among his professional commitments, he is a member of the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence and of the critical theory journal Telos; he is a contributor to such general publications as the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, the Financial Times, and the Weekly Standard; and Professor Anderson is political science editor of the Revista de Libros (Madrid). Prior to entering the legal academy, he was director of the Human Rights Watch Arms Division and general counsel to the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundations). In his pro bono work, he currently chairs the board of the Media Development Loan Fund, a nonprofit investment fund for independent media in the developing world, and also chairs the board of the US branch of the Rift Valley Institute, which supports educational and development activities in Sudan and other countries of East Africa. He graduated from UCLA in 1983 and Harvard Law School in 1986, clerked for Justice Joseph Grodin of the California Supreme Court and practiced tax law at Sullivan & Cromwell, New York. Raised in southern California, he is married to Jean-Marie Simon and has one teenage daughter, Renee. Professor Anderson and his family live in Washington DC.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/05/18/me-guest-blogging/

One Response

  1. Prof. Anderson:

    I appreciate your comment that cost benefit analysis is tactical. Folks discussing strategic responses are usually written-off as either wimpy or hawkish, which has resulted in diminished public debate.

    But isn’t terrorism itself primarily a tactic instead of an agenda? To call terrorism a strategy seems to produce little insight. Instead, we need to acknowledge that terrorist groups have unique strategies and goals which may be most-effectively countered when addressed specifically. Some strategic goals are common to most terror groups, such as ‘to undermine trust in the government and institutions where the attack occurs’ but destabilization is not an end in itself except for anarchists. What are the motivating factors of the group’s members? What are gives them support among populations? But again, addressing these issues strategically will likely be met with cries of appeasement or ruthlessness. We have to get past our desires to control and squelch the debate, and instead welcome the debate.

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