I want to join the rest of Opinio Juris in welcoming Tom; I have read Confronting Global Terrorsm and American Neo-Conservatism with great interest and am looking forward to commenting on it. As befits someone who, on some definitions anyway, probably counts as a neo-con, I have some disagreements with the book – starting, unsurprisingly, with the definition of neoconservative and what it means (or meant). Before getting there, however, I want to start by praising what I think is a great strength of Tom’s book – and that is its willingness to take on a strategic vision, a vision that is both holistic about responding to terror as well as one that reaches back across a longer range of contemporary history in proposing a response. Although I have sharp disagreements with the nature of the strategic vision that the book offers, as well as disagreements as to the interpretation of the contemporary history (all of which I’ll hold until later posts), I am quite on board with Tom’s ‘meta-methodological’ view (my jargon, sorry!), a view that says, look, it is important to have some kind of strategic vision about what you’re doing in responding to terror. ‘Policy minimalism’ is not enough.
Let me begin the discussion by addressing one of the most important issues addressed in Farer’s book: combating terrorism consistent with the Charter. Farer presents the issue of the permissible options for the United States if it discovers that terrorist organizations or individuals are active in country X and planning an attack on American targets. If the country is hostile to those terrorist elements, the issue is one of joint cooperation in its suppression. But if the country is reluctant or unable to act because the terrorist organization is part of an important ethnic constituency or are located in a remote part of the country where there is virtually no governmental presence. In this scenario Farer argues that there are two options: the United States must obtain the other state’s authorization to act as its proxy or it must seek authorization from the Security Council. Farer reasons that “since all Permanent Members regard transnational terrorism, particularly Islamic terrorism, as a threat to their respective national interests, if the United States can offer persuasive intelligence of the group’s aims, the Council is likely to … authorize preventive action.” (p. 77). As for the third option of taking unilateral action to remove the terrorist elements without the permission of the state or the Security Council, Farer is equivocal. He suggests that repeated violations of the territorial integrity of states would result in the progressive collapse of cooperation on a whole range of issues including non-proliferation….
I would like to begin by echoing Ben Wittes thanks to Chris and his colleagues for creating this vehicle for informal but rigorous discussion of critical issues at the juncture of law and public policy. And of course I want to express my appreciation at being invited to discuss the themes of my book only partially because, as Oscar Wilde once observed, the only bad public notice is one’s obituary (and even that depends on a still mooted point about post-death prospects). More important than being noticed is being jolted out of the post-publication complacency bordering on cerebral torpor that besets most authors in the aftermath of a book-length effort to understand the world and hence your self, that is the hodge-podge of epistemological convictions, moral intuitions, aesthetic preferences and real and vicarious experiences that constitute a personal world view and shape’s one’s diagnoses of and prescriptions for the world’s pathologies. You type the final page, feel the millstone slip from your neck, and more-or-less consciously congratulate yourself on having thought something all the way through . . . whereupon you stop thinking. Having read with fascination the previous Opinio Juris book discussions, I have to anticipate that by the end of this week my interlocutors will have squeezed out of me every lingering ounce of intellectual complacency.
Chris suggested that I open the exchange by sketching in a few broad strokes what I thought I was doing in this book. My purpose, however well or poorly realized, was to look through a Liberal optic at the most important and neuralgic issues implicated in the struggle against mass-casualty terrorism linked to individuals imagining themselves as Islamic warriors. Those issues are the serial themes of this week’s blog. More specifically, I wanted to tease out the strategic implications of a Liberal optic and to contrast them favorably with the policies and underlying set of ideas and values propagated most famously by neo-conservative publicists and channeled by the Bush Administration particularly in its first term.
To that end I begin the book by explaining what I mean by a Liberal optic and clarifying the irreducible differences between that optic and the one employed by neo-cons…
This week we are pleased to host the first discussion in the Oxford University Press/ Opinio Juris Book Club. Tom Farer, the Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, will join us to discuss his new book, Confronting Global Terrorism and American Neo-Conservatism: The Framework of a Liberal Grand Strategy. In addition, Kristen Boon from Seton Hall Law School will be joining us for the conversation as well. Today, Tom will introduce his book in general and we will discuss issues relating to the use of force and, in particular, whether the norms of the UN Charter concerning the use of force have collapsed. Wednesday’s discussion will focus on the role of human rights law and international humanitarian law in the struggle against transnational terrorism. Thursday’s main topic will be international law and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Finally, on Friday we will consider human rights and the rights of traditionalist cultural minorities in secularist states. We look forward to the conversation and, as always, we encourage comments and questions.