Did a non-member of the IAEA really attack an IAEA member?

(cross posted from my blog)

The Times Online has published an interesting story which claims that the Israeli Air Force overflight of Syria in early September was part of a complex military operating aimed at seizing and destroying nuclear materials shipped from the DPRK to Syria:

Israeli commandos from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit – almost certainly dressed in Syrian uniforms – made their way stealthily towards a secret military compound near Dayr az-Zawr in northern Syria. They were looking for proof that Syria and North Korea were collaborating on a nuclear programme.

Israel had been surveying the site for months, according to Washington and Israeli sources. President George W Bush was told during the summer that Israeli intelligence suggested North Korean personnel and nuclear-related material were at the Syrian site.

(…)

Today the site near Dayr az-Zawr lies in ruins after it was pounded by Israeli F15Is on September 6. Before the Israelis issued the order to strike, the commandos had secretly seized samples of nuclear material and taken them back into Israel for examination by scientists, the sources say. A laboratory confirmed that the unspecified material was North Korean in origin. America approved an attack.

If true, this story is indeed very interesting. Let us assume that everything this article says is true. Let us assume that North Korea has indeed shipped some nuclear materials to Syria, let us even further assume that these nuclear materials are indeed related to some nuclear weapons program, let us even assume that the Israelis had incontrovertible information that the Syrians planned to somehow integrate this nuclear material to their missile forces. And now let us now summarize what the Times article really says:

The article says that a state armed with hundreds of nuclear weapons, a state which is not a member of the IAEA, can carry out an unprovoked attack on a sovereign member of the UN and a fully compliant IAEA member in good standing (in fact, Syria has just been voted in as a co-chairman of the IAEA). It can illegally seize its property, destroy its resaerch facilities and kill its nationals. And it can do all this with the full backing of the USA, a member of the IAEA and one of the five Permanent Members of United Nation Security Council

Yes, Syria is a member of the IAEA since 1963. The very purpose of the IAEA is to create a legal and non-violent mechanism to prevent any of its member from acquiring nuclear weapons and to monitor all its nuclear research programs to alert the world community about any possible illegal activities. The IAEA’s record is flawless: never has an IAEA member succeeded covertly developing a nuclear weapon.

The point is not that the Israelis have violated international law: Israel has already violated international law more than any other country and, probably, more than all other countries taken together (also, the USA has imposed more vetoes at the Security Council than the other UNSC Permanent Five taken together, and most of them in support of, what else, Israel).

No, the amazing thing is that, if confirmed, such an action raises no objections from the other members of the IAEA or of the UN for that matter. The culture thuggery of “might makes right” which has been spearheaded by the US and Israel for decades already has obviously become an integral part of international relations.

Likewise, the international community seems to have fully accepted a truly phenomenal double standard in what regards anything involving Israel (just imagine the outrage triggered by a Syrian bombing on any part of the huge Israeli nuclear weapons program).

International law, just like any other form of law, has as a primary objective the civilized settlement of conflicts. However imperfect, the law is the only mechanism which mankind has devised to avoid the “law of the jungle” in which the mighty “take the law in their own hands” like lynchmobs and street thugs do.

The wholesale abandonment of any kind of respect for international law by the USraelian Empire is the single biggest threat to international peace and order and no country in the world can consider itself safe from Imperial aggression.

Truly, we have returned to the Middle Ages.

32 thoughts on “Did a non-member of the IAEA really attack an IAEA member?

  1. mudshark

    no country in the world can consider itself safe from Imperial aggression.

    does the phrase “terms subject to change without notice” sound familiar?

  2. Scott

    Man, Ultimately I think all this international law which is meant to prevent war just makes it more likely. It doesn’t matter the details of the case, all that matters is that they can point to the UN and say, “we tried,” and then bomb. The limitation becomes the casus belli so to speak.

    Some would say the UN was created to be an excuse for war machine from the outset.

  3. vineyardsaker Post author

    Oh no Scott, the idea of the UN as the idea of international law is to create mechanisms which could prevent a repetition of what happened during WWII. Now what I really don’t get is how can you advocate a society without government in which disagreements would be resolved by the courts while at the same time rejecting the main international court in which nations are supposed to settle their differences: the UN?

    Also, the fact that the UN did a less than stellar job in its history is hardly a reason to reject the principle upon which it is founded or the aim it strives to achieve. Please don’t get me wrong here, I intensely dislike the UN (where I worked for several years and which I know from within very well) and I find that the entire system was often used by the powerful nations to get a legitimacy for their imperial designs. But saying “this is a deeply flawed system” and saying “this system is useless” are different things. At the very least, its only due to the very existence of the UN that the USA cannot claim that it had a mandate from anyone to attack Iraq, and only the fact that the UN exists made it possible for Russia, France and China to threaten a veto. Lastly, while the UNSC is truly a pawn in US hands, at least the General Assembly can, at times, make statements which express the will of most countries.

    There are no perfect courts out there, nor will there ever be. And the point of law is NOT to render “justice” (and much less so “perfect justice”) but to resolve conflicts according to principles different from “might makes right”.

    To search for perfection is all very well
    But to look for heaven is to live here in hell

    “Consider me gone” (Sting)

  4. Scott

    “Now what I really don’t get is how can you advocate a society without government in which disagreements would be resolved by the courts while at the same time rejecting the main international court in which nations are supposed to settle their differences: the UN?”

    So if I don’t think we need government here, why do I not think we need world government?

    I don’t think we need government. At best the UN is a figleaf for empire, at worst an embryonic global federalism and yes it was UN resolutions dictating how Saddam should behave were in question. 1441 passed unanimously. Quote every liberal in America, “War with Iraq only with the UN.” “Give the inspectors more time.” etc.

  5. vineyardsaker Post author

    So if I don’t think we need government here, why do I not think we need world government?

    The UN is in no way a world government, its more of a world court. Since you advocate conflict resolution inside the USA by litigation, it would be logical to likewise advocate it for international conflicts. Since litigation implies a court, then international litigation implies an international court. There are many international courts out there, and the highest one, the functional equivalent of the Supreme Court would be the UN.

    There is no international equivalent of the Executive Branch (although the case could be made that the UNSC plays that role). So no “world government” in this case.

    As for being unhappy with the decision of the UN, that’s your right, of course, and you will always be unhappy with at least some the decisions of ANY court (do you expect that in a hypothetical anarcho-capitalistic society all the outcomes of all the litigations would be to your satisfaction?!)

    I think that it is important not to confuse the *outcomes* and the *mechanism* which produced the outcome.

    There is a fundamental principle of programming called “SISO”: shit it, shit out. That is true for ANY non-miraculous mechanism. You put shit in, you get shit out. The sames applies to the UN which gets a lot of “shit in” and which therefore produces a lot of “shit out”. But so does any computer. Is that a reason to abolish computers?

  6. Oscar Goldman

    Viewed in consequentialist terms, the UN is designed to do harm. It is not even set up to do good things.

    Judged in terms of its past, too, I would say that, again, it has done more harm than good.

    We probably shouldn’t abolish man-eating lions either, but that doesn’t mean you should goof around them much.

  7. vineyardsaker Post author

    @Scott, actually not quite. By definition any military action authorized by the UN would be undertaken to restore international security. By the way, if you litigate disagreements in national courts you would have some force enforcing the decision of the courts, right?

  8. Scott

    VS, give it up dude. You are never going to convince me to favor an organization created by New Dealers, Communists and Nazis on Rockefeller land for the purpose of building a world army and enslaving mankind.

    Do they play good cop to our bad sometimes? Yes. Should the UN exist at all? No.

  9. Scott

    Scott, actually not quite. By definition any military action authorized by the UN would be undertaken to restore international security.

    International security as defined by the UNSC is not international security as defined by me. Come on. How many times – just in the last couple years – have you heard people say that it’s not okay to start a war without a UN resolution? Me: One million billion times.

  10. vineyardsaker Post author

    How many times – just in the last couple years – have you heard people say that it’s not okay to start a war without a UN resolution? Me: One million billion times.
    Well, I think that starting any war is bad, always and by definition, but I also think that starting a way without UN approval is even worse. That is the difference between law and lawlessness.
    International security as defined by the UNSC is not international security as defined by me
    I can see that. The UNSC is not designed to accommodate any one person’s choices, but to provide for a MECHANISM to limit arbitrary actions of any one state.
    give it up dude.
    ok

  11. Paul

    Seems pretty logical to have local, state, federal, as well as international courts. Otherwise it’s just might makes right:Plutocrats with all the power and muscle.

    VS said it best. “Some people fear their governments, some governments fear their people.Work for the second”

  12. Paul

    “You are never going to convince me to favor an organization created by New Dealers, Communists and Nazis on Rockefeller land for the purpose of building a world army and enslaving mankind.”

    Horton is actually Alex Jones!

  13. Mace Price

    …Well, let’s try to keep things in perspective here…Horton ain’t nowhere near Alex Jones, who’s crazy…and he’s far too intelligent to espouse Anarchy for reasons other than to attract a forum for a righteous indignation and dissent with regard to the present, miserable, and dangerous state of affairs we find ourselves in as US Citizens…As for my colleague The learned Vineyard Saker? Well, call it a platitude on my part, but, he comes from a Continent that has experienced the Horrors and Ravages of War for Milena; hence our perceived notion of his extremism, and his seeming blind faith in terms of International Law, The United Nations…and the concept of World Peace through Constructive Engagement, Enlightenment, Progress and finally Peace through Global Justice—Meanwhile, France, one of the leading examples and exponents of this same rationale, as a modern Progressive Socialist State [EUSOC] nonetheless has its Hungarian Jewish Prime Minister and his Partisans—Threatening a 5000 year old Persian Civilization, we know as Iran…with War if I’m not mistaken…This should they continue to undertake the development of Nuclear weapons. Thus I think it’s eminently fair for me to to state that, Center, Left or Right there is a place where the sanctity of peace through State Diplomacy ends, and the Realpolitik—Which is nothing less than the historical imperative for War; as well as that we define as Terrorism, begins…Mr Sarkozy has thus now provided us with evidence that the leaders of advanced, modern European Socialist States are not immune to the resolution of Cultural, Social, Political and Economic discrepancies through organized, and clandestine violence…To wit: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tonews/world/europe/article2473281.ece

  14. Mace Price

    …That “Reporter” AA, is NBC’s David Gregory of the elite Washington Press Corps…He was also the clown seen dancing [literally] with “Puffy” Karl Rove recently at a black tie Washington Press Gala…If that’s not bad enough? He looks cross between a Neanderthal Man and Underdog…Go figure…If he hob nobs on a regular basis with Andrea Mitchell, then it stands to reason they ain’t gonna treat him like Dan Rather let alone taser him Bro’

  15. Scott

    but to provide for a MECHANISM to limit arbitrary actions of any one state.

    But don’t they more often provide the bogus cassus belli ie no more centrifuge spinning for you…?

  16. Mace Price

    …The United Nations Security Council is a reflection of the UN itself; which is to say it is a Political Entity…Once again; where there are Political differences—Namely which Nation State can connive, deceive, and threaten its way into Dominion?—There will be War—The alleged “Democratic” mechanisms contrived by men with the ostensible purpose of enforcing peace through International Law, are nothing less than an exercise in self interest, intrigue and a means to Power… Such a mechanism is subject to the selective ambitions of the elites who will eventually organize and establish it…Who will a Global Court answer to? Bono? Susan Sarandon? Sting? Bullshit Bill Clinton? The People? The Buttholesurfers? Dr. Caligari?…Left to its own devices, the arbiters of the Mechanism in question would soon acquire enough power to assume the operations, and subsequent malefactions of a State itself.

  17. mudshark

    …Bet they’d taze The Muddshark though

    I’ve managed to survive thirteen thousand volts (AC) in the past, so who knows?

  18. mudshark

    Seems pretty logical to have local, state, federal, as well as international courts. Otherwise it’s just might makes right:Plutocrats with all the power and muscle.

    here’s a little crash course for you, Paul.

  19. vineyardsaker Post author

    @AA – yep, I saw that one too. but if all there was there were missiles then the Israelis are just nuts to risk a conflict with Syria over something like that. Either they are really stupid (and while Olmert is a cretin, Barak is not) or there was something of a higher value there…

  20. cowbot

    To vineyardsaker:

    The UN debate is somewhat off-topic but since it has been brought up, I feel compelled to try to explain some relevant issues not yet mentioned here.

    A few years ago, I supported the World Court, UN and ‘international law’ on the grounds you mentioned; specifically, the concept of a rule of law being better than anarchy or ‘rule by bullies’ to effect some degree of justice and peaceful coexistence.

    However, applying the idea of ‘rule of law’ to international relations is beset by not just practical, but also theoretical problems. Law requires enforcement. Enforcement requires force, and government. International law requires international government.

    If we agree that ‘legitimate government derives just powers from the consent of the governed’, then (as Ron Paul says) the UN is not legitimate because ‘the American people have not consented to rule by the UN’. And I do not think you can point to any supra-national governing body that has achieved a mandate by popular vote.

    In the case of my country, the elites who crafted the European Union were crafty enough to subvert the German constitution by surrendering government powers to Brussels without a national referendum. In countries such as France and the Netherlands – where they expected a show of popular support – they allowed these to be held and were resoundingly defeated.

    One might argue that the goal of ‘international law’ is valid if limited to regulation of relations between nations – in effect creating a whole new category of law, one that does not regulate and punish individuals, but entire countries. In this construct consent is granted by governments acting as delegates of their citizenry. If we accept this premise for the sake of argument, such an international governing body would only have legitimacy if its charter were to be defined as a limited set of enumarated powers (affecting only international relations) in the form of a constitution, and if its jurisdiction were limited to signatory nations.

    But is a ‘meta-law’ that governs countries and not individuals even coherently legitimate? If national law governs individuals, who are punished by individuals acting as agents of the law, then meta-national (international) law may only govern and punish ‘meta-individuals’, and be enforced by ‘meta-individuals’. But it is not possible to punish national governments without harming individuals (via sanctions, war). It is not possible to create a meta-human enforcer – one must hire or conscribe individuals.

    So even if we try to imagine the most ‘legitimate’ possible ‘international law’ – consisting only of enumerated powers dealing only with international relations – we see that it mandates collective responsibility and collective punishment.

    Leaving the operational problems with ‘mission creep’ and ‘leviathan’ aside; Leaving aside pragmatic arguments against world social monoculture; and leaving aside the problems of corruption and inefficiency in organizational hierarchies – I think there are grave flaws inherent in the idea of ‘meta-individual’, or ‘international law’ and its requisite governing bodies.

    I hold these truths to be self-evident: That only the individual can be held responsible as a moral agent, and jurisprudence and government has legitimacy only in securing the natural rights of the individual.

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