This is a short article which was originally published on 'Normblog' in 2013. Geras here speaks of how Washington and other Western powers, including Britain, were considering military action against Syria on account of the regime's apparent use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. The article focuses on three types of issues that are centrally involved in the debate whether such action be justified: whether there is a basis in international law for military intervention; whether it is likely to do any good; and whether it might be merited in any case on retributive grounds.
Normblog was launched in 2003, and over the course of a decade, it became one of the top-tier blogs, attracting thousands of readers to its daily posts. Meticulously constructed arguments about politics and international affairs were accompanied by musings on literature, cricket and jazz, profiles of fellow bloggers, and occasional, deeply personal reflections about work, life and the family he loved. In this section, a few selected Normblog posts chosen by a range of different people who knew Norm, either on a personal basis or through his blog posts and other writings, are republished. Readers here will find plenty of politics and reminders that there is a world beyond politics. Some of them are his posts on Hizbollah's anti-Semitism, educational inequality in Pakistan, his passion for Australian cricket, subordination of women in Germany and his list of 15 great jazz albums.
With the aid of the crime of 9/11, many on the Western left shielded themselves from realities they did not want to see or to assign their proper weight. In this article, first published in Dissent in 2005, Geras comments on some aspects of this theoretical nexus. He begins from a short essay by Paul Berman entitled 'A Friendly Drink in Time of War', which appeared in the Winter 2004 issue of Dissent. In that essay Berman offers six reasons why many on the left did not see things his way over the war in Iraq, which he supported. Abbreviating them, and also adding a seventh to the six that he enumerates, Geras sets out those reasons, addressing the two faces of the United States: as being the foremost embodiment of global capitalism, on one side, and regimes and movements of an utterly ghastly kind politically, on the other.
Attempts to regulate lobbying have focused on securing transparency so that we know who is lobbying whom about what. This chapter presents the case for and against regulation of lobbying. The case for the regulation of lobbyists is simple enough: it promotes transparency and accountability, and hence strengthens democracy. However, it has also been suggested that increased transparency is not necessarily desirable and that 'in order to formulate "good policy", confidential negotiations are sometimes necessary'. The chapter looks at the UK system of regulating lobbying and the regulation prevalent in the European Union. It also examines the issue of whether the democratic process gets unduly distorted by lobbying. Politicians and civil servants may have half an eye on the future career opportunities offered by lobbying organisations as they enter a lightly regulated revolving door between government and the private sector.
This chapter considers the development of secondary rules of international law to cover the wrongful acts and omissions of inter-governmental organisations. It analyses the Articles on Responsibility of International Organisations (ARIO) developed by the International Law Commission. The chapter focuses on the weaknesses of the ARIO in distinguishing the responsibility of the UN from that of member states, something that has caused difficulties in judicial interpretation of the ARIO in the case of UN-mandated operation. It examines the issues of attribution in firstly the Behrami case before the European Court of Human Rights and secondly various cases before Dutch courts following the failure of the Dutch battalion of the United Nations Protection Force to protect civilians in Srebrenica in 1995.
This chapter examines non-forcible measures adopted by the UN and similar inter-governmental organisations in terms of their legality (constitutionality and conformity to international law), legitimacy and effectiveness. It focuses on the Article 41 of the UN Charter, a provision that empowers the Security Council to adopt sanctions against states, although it has further developed this power to promulgate targeted sanctions against individuals and other non-state actors (NSAs). The chapter analyses the impact of general sanctions against states, such as Southern Rhodesia, Iraq, Serbia and Libya, especially their impact on the human rights of the population. It discusses the applicability of human rights norms to the UN. The Security Council has favoured targeted sanctions against individual leaders, regime elites and NSAs, such as terrorists held responsible for threats to peace but these have raised human rights concerns, and have led to litigation before various national, regional and international courts and bodies.
One philosopher who expresses himself emphatically about human nature, and whose works have attracted wide interest, is Richard Rorty. In this chapter, Geras explores Richard Rorty's various usages on the question of human nature and the tensions and anomalies they display. Rorty is an astute and provocative as well as influential thinker. An analysis of what he says about the idea of human nature, then, may serve a wider effort of clarification and exchange. Though Rorty's own relationship to post-modernism is not an altogether enthusiastic one, anti-essentialism is a trope he has in common with it. After some preliminary remarks, the chapter reviews the critical uses and rhetorical emphases of Rorty's omnipresent rejection of the idea of human nature. It offers a few reflections on the story they conjointly tell. The rhetoric of emancipation is not so distant from the rhetoric of 'utopia', which Rorty seems quite happy to employ.
There is a certain historical past of the left referred to loosely under the name 'Stalinism', and which forms a massive blot on this commitment and these values. In this article, which was first published on 'Normblog' in 2003, Geras sketches some important features of the broad picture, citing the 9/11 incident and the liberation in Iraq. It focuses on a couple of dimensions. First, there is a long tradition in the literature of international law that, although national sovereignty is an important consideration in world affairs, it is not sacrosanct. If a government treats its own people with terrible brutality, massacring them and such like, there is a right of humanitarian intervention by outside powers. Second, the good and bad consequences of war, which are illustrated here by offering a few examples.
In this chapter, Geras distinguishes three meanings of 'being a Marxist': personal, intellectual and socio-political. For someone to be a Marxist, in the first sense, he or she must subscribe to a significant selection of recognized Marxist beliefs, and describe him or herself as a Marxist. The second is that, as well as having some relevant combination of Marxist beliefs, a person can work, as writer, political publicist, academic, thinker, researcher, within the intellectual tradition begun by Marx and Engels and developed by later figures. The third this that a person is a Marxist if they belong to the Marxist left. Unless a Marxism of personal belief and a Marxism of creative intellectual work both thoroughly renewed and wrested once and for all from the grip of anti-democratic and illiberal themes and concepts, Marxism as a political force might just as well be dead and buried.
Cause groups exist before World War II itself, but they were not the mass membership organisations that we know today, making use of a combination of evidence-based lobbying, the mass media and various forms of protest. This chapter deals with the various types of lobbyists prevalent in Britain: insider groups, outsider groups, business lobbyists and commercial lobbyists. Insider groups try to influence government policy whereas outsider groups usually focus on preventing a particular activity from going ahead. Further, insider groups can be 'core' or 'peripheral' while outsider groups are divided into those that are outside 'by necessity' and those that are outside 'by choice'. The chapter discusses the renewable energy industry and the alcohol industry as examples of associations engaging in business lobbying. Leading commercial lobbyists talk about understanding the regulatory environment, getting a client's message across and building relationships with relevant decision-makers.