International engagement in war-torn countries.

Author:Jackson, Robert
 
FREE EXCERPT

How should we understand the international administration of war-torn territories? A couple of caveats are necessary at the outset. I shall not deal with practical issues involved in making international administrations effective or successful; that will be left to the experts. Nor can I deal with what might be termed the pragmata of such administrations--that is, the degree to which there is evidence of an ad hoc, case-by-case approach on the ground in war-torn countries. I suspect that the closer one gets the more particular each case becomes. I must leave that close scrutiny to others who are more intimately familiar with each case than I am. (1) Instead, I address the question from a broader perspective of international political theory.

My concern is to render such international activity intelligible in terms of leading ideas of international society, by which I mean that I shall try to interpret it. (2) Interpretation involves construing an activity, elucidating it, hopefully explaining it, but at least reading it correctly and thus understanding its meaning in the historical context in which it takes place. (3) The key words of this special issue express important ideas that invite interpretation: international, administration, war-torn, and territories. What do these terms imply or intimate concerning the international activity under discussion? How does the thinking involved in this sort of international activity fit into our received thought on international society? Does it suggest any change in our post-1945 conception of international society? I focus my remarks on a basic issue: the business of acquiring, exercising, and relinquishing international authority over such places--that is, international engagement in war-torn countries. The postwar cases of Germany (4) and Bosnia and Herzegovina will be examined briefly. In short, I shall be surveying these cases in broad outline from a high altitude, from which some details will be overlooked, but I hope that the broad contours will be clear.

I address three groups of connected questions:

* What circumstances or conditions invite or provoke such an international administration? In what places can it justifiably be carried on? In other words, what should we understand by the expression war-torn territories?

* How is the activity authorized? From where does its mandate emanate and by what acts? What is its purpose? How and when should it end?

* What sort of activity is the international administration of war-torn territories? How should we characterize it? What are the implications for our understanding of contemporary international society and its normative framework?

War-Torn Territories

In the wording of this symposium, war-torn evidently characterizes a circumstance or condition that would qualify a territory as a candidate for international administration. (5) That makes the expression a vital element in attempting to interpret the activity. It is not an established term of art in international law and diplomacy. But it conveys an idea that can be useful for studying foreign involvement in certain territories, both at present and historically.

A war-torn territory is not an unambiguous state of affairs. The conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy on such questions is not the equivalent of a textbook exercise in political science. There is no definition according to which the issue can be decided scientifically or objectively. It is the international society, particularly its leading member states, that determines what will be deemed a war-torn territory in any specific instance. The phrase may be used with regard to certain places with discernible or attributable characteristics, and its use may frame part or all of a justification of international involvement. It may enter the lexicon of expressions that are used to justify such international activities. So war-torn territories is not only a descriptive term but also a prescriptive term that is employed in connection with the contemplation and execution of international involvement.

I have the impression that territories is used rather than countries to recognize that international administration may extend to the entire territory of a country or only part of it. The Allied occupation of Germany is an example of the former and the international administration of Kosovo an example of the latter. "Territories" enables us to include different sorts and sizes of geographical areas, including the entire territory or only part of the territory of states. But that terminology cannot escape the fact that we are referring to the territorial jurisdiction of states either in whole or in part. The activity is intimately related to that of foreign military intervention and occupation in whose steps it closely follows.

There is no suggestion that the territories shall be administered internationally on a more enduring if not permanent basis--as was the case during an earlier era of international trusteeships, mandates, and protectorates. (6) Instead, there is an assumption that once the territory is pacified and politically reorganized, self-government shall be restored. That is consistent with the prevailing view since the end of European imperialism, namely that there is no legitimate and lawful place in contemporary international society for permanent dependencies--apart from tiny islands whose populations choose to remain under the jurisdiction of an external power.

The adjective war-torn may frame part or all of a demand for international concern and action. If a territory is war-torn it is, at least prima facie, a candidate for international administration. The term raises the issue of international involvement and may even serve to justify it. The underlying assumption appears to be that international society has no interest or business in getting involved in peaceful territories. In those latter places, the local state is doing its proper and expected job of ensuring peace, order, and good government.

The operative reasoning appears to be the following: A country in a war-torn condition is a reason for international society to be concerned and perhaps to get involved in an effort to pacify it, to restore law and order, and to rebuild it along generally acceptable political lines. International society cannot remain aloof if countries have been torn apart by local warlords, especially if the conflict or its consequences present an international danger of some sort--for example, a threatened exodus of refugees. The issue also arises with regard to territories laid waste by international war. The activity is essentially political. In the cases I discuss in this article, international administration involved political reconstruction along democratic lines. What we have, then, is an expression that captures (at least part of) a justification of postwar occupation and administration of territories by international society with a view to establishing or restoring peace, order, and democratic government prior to handing the territories back to the local people.

International Authority over War-Torn Countries

The adjective international conveys the idea that the administration is authorized and installed by an external body of some sort. It draws attention to the hierarchy between such an administration and the international authority to which it is accountable and to the externally assigned tasks for which it is responsible. What is the policy that an international administration is carrying out? Who is the authority behind the policy? What is the character of that authority?

These questions direct attention to the mandate with which any administration, and most certainly an international administration, must be endowed in order to carry out its responsibilities. We have to know by what legal and political process the international administration came to be set up and under what sanction it operates. We have to know the external source of authority over the administration and its military and civil officials. The question of authority is important because it frames the terms and sets the conditions of the involvement. It lays down, in a military manner of speaking, the rules of engagement.

I briefly outline here, two instances of international authorities that installed administrations in territories that we can characterize as war-torn: postwar Germany under Allied occupying powers operating with the authority of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements; and postwar Bosnia under an international administration agreed between the governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Yugoslavia (the...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP