What should be done when a country engages in "rogue" behaviour that either threatens another country or treats its own citizens unfairly? Is each country its own arbiter of standards of behaviour or is there some universal standard that can and should be imposed from outside a country's borders? And should there be a difference depending on where on the dictator/democratic spectrum the country is located?
Countries have regarded the behaviours of another country as rogue ever since national entities were recognised. Diplomatic incidents and wars start in this way.
It appears that democracies are less likely to be seen to undertake "rogue" behaviours, though this is a difference in degree rather than kind. And publicly declared democracies can be, in effect, not very democratic or can be quickly overturned by, sometimes populist, political change.
What is perhaps different now is the more immediate and dynamic coverage of rogue actions by the media and the public (rather than just diplomatic) response to these actions - and the public expectation that there are or should be standards that all countries and communities need to abide.
The emotive and judgemental nature of the word "rogue" should be ackowledged. Threats are perceived - both sides could perceive a threat or issue quite differently. Unfair treatment by government is also not well defined - different interest groups will see actions and their drivers differently. Some of these views might have current prominence in the media, but with this changing over time (or according to available media images). Understanding and judging the "rogue" behaviour is a moveable and debatable feast.
Even the word 'country' implies a fixed certainty of national identity and boundary that is not supported by any study of history. Does country mean the same in the case of a western 'democracy', a communist 'democracy', and an emerging tribal community with a "big man" history? How much of a barrier to action should national sovereignty be - and does this vary with how representative the current government appears to be.
Despite these caveats and uncertainties, there nonetheless seem to be emerging international (not just western) standards of behaviour and times when the actions of another country's leaders or power brokers are so abhorrent or so dangerous that we want to act and effectively influence their behaviour. How do we act under these uncertainties - and establish a foundation for future actions?
In the past bilateral wars were the answer - and the cost of war sometimes an effective test of whether the "rogue" behaviour was really that important, though at other times the issue was a mere pretext for simple expansionist goals. Now it seems there is a perceived public action layer, with political leaders needing to respond both to the underlying issues with the problem country and with their own public's perception of the problem country and its issues and their "demand for action".
While there may be no simple solution to the various uncertainties outlined in the problem, the following would help reduce and articulate these while providing a better foundation for multilateral action:
- Refine the existing UN articulation of human rights into core human rights that the international community commits itself to enforce for any human and those that are simply goals for community governments
- Articulate and discuss minimum standards of government responsibility and behaviour in international forums (separate from, but inevitably informed by, responses to particular crises) - and ensure that these standards are understood as applicable to all community governments
- Articulate an independent judicial review process for claims that the core human rights or minimum government standards have been infringed - with referral to the UN Security Council in such confirmed cases for appropriate response, including options of exclusions from international forums, sanctions, asset seizures, blockades, humanitarian relief, election supervision and military action, and requiring report back on progress
- Make adoption of the enforceable core human rights, enforceable minimum government behaviour standards, and independent review and action overlays, a prerequisite for participation in any reformed United Nations or new key international forums or agreements
- Utilise public opinion and support to encourage their governments to adopt the above
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 00:41