Friday, March 7, 2014

Crimea, Ukraine, Obama and International Law

So yesterday, according to the McClatchy newspaper chain's reportage, Obama bleated from the White House briefing room that the Crimean parliament's near-unanimous vote -- 8 abstentions but no, repeat ZERO, votes "Nyet" -- to secede from Ukraine violated Ukraine's constitution and 'international law.'

McClatchy Story

If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, as noted 18th-century wit Samuel Johnson had it, then one could also say that 'international law' is the last refuge of a charlatan. Obama remained somewhat vague on exactly which statute of international law Crimea was in violation. And well he should, since international law, such as it is, gives mixed messages about the rights of regions within nation states to secede. Recent precedent reveals that Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia back in 1991, following a path remarkably similar to that being pursued by Crimea -- legislative approval followed by popular referendum. And while France and the UK screeched then about how Croatia was violating international law, Germany approved secession and recognized the newly independent Croatia. In a crowning fit of historical irony, one of the first nations to recognize Croatia was . . .. you guessed it . . . . Ukraine! (You can't make this shit up.)

It's another whole level of irony for Obama to cite international law to chide any nation or peoples. Because, you see, prior to March 20, 2003, the supreme international law was the U.N. Charter. You know that pesky little agreement we helped draft and to which we were original signatories back in 1947, the document that says that, absent an imminent threat, only the U.N. Security Council can authorize military action. Well, on March 20, 2003, the U.S. decided it was no longer bound by international law and invaded and occupied the sovereign nation of Iraq without the prior approval of the U.N. On March 20, 2003, the U.S. stuck a knife in the back of 'international law' and all that remains of that heretofore glorious institution now is a rotting corpse, fit to intone hollow hypocritical obsequies over but not much else. That the lawyer Obama now cites 'international law' introduces a whole new level of hilarity into the discussion. Where did he get his law degree, out of some Cracker Jack box?

This whole kerfuffle over Crimea's desire to secede from an anti-Russian fascist Ukraine reminds me of a debate my father - a died-in-the-wool Jarhead -- and I - a rebellious teenage punk at the time -- used to have.

"The South had a right to secede from the Union," I would announce rebelliously.

"Of course they had a right," my father would reply, "provided they had the military force to back it up!"

In this case, bleating about 'international law' -- dead and in the funeral home since at least March 20, 2003 -- is a false canard. Does Crimea have the military or allies sufficient to enforce its right to secede? Of course it does. Is there any 'international law' that prevents Crimea from seceding. Of course not, and Obama would do well to stop citing it, lest his obvious hypocrisy make him the utter laughing stock of the entire civilized community of nations.

If there's any law at play now, it's the 'law of the jungle,' a jungle in which Russia is a tiger, Ukraine a weak gazelle waiting to be culled from the herd but still stomping its hooves in one last futile, defiant gesture, and Obama and the U.S. little more than paper tigers.

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