In Cosmopolitan Justice Darrel Moellendorf sets out to develop a Rawlsian theory of justice applicable to the sphere of international relations broadly conceived.1 He develops his ethical theory through an exploration of the tensions which he perceives between the early work of John Rawls found in A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, and his later work, The Law of Peoples.2 Moellendorf’s central claim is that in the latter work Rawls, in fundamental ways, betrays crucial cosmopolitan commitments of the theory of justice as set out in the earlier corpus. Rawls’s original project was directed towards the production of a theory which would provide us with criteria for judging the justness of the basic structure of states. That work did not deal with issues of justice within the international realm. Later, in The Law of Peoples, Rawls set out to extend his theory of justice to the international sphere. Moellendorf finds fault with Rawls’s attempt to execute this. The central problem he identifies is that Rawls failed fully to realize the implications which a liberal commitment to human rights places on what morally can be claimed by states making use of the notion of sovereignty.
The Case of the International Criminal Court
Writing in the aftermath of Adolf Eichmann’s dramatic prosecution in 1961 for his role in the Nazi genocide, Hannah Arendt suggested that the ‘need for a [permanent] international criminal court was imperative’ (Arendt 1963: 270). For Arendt, Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem symbolized the unfortunate triumph of national interests over the demands of universal justice. In Arendt’s analysis, the Eichmann trial was flawed for a number of reasons, most notably because the Israeli government rejected the possibility of establishing an international criminal tribunal, claiming for itself the competence and jurisdiction for trying Eichmann. In the end, Arendt notes, the failure of the Israeli court consisted of the fact that it represented ‘one nation only’ and misunderstood Eichmann’s crimes as being inherently against the Jewish people rather than against humanity itself, that is, ‘against the human status’ (Arendt 1963: 268-270). As the subsequent occurrence of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes in countries as diverse as Cambodia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and East Timor starkly testifies, the relevance of a permanent international criminal court to contemporary world politics and international relations is undiminished more than 40 years after the Eichmann trial.
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has appealed to the other members of the European Union to engage constructively with the Bush administration as a means of working towards peace in a perilous world. The combination of highly developed destructive capacity, relative economic decline, diplomatic incompetence, and continuing political divisions among a frustrated and resentful population that is deeply ignorant of the wider world and subject to recurrent bouts of collective paranoia does indeed make the United States a dangerous international agent. One of the main ways, in particular, in which the U.S. represents a particular menace to world peace at the moment is that it has come to be in Washington’s short-term interest to make the world a place in which the quick recourse to violence, and the constant threat of violence, is accepted as part of normal practice in international relations. The use of military power presents itself as an increasingly attractive option primarily because the U.S. is becoming weaker and weaker economically and politically, and force is one of the few means U.S. politicians can deploy that offer any hope whatever of allowing them to advance or protect what they think are their vital interests.
Our Summer issue features three articles on key aspects of German
politics and society. Belinda Cooper analyzes yet another angle of the
thorny Stasi problem, in this case the role and presence of women
in the Stasi. Placing her discussion in the larger context of women
in East Germany, Cooper has fashioned a nuanced, meticulously
researched argument about an issue that remains pertinent in the
debate on Germany, women, unification, and the country’s complex
past. John Bendix and Niklaus Steiner provide a new epistemological
prism for the evaluation of Germany’s much discussed problem of
political asylum. They address this difficult topic in the context of
existing approaches in comparative politics and international relations,
featuring the notion of “national interest” in their presentation.
Ludger Helms then offers a fascinating study of an often-neglected
institution of German politics: that of the federal presidency since
1949. After a careful reading of this article, it is evident that the German
presidency deserves more attention in the future research
agenda of political scientists than it has garnered in the past.
It is notoriously difficult to define the region. It is a territorial space, certainly, so we can exclude virtual spaces from our consideration, but it can take a number of territorial configurations. There is a conventional but still useful distinction between substate regionalism, studied traditionally by geographers, planners, sociologists, political scientists and historians, and supra-state regions, studied by other geographers and in international relations and strategic studies. Economists may make use of both. A third conception is the transnational region, which cuts across the boundaries of states, taking in some but not all of the territory or more than one political community. All these meanings, however, are relative to the nation-state, being above, below, or across it but not questioning its standing as the authoritative definer of territorial boundaries. Most of them also unproblematically use the term “nation-state” to define both a sovereign polity and one in which state and nation coincide, although in plurinational polities these are quite different meanings.