Will Scotland Become Independent?

Will the modern iteration of Braveheart win in the referendum?

In just under a year, Scotland will hold a referendum on whether to become an independent country. The issue is already so divisive that the comedian Susan Calman had to call for an end to the “name-calling, swearing and death threats” she received after making jokes about it on a radio show. It’s so controversial that it would be bad manners to bring it up with anyone who doesn’t agree with you already.

Without unpacking any of the issues of nationhood, belonging or identity, we’re stuck in a rut and things are getting nasty. Each side blames the other. Fervor has enormous social currency. The capacity to listen to people we disagree with is framed as indecision.

via Does Scotland Want Independence? – NYTimes.com.

Stealth Multilateralism from Foreign Affairs

An important analysis about what happens when the U.S. (and other countries although you might consider them part of a rogue’s gallery) fail to ratify or accept treaty obligations. In the case of the U.S., the system that it helped create post-WWII rolls on, possibly without one of its architects. What is the impact?

The United States’ commitment problem has grown so entrenched that foreign governments no longer expect Washington’s ratification or its full participation in the institutions treaties create. The world is moving on; laws get made elsewhere, with limited (if any) American involvement. The United States still wields influence in the UN Security Council and in international financial and trade institutions, where it enjoys a formal veto or a privileged position. But when it comes to solving global problems beyond the old centers of diplomatic and economic power, the United States suffers the self-inflicted wound of diminishing relevance. Administrations operate under the shadow of Senate rejectionism, harboring low expectations that their work will be ratified.

via Stealth Multilateralism | Foreign Affairs (full article requires subscription)

Elsewhere, David Kaye writes that “treaty-making…is an expression of sovereignty, not a threat to it.”

How Much Do UN Treaties Matter?

With the US withdrawing support for the disability treaty from the right bank and critics in the tech sector flanking the left at the World Conference on International Telecommunications recently more discussion over what drives concerns in the latest “sovereignty wars” seems in order.  David Bosco obliges, noting a 2002 Yale Law Journal article that gives treaties a “so-so” assessment for effectiveness and points to Erik Voeten’s analysis, as well.

So if the practical impact of the U.S. rebuff is likely minimal, why all the alarm? The answer, I suspect, has less to do with the rights of disabled around the world than the health of America’s image. Internationalists desperately want the United States to be–and to be seen as–a country that embraces human rights treaties. My sense is that most U.S. internationalists want this not because they believe these instruments will have a significant effect (the evidence on that point is decidedly mixed). Still less are they anticipating that these instruments will force  the United States to change its own behavior.  Instead, U.S. participation in these treaties is desirable because it signals a certain national orientation, including respect for international opinion and support for the project of advancing international law and institutions.

If I’m right about this, that makes these human rights treaties largely symbolic for U.S. internationalists. And that in turn suggests that internationalists should be far less shocked when those with a different view of the international law project treat even inoffensive treaties as proxies in a larger struggle.

via The latest battle in the sovereignty wars | The Multilateralist.

U.S. Tracking Killers in Attack on Libya Mission – NYTimes.com

Great details from the ground in Libya that resembles CSI: Middle East–but with sovereignty dimensions that complicate every aspect:

The preparations underscore the bind confronting the White House over the Benghazi attack. Mr. Obama has vowed to bring the killers to justice, and in the final weeks of the presidential campaign Republicans have hammered the administration over the possible intelligence failures that preceded the attack — including a new accusation that repeated requests for strengthened security in Benghazi had been rejected.

But any American military action on Libyan soil would risk casualties and almost certainly set off a popular backlash at a moment when support for the revolt against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had created a surge in good feeling toward the United States that is unique in the region.

via U.S. Tracking Killers in Attack on Libya Mission – NYTimes.com.

The Good European: On Jürgen Habermas | The Nation

Get your deep supranationalist theory here from the heart of Europe. Habermas makes the case why the EU’s survival is the best model for a supranational constitutional democracy:

First, the more populations that engage in the deliberative process of governing beyond the nation-state, the more likely it is that normative criteria will emerge and find general assent. Second, global citizenship, like European citizenship, does not require a global ethnicity or national identity: citizenship can just as well be based on shared principles, such as freedom of thought, political integrity, justice and the rule of law. Third, as in the EU, individuals simultaneously legitimize the new polity as citizens of their respective states and as citizens of the new commonwealth. States would no longer be fully sovereign powers, but would regard themselves as members of the international community. Because of its transnational character and the need for new communicative structures, the solidarity of world citizens would no longer be “embedded in the context of a shared political culture.”

Habermas does not imagine a global republic but rather a supranational association of citizens and states that is based on a divided sovereignty, as with the EU. Divided sovereignty demonstrates that a change in perspective from classical human rights law to the political constitution of the world society is no longer unthinkable. Ecological and technological risks do not confront single states or coalitions of states alone, but can be mastered only through the cooperation of world powers that can develop globally effective norms and procedures.

The new polity would absorb the UN Security Council and the international courts (like the ICC), develop an expanded legal basis for human rights policy, and extend the system of international law to include matters that take into account moral issues (what Habermas calls “global domestic politics”). Because all world religions and cultures condemn human rights violations and wars of aggression, a supranational polity need only apply “intersubjectively shared” moral principles and norms. From this remote perspective, we need not concern ourselves with the limited efficacy and political fractiousness of existing supranational institutions. For Habermas, the narrative of the “civilizing power of democratic constitutions” at the level of an “international community” would culminate in a “cosmopolitan community.”

via The Good European: On Jürgen Habermas | The Nation.