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Book Review: Re-Envisioning Sovereignty: The End of Westphalia?

In this edi­tion of our ongo­ing series of book reviews, Paul Mignano presents a crit­i­cal but ulti­mate­ly favor­able take on Re-Envi­sion­ing Sov­er­eign­ty: The End of West­phalia?a col­lec­tion of inter­dis­ci­pli­nary essays dis­cussing the con­cept of sovereignty.


By Paul Mignano


Re-envisioning SovereigntyFor a con­cept that is so cen­tral to inter­na­tion­al rela­tions and pub­lic inter­na­tion­al law, the mean­ing of “sov­er­eign­ty” is sur­pris­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to artic­u­late. At its essence, West­phalian sov­er­eign­ty is about the abil­i­ty of a state to engage in polit­i­cal self-deter­mi­na­tion, to be con­sid­ered a legal equal of oth­er states, and to ensure non-inter­fer­ence of out­side states in its own inter­nal affairs.

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Book Review: Temkin’s The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair

This install­ment in our ongo­ing series of book reviews fea­tures J. Ben­ton Heath’s assess­ment of Moshik Temkin’s The Sac­co-Vanzetti Affair: Amer­i­ca on Tri­al. In his review, Heath finds that Temkin’s book brings a unique inter­na­tion­al dimen­sion to the analy­sis of the Sac­co-Vanzetti affair, and reveals how events sur­round­ing Sac­co and Vanzetti informed ongo­ing dia­logue on U.S. glob­al dom­i­nance and domes­tic policy.

By J. Ben­ton Heath

Two years after the 1927 exe­cu­tion of Ital­ian-Amer­i­can anar­chists Nico­lai Sac­co and Bar­tolomeo Vanzetti, H.L.Mencken wrote that their case “refus­es to yield.… The vic­tims con­tin­ue to walk, haunt­ing the con­science of Amer­i­ca, of the civ­i­lized world.” Eight decades have passed since Mencken’s writ­ing, yet Sac­co and Vanzetti con­tin­ue to stalk the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion, attract­ing renewed inter­est from schol­ars, jour­nal­ists, com­men­ta­tors, and nov­el­ists. Temkin’s engag­ing and insight­ful work attempts to estab­lish the his­tor­i­cal place of Sac­co and Vanzetti by focus­ing on the nation­wide and transat­lantic dimen­sions of their case. By focus­ing on the inter­na­tion­al reac­tions to the con­vic­tions and exe­cu­tions, and on the effects of for­eign crit­i­cism, Temkin finds his own unique niche among the exten­sive schol­ar­ship on the case.

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Book Review: Begley’s Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters

This install­ment in our ongo­ing series of book reviews takes on Why the Drey­fus Affair Mat­ters by lawyer/novelist Louis Beg­ley.  Hugh Murtaugh’s com­pli­men­ta­ry review of Begley’s work inter­twines the Drey­fus and the Guan­tanamo nar­ra­tives.  Both Beg­ley and this review­er con­clude with the same lament from Proust: “As for ask­ing one­self about its val­ue, not one thought of it now .… It was no longer shock­ing. That was all that was required.”

By Hugh K. Murtagh

The sto­ry of Guan­tanamo Bay is not over. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma will not be able to shut­ter the island prison until at least 2011, and then only by mov­ing the remain­ing detainees to a state­side facil­i­ty. Time pass­es, details emerge: the “Camp Delta Stan­dard Oper­at­ing Pro­ce­dures” find their way onto the inter­net; a mil­i­tary judge will not allow the pros­e­cu­tion of a ter­ror­ist leader because he has been so bad­ly abused; Sami al-Hajj, the al-Jazeera jour­nal­ist held for years on chang­ing unsub­stan­ti­at­ed charges, is final­ly released to Sudan, with his diaries.

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Book Review: Terrorism, War and International Law (Myra Williamson)

This occa­sion­al series will high­light the book anno­ta­tions that con­sti­tute the back pages of every issue of the NYU Jour­nal of Inter­na­tion­al Law and Pol­i­tics.  We are begin­ning with this review of Myra Williamson’s Ter­ror­ism, War and Inter­na­tion­al Law: The Legal­i­ty of the Use of Force Against Afghanistan in 2001, because it rais­es the cru­cial ques­tion of the right of States to use force in self-defense against non-State actors.  This issue sits in the back­ground of much of the current debates about the use of force, most recent­ly in Pro­fes­sor Alston’s Tar­get­ed Killings report.

By Gra­ham F. Dumas

Myra Williamson’s Ter­ror­ism, War and Inter­na­tion­al Law: The Legal­i­ty of the Use of Force Against Afghanistan in 2001 comes at a time when the con­flict in Afghanistan is return­ing to the fore of U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy and as the fight against ter­ror­ism con­tin­ues to expand. Yet many of the legal ques­tions sur­round­ing this con­flict were sim­ply glossed over at the time of the invasion and have not yet been sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly resolved.

Bas­ing her argu­ment main­ly on legal his­to­ry, Williamson asserts that the use of force against Afghanistan could not be legal­ly con­sid­ered self-defense accord­ing to the U.N. Char­ter because there was no armed attack for the pur­pos­es of Arti­cle 51, because the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil did not autho­rize uni­lat­er­al force in Res­o­lu­tion 1368, and because Al Qaeda’s actions could not be attrib­uted to the Tal­iban. Sim­i­lar­ly, the author argues that the inva­sion of Afghanistan was not legal under cus­tom­ary inter­na­tion­al law because it was nei­ther nec­es­sary nor pro­por­tion­ate, and there was no imme­di­ate threat of attack in the weeks fol­low­ing Sep­tem­ber 11.

In vig­or­ous­ly assert­ing the ille­gal­i­ty of the inva­sion of Afghanistan, Williamson rais­es a num­ber of inter­est­ing points
and pro­vokes a great deal of thought, espe­cial­ly with respect to the many weak­er links in the argu­ment for the invasion’s law­ful­ness. As she notes, the Inter­na­tion­al Court of Jus­tice (ICJ) has held on numer­ous occa­sions that Arti­cle 51 applies only to armed attacks by states, and the link between Al Qae­da and the Tal­iban is indeed ten­u­ous, espe­cial­ly under a clas­si­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of the law. Par­tic­u­lar­ly insight­ful is the study of the opinio juris of var­i­ous NATO mem­bers with respect to that organization’s dec­la­ra­tion that an armed attack occurred; the author sug­gests that what appeared to be a unan­i­mous dec­la­ra­tion that Sep­tem­ber 11 was suf­fi­cient to trig­ger the inher­ent right of self-defense was in fact any­thing but. Despite these effec­tive points, Ter­ror­ism, War and Inter­na­tion­al Law is a dis­ap­point­ing and ulti­mate­ly unsuc­cess­ful effort which leaves out more than it includes, treats as fact sev­er­al high­ly con­tentious claims nec­es­sary to sup­port the main the­sis, and often fails to address the post-Afghanistan era’s most press­ing legal questions.

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