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Dr. Rick Lorenz

Professor of International Studies, University of Washington: Jackson School of International Studies

On November 27, Dr. Rick Lorenz spoke to Richland staff about the United State's military response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the legality of this response under international law. Lorenz is an international law expert with almost three decades of experience as a United States military judge advocate, and has served in a legal capacity on United Nations missions in Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo. His lecture was the final of a four-part series focusing on the events of September 11th, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Center for Global Security.

"International law is 90 percent politics and 10 percent law," Lorenz told his PNNL audience. He explained that one of the great challenges of international law is that, unlike national law, there are no police to enforce it. There is one international court, the International Court of Justice, and the International Court of Criminal Justice is in the process of being ratified. International law is voluntarily adhered to by states. This voluntary compliance is generally motivated by the desire to see other states contained, and to gain acceptance in the international community and the consequent economic advantages. However, the lack of enforcement can result in great inconsistencies in application of international law and codes of conduct.

International law is undergoing changes as the nature of conflict evolves; traditionally international justice had been applied to state-to-state conflict, however, over recent decades it has increasingly focused on internal conflict and war crimes. However, many states are uncomfortable with having their citizens judged by non-nationals. In particular, the United States has voiced strong opposition to permitting its service members to be judged by an international tribunal, fearing that they could be charged as war criminals for following orders.

"There are three classic tools of diplomacy," Lorenz told his audience. These tools are diplomacy, economics and military action. The latter is forbidden under the United Nations Charter unless the UN Security Council approves, or unless Article 51 of the UN Charter, which upholds the inherent right to self-defense, is invoked, as the United States did before attacking Afghanistan. Lorenz expressed his support for the United State's course of action, distinguishing between the United State's attack on Afghanistan for harboring the Taliban from Germany's harboring of individuals responsible for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by declaring that the Taliban was aware of who they were harboring, while Germany was not. However, Lorenz also stated that he believed diplomacy and economic sanctions would be most effective in countering terrorism in the long-term.

While unification of the international community against terrorism has been impressive, Lorenz told his audience, there is no standard definition of "terrorism." The Russians have declared Chechen separatists to be terrorists. The Kosovar and Bosnian Serbs accuse their Muslims populations of being terrorists. Furthermore, individuals considered terrorists in their own country are able to seek asylum in other nations by claiming that they are being persecuted for their political beliefs.

Turning his commentary to issues related to the current military conflict such as the United State's role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the delicacy of the American-Saudi alliance and the current threat to civil rights in the United States, Lorenz stated, "Things not on CNN are the most important part of this war, in my opinion."

Center for Global Security

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