Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

The Grave New World of Terrorism: A Lawyer's View

Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

The Grave New World of Terrorism: A Lawyer's View

Article excerpt


It is truly a pleasure and an honor for me to present the 2002 Myres McDougal Lecture. When I first ventured into the field of international law, several distinguished colleagues of ours were especially kind and helpful to me. Believe me, I needed all the help I could get as the first Fellow of the American Society of International Law! I will always be grateful to Ved Nanda, Harold Lasswell, and Myres McDougal, among a handful of professional mentors, for their advice and encouragement despite my tainted pastas a recent graduate of what was, for them--all of them good Yalies--the "other" New England law school.

Policy-oriented studies, which the Lasswell-McDougal team pioneered at Yale, have been instrumental in the transformation of international law from prescription to process during the last hall century. One of these studies, Law and Minimum Public World Order, (1) which Professor McDougal co-authored, became a classic. From beginning to end, it still speaks to my topic today. The opening paragraph of the book, after noting the "high and still rising levels in tension and expectations of comprehensive violence," (2) emphasized "the urgent need for rational inquiry into the potentialities and limitations of our inherited principles for controlling violence between peoples and for the invention and establishment of more effective alternatives in principles and procedures." (3) So there you have it: Myres McDougal never minced either big words or big agendas--not to mention big books! The penultimate chapter of his 872-page treatise on minimum public order concludes exactly as many of us might conclude today: "the ideal represented by a permanent international criminal court with jurisdiction over war crimes remains a valid goal of world public order." (4) Myres McDougal was obviously a man of big vision.

Let us now go back to the future from another source. In the summer of 2001, while Easterners breathlessly awaited shark attacks on Atlantic beaches and the entire country speculated on the next installment in the Gary Condit soap opera, at least one serious issue hit the front pages, namely, stem-cell research. After years of public debate about artificial fertilization and cloning, we began to wonder, was this the Brave New World? Were we ready? Maybe we weren't quite ready for the Social Predestination Room, the Organ Store or the Bottling Room of Huxley's novel. But the planetary motto for the Brave New World--"Community, Identity, Stability"--sounded okay to us. And Helmholtz Watson, the Emotional Engineer in the book, seemed to describe our world, too, when he cheerfully concluded that "[t]he world's stable now. People are happy, they get what they want...." (5) On the international level, weren't we also managing, in the tradition of the Brave New World, "to keep the world so orderly that it won't bother the United States" (6) in its national quest for invulnerability?


The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 jolted us out of our complacency. We became profoundly aware of a Grave New World. And we became quickly aware that many people did not share our particular sense of well-being. For them-to quote Helmholtz Watson in the Huxley novel again--"Being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune ... or a fatal overthrow by passion." (7) As if the Cultural Revolution in China, the brutal regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, the nearly endless conflict in the Middle East and genocide in Africa had not haunted us enough in recent years, we found ourselves on September 11th face to face with the suicidal partners of yet another radical movement, this one already notorious, to quote the Brave New World, "by a campaign against the past; by the closing of museums, the blowing up of historical monuments ... by the suppression of all books published before [a certain date]." (8) In the background of the suicide bombings you could almost hear the Second Solidarity Hymn of the Brave New World: "Come, Greater Being, Social Friend, Annihilating Twelve-in-One! …

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