Beyond Fear: The Triumph of International Humanitarian Law

By Goldberg, Mark | The Humanist, May-June 2004 | Go to article overview

Beyond Fear: The Triumph of International Humanitarian Law


Goldberg, Mark, The Humanist


There is a common affliction today that subconsciously threatens a generation of young American writers and social critics concerned about the direction of U.S. foreign policy. As war rages abroad and terrorists threaten us at home, fear increasingly dictates our national course; amidst a general and physical fright we posit only the tired formula of reacting to disaster. With mounting national hysteria, the imagination that is required to transcend conflict somehow escapes us. In a panic, the only question we know to ask is: when will the next attack come?

In a symbiotic relationship with those who actually wish to do us harm, fearmongers who plot U.S. foreign policy bait us with this basest human emotion, scaring us into acquiescence. We readily accept the counterintuitive notion that halting progress toward a common body of international law will somehow make us safer and more secure. Proponents of this philosophy would have us believe that only an America free to wield its power, unfettered by voices of caution or the dictates of international law, can guarantee its citizens' security. The United States is unrivaled in its military and economic muscle, and the unwavering stability of our democracy is the envy of the world--yet we remain vulnerable. Under the ethos commonly referred to as neo-conservatism, only one course of action emerges: become even mightier and consolidate global power so as to deter new threats as they emerge.

But those who refuse to languish in this general malaise are beginning to ask a very different question: can the world's sole superpower really provide global leadership pursuing a foreign policy predicated on fear and anxiety? An ideology that sustains itself by preying on fear necessarily suspends us in a paralysis of social progress; to simply endure until the next crisis erupts condemns us to a cycle of human stagnation. This is progress's staunchest foe.

Yet hope remains, for humanity's natural state is neither static nor reactionary. Rather, history shows that the steady march of human progress prevails over quasi-theological dialectics that pit "us" against the threatening "other"--or, in the inimitable words of George W. Bush, between "people who hate things versus we who love things."

Advancement beyond this primitive concept of world order surrounds us. Humanity's most shining example is the steps it has taken toward fashioning an ever-expanding body of international humanitarian law. Once thought an impossible task, we now have a stable cannon of law to punish--and ultimately to prevent--crimes of war. That old realist adage "in time of war, law is silent" no longer rings true. Efforts since World War II to define genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as labors to restrict the use of inherently indiscriminate weapons, represent a countervailing culture of optimism--a culture with tangible successes that deserve to be celebrated.

The origin of crimes against humanity as a judicial concept was the result of a deliberate choice of the Nuremberg prosecutors, who lacked adequate legal precedent to punish the full scope of Nazi atrocities. Amid great controversy, and contrary to the demands of arch realists who felt that sovereign nation-states remained the only legitimate actors in international relations, the legal definition of crimes against humanity elevated the rights of the human person to a level of legitimate concern for the international community. The inclusion of crimes that didn't (then) fall into the definition of a war crime--either because the perpetrator and victims belonged to the same state (for example, the German Jews), or because the victims belonged to a nationality of a state that was allied to that of the perpetrator (for example, Austrian Gypsies)--revolutionized the laws that govern warfare. The world awoke to a new reality in which the need to punish systematic human rights abuses can supervene sovereignty in international law. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Beyond Fear: The Triumph of International Humanitarian Law
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.