Why do we seem to be ignoring the “Rule of Law” under the guise of Equality?
Why do many now say we do not believe in Equality, Fairness & Justice?
Why does there seem to be no international recourse for those not following principles of Equality, Fairness & Justice, or the Rule of Law?
Bart Binning, Ed. D.
Our Constitution reads:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
We sometimes forget that the concept “All Men are Created Equal” was revolutionary in its day. Even Aristotle and Plato, who laid the foundation for western thought, believed differently – they wrote to treat unequals equally is as unjust as it is to treat equals unequally. Plato thought that “everyone has their place,” and justice meant they should act and be treated accordingly, with preference. For both Locke and Hume, philosophers of the enlightenment, the ultimate criterion of justice was utility and the public interest; which meant that justice was what satisfied the interests of the majority (it was OK to disregard the rights of the minority).
As a concept, this concept of equality is something we need to continuously reinforce if we are to maintain our way of life. Through most of history, until the US Constitution, treating people unequally was the norm. So why is it that today we seem to be at risk at losing our pride in equality?
Let’s look at foundation concepts:
Philosophers suggest that everyone has basic human rights that the nation/state cannot take away. We would like to think that these rights are internationally recognized and guaranteed. With this belief, it is arguable that everyone has the right to:
- have their own beliefs, including their religious beliefs, and to say and write what they think
- seek different sources of information and ideas.
- associate with other people, and to form and join organizations of their own choice, including trade unions.
- assemble and to protest government actions.
However, citizens have an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully, with respect for the law and for the rights of others.
How do we act when those in power attempt to take away these Rights?
Fairness – Justice
The terms justice and fairness are not synonyms. Justice can be described as how the absolute power of the government should be used to address wrongs and protect all citizens. Fairness can be described as how individuals should be concerned with the running of society including the distribution of wealth, privilege, power, the enjoyment cultural gifts, and questions of status.
How do we act when those in power are not perceived as exercising Fairness and Justice?
Rule of Law
Professor Larry Diamond argues that Democracies should follow the “Rule of Law” which means there are:
Laws and Procedures Apply Fairly and Equally to All Citizens – Democracy is a system of rule by laws, not individuals. In a democracy, the rule of law protects the rights of citizens, maintains order, and limits the power of government. All citizens are equal under the law. No one may be discriminated against on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic group, or gender. No one may be arrested, imprisoned, or exiled arbitrarily. No one may be denied their freedom without a fair and public hearing by an impartial court. No one may be taxed or prosecuted except by a law established in advance. No one is above the law, not even a king or an elected president. The law is fairly, impartially, and consistently enforced, by courts that are independent of the other branches of government. In a democracy no one is above the law, not even a king or an elected President. This is called the Rule of Law – it means that everyone must obey the law and be held accountable if they violate it. Democracy also insists that the law be equally, fairly and consistently enforced.
How do we act when those in power are not perceived as following the Rule of Law?
The question then becomes, from an international perspective, given current conflicts,
How can we protect Rights, impose concepts of Fairness & Justice, and enforce the Rule of Law?
In August 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded the oil rich neighboring country of Kuwait in order to cancel $14 billion in debt created by the Iran-Iraq war. The Kuwaiti military collapsed and Iraq took over Kuwait in two days. Iraq also claimed Kuwait was illegally taking oil from the Rumaila Oil Field that both countries shared. Earlier, in 1989, while parlaying for advantage, Saddam Hussein threatened to use chemical weapons on Israel if military force were used against Iraq. In November 1990, a series of UN and Arab League resolutions resulted in UN Resolution 678 which gave Iraq a January 15th deadline to withdraw from Kuwait. On January 15, 1991 Iraqi forced invaded Saudi Arabia, but were driven back by a combination of US Marines and Qatari forces. The resulting First Gulf War was an armed campaign waged by a United States-led coalition of 35 countries (including NATO countries, which at the time numbered 16) against Iraq. US troops represented 73% of the coalition. To help finance the war, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia each provided $15 billion. In leu of providing tropes, Germany provided $10 billion and Japan provided $6.6 billion. By the end of February 1991, coalition forces routed Iraqi troops from Kuwait and were on the outskirts of Bagdad when a cease-fire was declared.
The resulting cease-fire left Saddam Hussain’s minority Suni government in place trying to recontrol a majority Shia and Kurdish country, no-fly zones were established in the north of Iraq to protect the Kurdish minority, and the south of Iraq to protect Shia tribes which later became affiliated with Iran. Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait and Yemenis were expelled from Saudi Arabia for siding with Iraq. The conflict evolved into sectarian violence; Iran and a majority of Iraq are Shia. Saddam Hussain, the Kurds, the ISIL militants, and Saudi Arabia are largely Sunni.
On September 11, 2001, the world was changed when 19 terrorists (largely Arabian citizens based in Afghanistan) hijacked four commercial airliners mid-flight while traveling from the northeastern U.S. to California. The attack was organized by the al-Qaeda terrorist group, led by Osama bin- Laden. When the Afghanistan government (run by the Taliban) would not extradite bin Laden, the United States responded by launching the War on Terror and invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban. al-Qaeda then significantly increased their terrorist activity. In the aftermath of the attacks, the United States invoked Article 5 of NATO for the first time and called upon its allies to aid its fight against al-Qaeda. The war in Afghanistan is said to have occur between 2001 and 2021. bin-Laden eventually moved his headquarters/home to the largely lawless Tribal Area of Pakistan; he was eventually killed by a secret US military incursion on May 2, 2011.
During the 1980s Saddam Hussein initiated an extensive biological weapons program. Details of the program surfaced after the First Gulf War following investigations by a United Nations Special Commission which had been charged with the post-war disarmament of Saddam’s Iraq. The biological program did not existed when it was used as part of the American justification of a 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation between 2003 and 2011. The Second Gulf War started on March 20, 2003, and was a US led a coalition of forces overthrew the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi government and military collapsed within three weeks. On 13 December 2003, Saddam Hussein was captured in a drainage culvert near his hometown of Tikrit. Saddam was hanged December 30, 2006, on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Adha.
In August 2008, the Russian-Georgian war took place when Russia invaded Georgia, a former Soviet republic that became independent when the USSR collapsed in 1991. The purpose of the war seems to be the Russian desire to dissect Georgia by recognizing the self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia in the center of Georgia, and Abkhazia on the west side of Georgia. It is suspected that Vladimir Putin wanted control of the self-proclaimed republics to stop a pipeline from being built and would supply oil & gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey, the Mid-East and Europe. Note: Georgia and the Ukraine are among the members of the human rights organization, the Council of Europe.
In a great surprise, in 2010 we had “The Arab Spring” – which began in Tunisia as a response to corruption and economic stagnation. The glimmers of hope for a revival of democracy in the parts of the world where Mohamed is revered were replaced by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and a new Caliphate whose objectives seem to be about as anti-democratic as one can get. In 2011 the Libyan de facto ruler, Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, was assassinated after an American-led military interventions aimed at promoting democracy in a formerly autocratic country without traditions of Rights, Rule of Law, nor western concepts of Fairness & Justice.
In 2011, unrest in Syria began as a part of The Arab Spring, expanding to armed Suni-Shia-Kurdish civil war after calls for Bashar al-Assad’s removal. In the vacuum that followed, much of the territory controlled by ISIL was declared a Caliphate. Support of the Syrian government was by Hezbollah (supported by Iran) and Russia (who needed to protect their military bases along the Mediterranean Coast). The US was fighting to protect their Iraq/Kurdistan alliance. This conflict is still simmering…
From 2016 to 2020 we had Brexit. In 1973 Great Britton had a referendum to join the European Union. But the result of The Arab Sprint was a series of protests, demonstrations, riots, coups and civil wars that began in 2010 across the Middle East and North Africa, created new waves of mass immigration into Europe. Many in the UK concluded that not only had successive UK governments mishandled the issues of immigration and the resulting economic shocks it created, but so had the European Commission. In managing their economy, the EU opted for austerity – resulting in significant problems for countries including Greece and Italy with their economies subsidized by other European Union countries. The referendum vote in 2016 to withdraw the UK from the European Union was divisive, regional, and close. The Brexit, or withdrawal, of the United Kingdom from the European Union was effective at 23:00 GMT on January 31, 2020.
From 1784 to current times, Crimea has been associated in one way or the other with the Russian empire. In 1945, Stalin transferred the Crimean Oblast (administrative district) from Russia to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the USSR. During this time, the USSR Navy invested heavily in the Crimea, making it the main port for their Black Sea fleet. The Crimean Peninsula was also location of vacation second-homes for many Soviet government officials. About 65% of the residents of the Crimea were ethnic Russians and 85 % named Russian as their native language. In 2014 Vladimir Putin’s Russian army invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula; at the same time established a land bridge from Crimea to Russia by recognizing the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent countries. In 2016, Ukraine, Moldovia, and Georgia were accepted as members of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, a trade association with the European Union.
Then Vladimir Putin launched a full invasion of Ukraine in 2022, presumably to control the dozen or so pipelines that supply Russian oil to the rest of the world, and control significant agricultural and mineral wealth. Ukraine is the second largest land area country in Europe (after Russia, about the size of Texas). It is a major world agricultural factor being the world’s 6th largest wheat exporter (9% of world trade) maize and barley (12% of world trade) rapeseed (14% of world trade) and sunflower (50% of world trade). Ukraine has significant mining interests: Iron (7th place, 2.4% of global output) manganese (8th place, 3.6% of global output) titanium (6th place, 6.3% of global output) gallium (2nd place, 2.9% of global output) and germanium (5th place, 1% of global production) Before the Russian invasion about 1/3 of Russian energy exports flowed through Ukrainian pipelines.
Putin announced to the world that he was going to invade Ukraine. He spent several months moving troops, equipment, and supplies to the Ukrainian border. He invaded Ukraine. When the war started going badly for him, war crimes started being committed…. And the world initially did not do much of anything.
Since our current international institutions seems relatively incapable,
What can be done to prevent international human right catastrophes in the future?
Will solving these international problems in-turn help us solve domestic problems?
1 Larry Diamond, Ph. D. is senior fellow at Standard University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. “What is Democracy?” Lecture at Hilla University for Humanistic Studies January 21, 2004. https://diamond-democracy.stanford.edu/speaking/lectures/what-democracy
2 North Atlantic Treaty Organization – 28 European Countries plus the US and Canada. A mutual defense treaty organization. Enhanced Opportunity Partners include Ukraine, Georgia, Finland, and Sweden; in the process of joining NATO in spite of Russian Objections.
3 Council of Europe – founded in 1949, has 46 member states, whose mission is to uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe. Included in membership are Ukraine, Georgia, Finland, Sweden, along with North Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro.
4 European Union (formerly called the Common Market) is an economic/political union of 27 member states, including Finland and Sweden. The United Kingdom withdrew from the EU in 2020 but retains memberships in associated organizations.
5 European Commission – the executive branch of the European Union. It operates as a cabinet government, with one member per member state, headed by a President who is elected by the European Parliament for a five-year term.
6 Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, is a free trade area established in 2016 by the European Union with Ukraine, Moldavia, and Georgia, designed to ease acceptance of a country’s acceptance into full membership of the EU. Free Trade Area members are included in the EU’s Single Market: free movement of goods, services, and capital, with short term freedom of movement of people.