Have you read any Martha Nussbaum or Amartya Sen? I get the anti-Rawls thang you've got going here. It's almost a reason/morals dichotomy--one of the things I brought into my own essay was Thane Rosenbaum's "The Myth of Moral Justice." Law can be entirely based on reason and just plain wrong--hence, Nazi Germany.
Genocide today is different though, yes? It's within borders, and thus can take longer to ferret out. I agree we're still crappy at dealing with it, but I think that has more to do with an argument around the idea of the state--for example, would your argument necessarily lead to the abolishment of states? How does the idea of 'community' fix the niggling issues to do with borders and sovereignty?
If your goal is this specific tone, you've achieved it.
For me, all of the lapses in logic I found were addressed by your given explanation. In fact, the explanation makes me wonder why globalization is in there at all--if you'd really like to give human rights rhetoric the what-for, why not concentrate on that? That's clearly where your energy is most concentrated, based on the explanation given.
Human rights is still in its infancy--moving from theory to policy has proven tricky, and certainly things could be better. The tone of your piece is just so...apocalyptic. There's really no one writing today who has proposed a theory you'd buy into? Is there no positive progress at all? When you say "consider community," how could you flesh that out a bit more within the 250?
I totally get your frustrations, btw. Our rhetoric does not match our actions.
A 'backwards outline' of your essay, as it stands:
1)It's like deja-vu all over again
2)International law isn't helping those who most need it
3)Cultural Relativity--western paradigms rule
4)Reason vs Community (i.e. screw Kant)
...you didn't mention Human Rights by name, nor Rawls, nor Kant. Why not? This seems a conscious decision--but, I'd still invoke 'em all.
Martha Nussbaum makes a powerful argument both for community & for how the western paradigm actually is not exceptionally western at all--and how even if human rights can be argued to be grounded in western thought, there are reasons why this is acceptable, and that we should get so hung up on the location and idea emanated from. It's from Women & Human Development--worth the read. She teaches law at U of C and hangs out with Cass Sunstein.
I wish you well with this--it's a great topic to grapple with, at any rate.
(I dunno why everyone keeps arguing for adding a story--dude, the PS will have that, right?)
For anyone willing to - or interested in - reading the step-by-step of my thinking, re: the actual content of the draft 250, it is below....
I take Habeas’ concerns about sounding know-it-allsy seriously. My issue is that I ruly believe that international law - esp in the area of human rights - is preposterous beyond belief. My sense is that we all know that it is, at least in the back of our minds. How do we reconcile the existence of so-called“laws” against genocide, for example, with having ourselves lived in a time when several have occured and are occuring with little action on the part of the so-called international community? International law is WEAK.
Why is it weak? I guess that I’m driving at a number of questions and issues, and trying to do so into 250 words and without being too dry about it.
1. intl law isn’t based on a sense of community:
Perhaps because we really don’t care that much about those people - we do not believe them to be like us, part of our community. We do not love them. They are simply the beneficiaries of our pity, and that after the fact; perhaps, even, we need them to suffer in order to know how good we ourselves have it... (The contrast with the efficiency and rigor with which international private law enforced is perhaps instructive).
2. intl law’s weakness is in its attempt to ground itself on reason alone:
If intl law, then, is not based on community & love; and if it is based on Kantian Reason (hence, the oh-so-German capitalizations... I’m uncomfortable with the caps too, but used them anyway because it is shorthand for our tradition of thought, and because Kantian thought is not the only type of reason possible) then clearly it is way above my head. I guess, though, that I am a firm believer at the moment in the idea that, to name-drop and distort Oliver Wendell Holmes for a sec, “the life of the law (cannot be born of) logic (but) of experience”. It seems to me that intl law, currently and in the past, is all about the “a priori” and categorical imperatives, veils of ignorance and thought experiments in which ahistorical, acultural, apolitical “individuals” make what is equitable and just. Reminds me of the joke about the economist in jail who escapes by assuming that she has a key to her cell. I cannot imagine a person without history /culture / unconscious/ myth/ poiltics, any more than I can imagine a circle without a shape.
3. intl law is arrogant and elitist:
And there may yet be other problems with it: given that it is founded upon a western conception of reason, of the individual as the paramount moral and political unit, it may not even be able to understand, let alone accomodate other - African, Confucian, Islamic etc - conception of justice, rights, etc. Perhaps this is why it has very little legitimacy. Perhaps this lack of legitimacy is why it is so weak. I don’t think that I am the only person that thinks it laughable that there are conventions against child labor, declarations on the equality of women, laws against slavery, and articles on the right of all to freedom from absolute poverty even as things flourish?
4. we have seen international reason be this way before, in the early twentieth century
Then too, the war to end all wars had been fought, and history had been proclaimed over. Then too they relied on international law based on reason alone without accounting for the powerful forces of nationalism, ideology, culture, history. Then too, the western elites met at conferences in nice places and solved the problems of the world at a stroke. And the twentieth century, by any measure, was an utter disaster. And here we are again.
5. Frankly, the high-flown rhetoric of intl law, coupled with its weakness, pisses me off a little bit.
Naively, I suppose, I can’t help but feel that that genocide isn’t cool. I find human rights chic, in the face of its obvious failures, frankly obscene.
6. By implication - international law should be founded on politics, history, culture; it should seek legitimacy by being founded upon consensus, an awareness or cultural diversity, on a better developed sense of solidarity. Let’s put the anthropological, the political, the love, and the historical back into law. That is my suggestion, and I’m willing to devote an entire career to it.