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Tag: "human rights"

Are You Smarter Than a Human Rights Prof?

[ 0 ] March 5, 2010 |

Take this short test and find out. I only got 85% of the answers right. Plus it’s all for a good cause.


CSMonitor: Kenyan Street Embraces ICC Investigation

[ 0 ] March 2, 2010 |

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has become an iconic figure in urban Kenya. Or at least so says Scott Baldaug, reporting from Nairobi. Aside from getting Mr. Moreno-Ocampo’s name wrong, his is an insightful little piece:

It may not be scientific, but a quick way to see what’s trendy in Kenya is to look at the back of a matatu, which is what Kenyans call their minivan taxis.

Some are highly adorned with the spray-painted faces of American hip-hop stars such as Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, and the late Tupac Shakur, and play those artists’ music at deafening decibels. Some are covered with pious statements such as “In God We Trust” or “Mashallah” (Arabic for “by the grace of God”).

One matatu I saw in Nairobi even had a portrait of Osama bin Laden, chosen presumably more for shock value than for ideological reasons, as the side of the van was emblazoned with the words “Thug Life.”

But the new king of the matatu is neither a rap star nor a terrorist. He is Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Mr. Ocampo has recently taken up the criminal investigation of top Kenyan politicians who allegedly organized ethnic violence in the wake of the December 2007 elections, violence that killed some 1,500 people and displaced nearly 300,000 from their homes.

During the elections, matatu drivers endorsed political candidates, but, in the violent aftermath, many drivers became as disillusioned as the voting public. Now they are showing their disillusionment with giant posters of the Argentine-born lawyer holding a sheaf of documents. Others simply display the word “OCAMPO” in capital letters.

Be careful, Kenyan politicians: Your people are watching you.

Or they would like to think someone is, anyway.

Libel laws

[ 1 ] February 26, 2010 |

Like any good traitorous socialist lefty, I am supposed to treat European culture and politics as decidedly superior to the American alternative. And I often do! But on the subject of libel laws, it seems quite clear to me that Americans have a much more sensible approach than, at a minimum, the English and the French. The appalling nature of English libel laws became known to me through McDonald’s decision to turn a couple of environmental activists into free speech martyrs with a libel suit in 1990. This was, predictably, a bit of PR fiasco for McDonalds, and many of the claims made by the activists were determined in court to be true. Still, it’s appalling that McDonalds was able to drag a couple of protesters into court for the better part of a decade, and the burden of proof fell squarely on the defendants.

In looking up the case I’m pleasantly reminded that five years ago the European Court of Human Rights agreed with me:

The ECHR ruled that the lack of official funding had effectively given rise to procedural unfairness and denied the litigants a fair trial. It was held to have contributed to an unacceptable inequality of arms with the Corporation. The court ruled that there had been a violation of Article 6.1. The award of damages ordered against the litigants was deemed disproportionate to the legitimate aim served. The court found that the damages awarded “may also have failed to strike the right balance”, The subsequent awards were £36,000 for Steel and £40,000 for Morris.

Now, via Henry Farrell, I learn the French appear to have similar issues. Henry’s post and the EJIL summary and statement are well worth reading, but the executive summary is: Karin Calvo-Goller writes a book, it recieves a negative review in the European Journal of International Law, she demands the editor take down the review from the website, he refuses, she sues him for libel, and now he will be forced to defend himself in a criminal proceeding at his own expense. The substance of her complaints seem quite specious to this non-expert on her subject, and the review itself is a pretty run of the mill negative review. In the pretrial hearing, he was told by the examining judge that she couldn’t rule on substance and the case would be going to trial. Obviously, the idea that book review editors could be subject to criminal sanction, or even defending themselves against criminal charges, could certainly have a chilling effect on free speech and academic freedom.

As with the McDonalds case, it’s difficult to grasp why the complainant finds this particular course of action wise. Even if the book review in question contained actionable libelous claims, which seems doubtful, the notoriety of effectively declaring oneself an enemy of academic freedom will surely do more damage to her reputation than a couple of unfair critical remarks in a book review.

I’d certainly be curious to hear a defense of the “burden of proof lies on the defendant” approach to libel law on the merits, because it’s not easy for me to imagine what that would look like.

In the EJIL editorial linked above, the editor who is headed to court makes the following appeals for assistance:

a. You may send an indication of indignation/support by email attachment to the following email address [email protected] Kindly write, if possible, on a letterhead indicating your affiliation and attach such letters to the email. Such letters may be printed and presented eventually to the Court. Please do not write directly to Dr Calvo-Goller, or otherwise harass or interfere in any way whatsoever with her right to seek remedies available to her under French law.
b. It would be particularly helpful to have letters from other Editors and Book Review Editors of legal and non-legal academic Journals concerned by these events. Kindly pass on this Editorial to any such Editor with whom you are familiar and encourage him or her to communicate their reaction to the same email address. It would be
especially helpful to receive such letters from Editors of French academic journals and from French academic authors, scholars and intellectuals.
c. Finally, it will be helpful if you can send us scanned or digital copies of book reviews (make sure to include a precise bibliographical reference) which are as critical or more so than the book review written by Professor Weigend – so as to illustrate that his review is mainstream and unexceptional. You may use the same email address [email protected]

I think I’ll send in Brian Barry’s review of Nozick, and perhaps Okin on Sandel or Nussbaum on Butler.

Ronald Reagan: Soft on terrorism

[ 0 ] February 19, 2010 |

Scott Horton interviews Will Bunch about his book Tear Down This Myth. Bunch’s most interesting contention is that, on terrorism-related issues such as torture, “collateral damage,” and treating terrorism within the confines of the ordinary criminal justice system, Reagan was far to the left of the contemporary GOP (Bunch doesn’t put it this way but, if his description of Reagan’s positions is accurate, he was also to the left of Barack Obama on these issues).

5. Ronald Reagan signed the Convention Against Torture, and his Justice Department indicted and prosecuted a Texas sheriff for waterboarding. How can his views about torture be reconciled with the current Republican pro-torture dogma?

It’s important not to nominate Reagan for sainthood in the arena of human rights. His “Reagan Doctrine” in Central America, leaving the fight to anti-Communist thugs and death squads that the then-president called “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers,” is arguably the gravest moral failing of his tenure. That said, back on U.S. soil, Reagan was far to the left of the 2010 Republican Party on issues such as torture. The convention that he signed in 1988 holds that there is no circumstance of any kind that permits torture, which certainly would include the 9/11 aftermath and related anti-terror efforts today.

But it goes even deeper than that. As I noted in an early 2010 blog post: “Reagan would not have approved of drone-fired missile attacks aimed at killing terrorists; as president, he several times rejected anti-terrorism operations for the sole reason that civilians would have been killed by collateral damage. In 1985, he surprised aides such as Pat Buchanan by ruling out a military response to a Beirut hijacking for fear of civilian casualties; Lou Cannon reported then in the Washington Post that Reagan called retaliation in which innocent civilians are killed “itself a terrorist act.” And the idea of trying terrorists in military tribunals as opposed to a civilian court of law? The Reagan administration was completely against that. Paul Bremer (yes, that Paul Bremer) said in 1987, “a major element of our strategy has been to delegitimize terrorists, to get society to see them for what they are — criminals — and to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law, against them.”

It’s almost tragic—when you go back to the very recent history of the 1980s—when you realize how seriously an American consensus on human rights and the power of our criminal-justice justice system has been trashed by the modern conservative movement. It’s going to take a long time to get that back—although the words that Reagan and his aides left behind could help America get past this.

Just To Clarify

[ 0 ] February 19, 2010 |

People arguing that civilian trials are never appropriate for terrorist suspects are arguing from a position well to the right of the Bush administration (at least the 2006 version.) And if you have less respect for due process than the Bush DOJ…I think this point makes itself.

The Most Farcical Part of the Farce…

[ 0 ] February 17, 2010 |

Matt Duss shoots, guts, dries, and renders into tasty beef jerky the Chalabi-supporting wing of the neoconservative movement:

Even after the invasion, after it became clear that there were no WMD and no Saddam-Al Qaeda alliance, and that, despite his claims of a massive following, Chalabi had no genuine political base in Iraq, the neocons — such as Michael Rubin and Eli Lake himself — continued to promote him as Iraq’s savior. That became a lot harder after Chalabi’s party — which ran on the slogan “We Liberated Iraq!” — received a pathetic 0.36 percent of the vote in Iraq’s December 2005 elections, not even enough to secure a single seat for Chalabi himself.

Eventually, Chalabi was disavowed by the Bush administration, judged to be an “agent of influence” of Iran, suspected of having tipped off the Iranians that the U.S. had broken secret Iranian codes, as well as passing Iraqi government documents to Iranian agents. The Defense Intelligence Agency concluded — in 2004 — that “Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi.” Needless to say, none of this speaks very well of the judgment of Chalabi’s neoconservative fans.

Now consider the recent neoconservative attacks on Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett of the New America Foundation for their advocacy of U.S.-Iran engagement. Back in November, Lake published a piece that suggested, on the flimsiest of evidence, that Parsi was an agent of the Iranian regime. The piece was hailed as a blockbuster in neoconservative circles, in some cases by the very people who had boosted Ahmad Chalabi.

On the one hand, you’ve got a guy whose double-dealing and treachery helped get Americans killed. On the other, you’ve got people who think that attempting to achieve rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran is in the U.S. interest, and should therefore be pursued (though, at least in Parsi’s case, not to the exclusion of human rights concerns). It’s interesting who the neocons think the real villains are. And it’s amazing that they should consider themselves credible to attack the integrity of others after having been duped by an IRGC-connected swindler like Ahmad Chalabi.

Quizzical Defense Rhetoric (QDR)

[ 0 ] February 17, 2010 |

Finally had a look at the 2010 QDR on the plane to New Orleans yesterday. I don’t mean to poke fun of our defense establishment’s hard work. I promise I’ll have some kind of substantive comment on the human security dimensions of the QDR once I’ve fully digested it. But until then, I can’t help but pass along – just for fun – these rhetorical nuggets that jumped out at me:

p. v: “America’s enduring effort to advance common interests without resort to arms is a hallmark of its stewardship in the international system.”

Given the number of armed conflicts in which the US is currently embroiled – and the fact that its use of arms without UN backing is one of key reasons for the decline in US soft power over the last decade – this seemed like an oddly out-of-touch statement.

p. vi: “Until such time as the Administrations’ goal of a world free of nuclear weapons is achieved, nuclear capabilities will be maintained as a core mission for the Department of Defense.”

Oxymorons, anyone?

Finally, readers familiar with Carol Cohn’s work on the sexual politics of defense jargon might have fun with this quotation:

p. x: “US naval forces will continue to be capable of robust forward presence and power projection operations, even as they add capabilities and capacity for working with a wide range of partner navies.”

In pursuing these robust forward power projections with multiple “partner navies,” the QDR directs the following “enhancements” to US “force structure” on p. ix:

“Exploit advantages in subsurface operations;

Increase the resiliency of US forward posture and base infrastructure;

Enhance the robustness of key ISR capabilities;

Secure vulnerable nuclear materials…”

And finally my favorite, a section on pg. 31 entitled “Deter and Defeat Aggression in Anti-Access Environments”

“Anti-access strategies seek to deny outside countries the ability to project power into a region, thereby allowing aggression or other destabilizing actions to be conducted by the anti-access power. Without dominant US capabilities to project power, the integrity of US alliances and security partnerships could be called into question, reducing US security and influence and increasing the possibility of conflict.”

Go wild, commenters.

More on Corpse-Counting

[ 0 ] February 16, 2010 |

The HSR study I mentioned before on the declining toll of war has attracted a number of criticisms. Les Roberts at Making Sense of Sudan argues that their result is an artifact of the way in which the authors have defined the term “war.” HRDAG argues that if HSR applied the standards to their own data that they apply to the Congo death data, they couldn’t argue that they know anything about whether deaths are declining or not. The IRC has been quick to defend its Congo death toll estimate, which the HSR report says is inflated.

Some threads of these arguments dovetail with an ongoing academic debate about how to most accurately measure war deaths. (For example, is it better to estimate war deaths by counting the reported deaths in media accounts, or by doing surveys of war-affected populations?) But parts of the criticisms instead seem based on a belief that challenging conventional statistical wisdom is bad for human rights. Georgianne Neinaber of the Huffington Post claims:

It is far beyond unfortunate that this academic debate stands to produce a possible humanitarian aid backlash for the Congolese people. This debate should not be conducted in the press, and it is highly unfortunate that the headlined 900,000 number may become the new “fact,” because of an academic paper whose authors readily admit that they “do not know” the real numbers.

Similarly, Les Roberts, who contributed to the “debunked” IRC Congo report, called the HRS’ study “A Major Blow to Humanitarian Accountability.”

I have my own scholarly issues with the HSR report – in particular that the authors don’t really back up their assertions about why national mortality rates have declined, though their hypotheses are certainly plausible. But as a scientist, I’m leery of this narrative that somehow, even if the findings were accurate, it would be unethical to publish them on humanitarian grounds.

Would it be? Is it really the job of social scientists to publish counter-intuitive data only if they can be absolutely certain it won’t be misinterpreted? Or is it merely their job to do their best to lay out the evidence as accurately as they see it, in language as likely as possible to be understood, and to correct misinterpretations when they inevitably arise? (Andrew Mack has taken pains to correct the alleged perception that his report is arguing “only” 900,000 have died, which it certainly does not – though nor have I found evidence of this “headlined 900,000 number” beyond Nienaber’s Huffington Post essay.)

And is the international community really so fickle as to withdraw aid from the DRC on the basis that “too few” millions have died? I don’t see evidence of that either, but if they are, should a single research team be blamed for this outcome? Or should we be blaming the international community itself for its complacency?

Torture apologists and body stigmatizers

[ 0 ] February 12, 2010 |

Having spent the better part of a decade now listening to people patiently explain why it’s a good thing to pathologize the bodies of 71% of the American population in order to improve their health (68% of adults are supposedly “overweight” and “obese,” and another 3% are “underweight”) I’ve been struck by a number of parallels between torture apologism and the proponents of body stigmatization.

(1) Both the torture apologists and the body stigmatizers display a curious indifference to the copious evidence that their methods don’t actually produce the results they claim to be pursuing. Experts on the subject emphasize that torture is a lousy way of getting reliable information. Similarly, even the most rabid fat-haters have to admit that the evidence is overwhelming that attempts to produce significant long-term weight loss fail in the vast majority of cases.

(2) In each case this produces laughably transparent attempt to put the bar for what counts as “success” pretty much on the ground: Torture apologists point out that it’s not true that torture never produces true confessions and actionable intelligence, while body stigmatizers point out that some people do manage to achieve significant long-term weight loss. That both facts are of very limited relevance to any rational cost-benefit analysis of the respective practices remains irrelevant to true believers.

(3) Both subjects feature the use of disingenuous semantic smokescreens: “Of course we oppose torture, and we don’t torture. What we support is, under strictly supervised conditions, enhanced interrogation techniques.” “Of course dieting doesn’t work, and therefore we oppose dieting. What we support is chronic restrained eating.”

(4) In both cases, what opponents consider an unacceptable cost of the policy is considered by proponents to be a positive good. For torture apologists, the fact that “terrorists” (never, of course, terrorist suspects, or low-level foot soldiers in a distant civil war, or completely innocent people caught up in a Kafkaesque nightmare) are being tortured is a good thing in and of itself, quite apart from whether the torture actually produces any actionable intelligence. Similarly, for body stigmatizers, the destructive effect of stigmatizing bodies that fall outside the 29% of the U.S. population that currently maintains a “normal” (sic) weight is a feature of anti-obesity policies, not a bug.

Torture apologists like torturing people because the people who are being tortured deserve, in their view, to be tortured. Body stigmatizers like to stigmatize “fat” (again, 68% of the U.S. population) people, because they hate and fear fat at a visceral level, and naturally they therefore believe it is appropriate to stigmatize this type of deviance from the approved norm.

(5) Because of a widely held suspicion that people who like torturing people are actually sadistic creeps, people who like torturing people will usually go out of their way to deny that they like torture. They will make a great show of seeing their advocacy of torture as “realistic” and a sign of “moral clarity” in a world full of inevitably tragic choices. Similarly, people who advocate ridding the world of body diversity will make a great show of how they absolutely deplore stigmatizing the bodies they wish to eliminate, and insist that it couldn’t be further from the truth that they have anything like prejudice in their hearts (they just want to make sure we live in a world in which everyone is thin).

(6) A certain percentage of torture apologists and body stigmatizers are surely aware that their putative reasons for supporting the policies they do are invalid, but they support the policies anyway, for unstated reasons. Some torture apologists are perfectly well aware that torture is actually counter-productive as an interrogation method if the goal is to produce reliable information, but they support torture for unstated reasons, such as signaling that, as Thomas Friedman once so eloquently put it, under our placid veneer of technocratic rationality, Americans are really violent crazy people who are not to be trifled with. Many anti-fat crusaders are perfectly well aware that there’s no reason to believe increased activity levels and better nutrition will eliminate a significant percentage of the 71% of American bodies that they are classifying as being at a pathological weight, but they’re nevertheless happy to engage in stigmatizing more than seven out of ten Americans in pursuit of a worthwhile goal, i.e., making people less sedentary and getting them to eat more fruits and vegetables.

(7) Opponents of torture and of body stigmatization will do well to remember that, when reaching out to fence sitters on these issues, it’s better to emphasize that torture and body stigmatization simply don’t, as a practical matter, work. That both policies are also deeply immoral is of course extremely important and even more fundamental, (any decent person would still oppose torture and body stigmatization even if they did “work”), but it’s much easier to demonstrate that a policy is nonsensical even on its own terms than it is to prove that certain means should never be used in the pursuit of “security” or “health.”

Update: From Jack in comments:

“I guess this could be read that Paul is saying these parallels mean that both groups of people are equivalent in some substantive way, like hating fatties is morally the same as torturing them. Some commenters have made that association and I suppose it’s fair critique given the text.

I took it differently. I believe Paul was arguing that the mental processes involved in both were similar. Whatever defective reasoning allows otherwise smart and (we assume) morally competent people to argue for torturing terrorists, the same defect is at work in the case of stigmatizing obesity. The two are not equivalent things, but the logical fallacy is the same.”

I would largely agree with this (individual acts of literal torture are usually going to be vastly more rephrensible and damaging than individual acts of body stigmatization, although severe body stigmatization can quite readily be considered a form of genuine psychological torture by those who endure them), but at the same time it’s important to consider that individual acts of literal torture are vastly rarer than individual acts of body stigmatization. Which institution is currently a bigger problem in the USA as a question of social justice is not an easy question to answer.

Update #2: I’m reprinting this reaction from the brilliant fat activist Marilyn Wann with her permission:

I found the comparison of logic/motivations behind torture and weight-loss programs [a] quite cathartic way of thinking about this new “eradicate the fat children” harangue!

I find there’s a similarity perhaps in the exasperation. It’s as if the situation being dire, or rather someone *feeling* dire about the existence of terrorists or of fat people, justifies extreme/immoral actions. If one whips oneself up into enough of a frenzy of fear about the very existence of terrorists (or fat, or fat people), then it seems reasonable and perhaps necessary to take horrific action, to call for inhumane goals.

I’ll try to capture it as dialogue…

“Those terrorists threaten and scare me so much, torture is the mildest thing I can imagine doing to them.”

“Fat people distress me so much, I can’t look at their faces on television just their headless and jiggling bodies. I want them not to exist at all!”

Casualty Counts in the Congo

[ 0 ] February 7, 2010 |

Nicholas Kristof is writing about Congo again this morning:

It’s easy to wonder how world leaders, journalists, religious figures and ordinary citizens looked the other way while six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. And it’s even easier to assume that we’d do better.

But so far the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.

What those numbers don’t capture is the way Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation…

Kristof is right about that – though not quite in the way he seems to mean. Those numbers don’t capture it – actually the 5.4 million number from April 2007 has just been debunked by a same report, The Shrinking Costs of War, about which I posted yesterday. A chapter of that report argues that two of the five International Rescue Committee studies from which the estimate was derived woefully under-estimated the baseline peacetime national mortality in the Congo and therefore dramatically exaggerated the number of deaths in the country caused by the war.

In determining the excess death toll, the “baseline” mortality rate is critically important. If it is too low, the excess death toll will be too high.

The IRC uses the sub-Saharan average of 1.5 deaths per 1,000 per month as its baseline mortality rate for all but the very last survey when the sub-Saharan average drops to 1.4. Using the sub-Saharan African average mortality rate as a comparator––to indicate how high death rates were in the east of the DRC compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, for example—would have been both instructive and appropriate. Using it as a measure of the pre-war mortality rate in the DRC itself makes little sense.

The IRC argues the sub-Saharan average mortality rate is a conservative choice for pre-war DRC because it was the highest estimate available. In 2002 the IRC recorded no violent deaths in the western region––which it refers to as the “nonconflict” zone. Yet, the mortality rate in this zone is 2.0 deaths per 1,000 of the population per month––a third higher than the sub-Saharan African average that the IRC uses as its pre-war baseline mortality rate.

But, the DRC is in no sense an average sub-Saharan African country—indeed, it is ranked at, or near, the bottom of every sub-Saharan African development indicator. The baseline mortality rate for the country as a whole should therefore be considerably higher than the sub-Saharan African average. The survey evidence from the western part of the country suggests that this is indeed the case.

The fighting in the DRC was also heavily concentrated in the eastern provinces during the period covered by the first two surveys. This suggests that in this period too there was no significant violent death toll in the western part of the country. Indeed, this is precisely the assumption the IRC makes in arriving at its 5.4 million excess death toll estimate for the DRC for the period 1998 to 2007.

The report breaks down the numbers in much greater detail and contrasts them to the much more conservative and, it argues, rigorously arrived at estimates – estimates that have been largely ignored by the press in its effort to shock readers, and commentators like Kristof their effort to exert an agenda-setting effect to draw global policy attention to the region.

Why do people think we need exaggerated statistics to set the agenda? If “only” some 3 million people, instead of 5.4 million, died by 2007, should this invalidate Kristof’s call for action on the Congo? By no means. In fact, given that this number has been circulating for three years without the effect Kristof seems to want, one wonders if the “millions have died” frame is even the most effective one for global advocacy.

A more useful metric may not be the absolute numbers but rather the relative numbers: Congo is one of the few places in the world where, according to this report, violence has reached sufficient levels to actually raise the national mortality rate for children under five (which appears to be declining in nations elsewhere around the globe in both war and peacetime). According to the HSR data, the one other case in which this occurred in recent decades is Rwanda. The analogy might perhaps be more effective as a clarion call than sheer numbers, inflated or not, which in fact seem to have done little to arouse international concern over the past decade.

And certainly the individual stories that Kristof shares, such as those in his heartbreaking column are as vital to drawing attention to this war as are statistics.

[cross-posted at Duck of Minerva]

New Study: Mortality Rates Decline During Wars

[ 1 ] February 7, 2010 |

Given that Rob has been ruminating lately about the US government’s defense strategy for twenty-first century wars, consider this set of interesting data on war casualties. A new report, out about a week ago from the Human Security Report Project argues that contrary to popular belief, we are living through perhaps the most bloodless period in human history. Not only are wars on the decline, and fewer people are dying in them than before, but national mortality rates appear to actually fall in areas experiencing armed conflict.

How in the world can this be? Actually, it’s not quite as counterintuitive as the executive summary of The Shrinking Costs of War makes it sound – that’s just to attract press. (And how.) Here’s how the argument is explained.

First, the mortality rates in question are national mortality rates. The authors of the report look at national death rates and see whether they rise, fall, or fail to change on average when the country is at war. They find a general decline. But this doesn’t mean people aren’t dying where war is happening. They are. The question is why this isn’t resulting in a spike in mortality at the national level. Here’s why:

a) Peacetime mortality rates are declining steadily around the globe. This is largely due to the revolution in child survival caused by immunization campaigns. So death rates are already falling, and the question is whether enough people get killed in today’s conflicts to reverse that decline. They don’t, because…

b) Wars are generally much smaller and more localized than previously, so a conflict breaking out in one province of a country, for example, doesn’t necessarily reverse the already steady decline in peacetime mortality rates. At most, it may slow it a bit. (There are exceptions in the data – Rwanda in 1994, for instance.)

c) Today, when wars break out, an influx of humanitarian assistance arrives on the scene to increase life-saving interventions such as vaccinations against the kinds of diseases – malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory infections – that account for the massive death tolls in conflict zones, as well as significant numbers of preventable deaths in peacetime. These additional interventions offset the numbers being killed due to violence in buttressing the overall national survival rate, particularly for children under five. In some cases, they actually cause more people within the country to survive than might have been the case in the absence of the war.

These three factors – the localization of conflict and absence of great power conventional war, the global decline in peacetime mortality, and the increasingly effective humanitarian regime – account for this remarkable finding, the report argues.

I have not studied these numbers closely enough to comment further, though I may post follow-ups in the next few days. But in the meantime, check it out yourself. It’s a pretty interesting finding that, if true, challenges a whole lot of the way the media trains us to think about conflicts today.

Because They Can.

[ 0 ] February 4, 2010 |

Why do repressive regimes sign the Torture Convention when they don’t plan to comply with it? At the Monkey Cage, Erik Voeten has a round-up of some conventional answers and calls attention to a novel explanation just out as a working paper from NYU.

[cross-posted at Duck of Minerva]

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