Saturday, March 03, 2007

I fought the law and the law won

No, I haven't been arrested. But I did come across a brief article about ASEAN and the 10 nation organization's recent drafting of its first charter. The charter would serve to legitimate the imposition of sanctions by one member against another should a member country violate the rules of the organization.

In the article, Cambodian Foreign Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hor Namhong, is quoted as saying, "ASEAN must have a charter. It is the constitution of the ASEAN community. Having a charter means having a more legal (identity)."

Whoa! Legal identity. I was quickly reminded of Wednesday's discussion in class and the issue of whether or not Japan's colonization/annexation of Korea was "legal." Some argued that the question was ultimately irrelevant because it happened with the consent of the great powers, reflecting the anarchic nature of the international system and the idea that in such an environment the top dogs get what they want. Whether it was legal or not doesn't matter; the real question is whether it was right or wrong.

Obviously, it was wrong, but the tendency to want to classify it in legal terms persists. The law, besides codifying various procedures, also can stand as the ultimate arbiter of right or wrong. In some cases it might hold more weight than a moral argument, and thus I think we find the amount of corresponding scholarship on the Japanese colonization.

I guess I just thought it interesting to see an organization known for having very little substance to its cooperative efforts embracing such an initiative, establishing a charter to create a legal foundation upon which to build a more...effective mechanism of interaction.

1 comment:

Grace said...

It is definitely interesting to see that ASEAN is starting on a charter to have more "legal identity." While I applaud its move as the lack of formality and/or legal identity has been one of its chief criticisms, I wonder what this charter will consist of. It seems that the charter will basically re-affirm the "ASEAN way" and what rules the countries agree on, but will it really have any "teeth?" Since the principles of non-interference are what ASEAN is based on, I see a paradox in the statement that "a charter will legitimize sanctions against members that violate its provisions." Isn't that interference in a sense? Not criticizing each other is another principle of ASEAN, so I'm not sure if in the end the charter will allow for members to sanction each other. (Sorry to be so pesimistic).