Determinedly academic day

2005-11-15

in Daily updates

Cowley Road Fruit

With Nick S. visiting the U.K. between the 21st and 25th, and with the clear memory of the insanity involved in writing two essays simultaneously and on short notice, I am making an effort to forge ahead with the papers due on the 22nd. At the SSL today, I read the relevant bits from Arif Dirlik’s The Origins of Chinese Communism: deciding that the period about which it is written it too early for my argument. I also read about half of Odd Westad’s Cold War and Revolution and carried on with the Spence book. Along with the stats assignment, I should finish both books tomorrow evening or Wednesday morning. Then, I can begin reading in earnest for the ‘Big Three’s war aims as influenced by the interwar period’ essay, for Dr. Wright and Dr. Fawcett.

Aside: The Roche Lecture:
This evening, I attended the New College Alec Roche Lecture in Public International Law, delivered by Ian Brownlie, CBE, QC. Judging by how many emails we all received about it, he must be quite an important guy. While I don’t mean to comment on it at length, there are a few points that it seems worthwhile to make. To me, the lecture involved a very large amount of what might be termed legal tut-tutting: pointing out inadequacies in the way international law had been portrayed and ignored in the last decade or so, though not demonstrating any kind of pragmatism with regards to the relationship between law and other factors in international affairs. Obviously, important legal questions arise as the result of actions such as those carried out by the coalitions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In particular, the legal grounds for the Iraq invasion are very shaky. Even so, a bit more subtlety and flexibility would have been welcome. 

To me, it seems that there is an importance in recognizing that international law can shift and that, in the post-Rwanda era, interventions of the type launched in Kosovo may sometimes be necessary. International law relating to the scope of self defence, as well as the acceptability of interventions on humanitarian grounds, is definitely an area that is alive and evolving. Whether the action to expel the Serbian Army from Kosovo was indeed motivated by humanitarian factors or not, a more nuanced consideration of it must be made – rather than a total affirmation of unacceptability. Likewise, the connections between the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda raise the serious possibility that the United States and its allies were justified in employing military force against them.

To me, it also seems important to recognize that, while principles are doubtless very important, it is to a large extent the practice of states that establishes international law. The practice of states tells a different story from that delivered, quite bitterly at times, by Mr. Brownlie. There has been a greater recognition, in the Security Council and elsewhere, that some kinds of actions not envisioned or clearly described in the original Charter are now to be part of the structure of world politics. A lecture that had done more to play out the ramifications of that, legal and otherwise, would have been rather more compelling.

Contrasting arguments are always welcome.

On an exciting but completely separate note: at 12:45 today, I became a fully paid member of Wadham College. One sixth of my total Oxford academic fees have made their way from various places in Canada, through the alleyways of the international financial system, across Oxford (as a tightly clutched bank draft), and into the deep coffers of this 395 year-old building. After five weeks of working at it – and $150 in banking fees – the deed is done. I can look forward now to when I get credited back for all those uneaten Wadham dinners.

In other news, Sarah Pemberton, with whom I shall be going to Tallinn in a month’s time, has joined the blogosphere with a cooking related weblog. Cooking is one of those skills that I know I really ought to develop and keep thinking that I will be forced to. Somehow, though, it never quite comes about. My favourite cooking experiences are definitely preparing huge vats of curry with Tristan, Christina, and Meghan – although it was also good fun to make macaroni and cheese on my little MSR SimmerLite stove in the middle of Fairview Crescent during a blackout one winter.

For those who appreciate all things culinary, the Chocolate & Zucchini weblog is well worth a look.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous November 15, 2005 at 2:50 am

food is right up there with animals! that is a gorgeous image. um, i am not a photography connoisseur in the slightest, but i adore the colours. those eggplants look very appealing, and i don’t even like eggplant.

-anon reader of a few years

p.s. i found your original blog by googling the cost of a doctor’s certificate at ubc health services.

Anonymous November 15, 2005 at 1:33 pm

Perhaps Ian Brownlie was simply working to counterpoint the take-it-as-it-comes, devil-may-care school of international law that seems to have been espoused by certain international leaders.

Respect for the long and dynamic character of the international legal tradition, as well as a willingness and ability to grasp its more subtle elements, are certainly not the strong points of these figures…

Anonymous November 15, 2005 at 7:24 pm

For your China paper, I am pretty sure Rana Mitter, at Oxford, wrote a book on the Chinese Civil War. Since your profs may well know her, you might want to take a look.

One of the faithful but anonymous readers.

Anonymous November 16, 2005 at 6:40 pm

I am forced to register my appalled shock. My name is not Megan, and I’ll thank you to remember it :) However, I too fondly remember the vats of curry, the chocolate chip pancakes, and the whisperlite stove cooking.

Meghan

Milan November 16, 2005 at 6:46 pm

My apologies Miss Mathieson. I shall check my copy more closely in the future.

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