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Francis A. Boyle’s “Protesting Power – War, Resistance and Law”


Francis A. Boyle is a distinguished University of Illinois law professor, activist, and internationally recognized expert on international law and human rights. From 1988 to 1992, he was a board member of Amnesty International USA. He was a consultant to the American Friends Service Committee. From 1991 to 1993, he was legal advisor to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and currently he’s a leading proponent of an effort to impeach George Bush, Dick Cheney and other key administration figures for their crimes of war, against humanity and other grievous violations of domestic and international law. Boyle also lectures widely, writes extensively and authored many books, including his latest one and subject of this review: "Protesting Power – War, Resistance and Law."

 

Boyle’s book is powerful, noble and compelling, and he states its purpose upfront: Today, a "monumental struggle (is being waged) for the heart and soul of (America) and the future of the world…." It matches peacemakers on one side, war makers on the other, and all humanity hanging in the balance. The book provides hope and ammunition. It’s a urgent call to action and demonstrates that "civil resistance (is) solidly grounded in international law, human rights (efforts), and the US Constitution." It "can be used to fight back and defeat the legal, constitutional, and humanitarian nihilism of the Bush administration" neocons and their chilling Hobbesian vision – imperial dominance, homeland police state, and permanent "war that won’t end in our lifetimes," according to Dick Cheney.

 

Boyle has the antidote: "civil resistance, international law, human rights, and the US Constitution – four quintessential principles to counter….militarism run amuk." Our choice is "stark and compelling." We must act in our own self-defense "immediately, before humankind exterminates itself in an act of nuclear omnicide." The threat today is dire and real, it demands action, and civil resistance no longer is an option. With survival at stake, it’s an obligation.

 

The Right to Engage in Civil Resistance to Prevent State Crimes

 

Post-WW II, US foreign policy adopted the political "realism" and "power politics" principles that Hans Morganthau explained in his seminal work on the subject – "Politics among Nations: the Struggle for Power and Peace (1948)." For decades, it was the leading international politics text from a man eminently qualified to produce it and whose experiences under Nazism influenced him.

 

His cardinal tenet was darkly Hobbesian – that international law and world organizations are "irrelevant" when it comes to conflicts between nations on matters of national interest. Ignore "reality" and perish, but consider the consequences. They’ve has been disastrous for America, at home and abroad, in a world of our making where life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." No law or justice exists, no sense of right or wrong, no morality, just illusions of what might be, and a "struggle for survival in a state of war" by every nation against all others for one unattainable aim – absolute power and national security at the expense of other states and most people everywhere.

 

Political "realists" believe that when nations respect international laws and norms and ignore the "iron law" of "power politics," they invite disaster at the hands of aggressors. Boyle believes otherwise and eloquently states it: "Throughout the twentieth century, the promotion of international law, organizations, human rights, and the US Constitution has consistently provided the United States with the best means for reconciling the idealism (and aspirations) of American values….with the realism of world politics and historical conditions."

 

It can work the way Boyle documented it in his 1999 book, Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations, 1898 – 1922. In it, he offers a comprehensive analysis of US foreign policy achievements through international law and organizations to settle disputes, prevent wars and preserve peace. It included:

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