Conversations (2)

Hi Fiona,

No worries at all -- I hope that the roundtable has been productive and informative for all participants. this will likely be my last email until tomorrow morning as I am off to give a lecture this evening, and my ability to type lengthy messages on my phone has significantly decreased since being forced to leave (my beloved) Blackberry and move to an android phone!

I think that you have raised two points that really are the flipside of the same coin -- the interrelationship between law and politics. On the one hand, laws and legal mechanisms are being deployed owing to the refusal or failure to use political methods to address state involvement in terrorism. On the other hand, states may well choose not to engage with the legal mechanisms and laws, depending on their political ability and willingness to take such a route. And of course all actors involved know the political and legal games being played.

This, of course, goes back to the central question asked by many law scholars -- is international law anything more than politics? Of course it is, but the degree to which it is law as understood through a national lens is debatable.

Going to your points about friends and allies in terms of counter-terrorism, how do you think this might affect the relationship between the US and key allies? Or indeed between other friends and allies should other countries follow suit and enact similar legislation? If trust is such a crucial component (another topic that I find fascinating in terms of research undertaken by psychologist and philosophers) then what is the effect of laws and policies of this type? 

Also, I am willing to show my ignorance on these matters in order to delve deeper into the counter-terrorism aspects -- what is the Five Eyes Agreement? 



Good morning, Fiona

Thank you for that latest email, and particularly for the Obama quote that succinctly summarises many of the key issues. I do think that the US will be exposed to even more liabilities for 'the work' it does around the world, even if those court cases are symbolic and unenforceable. Of course, the US has paid money to victims of drone strikes and other unintended consequences of its 'work' around the world, and by doing so has accepted some liability or responsibility. There are many people who feel strongly that the US ought to be held accountable, legally and/or politically, and perhaps JASTA will lead to similar legislation elsewhere that will provide for 'lawfare' cases (ones brought  for advocacy or political purposes rather than because there is any hope of winning or enforcing them).

Oh, Fiona, the more that we email the gloomier I feel about the whole 'walking-off-a-bridge-with-eyes-closed' car crash that is looming if Trump gains power through this election.

Just tidying up my emails and getting ready for the weekend. I think we have covered more ground about the elections in these emails than I have done in countless face-to-face conversations over recent months. There is little doubt that we will both be up all night watching the results on 8th November, and I hope we will continue these discussions by email or Twitter on that night. 

For now, fingers and toes are crossed that the polls start to swing in Clinton's direction. The remainder of my day will be spent keeping a close eye on the UN Human Rights Council, where the erosion of international human rights law has picked up significant pace over the past 12 months. From one area of doom-and-gloom to another, but thus is the life that we have chosen in our respective fields of research and expertise!

Thank you for the informative and intelligent discussion, for the very interesting links to articles, and for being willing to engage on some tricky and delicate issues.

All the very best from a rather sunny London.


Good morning, Fiona. I hope that you slept well.

I do not think that you were being overly dramatic about Donald Trump. The thought of him being in such a powerful position fills many of us with dread. But the scary thing is that when the media expose his lies, his moral bankruptcy, his financial mismanagement, and more, many within the American public simply do not believe it. Perhaps no-one within either party thought that he would get this far, and so it was too little too late in terms of exposing his awful traits and awful policies. 

Perhaps we can talk about some of those policies. For me, the worst are his claims that he will build a wall between the US and Mexico (and then send a bill to Mexico to pay for the construction), that he will deport all Muslims, that he will further reduce access to abortions and to reproductive health, and that he will pull out yet more oil and gas in the US (presumably at least partly through fracking).  Then again, he changes his policies frequently, and even those that are on his official website mostly are so vague that it is near-impossible to understand how they will be implemented. 

Clinton's policies, on the other hand, are pretty standard, and it is clear the directions in which she wants to move in relation to key areas. But of course, coverage of policies is not sexy enough for soundbite TV. It was striking that I heard less about the candidates' policies when I was in North America earlier this month than when I have been home in the UK. Yet there was back-to-back coverage of the elections, as though nothing else was going on in the world. It is remarkable that even after the debate on Monday most of the discussions have been about personalities not policies. 

I know this is moving away from discussions yesterday, but that is what happens when I sleep on things! What are your thoughts on the meat of what they are both offering? From your perspective and expertise on security and on constitutionalism, how do the candidates' policies shape up?

Hope it is a good one there