Sunday, January 10, 2010

'Law and the Grenada Mission'

This review appeared originally in the New York City Tribune on Monday, March 18, 1985.

Legal lessons learned from Grenada rescue
By Richard Sincere


Law and the Grenada Mission, by John Norton Moore. (Center for Law and National Security and Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1984.) 129 pages, $9.45.

Oddly, the New Republic, in its editorial endorsing Walter Mondale for president (October 22), credited Ronald Reagan with invigorating U.S. foreign policy. Reagan, the magazine said, “dispelled the post-Vietnam jinx on the successful use of American military force. The invasion of Grenada not only left the people of that island indisputably freer and safer than they were before the troops landed, it also made the salutary announcement to the world that the United States is once again prepared to use force when it deems the cause necessary and just.”

In October 1983, in response to a request for help by the independent states of the eastern Caribbean and an urgent plea by the head of state of Grenada, the U.S. government deployed its troops to bring an end to anarchy, rescue American civilians quarantined by a thuggish military regime, and restore peace and security to a small island nation of 110,000 people. In Law and the Grenada Mission, Ambassador John Norton Moore, a distinguished professor of international law at the University of Virginia, has compressed the facts and opinion about the case into a slim volume designed to affirm the author’s belief in the rule qf law as a means to peace, stability, and security. He writes:

“Fidelity to law is and should be an important element of foreign policy. Americans were thus puzzled by the cacophony of voices instantly heard in the aftermath of the Grenada mission urging variously that the action was lawful, that it was unlawful, or that law was irrelevant. .. Perceptions about lawfulness can profoundly influence both national and international support for particular actions. In the long run only a principled policy rooted in law can ensure the international peace and justice so importantly a part of the national interest of the United States and of all nations.”

Bizarre analogies
Even after last December’s first free elections in Grenada since Maurice Bishop suspended the country’s constitution in 1979, Americans draw bizarre analogies to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan five winters ago or of Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1968. The differences are numerous, as Ambassador Moore shows. We all know that after five years of occupation, Soviet troops are still engaged in combat am terrorism in Afghanistan; U.S. combat troops left Grenada in December 1983. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan to replace a government which the Kremlin felt it could no longer adequately control; the United States and the eastern Caribbean democracies acted to restore order in a country that had no functioning government. Afghan refugees continue to crowd neighboring states, such a Pakistan; today refugees from the Bishop regime are able to return home to Grenada with a sense of honor and optimism for the future.

Ambassador Moore notes: “The Soviet action in Afghanistan is completely counter to self-determination for the people of Afghanistan and can never permit free elections or other forms of political freedom.” The Soviets claim that the Afghan people, by implementing a Marxist revolutionary system, have made the doctrine of self-determination no longer relevant. In contrast, “91 per cent of the people of Grenada welcomed the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States mission, 76 percent said they believed Cuba sought control of their government, and the OECS states are pledged to free elections.”

The “Brezhnev Doctrine,” which undergirded the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, states that once in the socialist camp, no nation may leave it. Moore calls it “a blatant violation of the non-use of force, self-determination, and human rights provisions of the United Nations Charter.” Unlike Grenada -- where the people praised the rescue mission led by the U.S. military -- “in no country where the Brezhnev Doctrine has been applied have the people who lived there welcomed its application.”

Kirkpatrick’s analysis
The comparisons of these events shed light on a statement made by U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick in another context. At a dinner in 1993 honoring Polish labor leader Lech Walesa, she said: “Though Marxism itself had some roots in the European liberal socialist tradition, Marxism-Leninism and Soviet state power and the political organization ruled in their name are to the liberal-democratic tradition as antithesis is to thesis. Marxism-Leninism does not incorporate either the theory or the practice of liberalism, democratic nationalism, or socialism; indeed, it denies al1 the essential elements of Western liberal-democratic, democratic-socialist, tradition.” In short, there is not respect for law, international or otherwise, in the Marxist-Leninist order, unless it furthers the cause of Communist expansion. Thus, there are no moral or ethical restraints to prevent more numerous and more brutal takeovers of small but strategically placed nations like Grenada, Nicaragua, or Vietnam.

In his monograph, John Norton Moore furnishes the documents which make the legal case for U.S. participation in the Grenada mission. Among them are letter from Sir Paul Scoon, governor-general of Grenada, to the prime minister of Barbados formally but diplomatically requesting assistance “in stabilizing this grave and dangerous situation;” the statement by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States explaining the decision to take military action “to remove this dangerous threat to peace and security;” and statements by President Reagan and Prime Minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica announcing the action after it had taken place.

In an editorial the day after the successful :invasion, the New York Times challenged the legal basis for the U.S. participation, saying that Secretary of State George Shultz “strained the language” of the OECS treaty and that the law binding on the U.S. was in fact the 1947 Rio Treaty. Yet Professor Moore amply demonstrates that the U.S. role was “in full accord with the United Nations, OAS, and OECS Charters and United States national law: Most importantly, by serving human rights, self-determination, and international peace and security, by the mission serves the core purposes of these great Charters.”

If the lessons of Grenada still need to be studied, this book is a good place to begin the examination. History will show that the prompt legal action taken in October 1984 was a blow struck for freedom and against the American malaise of the past decade.

Richard Sincere is a Washington-based policy analyst who writes frequently on African affairs.

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