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August 12, 2008


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Michael F. Martin

Please say more about what it is about the phrase that seems inapt. Is it that law no longer seems autonomous? How so?

Joe Average USA

Well maybe those professors are full of bullshit, just like the President of Georgia who is Columbia University Educated. As usual, there is a complete lack of independent research on this subject. Suffice it to say, that Georgia is getting exactly what it deserves. For the clueless out there, the Russians completely have the moral high ground in this instance. Dick Cheney, whom I have no personal reason to bash, has once again shown his clear lack of judgement. George Bush, is again to my chagrin, intellectually MIA. The Georgian bullies are getting what they deserve for damaging their neighbors for their simple Georgian political conceit.

[edited to remove gratuitous abusive language]

Rising 2L

Professor Levmore,

As Justice Cardozo used to say, "Justice is not to be taken by storm. She is to be wooed by slow advances." To do otherwise would be an obvious dereliction of our duty and would almost certainly result in a moral hazard. However, I'm not a normative guy, I just like to predict the dots and it seems that Russia is already otherwise deterred by the distinction made by Messrs. Hines and Price. I do wish, for the sake of Georgia though, that the Russian tanks will be error-minimizing in their attacks, lest they be responsible for recurring misses. But I fear regardless of any petition or diplomacy, however we allocate strength in the region, ultimately the parties will get together and bargain for the correct outcome.

Cheers, Rising 2L


I am sick of the concept of international law. At best it is appropriate in intramural fights among civilized nations to regulate things like procedures; wearing uniforms, not molesting ambassadors, executing spies. Otherwise, it is just silly. This is not Metternich's Europe anymore. The big kids with the big guns still get to make the rules. At best we can cultivate consensus on a few dastardly acts like deliberate terrorism or hiding amongst civilians, but other than that we should not hold our breath that war itself can be put into a legal framework.

The Georgia case is a useful one. Why should Georgia's Soviet-Era borders be sacrosanct? Why can't the Ossetians be independent (in light of what the US just pulled off in Kosovo)? Why can't the Russians protect their near-abroad from anti-Russian regimes and anti-Russian NATO enchroachment.

Any concept of international law must accord with the realities of power in some broad sense and generally benefit both small and big nations or it will have no credibility and no vitality.


Dear Dean Levmore,

In the context of discovering a reason not to support a petition, your disagreement with the phrasing is useful: it does not tell your correspondents that you disagree with the merits of their petition (neither does it tell them that you agree).

While the punt on language is, on the whole, fairly easy, it's a much more difficult task to sort out whether the petition has merit. (By that I mean to assert neither that you are disinterested in the subject of the petition nor that you might be disinclined to investigate as warranted.)

The petition-writers raise two points: (1) Georgia needs assistance in developing a legal education system; (2) assistance should help Georgia fend off Russian aggression. The first point is objectively laudable and easily supportable, in that improving legal education is accepted as a good thing (I certainly don't dispute it).

The second point is more nuanced (particularly as seen from 1111 E. 60th Street): (a) Georgia attacked Tskhinvali; (b) South Ossetia only came under Tbilisi rule when it was handed to the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic by Georgia's most (in)famous son, Joseph Stalin; (c) calls for independence from South Ossetia have not found the same support as calls for independence from Kosovo (for example); (d) respect for autonomy, territorial integrity and sovereignty is a two-way street (disregarded by Saakashvili in attacking Tskhinvali as well as by Coalition forces in attacking Iraq); and (e) The Law School has its fingerprints on the Georgian constitution (http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/951207/georgia.shtml).
Working through these nuances (among others) and formulating a coherent framework for assessing and weighing the competing claims takes more time than reading a petition and signing up. I appreciate that you have stronger means of expressing your opinions (without agency issues). It would be gratifying to know that your decision not to subscribe is founded on something more concrete than mere distaste for the phrase "promote the Rule of Law".

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