As a consultant to James Baker in drafting what became known as the "Baker Plan" for
Nowhere is it mentioned that
Every resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council in recent years has reaffirmed the right of the people of Western Sahara to determine their own future, but Morocco has consistently rejected any proposal that would allow the fate of Western Sahara to be determined through a free referendum in the territory.
King Mohammed VI's proposal for autonomy may well be the most sensible solution for Western Sahara, and it should be considered seriously by the Sahwari government-in-exile and people. However,
written in response to Frederick Vreeland’s Op-ed article in the New York Times, Will Freedom Bloom in the Desert? (
In the summer of 2009, an article titled Western Sahara and the Self-Determination Debate (Middle East Quarterly (MEQ), Summer 2009, PP. 33-43) by someone I’d never heard of, a certain Samuel J. Spector, crossed my computer screen. The article is a somewhat-interesting attempt to make an international law case for implementing Morocco’s autonomy proposal, which - given international law’s clear rejection of Morocco imposing anything on the territory - is just not the normal approach taken by pro-autonomy people. While the approach might have been novel, my recollection is that I found the article’s legal case for autonomy extremely weak and promptly dragged it to the recycle bin.
Last November, I ran across Mr. Spector once again in the comments section following a pro-autonomy article by our old friend Ed Gabriel that appeared on Globalpost.com. Ambassador Gabriel’s article was his rather typical pro-Morocco nonsense, and when I chimed in to disagree with him, first Robert Holley from the
I am now posting a blog on Spector’s article almost a year after it came out because, as much as I would like to believe that tossing things in the recycle bin makes them and their authors disappear, Mr. Spector just won’t go away. Actually, with his recent participation in a rabidly pro-Moroccan Middle East Institute “policymakers roundtable” on the
At first glance, Mr. Spector’s education (
So after my quick dismissal of his article last summer, I felt that I better go back and reread it in case I had missed something. Unfortunately, several rereadings only confirm my original conclusion that this is far from being a serious paper.
Samuel Spector’s basic argument is that, with the winding down of the colonial era, “self-determination must … be reframed in the present context as a continuum of rights affording the affected populations a range of democratic entitlements and humanitarian protections within existing sovereign states.” By taking the possibility of independence out of self-determination, he argues that “an arrangement rooted in a realistic vision of autonomous self-government that would incorporate reasonable guarantees of cultural expression, political freedoms, and human rights for the inhabitants of Western Sahara might then be given a chance to take shape.” In other words, his argument is that evolving international law supports adopting autonomy as the sole basis for solving the
Mr. Spector’s article is unconvincing on several levels. The historical overview and, in particular, his analysis of the referendum years, is particularly weak. In trying to illustrate how “desolate in resources” the
It is, however, his legal arguments that strike me as the worst part of the article. If there is one particular aspect of Spector’s discussion of self-determination and the
The fatal flaw in Mr. Spector’s argument here is very much linked to his total misunderstanding and misinterpretation of Hurst Hannum. Actually the extent to which he tortures Hannum’s ideas to fit into his autonomist agenda is truly mind-boggling. Five of his footnotes refer to Hannum’s article “Self-Determination in the Twenty-First Century” in a book co-edited by Hannum, Negotiating Self-Determination (2006). Professor Hannum encapsulates his thesis in his article as follows:
It is the suggestion of this chapter that, following several years of indecision, the international community has moved toward a new definition of self-determination. This new definition continues to exclude the possibility of unilateral, nonconsensual secession, but it has become infused with broadly defined human, minority, and indigenous rights that may signal a new usefulness for the concept of self-determination in the decades to come.
The vital element of this “new definition” that totally escapes Spector is that it is specifically for situations of secession. While Hannum acknowledges that we are in “largely a post-colonial era” in which “calls for self-determination, possibly including independence, are even becoming more muted in the classic decolonization cases of Kashmir and Western Sahara,” nowhere in his article does he suggest that we or the world community should do away with the right to independence inherent in de-colonial self-determination. But that is precisely what Spector tries to do. He takes Hannum’s new definition of secessionist self-determination and applies it to the non-secessionist de-colonial situation of the
And for anyone who has any doubts about Spector’s thoroughly unethical abuse of Hannum, I refer you again to Professor Hannum’s letter to the editor at the top of this post which was written a year AFTER the Hannum article referenced by Spector.
In the final analysis, Samuel Spector’s attempt - in the name of redefining self-determination for the 21st century - to reframe the