The "raison d'État" refers to a principle of governance according to which the State has the right and the obligation to take decisions that are in the supreme interest of the country, even if these decisions are contrary to other considerations, such as moral, religious or international laws. In practice, the raison d'Etat has often been used to justify actions that would otherwise be considered immoral or illegal. For example, a government might justify declaring war, spying or suspending certain civil liberties in the name of raison d'État.
The raison d'État plays a crucial role in political science, particularly in the analysis of decisions taken by a government or head of state. Political science studies seek to understand the motivations behind political actions, and the concept of raison d'État can help explain why certain choices are made. Political science examines how the raison d'État influences foreign policy strategies, crisis management, war and peace decisions, domestic policies, and other aspects of governance. Researchers can analyse how raison d'État is invoked to justify certain actions and what the implications are for democracy, human rights, ethics and international law. Moreover, the concept of raison d'État is linked to other theories in political science, such as realism and neo-realism, which suggest that states act primarily on the basis of their national security interests. However, there is an ongoing debate about how far a state can or should go to safeguard its interests, and how to balance this with other obligations and values, such as respect for human rights and international norms. This is why raison d'État remains an important subject of study in political science, both to understand past actions and to inform discussions on how best to manage current and future policy challenges.
What is the Reason of State?[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Reason of State is a concept that allows public authorities to take exceptional measures, which may be outside the usual legal framework, to respond to extraordinary situations or threats to national security. In theory, this concept is intended to protect the higher interests of the State and the people. In practice, however, it is open to controversy and debate, as it can be used to justify actions that violate human rights, international norms or democratic principles. For example, in times of war or serious national crisis, a government may invoke raison d'Etat to justify measures such as declaring martial law, suspending certain civil liberties, or taking emergency measures that would otherwise be illegal.
The idea of raison d'État implies that, in certain circumstances, the state or another institutional political entity may act in a manner that departs from ordinary law in order to protect the supreme interest of the country. This concept is generally invoked in situations of crisis or national emergency, where the state believes it must take extraordinary measures to preserve security, stability or other essential interests. However, the fact that a State may derogate from ordinary law in certain circumstances does not mean that it may do so without restriction or control. In most legal systems, there are checks and balances designed to prevent abuses of power and to ensure that any derogation from ordinary law is proportionate, necessary and consistent with certain minimum standards. For example, the constitutions of many countries contain special provisions for emergency situations that allow certain temporary derogations from normally guaranteed rights and freedoms. However, these provisions generally require that the measures taken be proportionate to the seriousness of the situation, and that they be lifted as soon as the emergency is over. In addition, in democratic systems, decisions taken in the name of the raison d'Etat may be subject to judicial review, and may be challenged in court if found to be unconstitutional or contrary to international law.
Reason of State is a concept that applies in exceptional circumstances, when it is deemed necessary to derogate from ordinary law and potentially from public freedoms in order to protect the supreme interest of the State. In a democracy, the use of raison d'État must be carefully controlled and limited. It should only be invoked in truly exceptional situations, not as a common practice or routine. If used regularly or arbitrarily, it could endanger the rule of law and democratic principles. This is why, even in emergency situations, democracies seek to maintain checks and balances to ensure that the use of raison d'Etat respects certain limits. This may include constitutional requirements, judicial review, and transparency and accountability to the public and parliament. That said, the application of raison d'État remains a complex and delicate subject that gives rise to philosophical, political and legal debate. Decisions taken in the name of raison d'État can have profound and lasting consequences, and it is therefore crucial to approach them with caution and discernment.
The concept of raison d'État may involve going beyond certain usual standards of legality, normality and logic. Let's take a closer look:
- Exceeding the law: The raison d'État may lead to a departure from the usual laws in force. For example, in an emergency situation, a government could invoke raison d'État to suspend certain laws or rights.
- Exceeding the normal: The raison d'État concerns exceptional situations, not routine or normal governance. Actions taken under raison d'État are supposed to be extraordinary and temporary.
- Going beyond what is logical: Reason of State can sometimes involve actions that may seem illogical or contradictory by normal standards. For example, a state may choose to take actions that are contrary to its own laws or principles, or that run counter to its international commitments, if those actions are considered necessary to protect the best interests of the state.
Although the raison d'État may lead to these standards being exceeded, it is important to note that in democratic systems there are generally checks and limits to prevent abuses of power and preserve the rule of law. The raison d'État does not give the government carte blanche to act as it wishes, but must be used with caution and discernment, and with respect for the fundamental principles of democracy and human rights.
A state of emergency is a term often used interchangeably with raison d'état. It refers to a situation in which the government derogates from ordinary law, often in response to an emergency or crisis. The study of states of exception could focus on questions such as: What are the conditions that trigger a state of exception? How do governments justify invoking the raison d'état or declaring a state of exception? What are the effects on society and human rights? What are the mechanisms for controlling and limiting the use of raison d'état?
The events and the response of the US government to the attacks of 11 September 2001 can serve as an example for studying the raison d'État. The measures taken by the US government after the attacks demonstrate several aspects of raison d'Etat in action.
- Overstepping the law: In response to the attacks, the US Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, which extended the powers of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to monitor and investigate terrorist activities. Some of the Act's provisions have been criticised for their potential infringement of the civil liberties guaranteed by the US Constitution.
- Going beyond the normal: President George W. Bush's declaration of the "war on terror" and the invasion of Afghanistan (and later Iraq) were extraordinary actions taken in response to an exceptional situation.
- Going beyond what is logical: Certain decisions taken in the context of the "war on terror", such as the establishment of the Guantánamo detention camp and the use of advanced interrogation techniques (considered by many to be torture), may seem illogical or contrary to the usual principles of law and ethics.
These actions, taken in the name of national security, gave rise to much debate about the role of the state, the protection of civil liberties and the limits of raison d'état. The repercussions of these decisions continue to be felt and debated to this day. This makes 11 September 2001 and its aftermath a particularly relevant example for the study of raison d'État.
The notion of 'raison d'Etat' is often linked to that of a 'state of emergency'. In both cases, it refers to a state of action that goes beyond the framework of ordinary law and normality, often in response to a situation of emergency or exceptional crisis. A 'state of exception' is generally declared when circumstances are deemed so serious that the usual rules cannot be applied effectively. It allows the state to take extraordinary action to respond to the situation. This could include measures such as suspending certain civil liberties, declaring martial law, or passing emergency laws. The "raison d'Etat" may be invoked as justification for such exceptional actions, based on the need to protect the supreme interest of the State and the people. However, although these concepts are closely related, they are not necessarily identical. A state of emergency is generally a formal mechanism that is declared in accordance with certain legal procedures and has specific legal implications. The raison d'Etat, on the other hand, is a broader concept that can justify a variety of extraordinary actions, whether or not a formal state of exception is declared. It is also important to note that, although these concepts allow the state to act exceptionally, they do not give it a blank cheque to act without restrictions or controls. In democratic systems, there are generally mechanisms in place to limit and control the use of raison d'Etat and the invocation of states of emergency, in order to prevent abuses of power and preserve fundamental rights.
Reason of State can be interpreted as a form of "reasonableness" in the sense that it seeks to protect the supreme interest of the nation, especially when faced with a crisis or existential threat. However, this does not necessarily mean that all actions taken in the name of raison d'Etat are automatically 'reasonable' in the ordinary sense of the word.
There are a number of factors that can influence whether an action taken in the name of the raison d'état is considered reasonable:
- Proportionality: Are actions taken in the name of the raison d'Etat proportionate to the threat or crisis they are intended to combat? Are they the minimum necessary to achieve the desired objective?
- Necessity: Were the actions absolutely necessary? Were there other options that could have been just as effective, but less intrusive or less damaging to rights and freedoms?
- Effectiveness: Were the actions effective in achieving the desired objective? Did they succeed in resolving the crisis or combating the threat?
- Respect for democratic principles and human rights: Were the actions taken in compliance with fundamental democratic principles and international human rights standards?
Ultimately, the question of whether the raison d'état is 'reasonable' is largely subjective and may depend on how these factors are weighed. It is a subject that is often at the centre of political and philosophical debate.
Genealogy of the raison d'État[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The question of a state of exception, or the suspension of certain democratic norms in exceptional situations, is the subject of intense philosophical, political and legal debate. How can it be justified that a democracy, a system that values the rule of law and respect for human rights, can temporarily suspend these principles in the name of a higher interest?
To understand this paradox, it may be useful to look at the genealogy of the raison d'Etat and the state of exception. The concept of raison d'État is deeply rooted in the political and philosophical history of the West. It dates back at least to the period of the Renaissance and the Wars of Religion in Europe, when philosophers such as Niccolò Machiavelli and Jean Bodin began to articulate the idea that a sovereign might sometimes have to act outside the usual norms of morality and law in order to preserve the state.
The idea of a state of exception was later formalised by jurists and political theorists, who recognised that constitutions and systems of law can sometimes be insufficient to deal with extraordinary crises. This idea was put forward by thinkers such as Carl Schmitt, who argued that the sovereign is the one who has the power to decide on a state of exception. However, the justification of states of exception does not mean that democracy is completely abandoned or that democratic principles are unimportant. On the contrary, the idea is that democracy itself is threatened in these exceptional situations, and that extraordinary measures are necessary to preserve it. Moreover, even in a state of exception, it is generally recognised that there are limits to what the state can do, and that certain fundamental standards of respect for human rights and the rule of law must be maintained. That said, there is a real risk that the state of exception and the raison d'Etat could be abused to justify human rights violations or a slide towards authoritarianism. This is why it is crucial that their use is carefully controlled and limited, and that there are mechanisms to ensure accountability and democratic control.
In situations of emergency or crisis, the temporary suspension of certain democratic norms or the extension of the powers of the State may give rise to a grey area, a legal 'no man's land' where the usual safeguards may no longer apply. It is precisely for this reason that the invocation of a state of emergency is generally surrounded by formal procedures and controls. In many countries, for example, the constitution sets out the circumstances in which a state of emergency may be declared, how long it may last, and the specific powers that the government may exercise during that period. There may also be requirements for parliamentary approval, notification to international bodies, or judicial review. However, even with these controls, there is always a risk that the state of exception could be abused or unduly prolonged, leading to a weakening of the rule of law and civil liberties. Consequently, democratic vigilance, judicial control and human rights monitoring are essential to ensure that a state of exception does not become the norm and that democracy can be restored as soon as circumstances allow.
A state of exception, although often invoked to protect democracy and the state against a serious threat, involves a temporary suspension or relaxation of certain democratic norms, rules and procedures. This creates an area of "vagueness", where the usual limits and guarantees are less clear. It is a state of ambiguity, where the state, in the interests of preserving order and security, may be perceived as rising above the democracy it is supposed to protect. This situation is fraught with risks, in particular the risk that the powers of the state will be extended beyond what is necessary, or that the state of emergency will be unduly prolonged. This is why it is crucial to have robust control and accountability mechanisms to govern the use of states of exception. This may include constitutional or legal requirements, judicial oversight, parliamentary scrutiny and monitoring by the media and civil society. Furthermore, even in a state of exception, it is generally recognised that certain fundamental standards of respect for human rights and the rule of law must be maintained. These include the right to a fair trial, the prohibition of torture, and the right to life, among others. These rights cannot be suspended, even in emergency situations. Finally, it is important to remember that a state of emergency is supposed to be temporary and limited to the duration of the crisis or threat that gave rise to it. Once the crisis is over, the State must return to normal functioning and fully restore democratic norms and procedures.
The raison d'État is deeply rooted in political theory, and understanding it requires reflection on key political concepts and historical and contemporary contexts. Moreover, since actions taken in the name of raison d'État can have major consequences for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, they often give rise to intense political debate. Political theory offers many tools for understanding and analysing raison d'État. For example, it can help clarify the values and interests at stake, assess the justifications for particular actions, and understand the risks and potential consequences. It can also provide a framework for comparing different approaches to raison d'État in different national and international contexts. Moreover, raison d'État cannot be understood in isolation from the specific political conditions of a given moment. Decisions taken in the name of raison d'Etat are often influenced by the political realities of the moment, including security concerns, economic challenges, social and political pressures, and prevailing norms and values. Debates about the raison d'État are therefore often linked to broader questions about the nature and direction of politics and society. Ultimately, the question of the raison d'État leads us to reflect on fundamental principles of politics and governance, such as the balance between security and freedoms, the nature and limits of sovereignty, and the role of the state in protecting the common good.
Machiavelli (1469 - 1627): Conceptualisation of the reason of State[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
One of the fundamental aspects of Niccolò Machiavelli's political thought, often condensed into the expression "the end justifies the means". In his most famous work, The Prince, Machiavelli argues that leaders must be prepared to act in ways that might otherwise be considered immoral to achieve and maintain power. However, it is important to note that Machiavelli does not advocate the complete rejection of morality. Instead, he points out that conventional morality can sometimes conflict with the demands of politics. For example, a ruler may need to use deception or force to protect the state. In this context, such actions may be justified if they contribute to a higher end, such as political stability or state security. This ties in with the idea of 'raison d'État', which suggests that in certain exceptional circumstances the state may be justified in taking action that departs from ordinary law or customary norms. However, as Machiavelli himself recognises, this presents a complex ethical and political challenge, as it can be difficult to determine when such action is truly justified and how far it can go. Machiavelli's thought has been the subject of much debate and interpretation over the centuries. Some critics see him as a cynic who advocates amorality, while others see him as a pragmatic realist who recognises the dilemmas and challenges of politics. Whatever the case, his ideas have profoundly influenced political theory and continue to fuel discussions on issues such as the raison d'état.
Machiavelli has often been associated with the idea of cunning or deception as a strategic tool in politics. In 'The Prince', he suggests that rulers, when acting for the good of the state, may have to use concealment or manipulation to achieve their objectives. Guile, in this context, can be understood as a form of strategic intelligence, where an individual or group holds information that others do not, and uses this asymmetry of information to their advantage. This can involve misleading opponents, disguising true intentions or manipulating perceptions to gain a strategic advantage. However, it is important to note that for Machiavelli, the use of cunning is not an end in itself, but a means to a wider end, such as the stability of the state and the protection of the common good. Furthermore, while Machiavelli may seem to support a certain level of deception or manipulation in politics, he also warns that rulers should act with prudence and wisdom, and maintain the trust and respect of their subjects as much as possible.
From a Machiavellian perspective, tactics - and in particular the ability to act outside established norms when necessary to achieve a greater goal - are seen as an essential component of statesmanship. This is largely what Machiavelli meant by the statement that "the end justifies the means". In other words, for Machiavelli, political success sometimes requires actions that, outside the political context, might be considered contrary to conventional morality or the law. The ultimate requirement for the ruler, in this framework of thought, is the welfare and stability of the state. However, it is important to note that this view of politics, while sometimes seemingly pragmatic, also raises important ethical and moral issues. It highlights the need for a balance between the pursuit of political objectives and respect for ethical and legal standards. It also highlights the importance of accountability and transparency in the exercise of power. Machiavelli himself was not insensitive to these challenges. In his writings, he recognises that political power, if misused, can lead to tyranny and injustice. Therefore, while he may appear to support the idea that the end justifies the means, he also stresses the importance of prudence, wisdom and restraint in the exercise of power.
Although Machiavelli does not explicitly use the term 'raison d'état', his writings describe a similar concept. For him, the first priority of a ruler is the maintenance of power and the stability of the state. Consequently, it may be necessary to adopt behaviours or methods that do not conform to traditional democratic principles or that may even seem immoral. That said, Machiavelli does not advocate authoritarianism or despotism. Nor is he suggesting that rulers should be free to do as they please without constraint or accountability. In fact, he warns against the misuse of power and insists on the need for wise and prudent governance. He also suggests that rulers should always behave in such a way as to earn the respect and trust of their subjects, as popular support is crucial to long-term stability and success. Machiavelli's philosophy raises important questions about power, ethics and governance. Although it can sometimes seem cynical or amoral, it highlights the challenges inherent in politics and the need for a delicate balance between idealism and realism, between morality and efficiency.
From Machiavelli's perspective, political action may sometimes require going beyond the traditional frameworks of law and morality in order to achieve the most important objectives, such as the stability of the state. This is where the notion of 'reason of state' connects with his philosophy. Machiavelli recognises that politics, particularly at a high level such as that of the ruler of a state, can involve complex dilemmas where strict adherence to rules and norms can conflict with the practical demands of power and the survival of the state. This is not to say that Machiavelli advocates a total rejection of law or morality, but rather that he sees these aspects as part of a wider set of considerations that must be taken into account when making political decisions. However, it also raises important questions about the limits of political action and the tension between the imperatives of political reality and democratic and ethical ideals. These questions, which are at the heart of the debates on raison d'État, remain relevant and contested today.
Giovanni Botero (1544 - 1617): Contribution to the conceptualisation of the raison d'état[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Giovanni Botero is a key figure in the development of the concept of 'raison d'État'. Born in 1544 in Piedmont, Italy, he was a diplomat, Jesuit priest and influential writer on subjects ranging from economics to geography and politics. His most famous work, 'Della ragion di Stato' (On the Reason of State), first published in 1589, played a crucial role in formulating this concept. In this treatise, Botero explains that the survival and success of the state depend on a combination of prudence, politics and morality. He argues that rulers must sometimes act according to pragmatic considerations that may go beyond traditional legal or ethical norms. However, unlike Machiavelli, Botero insists that the reason of state must always be guided by Christian and moral principles. For him, the true reason of State is that which serves the common good and is in accordance with divine law. So while Botero and Machiavelli can both be seen as important contributors to the theory of raison d'état, they offer different perspectives on the relationship between politics, morality and power. These perspectives have had a profound influence on political thought and continue to inform current debates on issues such as reason of state and ethics in politics.
Giovanni Botero was one of the first thinkers to focus on the construction and effectiveness of state power. He was interested in how states can develop and maintain their power, particularly through economics and demography. For Botero, the power of a state depended not only on the size of its territory or its army, but also on the wealth and well-being of its population. He was therefore one of the first to stress the importance of economic and social factors in strengthening state power. As part of the raison d'état, Botero argued that leaders had to take pragmatic decisions to ensure the survival and prosperity of their states. This might sometimes require actions that went beyond traditional legal or ethical norms. However, unlike Machiavelli, Botero also insisted on the importance of moral and Christian principles in governance, asserting that the true reason of state must always serve the common good and respect divine law. This combination of political pragmatism and moral commitment has made Botero's thought a major influence on political theory, and his concept of raison d'État remains relevant to contemporary discussions of power, ethics and governance.
As a Jesuit priest, Giovanni Botero incorporated theological principles into his conception of the raison d'état. For him, the exercise of power, including the application of raison d'état, should be guided by the principles and teachings of the Christian faith. Botero asserted that leaders, especially those who exercise exceptional power by virtue of the raison d'état, have a duty to respect the word of God and follow his commandments. They must strive to achieve God's objectives for humanity, which means promoting the common good, maintaining justice and peace, and protecting the weak and vulnerable. From this perspective, the reason of State cannot be used as an excuse to act arbitrarily or unjustly. On the contrary, it must always be used in a way that is compatible with divine law and promotes the well-being of the community. This is a vision of the reason of state that differs from that of Machiavelli and other more secular political theorists. It emphasises the moral and spiritual responsibility of rulers and the importance of faith and virtue in politics. This vision influenced the subsequent development of political theory, particularly within the tradition of Christian political philosophy.
Giovanni Botero and Niccolò Machiavelli have different perspectives on the reason of state in relation to morality. Machiavelli is often interpreted as setting aside traditional moral considerations in favour of political pragmatism, according to which the end (the stability and success of the state) justifies the means. His approach is sometimes described as amoral, in the sense that it does not conform to conventional morality. Botero, on the other hand, insists on the importance of morality, specifically Christian morality, in politics. For him, the raison d'Etat is not an excuse for acting immorally or unjustly, but a principle that must be applied in a way that is consistent with God's commandments and promotes the well-being of the community. So while both men agree that leaders may sometimes need to take exceptional measures to protect and strengthen their state, they differ on the extent to which these actions should be constrained by morality and ethics.
For him, the application of the reason of State must always be guided by moral principles, in particular those derived from the Christian faith. Political power, even when it is exercised exceptionally by virtue of the raison d'état, is not an end in itself, but a means of achieving divine objectives for humanity. This means that, although rulers may sometimes have to take measures that appear to go against conventional morality or existing laws, these measures can be justified if they are in accordance with God's commandments and if they promote the well-being of the community.
Botero's conception of the raison d'état serves as a kind of response to Machiavelli's vision. While Machiavelli focuses on political efficiency and pragmatism, setting aside traditional moral considerations, Botero emphasises the crucial role of morality, particularly Christian morality, in governance. Botero argues that true power and authority come from God, and therefore those who govern must follow God's commandments and teachings. If a ruler does this, then he or she can justify the use of raison d'état in exceptional circumstances. In this view, the reason of state is not an excuse for acting amoral or unjustly, but a principle that must be used in accordance with divine teachings. It is a perspective that contrasts sharply with that of Machiavelli, and reflects the wider differences in their political thinking.
For Botero, the use of raison d'état is an extension of the prince's duty to God and the welfare of his people. He argues that the prince, in using the reason of state, may sometimes have to go beyond conventional laws or norms in order to achieve the higher goals assigned to him by God. It is important to make it clear that for Botero, the use of raison d'état is not a licence for immorality or injustice. On the contrary, the prince must always seek to act in accordance with the moral and ethical principles derived from the Christian faith, even when acting in exceptional circumstances. This vision of raison d'État as a tool at the service of the divine will and the common good is a distinctive feature of Botero's political thought, and provides an interesting contrast with more secular and pragmatic approaches to raison d'État.
Botero was one of the first thinkers to develop a theory of the modern state and to explore the conditions for applying the raison d'état. He is concerned with the question of how to build and maintain a powerful and effective state that can respond to challenges and crises without compromising fundamental moral principles. For Botero, raison d'État is an essential instrument available to the prince to manage these exceptional situations. However, its use must always be guided by a deep understanding of the divine will and the needs of the community. He also suggests that the modern state must be organised in such a way as to facilitate the effective and ethical application of the raison d'État. This implies a solid governance structure, a competent administration, and a population that is both well governed and morally virtuous. In short, Botero's vision of the raison d'État is deeply rooted in his broader conception of the modern state and its requirements. This makes him an important figure in the development of modern political theory.
Botero proposes that raison d'État can be invoked in times of serious crisis, such as civil wars. These exceptional situations can threaten the very existence of the state and the stability of society, requiring extraordinary measures to restore order and peace. Botero suggests that in such cases, the prince may be obliged to go beyond ordinary laws or conventional ethical norms in order to preserve the state and its citizens. However, even in these extreme circumstances, the prince is not free from moral restraint. On the contrary, his actions must always be guided by divine principles and aimed at the well-being of the community. Thus, for Botero, the raison d'État is not a licence for arbitrariness or injustice, but a principle that can justify extraordinary actions in extraordinary circumstances, always with respect for God's commandments and the promotion of the common good as the ultimate objectives.
Botero's paradox is that he legitimises the prince's action on religious grounds, but at the same time he is prepared to define as moral acts that have nothing human about them. This paradox is one of the most controversial aspects of Botero's thinking. On the one hand, he insists that the reason of State must always be guided by moral and theological principles. On the other hand, he acknowledges that the application of raison d'état may sometimes require actions that, in other contexts, would be considered immoral or inhumane. Botero seems to resolve this paradox by arguing that exceptional necessity - such as might arise in a civil war or other serious crisis - can justify actions that would otherwise be unacceptable. He considers that in such situations, the common good and the survival of the state may require extraordinary measures, even if they involve some suffering or harm. However, it is important to note that for Botero, even in these extreme circumstances, the prince is not free from moral constraint. He must always seek to minimise the harm caused and act in accordance with the divine will, as he understands it. It is an approach that may seem paradoxical, but it is consistent with his vision of the state and political morality.
Starting from a limited conceptual apriori, the prince is moral, so he can apply the reason of State. If the prince is fundamentally immoral, then he can use raison d'Etat to further his own interests in the name of God. This is a major concern with Botero's theory of raison d'Etat. Indeed, there is a risk that an immoral prince could misuse the notion of raison d'Etat to justify actions that serve his own interests rather than the common good. He could, for example, claim to be acting in the name of the divine will or the preservation of the state, while in reality pursuing selfish or tyrannical objectives. This is a problem that arises in all political theories that allow a degree of flexibility or discretion in the application of moral or legal rules. How can we ensure that this latitude is not abused? How can we guarantee that rulers will remain faithful to fundamental ethical principles and not use the reason of State as a pretext for arbitrary power? Botero, like many other political thinkers, attempts to solve this problem by insisting on the need for rigorous moral and religious control over the prince. In his view, the prince must be acutely aware of his duties towards God and the community, and must always seek to serve the common good rather than his own interests. However, it remains an open question how this can be ensured in practice, especially in the absence of effective democratic control mechanisms.
One of the fundamental assumptions of Botero's argument for raison d'Etat seems to be that ordinary citizens may lack the rationality to understand and manage the complex problems facing the state, particularly in times of crisis or emergency. From this perspective, raison d'État can be seen as a mechanism for restoring order and rationality when the population is unable to do so itself. This may involve actions that appear 'unreasonable' or arbitrary at first sight, but which are justified by the need to preserve the stability and well-being of the state as a whole. That said, this approach has serious limitations. It can easily be used to justify abuses of power or to circumvent democratic principles. What's more, it is based on a rather pessimistic view of citizens' ability to make informed decisions and participate meaningfully in the governance of their own society. In this sense, Botero's theory, while having important implications for our understanding of politics and power, must be approached with caution.
The idea of raison d'état suggests that in certain situations, notably those where social order or state security are threatened, extraordinary measures may be necessary. These measures may go beyond what is normally permitted by law or conventional ethics. The aim is to protect the state and its citizens against major threats. However, it is crucial to emphasise that even in an emergency or crisis, there are limits to what a government can justify in the name of raison d'état. For example, human rights and basic democratic principles must never be violated. In addition, the use of raison d'État must be temporary and specific to the crisis or threat at hand. Once the crisis has passed, the government must return to the normal legal order. Furthermore, the use of raison d'État requires great caution and rigorous control, to avoid abuses of power. Leaders must be held accountable for their actions, and decisions taken in the name of raison d'État must be transparent and subject to scrutiny. In a democracy, this implies an active role for the media, civil society and institutions of control, such as the courts.
Historically, the state of war has been one of the times when the raison d'Etat has been most commonly invoked. At times of extreme crisis, the state may be forced to take extraordinary measures to ensure its survival. This may involve, for example, temporary restrictions on civil liberties, the mobilisation of resources in unusual ways, or the implementation of military strategies that might otherwise be considered unacceptable. The aim is always to protect the state and its citizens from the imminent threat. However, as mentioned above, even in times of war, it is crucial that actions taken in the name of raison d'Etat respect certain fundamental principles, such as respect for human rights, the proportionality of the measures taken and their temporary nature. Furthermore, such actions must always be subject to rigorous scrutiny and control to avoid abuses of power. Finally, it should be noted that the raison d'Etat is not limited to situations of war. It can also be invoked in other crisis situations, such as health emergencies or natural disasters, when the normal order must be temporarily suspended to deal with the situation.
For Giovanni Botero, as for many other political thinkers of his time, the army and the ability to wage war were seen as essential elements of the power and authority of the state. It was also through the conduct of war that the state could sometimes be led to exercise the raison d'état, taking exceptional decisions to ensure its survival and security. In the context of war, the raison d'Etat could be invoked to justify unusual military strategies, the use of resources in unconventional ways, or even actions that might otherwise be considered contrary to international law. However, it is important to stress that the use of raison d'Etat in this context must always be proportionate, temporary and respect the fundamental rights of individuals, including those of enemies. Furthermore, the ability to maintain a strong and effective army is often seen as a manifestation of the power of the state and its ability to protect its citizens, which is also an important element of the raison d'Etat. A powerful army can deter foreign attacks, maintain internal order and guarantee the sovereignty and independence of the state.
In its evolution, raison d'État has gradually separated from its theological basis to become a concept more widely associated with political philosophy and the practices of state power. This evolution has been influenced by changes in the nature of societies, the organisation of the state and the nature of the conflicts and challenges facing states. The application of raison d'État as an extraordinary form of governance is generally justified by exceptional situations, such as crises, wars or threats to national security. These situations often require rapid and sometimes radical responses, which may go beyond the usual procedures and norms of governance. However, the invocation of raison d'Etat must always respect certain limits, particularly in terms of respect for human rights and the fundamental principles of democracy. It should not be used as an excuse to abuse power or violate fundamental freedoms, but rather as a means of protecting the general interest in extraordinary situations. It is also important to note that the application of raison d'État must always be temporary, and the state must return to normal governance as soon as the emergency situation is resolved. In this sense, raison d'État is an important tool for ensuring the survival and continuity of the state, but its use must be regulated and controlled to avoid abuse.
Reason of State is a concept that allows the State, in certain exceptional situations, to act in an extraordinary way in the best interests of the nation. This may involve taking decisions or adopting policies that deviate from the norm or even the law, if this is deemed necessary to protect the security, stability or integrity of the nation. However, as mentioned above, the use of raison d'État must be temporary and proportionate to the situation, and always respectful of the fundamental rights of citizens. In a democracy, the use of raison d'État should also be subject to checks and balances to prevent abuses of power. Moreover, the raison d'État does not justify actions that are contrary to morality or ethics. Indeed, while the general interest may sometimes require exceptional measures, these must always respect the fundamental principles of justice and respect for human dignity. This is a complex subject that has been widely debated in political philosophy and political science.
The concept of raison d'État is intrinsically paradoxical. In extraordinary circumstances, the state may have to take measures that go beyond legal norms and individual freedoms in order to protect the general welfare of society. The extraordinary nature of these situations would justify the use of non-ordinary measures, according to the theory of the raison d'État. On the one hand, it is based on the idea that the state must sometimes adopt extraordinary measures to protect the general interest. This may include the temporary suspension of certain individual rights and freedoms, in exceptional circumstances such as war or a major crisis. On the other hand, these extraordinary measures may themselves pose a threat to democracy and the rule of law, by creating a situation where the state acts outside the usual bounds of the law and democratic control. This paradox is at the heart of many debates in political philosophy and constitutional law. How can restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms be justified in the name of the general interest? What are the limits of state action in exceptional situations? How can democratic control be ensured and abuses of power prevented in such situations? These questions are all the more relevant in the current context, where many countries around the world have had to adopt exceptional measures to deal with crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
War as a catalyst for the raison d'État[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Michel Senellart (1953 - ): Contemporary perspectives on the role of war[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Michel Senellart is a contemporary French philosopher specialising in political philosophy and the history of political ideas. His vision of raison d'État focuses very much on the idea that the state sometimes needs to depart from the norm in order to respond to major crises, such as war.
According to Senellart, raison d'État is nothing other than a contravention of ordinary reasons for the sake of the public good, or for the sake of a greater and more universal reason. This means that the state can sometimes be led to act in a way that is contrary to the usual norms in the interests of the public good or in order to respect a more universal reason. War is a typical example where reason of State can be applied, according to Senellart. In times of war, the state may have to take extraordinary measures to ensure the security and well-being of the nation. This could include actions that, in peacetime, would be considered out of the ordinary or even illegal.
The raison d'État is often invoked in emergency or crisis situations where the normal functioning of democracy is not sufficient to respond to a serious threat to the state or society. This may include situations of war, terrorism, natural disaster or pandemic. In these situations, the government may deem it necessary to take extraordinary measures to ensure the security, well-being and continuity of the nation. This may involve temporarily derogating from certain usual norms or laws. However, invoking the raison d'État must always be done with care. The suspension or modification of customary laws or rights must be proportional to the threat, limited in time and subject to judicial review to avoid abuse of power and preserve the rule of law and democratic principles.
Scipione Ammirato (1531 - 1601): War and the reason of State[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Scipione Ammirato was an Italian historian of the late 16th century. His vision of the raison d'État is less well known than that of thinkers such as Machiavelli or Botero, but it reflects the idea that in certain circumstances, the well-being of the state may require extraordinary actions, often associated with situations of conflict or war. Indeed, war is a context in which leaders are often faced with difficult decisions that may require departures from normal rules and practices in order to preserve the security and integrity of the state. It is in this context that the notion of raison d'Etat can be invoked to justify such actions. In the context of war, the application of the raison d'Etat may take several forms, such as the imposition of martial law, the restriction of civil liberties, the requisition of private property, the mobilisation of the population for the war effort, etc.
In the context of conflicts with other nations or groups, particularly religious groups, the raison d'Etat may be invoked to justify certain extraordinary actions or policies aimed at protecting the integrity, security and interests of the State. The application of the raison d'Etat may take many forms in these contexts, including enhanced security policies, restrictions on certain civil liberties, extraordinary diplomatic efforts, military defence measures, etc. In some cases, these measures may be justified by the need to protect the integrity, security and interests of the State. In some cases, these measures may be controversial, as they may appear to contradict certain democratic principles or human rights.
The raison d'État is often invoked in contexts of international tension and preparation for war. It involves taking extraordinary measures to protect national security and interests, which may include mobilising resources, increasing military production, implementing enhanced security policies and coordinating efforts to anticipate and prepare for a possible war. From this perspective, raison d'État is seen as a tool for preparing for war, a kind of "latent war". It is a way of pooling the resources of the state and focusing attention on a common objective, namely the defence of the state and its interests. However, it is important to stress that the invocation of the raison d'Etat to justify these extraordinary measures must always be transparent, proportional and limited in time. In addition, it must always respect the principles of the rule of law and the fundamental rights of citizens. Furthermore, it is preferable to avoid war if possible, using diplomacy, negotiation and international cooperation to resolve conflicts and tensions. War should always be the last resort, when all other options have been exhausted.
War, being an exceptional situation, often justifies the use of raison d'Etat. It is a time when the security and very existence of the state may be threatened. As a result, extraordinary measures may be implemented to protect and preserve the nation. It should be noted, however, that the use of raison d'État, even in times of war, must comply with the fundamental principles of democracy and international standards. This means that any action taken must respect human rights, the principles of justice and the rules of war.
Carl Schmitt (1888 - 1985): Reassessing the relationship between war and the state[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Carl Schmitt, a German jurist and political philosopher, developed the theory of the partisan, which focuses on a specific form of combat - guerrilla warfare, or irregular struggle. This theory is mainly developed in his book "Theory of the Partisan" (1962). According to Schmitt, the partisan is distinct from the regular combatant because he does not operate according to the conventional rules of war and is not easily identifiable. They are rooted in a specific place (usually their local territory), are extremely mobile, and their loyalty is more to a cause than to a state. Schmitt saw the emergence of partisans as a significant transformation in the nature of war. The impact of this transformation on the raison d'État is considerable. If the state is designed to manage conflicts between clearly defined and organised entities, how can it manage the kind of asymmetric and irregular conflict that the partisan represents? The question becomes even more complicated if we consider that the partisan may be internal to the state - a citizen who has taken up arms against the state for one reason or another. Schmitt considers that the figure of the partisan calls into question the traditional categories of the law of war and forces us to rethink the concepts of sovereignty and exception. In this context, the raison d'État becomes more complex, since the threat does not only come from external state actors, but can also emanate from within, which may justify exceptional measures to deal with it.
Carl Schmitt developed a theory of "decisionism". Decisionism is an approach to political theory that emphasises the role of individual decisions in political processes. Schmitt's famous phrase "the sovereign is the one who decides on the exception" expresses this idea. It means that true political power lies in the ability to suspend the existing legal order in order to deal with an emergency. This power to decide when and how the normal legal order is suspended is, according to Schmitt, what defines sovereignty. During the rise of Nazism, Schmitt was an active supporter of the regime. He argued that Hitler's seizure of power was an example of a sovereign decision, suspending the constitutional order of the Weimar Republic in 1933. Sovereignty and the state of exception have been heavily criticised, not only for their role in legitimising the Nazi regime, but also for the way in which they can be used to justify abuses of power.
According to Carl Schmitt, the sovereign, as the one who decides on the exception, has the power to determine the moments of emergency or crisis that justify the suspension of the normal legal order. This power of exception could include the ability to declare war or to take extraordinary decisions in response to crisis situations. The theory of raison d'état and the concept of total war have been linked to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, particularly those of Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union. In these regimes, the state seeks to control all aspects of public and private life, including the economy, education, the arts, religion, personal relationships and even the thoughts of individuals. Totalitarianism is often associated with total mobilisation in wartime, where all of society's resources are devoted to the war effort. This can be achieved through conscription, regulation of industry and the economy, and restriction of civil liberties in the name of national security. In this context, the reason of State is often invoked to justify actions which, in peacetime, would be considered violations of human rights.
Totalitarianism is a political system that seeks to control all aspects of public and private life, including individual expression and free thought. In a totalitarian regime, the state seeks to monopolise the truth and define reality for its citizens. The state media are used to disseminate official propaganda, and any dissent or criticism of the regime is severely repressed. This can create an environment in which independent thought and freedom of expression are hindered or even dangerous. Individuals may conform to the regime's expectations, not only through fear of reprisals, but also through social conditioning and indoctrination. Totalitarianism is often associated with authoritarian regimes that are rooted in extreme ideologies and seek to reshape society according to a utopian vision. However, this attempt to control all aspects of social and individual life can often lead to oppression, violence and dehumanisation.
Carl Schmitt, the German political philosopher, wrote extensively on the nature of politics and power. He argued that the fundamental distinction in politics is between "friend" and "enemy". In this framework, the enemy is not necessarily an individual or group that is personally hated or despised, but rather the one on the other side of the political conflict. According to Schmitt, the role of the sovereign (the 'ruler') is to make this distinction and to take decisions in exceptional situations, such as war or crisis. Schmitt argued that in such situations, constitutional normality can be suspended in the name of preserving the state. This is known as a state of exception.
The vision of conflict from a Nazi theological perspective, as expressed by Carl Schmitt, is centred on the notion of friend and enemy. This implies that conflicts are inevitable and even necessary in politics, because they make it possible to clearly define who is "friend" and who is "enemy". This distinction is fundamental to the exercise of political power. In the context of Nazism, this theory was used to justify aggression and imperialist expansion, by identifying certain groups (such as Jews or Communists) as 'enemies' of the state. Futurism was an artistic and social movement that began in Italy in the early twentieth century, which valued speed, technology, youth and violence, rejecting the past. Some Futurists, such as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, supported the Fascist movements in Italy and elsewhere. However, Futurism as a movement was distinct from Nazism and Carl Schmitt's political theory, although they shared certain themes of glorifying conflict and rejecting tradition.
Carl Schmitt argued that the essence of politics lay in the distinction between friend and foe. For him, war, as the ultimate conflict, is the supreme expression of this distinction. It is in the context of war, or at least the possibility of war, that the true nature of the political manifests itself, according to Schmitt. In this context, the sovereign (or whoever exercises political power) is the one who decides on the state of exception, i.e. who determines when a situation is so serious that it justifies extraordinary measures - including war. This is what Schmitt calls "decisionism".
Current state of emergency and raison d'État[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Giorgio Agambe (1942 - ): Understanding the state of exception[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Giorgio Agamben, a well-known Italian philosopher, published a book entitled 'État d'exception' in 2005 (the first Italian edition dates from 2003). In it, he examines the notion of the 'state of exception' as developed by Carl Schmitt. Agamben analyses how states can use states of exception to suspend laws and constitutional rights in crisis situations. He argues that, increasingly, the state of exception has become the norm rather than the exception in contemporary societies, with the extension of governments' powers of surveillance and control. For Agamben, the state of exception is a dangerous space where the law is in abeyance and government authority acts without legal constraints, which can lead to abuses of power. He warns against using this situation to restrict civil liberties and human rights. It is a powerful and disturbing concept that highlights the tension between security and freedom in modern societies. Agamben's work has been widely discussed and debated, and has had a significant impact on contemporary political thought.
Agamben argues that contemporary societies tend to enter into a permanent state of exception, particularly under the pretext of security. The state of exception is a crisis situation that allows the state to suspend the laws and civil liberties normally in force. Agamben suggests that this state of exception is increasingly used as a normal means of governance, rather than as an exceptional response to a crisis. For example, in the context of the 'war on terror', states can invoke national security to justify measures that violate human rights and civil liberties. This state of exception, Agamben argues, endangers democracy by making citizens vulnerable to abuses of power. He argues that the state of exception reveals a fundamental tension between security and freedom, a tension that lies at the heart of contemporary debates about the role of the state in society.
The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen states that freedom is the prerequisite for security. In other words, individuals must be free in order to be secure. However, in the contemporary world, this paradigm seems to have been reversed. Increasingly, security is seen as a precondition for freedom. This means that states and societies are increasingly willing to restrict individual and collective freedoms in the name of security. This can be seen in the context of the fight against terrorism, for example, where civil liberties are often restricted in the name of national security. This is a worrying development for many, as it can potentially lead to abuses of power and a diminution of democracy. This tension between security and freedom is a crucial debate in contemporary political thought. The question is how far we are prepared to go to guarantee our security, and whether it is worth it if it means restricting our freedoms.
Giorgio Agamben, in his book État d'exception, argues that in contemporary societies, security is often privileged over freedom. In his view, this leads to what he calls a 'state of exception': a state in which regular legal norms are suspended in the name of security. For Agamben, this is not an exceptional or temporary situation, but a permanent state that has become the norm in many modern societies. He argues that the notion of security has become an excuse to restrict freedoms and strengthen the power of the state, creating an environment of constant control and surveillance. What Agamben criticises here is the shift from the primacy of freedom to the primacy of security in our contemporary societies. He suggests that this leads to a rationalisation and normalisation of the state of exception, which in turn threatens individual and collective freedoms. This is an important debate that echoes many contemporary issues, from the fight against terrorism to the management of health crises, where the tension between freedom and security is constantly present.
According to Agamben, we are now living in a situation where the state of exception has become the norm, rather than a rare and temporary occurrence as Botero suggested. This perspective is in line with Michel Foucault's theory of the surveillance society. Foucault developed the notion of 'biopower', where the control exercised by the state extends not only to social life, but also to the biological life of individuals. This involves constant surveillance and detailed regulation of citizens' bodies and lives. It is therefore a significant shift in the way power is exercised by the state. This shift can be seen as a threat to our individual freedoms, as state power is exercised in a more intrusive and omnipresent way. Moreover, as Agamben points out, the primacy of security over freedom contributes to this process, justifying the continued expansion of control and surveillance in the name of protecting the security of individuals and society as a whole. It is important to note that these perspectives are hotly debated in academic and political circles. Some people may see these developments as necessary and justified, while others may see them as unacceptable infringements of our individual freedoms and fundamental rights.
The notion that we have entered an era of 'lawlessness' and 'necessity' reflects the concerns that many thinkers, lawyers and activists have today about the way in which law and democracy are being used, and sometimes circumvented, in the name of security, efficiency or necessity. Traceability and surveillance have become ubiquitous elements of our daily lives, underpinning major aspects of our economy, government and society. This is facilitated by rapid technological advancement, which enables an unprecedented level of surveillance and data collection. The tension between necessity and the rule of law is a central issue of our time. Traditionally, the rule of law is a fundamental principle of democratic societies, ensuring that all actions, including those of the state, are subject to the law. However, in many cases we see situations where 'necessity' is invoked to justify actions that might otherwise be considered contrary to fundamental legal and democratic principles. This tension raises fundamental questions about the nature of our societies and political systems. How do we balance security and freedom? What does democracy mean in an era of mass surveillance and ubiquitous data? These are complex questions to which there are no simple answers, but debate and reflection are essential if we are to shape the future of our societies.
The concept of a state of exception described by Agamben is precisely that of a situation in which ordinary laws and civil rights are suspended, often in response to a perceived crisis or emergency. This state of affairs creates a 'grey zone' where normal rules do not apply and where the powers of the state can be significantly extended. In such situations, there is often a tension between the imperatives of security and individual rights and freedoms. This is a complex issue with no easy answer, as it requires a balance between protecting the security of the State and its citizens on the one hand, and safeguarding individual rights and freedoms on the other.
The separation of powers is a fundamental principle aimed at preventing the abuse of power and maintaining a balance in the exercise of authority. This separation enables each power - legislative, executive, judicial - to control the others and thus guarantee a form of reciprocity in the operation of the State. However, when a state of emergency is declared, these boundaries can become blurred. The powers of the executive can be extended, sometimes to the detriment of the other powers, which can jeopardise the democratic balance. The result is often an accumulation of power in the hands of a single body or individual, which can lead to a concentration of power and potentially to abuses.
In a state of exception, executive powers are often strengthened at the expense of the other branches of government. This can lead to a situation where the executive can legislate without the control of the legislature, by means of decrees or orders, and where the supervisory powers of the judiciary are limited. In addition, a state of emergency may also lead to the adoption of restrictive regulations, often justified by the need to respond to an emergency or crisis, which may restrict individual rights and freedoms. These regulations can affect many aspects of people's lives, from freedom of movement to protection of privacy. It is therefore essential, even in times of crisis, to uphold the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law, and to ensure that any extraordinary measures are proportionate, necessary and temporary.
The application of the state of exception in France can be traced back to the First World War, which led to a state of exception; the preparation for the Second World War in 1938 and 1939 with the German-Soviet pact, which created dissension in French politics, as the Communists wanted to follow the Soviet position; the French Constitution of 1958, Article 16 states that in the event of a threat to the integrity of the Republic and the nation, the President of the Republic may take all necessary powers. So one article allows all powers to be taken in the name of attacking the integrity of the territory.
The state of exception in France has been applied in various crisis situations. During the First World War, the French government had to take extraordinary measures, including general mobilisation, censorship and rationing, to support the war effort. Later, in the years leading up to the Second World War, faced with a period of great uncertainty and tension, the government undertook a series of measures to strengthen national defence. This climate of tension culminated in the German-Soviet Pact of 1939, which caused dissension within the French Communist Party, with some members opposing the party's official position in favour of the pact. In addition, Article 16 of the 1958 French Constitution stipulates that the President of the Republic may exercise exceptional powers in the event of a serious crisis. These powers were invoked only once, during the Algerian crisis in 1961. In each case, the balance between the functioning of democracy and respect for individual rights and freedoms was put to the test.
Article 16 of the 1958 French Constitution gives exceptional powers to the President of the Republic in the event of a serious crisis threatening the integrity of the territory or the proper functioning of the public authorities. This article was conceived in the context of the Cold War, and was intended to be used in exceptional circumstances where the normal functioning of the State would be seriously disrupted. It was invoked only once, during the Algerian crisis in 1961. Article 16 confers on the President "the most extensive powers", enabling him to take measures necessary for the defence of the nation. However, it is important to note that these powers are not unlimited. According to a decision taken in 1973, the Constitutional Council has the power to monitor the application of article 16 and can therefore end the state of emergency if the conditions are no longer met.
Switzerland, as a traditionally neutral country, faced its own challenges during the two world wars. In the context of the First World War, on 30 August 1914, the Swiss Federal Assembly gave the Federal Council (the Swiss government) unlimited power to guarantee the security, integrity and neutrality of the country. This decision was taken to enable the government to take the necessary measures quickly and effectively to protect Switzerland from the consequences of the European conflict that was unfolding around it. This was clearly an example of the application of "raison d'État", where the ordinary rules of democratic governance were temporarily suspended in response to an extraordinary situation. It is a clear illustration of the concept of a state of exception, albeit one exercised with the aim of preserving Switzerland's neutrality and independence rather than engaging it in conflict.
11 September and the return of the raison d'État[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Authorisation for the use of military force in 2001[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
After the attacks of 11 September 2001, US President George W. Bush declared that the integrity of the nation had been attacked. This declaration was based on the fact that the terrorist attacks had been likened to an act of war. In this context, the President invoked the concept of "raison d'Etat", suggesting that an extraordinary response was required to deal with this extraordinary situation. This response took the form of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was passed by the US Congress shortly after the attacks. The AUMF gave the President the authority to take all "necessary and appropriate measures" against those he determined to have "planned, authorised, committed or aided" the attacks of 11 September. In addition, the Bush administration introduced draconian homeland security measures, such as the Patriot Act, which extended the government's powers of surveillance and investigation. These measures, although controversial, were presented as essential to protect the nation.
Following the attacks of 11 September 2001, President George W. Bush responded by making the defence of the American nation a paramount necessity. In his speeches, he presented the attackers not as mere terrorists, but as an enemy comparable to a nation, which had the paradoxical effect of elevating Osama Bin Laden's stature. Indeed, by equating Al Qaeda with a nation-state, Bush implicitly credited Bin Laden with the status of head of state. This approach also justified a massive military response, rather than a police and judicial approach to dealing with a crime. This led to the invasion of Afghanistan and the War on Terror, a global military campaign that has profoundly affected international relations and domestic politics in the United States.
By describing the attacks of 11 September 2001 as an "act of war", George W. Bush established a justification for the application of raison d'état. An act of war is a condition that authorises the use of raison d'État, because it constitutes an exceptional situation, an extraordinary circumstance that calls for extraordinary measures. Reason of State, in this context, allows the government to take decisions and act in a way that could be contrary to the usual laws and principles in the supreme interest of the nation. This could include actions such as declaring war, mobilising military forces, introducing enhanced internal security measures, and other extraordinary measures that may be perceived as necessary to ensure the security and integrity of the nation.
When George W. Bush described the attacks of 11 September 2001 as an "act of war", he in a way legitimised Al Qaeda and its leader, Bin Laden, as traditional actors of war. This declaration effectively changed the paradigm for the application of raison d'état. It allowed the Bush administration to justify the application of raison d'état by taking extraordinary measures to defend the nation, ranging from the war in Afghanistan to the introduction of new homeland security measures. This declaration marked a turning point in contemporary history, introducing a new type of conflict - the "war on terror" - where the line between the law of peace and the law of war becomes blurred.
When a state is faced with an emergency or imminent danger, it may have to invoke what is known as "raison d'État" or a state of emergency to take extraordinary measures to protect the security and integrity of the nation. However, these extraordinary measures can sometimes deviate from the traditional principles of the rule of law, which can raise important questions about the balance between security and individual freedoms. Indeed, in such cases, there may be a tendency to favour emergency action and response to the immediate threat, sometimes at the expense of normal legal protections and procedural safeguards. This can lead to a situation where the normal rules of public law are set aside in the name of emergency management. This situation can be a source of tension and debate, as it puts at stake the fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law, such as respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
On 9 November 2001, Stephen John Byers declared that "it is a very good day to bring out and sneak in all the measures we need to take", p. 549. This statement highlights an important point of tension in emergency or exceptional situations. In response to a crisis, governments may be tempted to rush through measures that would, in normal circumstances, be subject to full public debate and democratic scrutiny. In some cases, these measures may include laws or regulations that restrict individual freedoms, increase the powers of the state or alter other aspects of governance and public order. While the gravity of the situation may justify such measures, they raise important questions about transparency, accountability and respect for democratic principles. It is crucial that even in emergency situations, governments strive to uphold the rule of law, respect human rights and engage transparently with the public. In addition, measures taken in response to an emergency should be proportionate, necessary and subject to regular review to ensure that they remain appropriate and justified.
The attacks of 11 September 2001 led to a series of significant changes in legislation and policy, particularly in the United States, but also internationally. The perceived need to protect citizens from future terrorist attacks has led to the adoption of measures which, in some cases, have restricted civil liberties and altered standards of privacy, surveillance and human rights. One of the most controversial responses to these attacks was the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in the United States, which expanded the surveillance powers of the US government with the aim of preventing terrorism. Although these measures were taken to protect national security, they also raised serious concerns about their impact on civil liberties and privacy. In this context, democratic debate can face challenges. It is important that even in times of crisis, transparency, accountability and respect for human rights are maintained. It is a delicate balance to be struck between protecting national security and preserving fundamental democratic principles.
USA PATRIOT Act: Implications for the raison d'état[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) is a US law that was enacted shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The USA PATRIOT Act is a major piece of US legislation, particularly with regard to immigration, national security, surveillance and law enforcement laws. Its stated aim was "to thwart and punish acts of terrorism in the United States and around the world, to improve law enforcement to detect and prevent terrorism, and for other purposes". Some of the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act concern information gathering and surveillance. The law allowed intelligence agencies to collect a wide range of information, including data on financial transactions, email and telephone communications, and gave federal authorities greater ability to track and intercept communications. The Act greatly expanded the powers of US security and intelligence agencies to monitor, investigate and prosecute terrorist crimes. The provisions of the Act cover a wide range of issues, from electronic surveillance to immigration and terrorist financing.
One of the controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act allows for the indefinite detention of foreign nationals suspected of being linked to terrorist activities. The US authorities have the power to detain a person on the basis of mere suspicion and can do so indefinitely, without charge or trial. In addition, the definition of terrorism and terrorist activity has been broadened to include many non-violent criminal acts and loose associations with groups suspected of terrorist activity. This expanded definition has been criticised for its potential misuse.
The "Carnivore" system, a precursor to the USA PATRIOT Act, was an Internet surveillance system set up by the FBI in the early 2000s. Set up in the late 1990s and used mainly in the 2000s, it enabled the FBI to monitor the emails and online activities of people specifically targeted as part of criminal or national security investigations. It was designed to monitor the email communications and online activities of individuals specifically targeted as part of criminal or national security investigations. The system worked by being installed directly on the network of the target's Internet Service Provider (ISP). It could then filter all incoming and outgoing communications from that person. The system was technically a packet capture device, i.e. software capable of intercepting and inspecting data 'packets' travelling over a computer network. "Carnivore was installed directly on the network of the target's Internet Service Provider (ISP), where it could filter all incoming and outgoing communications from that person. The FBI claimed to have abandoned the use of 'Carnivore' in 2005, although subsequent reports suggest that similar surveillance tools continue to be used.
In legal terms, terrorism is generally defined as the commission of violent or dangerous acts for the purpose of influencing or affecting the government by intimidation or coercion. It can also include acts committed in retaliation for government operations. This definition is quite broad and can potentially cover a variety of criminal acts. For example, it could include not only acts of physical violence, such as bombings or armed attacks, but also acts of cyber-terrorism that disrupt government computer systems.
Guantanamo Bay prison: A symbol of the raison d'état in action[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The Guantanamo Bay prison, located on Cuban territory leased by the United States, has become a controversial symbol of the application of raison d'état in the context of the fight against terrorism. Following the attacks of 11 September 2001, the United States began detaining people there who were considered to be "unlawful enemy combatants" with links to al-Qaeda, the Taliban or other terrorist groups. The stated aim was to obtain information from these detainees to prevent further terrorist attacks. However, the fact that these individuals were detained outside the main territory of the United States raised complex legal issues concerning their legal status and rights. Critics argued that the detention of these individuals at Guantanamo was a violation of international human rights law, including the Geneva Conventions. The interrogation methods used at Guantanamo, often described as torture, have also been strongly criticised. In addition, many detainees have been held for many years without charge or trial, raising concerns that the right to a fair trial has been violated. As a result, Guantanamo has become a prominent example of how the raison d'état has been invoked to justify extraordinary measures in the context of the war on terror.
The prison at Guantanamo Bay, located on a US military base in Cuba, has been described as a legal "no man's land". This is a territory which, although under US control, is not considered to be part of the United States in the proper sense. This has allowed the US government to argue that the detainees at Guantanamo are not eligible for the constitutional protections normally afforded to individuals on US soil. This created a legal grey area that was used to justify controversial detention and interrogation practices. Critics argue that this has allowed the US government to avoid traditional legal protections, such as the right to a fair trial, the right to counsel and protection from cruel and inhuman treatment. This state of legal 'no man's land' has been criticised for facilitating the creation of a system where raison d'état prevails over human rights and the principles of international law. Guantanamo has thus become a symbol of the debate on the balance between national security and individual rights in the fight against terrorism.
The situation of the Guantanamo prison has created a unique legal complexity. The military base on which the prison is located is technically on Cuban territory, but it is controlled by the United States under a long-term lease agreement. The US government has maintained that, because the Guantanamo base is located outside US territory, the detainees held there do not enjoy the constitutional protections to which they would be entitled if held on US soil. This position has been challenged by lawyers, human rights advocates and others who argue that Guantanamo detainees should be afforded these protections. It is precisely this legal complexity and uncertainty that has led some to describe Guantanamo as a legal "no man's land", a place where the normal rules of law seem not to apply. This has raised serious questions about the balance between the imperatives of national security and respect for human rights and the norms of international law.
The designation of Guantanamo detainees has been a major point of contention since the prison opened. The US government has claimed that the detainees are "unlawful enemy combatants", a term that is not recognised by the Geneva Conventions, which set out international rules for the treatment of prisoners of war. The term "unlawful enemy combatant" has been criticised by many lawyers and human rights activists, who argue that this designation is used to circumvent the United States' obligations under the Geneva Conventions and other international human rights standards. Indeed, Guantanamo detainees do not have the same rights as prisoners of war (who are entitled to a number of protections under the Geneva Conventions), ordinary prisoners (who are entitled to a trial and legal representation) or political prisoners (who may benefit from additional protections under international law). The US government's position has been challenged in the courts, and although some practices have been changed in response to these challenges, the overall situation at Guantanamo remains controversial.
In its fight against terrorism, the Bush administration created a new category of detainees: "unlawful enemy combatants". This meant that they were neither considered prisoners of war, who are protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor common criminals, who are entitled to a trial in a civilian court. As "unlawful enemy combatants", these detainees were essentially outside the protection of international and US law, allowing the US government to hold them indefinitely without charge or trial. It also allowed interrogators to employ aggressive interrogation techniques that would otherwise be prohibited. This approach has been widely criticised for violating fundamental principles of human rights and the rule of law. Although some of the more controversial policies have subsequently been amended, the status and rights of Guantanamo detainees remain a matter of debate.
The term 'war on terror' implies an armed conflict, which suggests that those captured while participating in it would normally be considered prisoners of war. However, the Bush administration decided not to follow this line of reasoning, preferring to label these detainees as "unlawful enemy combatants". This decision has led to a situation where, although they are captured as part of what is called a war, they do not enjoy the protections normally accorded to prisoners of war under international law. In fact, this situation illustrates one of the many challenges posed by the war on terror. In a conventional war, the boundaries, combatants and objectives are generally clearly defined. In the war on terror, however, these elements are often blurred or undefined. For example, the "battleground" is not limited to a specific geographical area, but extends worldwide. Enemy combatants" can be citizens of almost any country, including those at peace with the United States. And because terrorism is a tactic rather than an identifiable entity, there is no clearly defined enemy to defeat in order to end the war. These factors all contribute to the complexity and controversy surrounding the war on terror and the treatment of Guantanamo detainees.
The creation of the Guantanamo prison is a notable example of the use of extraterritoriality to evade normal legal constraints. By placing the prison outside US territory, the US administration sought to put it beyond the reach of the US courts, and therefore beyond the application of US laws on the treatment of prisoners.
In 2004, the US Supreme Court ruled in Rasul v Bush that US courts had jurisdiction to consider habeas corpus petitions brought by Guantanamo detainees. This meant that, contrary to the claims of the Bush administration, Guantanamo detainees had the right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in US courts. The case of Rasul v. Bush in 2004 marked a turning point, declaring that Guantanamo detainees had the right to challenge their detention in US courts. This decision extended the rights of the detainees, allowing them to have a certain level of legal protection. However, the Bush administration reacted in 2006 by passing the Military Commissions Act, which attempted to limit detainees' access to the courts. In 2008, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the rights of detainees in Boumediene v. Bush, declaring that Guantanamo detainees had a constitutional right to habeas corpus. Regarding the term "unlawful combatant", this is a controversial terminology that the Bush administration has used to justify the treatment of Guantanamo detainees. It has been criticised by many as an attempt to circumvent the protections provided by international law, in particular the Geneva Convention.
The question of whether the 'parenthesis' of the state of exception in the United States, which began in the wake of the 11 September attacks, has come to an end is complex and open to debate. The state of exception, in the context of national security, enabled the adoption of extraordinary measures, such as the USA PATRIOT Act, the opening of the Guantanamo prison, and increased surveillance of electronic communications, among others. Many of these measures are still in place, even though they have been revised and debated. For example, the Guantanamo prison is still operational, even though the number of detainees has been reduced and several US presidents have promised its closure. Similarly, although the USA PATRIOT Act expired in 2015, many of its provisions have been renewed in other legislative forms. In addition, the threat of terrorism continues to influence US and international policy, and the legal framework of the 'war on terror' has lasting implications. Consequently, although there have been significant changes since 11 September 2001, it is difficult to say that the state of exception is completely over. It is important to note that this subject is the subject of much debate among lawyers, political scientists and security studies researchers. There is therefore no definitive consensus on the issue.
Even after the end of the George W. Bush administration, some of the measures taken in the wake of 11 September remained in place. Barack Obama, despite promising to close the Guantanamo prison during his presidential campaign in 2008, has failed to deliver on this promise during his two terms in office. In addition, mass surveillance programmes revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013 showed that the US government continued to monitor the communications of its citizens and others around the world. This raises the question of whether these exceptional measures have become the norm, and whether the notion of the rule of law has been altered or compromised in the wake of September 11. These questions are still being debated by researchers, politicians and civil rights activists. The state of exception, as conceptualised by Giorgio Agamben, can become permanent and change the nature of the relationship between the state and its citizens. It is important to stress that the balance between security and freedom is a complex and contested issue. Decisions taken in the name of national security can have lasting consequences for civil liberties, and the assessment of such decisions requires careful scrutiny and public debate.
The European Union has adopted a different approach to dealing with terrorism. Rather than relying on unilateral measures, it has sought to harmonise the legislation of its Member States. This has involved creating a common legal framework for defining terrorism and putting in place counter-terrorism measures. In 2002, the European Union adopted a Framework Decision on combating terrorism, which defines terrorism-related offences and provides for criminal penalties for these offences. This Framework Decision has been amended several times to adapt to changes in the terrorist threat. In addition, the European Union has put in place various instruments to facilitate cooperation between Member States in the fight against terrorism. For example, it has created Europol, the European Union agency for law enforcement cooperation, which facilitates the exchange of information and the coordination of actions between the police forces of the Member States.
The CIA's 'extraordinary rendition' programmes and 'secret flights' that came to light in the 2000s are striking examples of how certain fundamental rights and civil liberties can be circumvented in the fight against terrorism. Extraordinary rendition is the secret transfer of a person from one country to another without recourse to a formal judicial process. This has often led to situations where individuals have been detained without charge, deprived of their fundamental legal rights and, in some cases, subjected to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. Secret CIA flights, often referred to as "torture flights", are used to transport these people between different detention sites around the world. It has been revealed that several countries, including some European countries, have collaborated with these programmes, either by allowing the use of their airspace and airports for these flights, or by participating in the detention and interrogation of individuals. These practices clearly run counter to the principles of the rule of law and respect for human rights, and have given rise to fierce criticism and controversy. They have also raised important questions about the accountability and transparency of governments in the fight against terrorism.
Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
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