Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PARIS IS A BITCH—A Rain/Delilah Short Story

Hi all, my new John Rain/Delilah short story, Paris Is A Bitch, is available now. It covers an important event that occurs sometime between the end of Requiem for an Assassin and the start of The Detachment, the new Rain book that'll be out this summer. You can download it to your Amazon Kindle, your B&N Nook, or via Smashwords directly to your computer as a PDF. There's also a program called Kindle for Mac, available from Amazon and Apple's App Store, that will allow you to download it from the Kindle store and read it on your Mac computer, iPad, or iPhone.

For most couples, a quiet dinner for two at Auberge de la Reine Blanche on the Ile Saint Louis would be just the thing to smooth out the complications in a romance. But for gorgeous Mossad operative Delilah and trying-to-retire contract killer John Rain, nothing is ever easy, and when Rain sees a crew of hard-looking men setting up outside the restaurant, he realizes someone has been bringing her work home with her. Is it a hit—or something even worse? When it comes to killing, business and pleasure are the most dangerous mix of all.

This short story is about 8500 words, or a little under 40 pages in paper. The download comes with the first three chapters of the new John Rain novel, The Detachment (available soon), plus an essay called Personal Safety Tips from Assassin John Rain, which includes information that will be at least as valuable to civilians as it has been to Rain.

Here's a collection of photos of locations that appear in the story. Tough research, I know. :)


Monday, April 11, 2011

2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake

Even as the aftershocks of the March 11 Touhoku quake continued to rock Japan, a group of people came together and determined to do something in response. The Wall Street Journal chronicled their efforts, and the result is a remarkable book, called "2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake." Recorded, written, and published in just over one week, and available as of this morning, it's a stunning collection of firsthand accounts, photographs, art, and essays (including an original by cyberpunk science fiction legend William Gibson), 100% of the proceeds of which go to the Japanese Red Cross and its critical work of aiding the quake's victims. I'm very proud to have contributed the foreword, which I'm posting here in hopes it will entice more people to get involved. Please, buy a copy of the book, share on Facebook, like Quakebook on Facebook, post something about it on your blog, follow Quakebook on Twitter, tweet about it with the hashtag #Quakebook-- whatever you can do to help get out the word and help a nation and people that desperately need it. Thank you.


For me, Tokyo was metropolitan love at first sight.

It was 1992, and the government sent me for a language homestay. I got off the Skyliner at Ueno Station from Narita and that was it, I was done for. I could try to tell you why -- the energy of the place, its strangeness, the feeling of method to the madness -- but really, you might as well try to explain your first crush, your first love, the attraction of a lifelong romance. Whatever you can explain in words won't quite be it. The real connection is always too deep, too elusive, too mysterious ever to be corralled by language. The words will never get it right.

Still, if you're in love and you're a writer, you have to try. You might even create a character, say, a half-Japanese, half-American assassin, to help you:

Tokyo is so vast, and can be so cruelly impersonal, that the succor provided by its occasional oasis is sweeter than that of any other place I've known. There is the quiet of shrines like Hikawa, inducing a somber sort of reflection that for me has always been the same pitch as the reverberation of a temple chime; the solace of tiny nomiya, neighborhood watering holes, with only two or perhaps four seats facing a bar less than half the length of a door, presided over by an ageless mama-san, who can be soothing or stern, depending on the needs of her customer, an arrangement that dispenses more comfort and understanding than any psychiatrist’s couch; the strangely anonymous camaraderie of yatai and tachinomi, the outdoor eating stalls that serve beer in large mugs and grilled food on skewers, stalls that sprout like wild mushrooms on dark corners and in the shadows of elevated train tracks, the laughter of their patrons diffusing into the night air like little pockets of light against the darkness without.


At first light, the whole of Shibuya feels like a giant sleeping off a hangover. You can still sense the merriment, the heedless laughter of the night before, you can hear it echoed in the strange silences and deserted spaces of the area’s twisting backstreets. The drunken voices of karaoke revelers, the unctuous pitches of the club touts, the secret whispers of lovers walking arm in arm, all are departed, but somehow, for just a few evanescent hours in the quiet of early morning, their shadows linger, like ghosts who refuse to believe the night has ended, that there are no more parties to attend.

If my books have been love letters to Japan, this one is more an SOS. I'm both proud and humbled to be part of it, to be in a position to reach others who love Japan and long for Japan so together we can give back some of what we've received, and do something to help Japan back to her feet.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Libya: America Has No Choice?

This post is in response to a post by Juan Cole, a blogger and expert on the Arab and Muslim worlds from whom I've learned a great deal and who I greatly respect, arguing that America has a moral obligation to assist its NATO allies in the war against Libya.

Hi Juan, I'm no expert on NATO and the UN, but Article 5 of the NATO Charter seems entirely clear:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

So Article 5 applies only to attacks in Europe and North America, which would seem to exclude events in North Africa. And even if we read the phrase, "to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area" as broadly as possible, it's hard to see how it could be stretched to an African country on the Mediterranean.

But I think your argument might find some support in Article 6, which provides:

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:

on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France (2), on the territory of or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;

on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.

Again, I know little about the NATO Charter and am unfamiliar with other attempts to interpret it, but on its face, Article 6 seems to provide that if NATO forces are attacked in the Mediterranean, the attack will be deemed to be an Article 5 attack. That said, as a former lawyer, I'm struck by the sloppy drafting of Article 6. As drafted, it seems to have the effect of dramatically expanding the geographical ambit of Article 5, making me wonder why, if such an expansion was the intent of the drafters, they didn't just forthrightly provide for the proper geographical scope of the treaty in one place. Another drafting anomaly in Article 6 is the repetition of the notion that an armed attack on Europe means an armed attack on Europe. Finally, we should mindful of what NATO stands for: North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Legal documents are often construed without regard to their titles and headings, but still, it's fair to wonder why the drafters would have called the organization and the treaty NATO if they intended the alliance to apply equally to the Mediterranean. NAMTO would have worked as an acronym, too.

These anomalies are why I hesitate to opine too strongly in the absence of familiarity with something equivalent to case law (I couldn't find any, BTW). My guess is that the drafters intended that limiting phrase, "in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force" to apply not just to Europe, but to the Mediterranean and other areas mentioned in Article 6, too. Regardless, on its face, Article 6 does seem to provide support for the notion that if NATO forces are attacked in the Mediterranean, the alliance will treat such attacks as an attack against all, in which case each NATO party is obligated to assist the parties that have been attacked.

All that said, you wrote, "So my question is, does that decision not lay a moral obligation on the US to lend support to the effort of its allies?" As you can see from my attempts to parse the NATO Charter, I think the better question is, "Does that decision create a legal obligation for the United States?" Because, after all, if the NATO Council decided to pick a fight outside the treaty's ambit and then tried to invoke the treaty as a way of forcing America to join in that fight, I would argue that no, America certainly has no moral obligation to join in the fight, and I would only be concerned with whether America would be legally obligated to join. As a matter of common sense, it seems dubious that NATO could launch a war not authorized by the treaty and then invoke the treaty to force a member to join that war, but still, the Charter says what it says and regardless of common sense the document of course needs to be addressed.

You ask: Had Washington demurred, "would not the allies have had a legitimate grounds for absolute fury?" I think this is the wrong question. America shouldn't be pressured into war by fear of third party emotions. If America has a legal obligation to join, America should honor that obligation. If no such obligation exists, the potential emotional reaction in foreign capitals ought to be a matter of diplomacy, but ought not to be a basis for America's participation in a war.

You mention that NATO invoked Article 5 following the September 11 attacks. But this was entirely proper, as the territory of a member state had been attacked. Libya has attacked no member state, and your argument would seem to imply that when NATO acts properly in situation x, member states are therefore obligated to act improperly in situation y. Such a tit for tat interpretation of the treaty makes no sense, either legally or common sensically. Moreover, the treaty makes no mention of public support for or opposition to responses by member states, so the foreign public opposition you mention to NATO's assistance to America in Afghanistan again seems relevant only to matters of diplomacy, not to whether an alliance member is legally or even morally obligated to assist another alliance member.

Similarly, your concern that an American demurral would mean the end of NATO is a matter of diplomacy only. Why would America want to be part of an organization that could force America into a war just by threatening the organization's dissolution if America failed to join in? If America really wanted to stay out and believed it had no legal obligation to join in, presumably it could head off such a crisis by early diplomatic intervention. If it couldn't, it might be worth discussing the value of an organization that no longer has a Soviet Union to deter and that seeks to force America to participate in actions outside the ambit of the treaty America has signed.

Granted, Resolution 1973 authorizes UN member states to attack Libya. But I don't see how it follows that America or any other NATO member is then legally obligated to participate in a war launched pursuant to the UN's resolution. Resolution 1973 authorized military action in Libya; it did not require it. Allowing a UN authorization to act as a legal trigger for a NATO requirement would greatly expand the potential applicability of the treaty. France's and Britain's actions in Libya make sense to you, but their next ones might not, and you might regret the creation of a principle that winds up obligating America to participate in every UN-authorized war that a NATO member decides to engage in. I know I would.

You close by asking again whether America has a moral obligation to assist its NATO allies in Libya. Again, I respond by saying respectfully that this is the wrong question. The right question is, Is America legally obligated to assist? Though the ambiguities in Article 6 leave room for argument, on balance I would say that no, America has no such legal obligation, and that in the absence of a legal obligation to act under a treaty, there is no moral basis to act under a treaty. If it were otherwise, we could dispense with treaties entirely and choose our wars case by case on a purely "moral" basis.

With sincere respect,
Barry Eisler