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Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals 1st Edition Thus
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"[C]ompelling. . . . [A] timely and exhaustive survey of how political leaders have wrestled with the problem of war criminals since 1815. . . . Bass . . . argues convincingly that trying war criminals is a better option than its alternative: revenge. . . . [An] important reminder . . . that . . . governments, including our own, must keep step by prosecuting war criminals."---Chuck Sudetic, The New York Times Book Review
"Bass has done extensive research as well as investigative reporting in fashioning an unusual book.", The Virginia Quarterly
"[An] invaluable book."---Barry Gewen, The American Interest
"A solid, lively, and readable contribution to the politics of international criminal justice."---Antonio Cassese, International History Review
"A comprehensive account of how modern society handles war criminals. . . . As America wrestles with international judicial questions, Bass' account of how the dynamics of tribunals have changed throughout the past two centuries is relevant reading indeed."---Meg Kinnard, NationalJournal.com
"Why war-crimes tribunals? In this dense and compelling account, which examines trials from St. Helena to The Hague, Bass, a professor at Princeton, makes a realist's case for idealism and a pessimist's case for perseverance.", The New Yorker
"[A]n intriguing tale, and one told with flair by Gary Jonathan Bass. . . . Mr Bass's book could not be better timed. . . . Mr Bass's compelling account of earlier attempts to apply law in the aftermath of armed conflicts offers a useful historical setting for the current debates about a permanent court. . . . [I]nternational legalism, after a century of the failures and false starts recounted so well by Mr Bass, may after all be about to come of age."---David Manasian, The Economist
"This excellent book is a worthwhile acquisition for anyone and any library, but it is an essential one for those concerned with international law, international organization, and war crimes. Bass combines the best of his scholarly political science training with his experience as a former correspondent with The Economist."---Arthur W. Blaser, American Political Science Review
"[An] impressive scholarly work. . . . Balanced and thorough. . . .", Publishers Weekly
- Item Weight : 1.31 pounds
- Paperback : 440 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0691092788
- ISBN-13 : 978-0691092782
- Dimensions : 6.14 x 0.97 x 9.21 inches
- Publisher : Princeton University Press; 1st Edition Thus (January 15, 2002)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #678,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Gary Jonathan Bass's book, Stay the Hand of Vengeance, debunks several of the myths that grow from such moments. Still, in reviving the story of Leipzig (trials of German officers after World War I) and Constantinople/Malta (trials of Ottoman officers after World War I), Bass has presented not just a useful set of anecdotes on trials that failed and one that succeeded beyond expectation or intention, but a careful history of what drove efforts to hold such trials in the first place, of the limited political will behind them, the complexity and likelihood of failure.
Bass offers two principle insights: first, liberal states have a tendency to support individual accountability through trials for leaders responsible for war crimes that is unique (illiberal states prefer summary executions without second thought). Second, the tendency for liberal states to desire individual accountability and punishment ("legalism," as Bass uses the term) varies directly with the quantity of suffering experienced by that state: France loses 14 times as many men as America in World War I, and Britain 10 times as many men, and both are far more interested in war crimes trials. America, on the other hand, supported prosecutions for those responsible for unrestricted submarine warfare. The first goal of liberal states is to punish those who have harmed their own citizens. The second goal is to do so without risking their own troops. Bass calls this "selfishness."
The principle defect with Bass's amazingly rich work (and apparently, his first academic work following the Let's Go Guide to Egypt and Israel) is that it was published before 9-11, before Guantanamo, the trial of Saddam, the death of Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague, the ongoing efforts in Arusha and Rwanda, and the preliminary flickerings of prosecutions before the International Criminal Court for offenses in Darfur, Sudan, and Uganda. An update is urgently needed.
Vainly, one hopes Bass's insights into war crimes trials and the politics behind them will prove unnecessary. Those who anticipate that new monstrous figures will arise in this century may be well-served by a careful read of Bass's work, in that the prospects and pitfalls of trials as a means of addressing global villainy deserve this sort of well-researched, attentively reasoned, albeit somewhat disheartening, treatment.
"In the last analysis," Bass concludes, "the two international war crimes tribunals in The Hague and Arusha stand largely as testaments to the failure of America and the West."
Indeed: a bit more willpower at the right time, and gross atrocities might have been averted. The thing is, this indictment applies not only to these grand tribunals, but to all criminal courts generally: but for a bit more will, courage, restraint, honor, or whatever other moral virtue proved lacking, nearly all crime might be averted. Hence, the issue is not whether courts reduce criminality, but what to do with the folks guilty of the worst order thereof. And at the least, Bass's work provides some suggestions on when they will likely fail, or prove worse than failures, and how to limit total risks of prosecuting the worst villains of history.
The most interesting parts of the book are the stories of the World War I tribunals, and that of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which unlike the others is actually told in three chapters. In World War I the victorious Allies directed the defeated Central Powers to put war criminals on trial in their own courts, which usually didn't work so well. Still, one Ottoman officer was actually hanged in 1919 for abusing British prisoners, but his funeral was a huge boost to the growing nationalist movement of Kemal Ataturk, which eventually took enough British hostages to force an exchange and end the trials. The experience was so demoralizing to the British that their initial instinct was to simply shoot the top Nazis upon their surrender 26 years later. That they did not can mostly be attributed to Henry Stimson, the American Secretary of War who argued (almost alone at times) for real trials with legal protections for the accused. Stimson's views eventually won out, producing Nuremberg, the most successful international tribunal of all time.
The ICTY chapters however are clearly the most fascinating in the book. Bass argues that even a major democratic power is always more interested in punishing offenses against itself or its own citizens than that against more numerous third-party victims in the war, but in Bosnia in the 1990s there were virtually no Western victims. This was one reason that initially there wasn't a whole lot of support for the ICTY, but as time passed and the SFOR occupation of Bosnia brought Western troops into contact with more and more war criminals, it became harder to justify not arresting them. The ICTY's budget and prestige grew accordingly until finally in early 2001 the recently dethroned Slobodan Milosevic, primary author of the Balkan Wars, was handed over, allowing the book to end on a note of sincere optimism.
Bass finished his book fifteen years ago and I would love to read his commentary on, for example, the Meron-Harhoff controversy over the evidentiary standard for command responsibility, or the ICC. The latter is at best a mixed success, as any war criminal allied to a permanent Security Council member cannot be charged there. Ad hoc and permanent tribunals are mostly necessary because of the ethnic and religious bloodletting that has followed the end of the Cold War and therefore cannot be plausibly argued to DETER war crimes. Still, the ICTY and the ICC represent victories for the idea that justice is achieved in a courtroom from the sifting of the facts and the application of law, not from the barrel of a gun. Five stars.