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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
11
Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals
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on October 7, 2011
The book is very dense and it is essential that the reader is very aware of the wealth of information. But the great merit of the work is precisely the rich demonstration of why the law should always be chosen instead of violence and revenge. Another positive peculiarity of the book is to demonstrate the point of view of several states regarding the defendants of war crimes, proving that the solutions are often the "tailoring" of heterogeneous interests of several winners of a war.
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on January 25, 2001
This book is thoroughly researched and footnoted and very well written. It culminates in a balanced account of the development of the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and exposes the role of Western nations in supporting- and in some cases, obstructing the tribunal's work. Bass' thesis is that Western nations value human rights and the rule of law,- but not more than the lives of their own soldiers - thus accounting for the sporadic Western support for War Crimes tribunals. This is provocative book which has many insights into the complexities of international organizations, human rights, and diplomacy.
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on December 3, 2016
very good !
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on September 29, 2015
Excellent!
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on November 14, 2014
Okay, purchased it for class...
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on April 18, 2017
"Stay the Hand of Vengeance" is a set of five case studies of how victorious Western societies dealt with enemy leaders who had set the world or part of it aflame: Napoleon in 1815, German militarists in 1919-20, Ottoman officers and politicians in 1919-20, Nazi leaders in 1945-46 and Serbian nationalists in 1996-2002. The book was exceedingly informative and it is hard to dispute its central arguments.

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.
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on August 9, 2000
If you care even a little bit about international justice, you have to read this groundbreaking book. The research is incredibly painstaking--there's unbelievable stuff about the war crimes tribunal after the Napoleonic Wars, and a riveting reconstruction of the failed tribunal after the Armenian genocide. But there's also great journalism about the search for justice in the Balkans. It looks like international tribunals are going to be the next big thing; this is the definitive history, and the definitive analysis.
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on August 9, 2000
If you care even a little bit about international justice, you have to read this groundbreaking book. The research is incredibly painstaking--there's unbelievable stuff about the war crimes tribunal after the Napoleonic Wars, and a riveting reconstruction of the failed tribunal after the Armenian genocide. But there's also great journalism about the search for justice in the Balkans. It looks like international tribunals are going to be the next big thing; this is the definitive history, and the definitive analysis.
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on September 13, 2000
Gary Jonathan Bass's book is a riveting, thoughtful read into what has been a long-neglected chapter of history. Piecing it all together wasn't easy. Mr. Bass takes sound scholarship, adds good reporting, and weaves a tale that I, frankly, could not put down. Read it. You won't regret it.
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on September 28, 2014
Good research and journalism, but terribly repetitive. Same lines are repeated so many times that the book turns into a summary of itself. Was the author just trying to fill up a page limit?
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