The Rule of Law in International Context

Here’s an excellent round-table discussion about, mainly, the trial of Saddam Hussein in the context of international power politics. Well worth reading in full.

Themes that I wish participants had had time to discuss in more depth were 1) implications for China’s leaders of our treatment of mideastern dictators (Glenn Reynolds touched on this point) and 2) the suitability of exile as an inducement to dictators to avoid war.

The forum participants who weighed in on the exile question were unanimous that it could be a good tactic. I am skeptical, however, as I think that the implicit availability of exile creates perverse incentives for dictators to cause as much trouble as possible short of war. Saddam Hussein could have safely continued his massacres and WMD development up until the last possible moment, knowing that the USA would not attack without warning and that if his bluff were called he could always accept a comfortable exile.

Much better, I think, would be a policy of targeted assassination to increase the personal risk faced by dictators and their henchmen who refuse to behave. Such a policy appears to have worked well for Israel in its dealings with the Palestinian terrorist leadership. The risk continuum should be such that perpetrators of increasingly bad acts face increasing personal risk — instead of our killing the small fry while offering an implicit “get out of jail free” card to the people at the top.

1 thought on “The Rule of Law in International Context”

  1. I would like to have heard a lot more from Omar than I would some of the others. I know they are professors and commentators and he is a dentist but he strikes me as being a very thoughtful and insightful person and I think his remarks on the subject would carry a lot of weight with those who really are concerned with how the regular Iraqi citizen views this whole thing. He seems to see a lot in his travels around Iraq and his photos. He also does not seem to be an easy person to fool either.

    A couple of the others were pretty good but I do think they missed out by not deferring to Omar more than they did.

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