Thursday, March 5, 2009

The arrest warrant against al-Bashir

Now that the ICC has delivered its indictment, the hand-wringers are saying, "Nothing is the same." Everything is the same, of course, right now. What the ICC has done, however, is change all of the end games. The hand-wringers analogize with Milosevic and Taylor and Pinochet. These cases, they say, posed no public danger. So no one who had power had to change their strategy. Al-Bashir, however, still has the capacity to inflict grave public danger. The hand-wringers see changing the end game has only one effect: al-Bashir will never relinquish power and will use violence to maintain that hold. In a sense, they argue, the following:
1) al-Bashir will now never relinquish power
2) the key to holding power is to keep all potential threats weak
3) therefore all efforts at peace-making will be undermined

Notice some interesting aspects of the faulty syllogism. Just for one, read Moreno-Ocampo's indictment: point 2) is precisely Moreno-Ocampo's argument for the specific intent of genocide in the Darfur case. al-Bashir deliberately used his forces to keep his enemy weak (indeed to destroy them in part). So the hand-wringers acknowledge that al-Bashir is genocidally-inclined, but having an arrest warrant for such a person is counter-productive. Go figure!

Notice also that 1) isn't quite true. al-Bashir is a person, and so his expected biological lifespan is about 20 more years. he will relinquish power at that point!

Notice that 3) does not follow from 2). Whether al-Bashir will be more secure in his hold on power under peace or insecurity is an empirical question. Al-Bashir is a president in Africa, and so he has always known that the chances of him living to the end of his biological life are very small. he may be impressed by Sudanese exceptionalism- no Sudanese presidents have been killed during or after office, but he surely knows this is still low odds. Many African leaders are killed in office (Sankara, Kabila, Viera, Doe, Lumumba, Habyarimana). (see Arthur Goldsmith)

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