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War Crimes Court Needs Support From World Leaders With Moral Fortitude

February 3, 2017

If one looks at the rhetoric that dominated the winning candidate’s message for the Oval Office it is clear that a diminished role for our nation in relation to that of other powers is in the offing.  If one takes the words and actions of Steve Bannon,  Donald Trump’s chief strategist, and adds them to the mix it is clear that there is an unbridled eagerness for an anti-establishment revolt around the world.  You can almost hear the gleeful tones about turning the French and German elections into a far-right power grab.

But I want to take a step back from the election process and ask what will the policy implications be?  There is a topic of great concern I registered on this blog at the time Syrian President Assad used chemical weapons on his own people– and this country along with the world community–failed to act with a powerful response.  Over the course of Obama’s presidency the lack of action over this truly–and not just rhetorical red-line–has been my biggest complaint.

The same deep concern can be registered now against Russian President Putin with the deadly carnage left from bombing relentlessly in Syria.  There seems no path going forward where any world leader will work to bring war crimes charges and demand an international response.  And if the right-wing tilt expands with elections this year one has to assume the will to do the moral and just thing will slide even further away.

During President Clinton’s years in office the horrors from the Balkans were daily headlines.  It was tragic to the point of tearful.  But the perpetrators of many of the outrages were brought to justice before the UN’s Yugoslavia war-crimes tribunal.   The numbers indicted totaled 161 and 83 were sentenced as guilty.

That resolve to bring to bear a sense of justice and moral standing runs in contrast to this current time when it appears the world is willing to stand idly by and not demand those who committed war crimes to be held accountable.

I would hope–for the sake of international order and our fulfillment of a moral code–the world community could again muster the will to do what is right regarding war crimes. I want some teeth shown so that leaders likes Assad and Putin can be charged for war crimes committed in operations they ordered but did not personally lead or direct.  There is no world leader with sound democratic values who need fear such a path forward.  Only the ones who betray international norms need worry.

But given the shrinking number of world statesman and the erosion of moral fortitude there is no reason for anyone to think that war-crime tribunals will ever litigate Assad or Putin.

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