Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [34]


Johnstone's remarkable capacity to trivialize the deadly serious and bulldoze a sweeping and varied topography of human struggle, suffering and conflict into one, blandly undifferentiated moral landscape achieves something of a pinnacle in the opening sentence:

"Since war is itself the breakdown of law, order and justice, stopping war would seem to be more important than attempting to turn it into yet another object of courtroom proceedings."

Johnstone seems to be defining war as some sort of contagen or social process. Comments such as this betray her lack of sophistication and nuance; for all her excoriation of "naive Westerners" she tends to rely on hyperbole and uninformed naivety.

War is, of course, more than a "breakdown" of law and order; such conditions are often a consequence of war, of course, and certainly areas suffering from armed conflict generally experience lawlessness and chaos. However, she seems to confuse the symptom with the disease; I'm tempted to create a Venn diagram for her benefit. Think she'd appreciate the gesture?

As for war being a breakdown in "justice," one must ask why she assumes this is so; is she therefore stating that justice is, by definition, an automatic condition of peace? Or is it the other way around? I assume so; this is not the first appearance of this parallel in the book. Earlier, she criticized the Izetbegovic government for, in essence, not giving the Bosnian Serb Republic what it wanted in exhange for peace, regardless of the justness or fairness of such a peace. There may well have been many Bosnian who would have happily traded justice and an integrated Bosnia for peace--especially had they known what was coming--but that is not the issue. One wonders what Johnstone believes is important; what, if anything, would be worth fighting for. The people of North Korea have known "peace" for decades now; is that peace preferable to the instability and chaos likely to come when the current regime begins to crumble?

Her self-righteous cluelessness continues in the next sentence:

"It is remarkable how certain ICTY jurists take it for granted that there will be more and more wars, and are comforted by the prospect of regulating these wars by judicial institutions."

What is remarkable is how Johnstone presumes to know how ICTY jurists feel and think about their work. It is also remarkable that Johnstone expects this hard-headed international tribunal to call for the world to hold hands and sing Kumbaya rather than deal with reality. One reason to assume that there will be more wars in the future is that the history of civilization suggests that this will be so. A reasonable person might believe that establishing a new standard of international justice might be a positive step towards restricting and discouraging future wars; Johnstone wants it all now, or nothing. Or, she wants nothing now so she can scold incessently. It's hard to tell what she wants, or expects, frankly.

"The aspiration seems to be to make war more sporting, a game to be played within rules."

Keeping in mind that Johnstone was earlier complaining that international law did not exist to make the world perfect, only to establish some guidelines of accepted behavior. How this is different, she does not say, most likely because she doesn't care. And this is, to be honest, just a very stupid statement.

But not as stupid as what comes next:

"This is grotesquely inappropriate for modern warfare, which has been transformed by technology into a merciless slaughter of innocent bystanders."

Would somebody please tell this woman that World War I is over? This statement is so hopelessly wrong and outdated, I don't know where to start. The latest military technology makes it easier to kill bystanders; smart bombs sometimes make mistakes, but it is a safe assumption that the US Air Force won't repeat the carpet bombing tactics of World War II and Vietnam in Iraq or Afghanistan, or anywhere else. By way of contrast, please note: the genocide in Rwanda--around 800,000 human beings killed in the very definition of "merciless slaughter"--was carried out with clubs and machetes.

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