21 July 2008

Justice or expediency

The current 'Economist' (subscription), discussing whether the president Sudan should be brought before the International Criminal Court:
The spectacle of justice thwarted is hard to stomach. But in the argument between justice and expediency, both must have their say.
Quite. Sometimes it's worth holding your nose and subordinating the interests of justice to those of ordinary people who just want to get on with their lives in peace. It's difficult, in the heat of conflict, to reach that conclusion, but I suspect that if people in areas of long-running conflict (the Middle East, for instance) were given the chance in a secret ballot, they would opt for compromise and peace over war every time. I might be quite wrong about that, but surely they should be given the chance to make that decision. In most conflicts, one person's justice is another's revenge, but even in cases (like the Sudan or Zimbabwe) where the wrongdoers can be objectively identified, expediency is sometimes going to be the best solution for almost everybody.

Unfortunately, the way in which policy made tends not to target outcomes such as 'peace'. We think it wrong for murderous leaders to be given at the expense of overseas taxpayers a perpetual holiday in a golfing resort of their choice. But that might be the most efficient solution to conflict, and one that the people most involved would, if they had the opportunity, wholeheartedly support.

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