Politics & Policy

From Brussels to the Hague

The International Criminal Court at the Hague
There are two great capitals of liberal internationalism in Europe.

There are two great capitals of liberal internationalism in Europe.

One is the Hague, where sits the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. The International Criminal Court, established by the Rome Statute over the objections of the United States, is the philosophical heir to the ad hoc tribunals at Nuremberg that saw to the necessary business of hanging Nazis such as Werner Braune and Otto Ohlendorf after World War II. Besides the International Criminal Court, which is tasked with prosecuting crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of genocide, the Hague is home to an older and related institution, which labors under the unwieldy name of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991.

That court has just handed down a 40-year sentence to Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader accused of a large portfolio of crimes against Bosnian Muslims, the most notorious of which is the massacre at Srebrenica, where 7,079 Muslim men and boys were put to death in 1995. The Srebrenica slaughter is widely regarded as the worst atrocity in Europe since the Nazi era, and though Karadzic is very fit for his 70 years, the sentence is effectively life.

Karadzic, with his famous silvery mop, is the face of a conflict about which Americans were conflicted, it being one of those terribly complicated post–Cold War episodes involving a country that isn’t there any more. After the war, the nationalist crank changed his name and became a practitioner of the homeopathic healing arts, even publishing a few articles on the subject. Which is to say, he attempted to follow in reverse the career of Michael Weiner, the Berkeley quack (author of Herbs That Heal: A Prescription for Herbal Healing) who you know today as talk-radio ranter Michael Savage.

The memory of Karadzic and his crimes faded quickly. Americans of a certain age will vaguely remember the siege of Sarajevo, domestic political questions about whether Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans would use American involvement in Bosnia against President Bill Clinton, and perhaps some subsequent grumblings on some parts of the Right that we might have been fighting on the wrong side, given that the campaign against Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, and their allies put the United States effectively into alliance with radical Islamists, some of them connected to Osama bin Laden. Pat Buchanan, who was one of the leading voices against American involvement in Bosnia, would later draw parallels to U.S. pressure on Putin to make peace with the Chechens under the headline “Bin Laden’s Useful Idiots.” Putin’s apologists, like Karadzic’s, believe that the strongmen of Eastern Europe are the Christian West’s first line of defense against the Islamic hordes, and thus are to be indulged. It is easy to imagine Donald Trump, whose admiration for Putin is plain, following that line of argument.

#related#The other great European capital of liberal internationalism is Brussels, effectively the capital city of the European Union, where recent events no doubt have provided some encouragement to those who would see the Putins and Karadzics of the world unleashed, who believe that a massacre or two is just what the Islamic world needs. It certainly will serve to encourage the much more sensible and increasingly common belief in the West that Muslim immigrants are not under current conditions able to be assimilated, and that European and American immigration policies should reflect this, even if that means that many good and decent Muslims abroad are excluded along with their radical coreligionists. The people of the United States surely are considering the poorly assimilated Muslim minority communities of Europe and wondering why on Earth a country that didn’t already have one would want one.

In the Hague, we have a court dedicated to the belief that there exists a law of war, that there is such a thing as a war crime, and certain eternal rules of decency and humanness apply in every situation, even in the madness of war. In Brussels, we have the bloody and horrifying evidence that the Islamic world harbors a great many who reject those notions, who know no law but the savagery they call a religion, who revel in their indecency, who believe that the battlefield is everywhere and that all who fail to submit are the equivalent of soldiers at arms, to be dealt with by any means necessary. In the Hague, they are in the business of drawing lines: This is war, and beyond this is atrocity. For the jihadists, those lines are not boundaries, but starting lines. There is no equivalent to the Hague in the Islamic world, and that is not mere coincidence.

#share#We would like to live in the Hague, with its rules, its processes, and its majestic conception of the pursuit of justice as an endeavor shared by all of humankind. We live in Brussels, and New York, and Paris, and London . . .