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The Law of Unintended Consequences

Q: What happens if you demand something from someone?
A: He may or may not give it to you.

Q: What happens if you demand something from someone, and then promise to punish him if he gives it to you?
A: He certainly won't give it to you.

And so, Robert Musil points out how "international law" deters Saddam Hussein from agreeing to go into exile. Of course, the odds that the Iraqi dictator would have ever gone along with America's demands along those lines were slimmer than slim -- but well-meaning Eurocrat/fools have made it certain that he will not.


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Comments (6)

Dave S:

but well-meaning Eurocrat/fools have made it certain that he will not.

I was under the impression that the US originally signed the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court under Clinton, and then withdrew its signature under Bush.

Also, it doesn't seem that the Bush administration's objections to the ICC had anything to do with the fact that it might dissuade dictators from relinquishing power.

Whether or note having an ICC is a good idea, it seems wrong simply to blame Europe for this as though the US foresaw this problem and had nothing to do with it.

1. You can never blame Europe too much. Pretty much everything bad in the world, except for Bud Selig, can be blamed on Europe.

2. You're right that this specific problem had nothing to do with the American objection to the ICC, but that wasn't exactly where I was going with my comments. Laws always have unintended consequences, but the mindset of too much of the Eurocrat community is that all problems in the world can be legislated away, as long as you mean well when you write the law.

Gary Collard:

The US did, in fact, originally sign the ICC Treaty on 12/31/00, with the understanding that Clinton had serious concerns with the proposal that would have to be addressed before it went into effect. When it became apparent that it was going to go into effect as it was, the US pulled out. A policy statement is at http://www.state.gov/p/9949.htm

The whole thing is a joke, an unelected and totally unaccountable court that would have the right to ignore national sovereignty and prosecute on political whim. You can bet that, if we were part of it, Tommy Franks and others in the field would be brought up on war crimes charges, and it's not out of the question that Rumsfeld or Bush himself woudl be also. It is a fine example of the Castro style of governing.

Dave S:

Well, my next question is that I've seen conflicting reports on the actual implications of the court for Saddam. Some places have said that he can't be prosecuted by the court for crimes he committed in Iraq, since Iraq did not sign the treaty. But you seem to be saying otherwise, David.

Dave, your comments are correct as far as they go, but you're forgetting something: when Saddam leaves, a _subsequent_ government of Iraq can sign the treaty.

And, yes, the court has the authority to prosecute crimes that occured in a signatory state before the date that state signed, as long as

(A) the crimes took place after July 1, 2002, which is when the treaty entered into force.

(B) the government of the state in question permits it.

Dave S:

Dave, your comments are correct as far as they go, but you're forgetting something:

I am not forgetting anything--to forget that, I would have to have known it in the first place :) Thanks for answering my question.


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