I was most intrigued by Crowe’s coverage of the Nuremburg trials. He came to a few ultimate conclusions. The trials were flawed, but acceptably so. Despite being carried out by the conflict’s victors, their was a clear attempt to be fair in the proceedings. After all, is it truly possible to carry out an entirely unbiased trial? All one can do is minimize the chances of such bias becoming a deciding factor, and the Nuremburg trials attempted this to the best of the Allies’ ability given the circumstances of the time.
What is particularly interesting to consider is the aspect of guilt. An important balance had to be met, as the implications of the trials could include the unequivocal condemnation of the state of Germany as a whole. Some would argue that this is acceptable, as most Germans were complicit, even if not in full support of the actions that the Nazis took. Lack of action allowed the atrocities to proceed unhindered. But in this case, who must then be punished? After all, who bears more responsibility, the leader who gives orders or the subordinates who carry out the actions? One provides the ultimate idea in the abstract (in this case genocide), but never personally commits murder. Is it these “masterminds” who must be punished by the law? All must ideally be held accountable for their interactions, but this was logistically impossible at the time. The amount of those who participated in these killings is innumerable. As such, only a finite number can truly have legal proceedings placed against them. Who should be chosen? Many of those prosecuted never personally killed anyone. As such, the idea of blame and justice becomes particularly gray and amorphous, especially in the wake of attempting to rebuild German society. It’s unfortunate that justice be limited by logistical problems, but it is a simple fact clearly present in these proceedings.
Will the universality of rape as a weapon ever end?
Would adding moral/legal imperatives to tragedies other than genocide encourage international action?
Could what happened in Bosnia have occurred without religion?
One of the main aspects that stuck out during the reading was the universal unwillingness to call genocidal acts genocide. Since calling a conflict a genocide places obligations upon other states to intervene, these states have very little motivation to label these conflicts as such. Its disheartening to see how self-centered countries are. Very few weigh the “greater good” above their own self-interests. Thus, few interventions occur in time to truly stem the toll of the violence. It would be interesting to see if formalizing moral and legal obligations for atrocities other than genocide would encourage international action. Perhaps lowering the bar for intervention would force countries to examine the reality of atrocities, and align their actions with their values.
What is also interesting to consider is the centrality of religion in this conflict. While the actions were labeled as “ethnic tensions”, it became clear in the reading that the Bosnians, Serbs, and Croats had a shared history and lineage. The distinguishing factor appeared to be religion. Perhaps this is because it is the most visible sign of difference. Oftentimes this visibility comes in the form of various ethnicities, which can often be differentiated through physical features. But in this area, the shared history and lineage may prevent these features from being clear cut. Instead, religion may be the most defining feature, manifesting itself through customs and dress. This is a visible reinforcement of difference, which humans have a tendency to fear. This combines with the sense of self-righteousness that can accompany religious extremism. This encourages demonization of others, increasing the polarization needed to perpetuate a genocide. It would be intriguing to consider whether this genocide could have occurred in the absence of religion. Without this distinguishing factor as the basis for hatred, perhaps such violence in the region couldn’t have occurred.
How much of these atrocities can be attributed to a blindness or unwillingness to see what was occurring?
Would anything have changed if Vietnam had not been Communist?
Since Pol Pot was inspired by China, could he indirectly have been inspired by the Soviet Union?