When we extract our pound of flesh in response to a heinous wrong that is on-going, believing this is necessary to deter others from ever doing the same thing, we confront a moral dilemma. Is it better to grant amnesty to the perpetrator in return for an end of the crimes being committed or to pursue the perpetrator until he is held accountable for all of the past crimes he has committed, even though this means more innocent people will be harmed before this occurs?
In a recent Stratfor report, Libya and the Problem with the Hague, George Friedman explains why this is one of the great moral dilemmas of our militarily sophisticated age. He uses Libya as an example of where this moral dilemma is being confronted today.
While western nations expected Moammar Gadhafi's regime to wither in the face of a substantial opposition movement and NATO's broadside attack, the opposite has occurred. While the civilian population is being uprooted, injured and many innocent people are being killed, there is presently no end to the destruction in sight. Gadhafi's faction has been stronger and more cohesive than imagined and his enemies weaker and more divided.
Friedman contends that, under the circumstances, this is not unusual. It has been a characteristic of what we often call "humanitarian wars," those intended to remove a repressive regime and replace it a representative democracy.
It was hoped that the present Libyan government would lose its control and this would lead Gadhafi to enter negotiations to concede control. Friedman contends that the existence of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which became operational in 2002 in The Hague, Netherlands, is a major reason why this is not going to happen.
"The ICC has jurisdiction, under U.N. mandate, to prosecute individuals who have committed war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity. Its jurisdiction is limited to those places where recognized governments are unwilling or unable to carry out their own judicial processes." This leads to an unintended consequence.
"Rather than serving as a tool for removing war criminals from power, it tends to enhance their power and remove incentives for capitulation or a negotiated exit." Friedman argues that what happened to Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia under similar circumstances is a major disincentive for Gadhafi to negotiate. Gadhafi has been indicted by the ICC, as Milosevic had been when the civil war in Serbia was at a similar standoff.
Friedman points out that Gadhafi did not manage to rule Libya for 42 years without substantial support. No doubt, most of Gadhafi's henchmen are also guilty of serious war crimes and crimes against humanity. The same was true of Milosevic.