This summer, when International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo charged Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi and his son with crimes against humanity, it was a bold gesture that demonstrated how legal sanction could isolate a rogue government just as much as a military strike. As David Scheffer, the United States' first-ever ambassador at large for war crimes and one of the handful of international jurists, politicians, and activists whose commitment to prosecuting the war criminals of the Balkans and Rwanda led to the creation of the ICC back in 2002, writes in his forthcoming memoirs, All the Missing Souls: "The modern pursuit of international justice is the discovery of our values, our weaknesses, our strengths, and our will to persevere and to render punishment."
Eight years into Argentine jurist Moreno-Ocampo's nine-year tenure, and despite America's refusal to ratify the ICC treaty, he and Scheffer can point to a number of victories: the successful indictments and, in some cases, trials of war criminals from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda, as well as the capture this year of Ratko Mladic, the infamous butcher of Srebrenica.
Scheffer calls it "conduct unbecoming of a great nation" that the country that led the charge to prosecute these evildoers also exploded the bounds of the Geneva Conventions while fighting the war on terror. But the work done by Moreno-Ocampo, Scheffer, and others ensures that the world is nonetheless gradually becoming a less cruel place.
Muse The nameless protester against tyranny.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list City of Thieves, by David Benioff; Empire of the Summer Moon, by S. C. Gwynne; Justice Cascade, by Kathryn Sikkink.
Best idea Drastic reductions in nuclear weapons stockpiles as relics of Cold War thinking.
Worst idea That responding to the plight of the Libyan people in early 2011 was not in the national interest of the United States.
In these days of political trench warfare, most Washington fixtures leave the city with their stature diminished. But Robert Gates, who served presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama and in June completed a transformative tenure across two administrations as Pentagon chief, is the rare exception. The career spook oversaw a responsible drawdown from Iraq, managed an ambitious counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, and began a difficult discussion about the need to realign the military's budget priorities for an age of fiscal austerity -- all the while winning applause from hawks and doves alike.
As Capitol Hill continues to obsess over America's spiraling debt, Gates's focus on trimming the fat from the military looks increasingly prescient. After convincing Congress to ax dozens of military programs in years past, he laid out plans this year to cut $178 billion from the Pentagon's budget over the next half decade. He also warned that NATO faced a "dismal" future if America's allies did not pick up the slack, and he vocally opposed future military adventures. Any of his successors who advocated a ground war in Asia or the Middle East, he memorably told West Point cadets, "should have his head examined."