“State Change”: What Peace and Justice Change
December 4, 2012
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I wanted to bring the Peace vs Justice to a direct point: If there is a dichotomy here, and a single choice, what ought we to prefer? Of course this might be the basis for many people’s final paper, but I wanted to share an a hypothesis/question that might be enlightening. Particularly in response to the Grono and O’Brien piece that begins to ask how justice–>peace and amnesty(peace)–>peace, I think the historical record is particularly interesting. The authors assert that where “peace deals that sacrifice justice often fail to produce peace”, we ought to be wary about preferring temporary “peace” as it might not mean “peace” in the long term. I think that, consulting the historical record, we will find that there are many cases where temporary peace deals lead to conflict/abuse later, but we will find almost no cases where authentic efforts of justice lead to later widespread conflict/abuse. On the first case, the authors give many examples where peace deal/amnesty–>later conflict (Sierra Leona/Angola) as well as peace deal/amnesty–>peace (Mozambique). Thus peace/amnesty/sacrificing justice can mean peace but does not even mostly mean peace. On the other hand, it is truly hard to find a case where a system that prefers justice ever leads to later return to conflict. True, many of these cases mean prolonged conflict before justice is reached (Uganda for a long period), but our history of tribunals and prosecutions hardly finds a single case of return to violence. Am I wrong? Am I missing some glaring examples? (I might be).
If this is the case, though, I suggest that it has to do with the ability of either goal to actually change the status quo. I posit that peace deals simply revert societies to a state of non-war–particularly one that allowed for the widespread crisis in the first place. Justice, on the other hand, creates a structural change in government/society, through personnel/form/status, that fundamentally alters the conditions allowing for conflict. In that sense I don’t think “peace” can be a truly transitional goal–we ought never prefer it to justice, only to allow it to inspire that justice.
In case after case, even with Neville Chamberlain, insisting on peace comes to be particularly unjust. Even in the rare case that peace deals to lead to lasting peace, there is not much to say that justice in those cases might not have been as adequate.
Love to hear thoughts/cases where justice has led to conflict.