Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Trial of Hosni Mubarak

Yesterday, a gravely ill Hosni Mubarak faced justice in a courtroom in Cairo. Accompanied by his sons in the cage that holds those accused of crimes Mubarak denied all of the charges against him.

There’s a school of thought that sees the courtroom as the proper place to solve political problems. It’s the same school of thought that sees social justice as the path to prosperity.

This school of thought assumes that when politics goes awry the fault lies in corruption and crime. It then imagines that bring the criminals to justice will cleanse the system and lead to a new democratic era.

It makes for a great narrative. The trials make for a great public spectacle. Yet, they increasingly look more like an opiate for the masses than a step toward a brighter future. Rarely do they solve any problems.

This morning the Wall Street Journal editorialized about the Mubarak trial. It warned us not to think that retribution and revenge solve political problems.

The editorial explained: “History teaches us to beware of the Jacobins and Bolsheviks. Uprisings propelled by retribution, such as Iran's bloody Islamic revolution in 1979, tend not to know how to shut themselves down. Certainly it's hard to strike a balance between justice and revenge, between turning the other cheek and not letting the ancien regime off scot-free. But countries that err on the side of reconciliation have tended to come out better.”

Many nations have transitioned successfully to democracy without executing the previous ruling class: “Nelson Mandela preached it in South Africa, a democratic miracle on that continent. Ferdinand Marcos fled to Hawaii in 1986, but his cronies were largely left alone by the new government of Corazon Aquino, and the Philippines enjoyed a smooth transition. The Romanians executed the ruling Ceausescu couple after a secret show trial and took another decade to get their political act cleaned up. By contrast, the Poles drew a ‘black line’ under their communist past and were able to focus on building a Central European regional democratic power.”

Making a break with a tyrannical past and stepping toward a brave new future, requires “reconciliation,” not revenge.

Building a political system or economy requires that everyone work together. Nothing gets built while everyone is transfixed by a series of show trials.

These spectacles divide the population and make collective enterprise that much more difficult.

You cannot produce national unity, to say nothing of unity of purpose, if you set one group against another, or if you pretend that social justice is going to solve your problems.

1 comment: said...

The chap is definitely just, and there is no doubt.