There is a growling of a discontent, an unrest, just below the surface, festering ready to erupt into a boil of frustration. The salve of the rule of law diluted or unavailable. The world today shifts to the right or spins helpless, struggling to find an anchor, a safe harbor in which to balance itself.
There is no light towards which we can step towards, hopeful that mankind is moving in a direction that is right and proper. Our kaleidoscopic future looms, where tried and true customs and norms shrink from this new thinking of looking inward and away from a global village that was beginning to change the world stage.
In another context we have been here before. For 50 years we saw a stasis that saw the rise of the dictator. The Cold War was a desperate time trying to maintain a balance that would avoid Armageddon. Death and destruction by heads of state against their own citizens was rampant, with little checks against internal struggles. Mankind simply looked the other way as long as loyalty towards one side or the other was maintained. Tens of millions perished, disappearing into the sands of time forgotten as if they never existed.
As the Cold War ended there was a sense of optimism that we had changed for the better, the rule of law began to take hold, the UN taking its intended position of guiding the international community [PDF] towards a real peace and security never attained before. Tyranny shrank before this blinding light and dictators faced accountability. The new millennium held promise, more so than any other millennial event.
It all came crashing down with the towers on September 11, 2001. A fundamental shift took place, at the time seemingly correct, wrapped in a ragged cloth of righteous fury. But the pain of that day stripped away our innocence, our hope, our desire to build a global village where all mankind would benefit. America turned into itself, seemingly trying to lead, to fight against a new and elusive adversary, yet chasing its tail against itself. American civil liberties were challenged. The world watched and stepped away, subtly looking for other leadership and other ways to survive in a world of struggle with a weakened America, the loss of a land that was a bright and shining light that dimmed, barely visible in the storm of extremism that blew across the world.
To survive nation-states began to look for their own solutions seeking new directions. Major international institutions such as the UN, the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) shrank in influence against the onslaught of that extremism. There seemed to be no solutions that were viable. The world wobbling, citizens looked to new political leaders who promised to restore greatness, an elusive idea that cannot be attained alone in this new century. The rise of the nationalistic right a desperate attempt to grasp hold of the fog of this new kaleidoscopic world.
The world is heading into a new darkened age, perhaps to an inevitable conflict of unimaginable dimension. There is little to counter this slide into the dark. Certainly America is no longer that counterweight. An insecure Europe, no longer a meaningful geopolitical entity, cannot step up. The rule of law is lost in the muddle of hate and the there is a loss of any moral compass, particularly in America. “Nothing matters” replaces “from many one” as America’s national motto. In the short and medium term there appears to be no solution. It is hoped that the world will not dissolve while this new global society seeks a new path.
The rule of law must be that path upon which mankind must tread in the long term or we will surely slide down the path into a new darkened age. One has to wonder rhetorically whether Osama Bin Laden actually achieved what he set out to do—see a weakened America fade while western civilization fed upon itself in the moral vacuum left by that America, seeing extremism wrapped in the cloak of Islam causing doubt and fear about the viability of international norms. It remains to be seen. As the new American president stumbles about the world, the future does not augur well.
David M. Crane is a professor at Syracuse University College of Law. He is the founding Chief Prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal in West Africa called the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He is also the founder of the Syrian Accountability Project.
Suggested citation: David M. Crane, A Darkened Age—The Rule of Law in Protecting Morality and Humanity, JURIST – Academic Commentary, June 6, 2017, http://jurist.org/forum/2017/06/David-Crane-a-darkened-age.php
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