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My favorite Sudanese expert weighs in on the ICC

23 July 2009

Michael Kevane, an economist at Santa Clara University, has spent a lot of time in Sudan. He is careful and thoughtful in a way that I admire. I didn’t have the chance to ask him at WGAPE this Spring his thoughts on the International Criminal Court‘s issuance of an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, but he just recently wrote an open letter asking whether the ICC’s warrant for al-Bashir was as bad for Sudan/Darfur as Alex de Waal et al. have said it would be:

I am not sure that there is any basis to have a great objection to the arrest warrant against al-Bashir “now”. Sure one can object, but when objecting one should perhaps be clear that one is objecting because of a “gut” feeling rather than because one’s status as an expert means one has some secret knowledge or insight that others cannot access, and so one’s objection should have more standing than other’s “embrace” of the arrest warrant “now”.

Because I consider de Waal to have greater expertise on Sudan/Darfur than me, I was largely persuaded by his argument that the ICC warrant was a bad thing. (Well, I’m also not a fan of the Save Darfur groups raising money to raise awareness rather than actually help on the ground — and I’m particularly not impressed with some of the ways folks are raising money or how some are trying to raise awareness.) But I find the problem too complex to simply go one way or the other on whether the arrest warrant was a good idea — kinda like this blogger.

The problem is we just can’t know if something is a good or bad thing unless it happens and we observe the outcome. In social science talk, we’d otherwise be hypothesizing about a counterfactual.

Some [possibly] relevant links:

HT to Chris Blattman.

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