Day: June 2, 2011

The Khal’s Speech

Khal Drogo‘s earlier lines in Game of Thrones consisted mostly of occasional Dothraki grunts and a few mono-syllables of broken English. Then we arrive at the visceral war speech scene in the latest episode… either Geoffrey Rush has been secretly coaching the horse-lord,* or the directors intentionally downplayed Jason Momoa’s talents as an actor to build up to this:

*Actually, the coaching is probably done by David Peterson. For more on how you too can curse and threaten in Dothraki, click here or here or follow this. For more on invented languages generally, here is a great summer read.


Making me Mlad: Why you can’t compare the Mladic and Osama bin Laden raids

Charli has been writing about international justice, arguing against ‘myths’ – and comparing the efforts to bring Mladic to justice as opposed to the rush to shoot Osama bin Laden in the face. Others, such as John Feffner at Foriegn Policy in Focus have made similar arguments.

I agree and disagree with some of the points being made. However I am concerned that that many of these arguments seem to completely ignore or fail to appreciate the different context of the Mladic and OBL raids. I just don’t think we can pretend these are at all similar situations – even looking beyond “status” issues, (who was/is a combatant/civilian etc). Rather, I think the core issue here is time and context.

For lack of a better term, bin Laden was caught and killed “during” the War on Terror, a period of active hostilities between the US and al-Qaeda. Mladic was captured over a decade and half after the Dayton Accords. The situation in the Balkans is far from perfect, but it’s certainly calmer. People have been able to get on with their lives as they rebuilding their homes, villages – even if scars can never perfectly heal.
The ICTY was established in 1993 (- a great way for the West/UN/European countries to look like they were doing something about the ethnic slaughter when they really weren’t). Mladic was indicted in July 1995 and surely was eligible to be captured and extradited from that point on.

There’s no question that it’s been a painful and horrible wait, but I wonder if it is also one that has allowed cooler heads to prevail? There have been protests in Serbia, of course. But they have not been on a truly significant scale. Mladic has been caught, charged, extradited (despite appeals) in under a week. Would this have actually been possible in 1995? Possible without tearing apart a freshly signed peace treaty? Aggravating a tense situation? And an angry population?

I’m not saying that international justice does not work – but I do not think 1) it always needs to take the form of an international court 2) that it should be done immediately.

Although it’s been nearly a decade since 9/11, the fact that the War on Terror has been ongoing makes the OBL situation different. bin Laden was a leader of a terrorist group actively planning attacks against the United States and other targets. Mladic, clearly a jerk of international proportions, was guilty of crimes but had returned to civilian life – and so have many others. The Hague will not become the centre of terrorist attacks or even protests. I’m not sure the same could have been said for OBL. Does this mean a trial for both was impossible? No. Does this mean the circumstances were very, very different? Yes.

The bottom line – you can’t make a fair comparison between Mladic and bin Laden when it comes to international justice.

The other reason this consideration is important is that the UN has released a report saying that both sides have conducted war crimes in Libya. Is it the best idea to indict individuals now? Or wait until the conflict is over, the country has a chance to catch its breath and then begin to take a good hard look at what has happened on its territory? Time may or may not tell.


Stuff political scientists like #4, political psychology edition — calling you stupid, but not to your face

Lest I be accused of shielding myself from satire…..

Political psychologists are a kind of political scientist. Or maybe they are a kind of psychologist. In truth, no one really gets to know them very well. That is because political psychologists think everyone is stupid.

Political psychologists think you have never made a good decision in your life. For instance, if 600 people are going to die of a terrible disease and you are given a choice between a health program that will 1) surely kill 400 and save the rest or 2) will have a one third probability of saving 600 people but 2/3 of killing everyone, you will prefer the first. You don’t think very hard, do you? Those are the same. But if you have a third option of surely killing 400 people you will choose both #1 or #2 over #3. It’s the same, too, moron. Political psychologists explain that people are risk-averse in the domain of gains. They have never been to Vegas.

It is not your fault though, political psychologists will tell you. Your brain is simply too small to handle the complex calculations that occur in even day-to-day life. Instead you rely on “cognitive shortcuts,” which is another way of saying that you don’t try very hard. You are lazy as well as being stupid.

Political psychologists have a name for these shortcuts – “heuristics.” This is just a way for political psychologists to make fun of you in front of your face because they know you have no idea what that word means. This enables them to laugh at you in your very presence. Political psychologists are like the mean, popular girls in high school who invite the ugly girl over for a slumber party in order to make fun of her all night. So it goes without saying – do not attend a political psychology slumber party.
Don’t worry, though. You are in good company. Political psychologists will tell you that even great statesmen make terrible mistakes all the time. It is very unfortunate that we have never elected a political psychologist to lead our countries. We could have avoided the Bay of Pigs and World War I.

Political psychologists, in contrast, are very smart. Much smarter than you. They know more about the political beliefs of college sophomores than anyone else in the world. Even more than college sophomores. This is because political psychologists have trick ways of figuring out what you yourself don’t even know about yourself. If you are not sure if you are a racist, ask a political psychologist. They are also able to give precise estimates about how people will make decisions in windowless rooms while playing negotiation games against a computer. This is the key to the unlocking of the secrets of the human mind – no natural light.

Political psychologists also enjoy figuring out why you are such a fascist. What the rest of the world calls being conservative, political psychologists call “right-wing authoritarianism” or “social dominance orientation.” They have devoted years to investigating the root causes of these pathologies. You are uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. You have a need for cognitive closure. You don’t trust others. You are greedy. Liberals are free of these symptoms and deserve no study. Never knowing what you think, being hopelessly naïve and giving your kid’s inheritance to the kids selling candy bars door-to-door need no explanation.


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