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Understanding Evil

  • Renée Jeffery
Chapter
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Abstract

On July 7, 2005, the world watched in stunned horror as four bombs rocked central London. In the hours and days that followed, world leaders, politicians and other dignitaries roundly condemned the acts in what have now become familiar terms. In his initial statement from the G8 Summit at Gleneagles, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the bombing “barbaric,” concluding at the Labor Party Conference nine days later that the attacks were driven by an “evil ideology.”2 In his response, President of the United States, George W. Bush, also speaking from Gleneagles, vowed that “those who have such evil in their heart” will not succeed in achieving their aims, while the leader of the British Conservative Party, Michael Howard, spoke of the “evil acts” that had taken place, adding that “these evil people will not have their way.”3 In the condolence book opened by the British High Commission in Canberra, Australian Prime Minister John Howard wrote in similar terms that “Evil deeds will never cower a free people.”4 “Evil,” it seems, was once again at the forefront of the international political agenda.

Keywords

International Relation Trial Chamber Rwandan Genocide British Prime Minister Evil People 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Joel Feinburg, Problems at the Roots of Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 144.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Prime Minister Tony Blair, Statement from Gleneagles, July 7, 2005, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4659953.stm (accessed March 22, 2007); “Blair speech on terror” at the Labor Party National Conference, July 16, 2005, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4689363.stm (accessed March 22, 2007).
  3. 3.
    George W. Bush, Speech from Gleneagles, July 7, 2005, available at http://www.cba.ca/news/background/london_bombing/bush_speech.html (accessed July 15, 2005); Michael Howard, July 11, 2005, available at http://uk.news.yahoo.com/050711/143/fn3yb.html (accessed July 15, 2005).
  4. 5.
    See Philip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families (London: Picador, 2000); Bill Berkeley, The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Tribe and Power in the Heart of Africa (New York: Basic Books, 2001); Carlos Santiago Nino, Radical Evil on Trial: Reflecting on the Rwandan Genocide (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
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    Graham Jones, “Srebrenica: ‘A triumph of evil,’” CNN, May 3, 2006, available at http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/02/22/warcrimes.srebrenica (accessed March 23, 2007); Remarks by Ambassador Pierre Richard Prosper at the Tenth Anniversary Commemoration, Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 11, 2005, Embassy of the United States of America, Belgrade, available at http://belgrade.usembassy.gov/archives/press/2005/b050712.html (accessed March 26, 2007).
  6. 7.
    Albert Likhanov, “Against Evil—In the Name of Good,” 57th Conference of UN Associated NGOs. Available at http://www.un.org/dpi/ngosection/annualconfs/57/likhanov.pdf (accessed March 26, 2007)
  7. 8.
    George W. Bush, “Statement by the President in Address to the Nation,” September 11, 2001, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010911–16.html (accessed March 22, 2007).
  8. 9.
    George W. Bush, “President’s Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance,” National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., September 14, 2001, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010913–2.html (accessed March 22, 2007). 10. George W. Bush, “State of the Union Address,” United States Capitol, Washington D.C., January 29, 2002, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020129–11.html (accessed March 26, 2007); see also Peter Singer, The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush (New York: Dutton, 2004), 2.
  9. 11.
    George W. Bush, “State of the Union Address,” United States Capitol, Washington D.C., January 23, 2007, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070123–2.html (accessed March 27, 2007). 12. United Nations, Report of the Panel on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, A.55.305, S/2000/809, August 21, 2000, par. 50, available at http://www.un.org/peace/reports/peace_operations (accessed March 22, 2007)
  10. 13.
    United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, “Address to the United Nations General Assembly,” SG/SM7977, GA/9920, 1/10/2001, September 24, 2001, available at http://www.un.org/News/ossg/sg/stories/statements_ search_full.asp?statID=34, (accessed March 22, 2007). 14. General Assembly President, “Terrorism Is Our Irreconcilable Enemy,” 9/11/2002, GA/SM/289, September 12, 2002, available at http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2002/GASM289.doc.htm (accessed March 22, 2007).
  11. 15.
    Ri Yong Ho, Counselor, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, South Africa, August 31–September 7, RD/D/34, available at http://www.un.org/WCAR.aconf189_12.pdf (accessed March 22, 2007).
  12. 16.
    President Bedjaoui argued at the International Court of Justice that nuclear weapons were the “ultimate evil,” 103. “The Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion,” July 8, 1996, http://www.un.org/law/icjsum/9623.htm (accessed March 22, 2007).
  13. 17.
    Newspaper headlines documenting the use of rape by Serbian forces read, “Serbian ‘Rape Camps’: Evil upon Evil”; “Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict: United Nations Response Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,” http://www.un.org/womenwatch.daw/public/cover.pdf (accessed March 22, 2007).
  14. 18.
    “International Security Includes ‘Peaceful War’ Against Aids, Economic and Social Council Told,” ECOSOC.5884, February 28, 2000, available at http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2000/20000228.ecosoc.5884.doc.html (accessed March 22, 2007).
  15. 19.
    Crime Congress High Level Segment, Bangkok, April 23, 2005, SOC/CP/333, available at http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2005/soccp333 .doc.htm (accessed March 22, 2007).
  16. 20.
  17. 21.
    Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic (IT-98–33), Judgement of the Trial Chamber, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, August 2, 2001, par. 70.Google Scholar
  18. 22.
    Richard J. Bernstein, Radical Evil: A Philosophical Interrogation, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002), x.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    As Douglas Klusmeyer and Astri Suhrke point out, this phenomenon is not simply confined to public discourse as increasing numbers of scholars are being drawn to the term but find little cause to consider the concept itself. Douglas Klusmeyer and Astri Suhrke, “Comprehending ‘Evil’: Challenges for law and policy,” Ethics and International Affairs 16, no. 1 (2002): 28. For example, they highlight the fact that Carlos Santiago Nino “put ‘evil’ on the title page of his book and uses the word prominently in the introduction, where he acknowledges his debt to Hannah Arendt. Yet he makes no use of it in his analysis of events or conclusions for dealing with the perpetrators.” Similarly, “Martha Minnow cites several other scholars who invoke the term, although she herself does not us it either descriptively or as a tool in her analysis of overcoming the legacy of massive violence.” Finally, “after declaring his book ‘is about evil,’ Bill Berkeley offers a definition that is so broad as to be virtually useless,” Berkeley, The Graves Are Not Yet Full, 5; see Nino, Radical Evil on Trial; Martha Minnow, Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence (Boston: Beacon Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Catherine Lu, “Editor’s Introduction,” International Relations 18, no. 4, (2004): 403. 26. Richard J. Bernstein, The Abuse of Evil: The Corruption of Politics and Religion Since 9/11 (Cambridge: Polity, 2005), 10–11.Google Scholar
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    Stephen Toope and Jutta Brunnée, “Slouching Towards New ‘Just’ Wars: The Hegemon after September 11th,” International Relations 18, no. 4, (2004): 405–23.Google Scholar
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  23. 30.
    Ibid., 101.Google Scholar
  24. 31.
    Thomas W. Simon, “Genocide, Evil, and Injustice: Competing Hells,” in Genocide and Human Rights: A Philosophical Guide, ed. John K. Roth (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 69.Google Scholar
  25. 32.
  26. 33.
    Peter Dews, “Disenchantment and the Persistence of Evil: Habermas, Jonas, Badiou,” in Modernity and the Problem of Evil, ed. Alan D. Schrift (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 51.Google Scholar
  27. 34.
    Gil Bailie, “Two Thousand Years and No New God,” in Destined for Evil? The Twentieth-Century Responses, ed. Predrag Cicovacki (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2005), 20. However, Thomas Simon concedes that the frequency with which thinkers have turned to the idea of evil can, at least in part, be attributed to the fact that there is no comparable word in the secular vocabulary. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, for example, “the concept of evil,” whether conceived in a traditional religious sense or in wholly secular terms, “gave philosophers a way to deal with Auschwitz, for the term evil seemed to capture the extreme moral outrage needed to describe” its horrors. Simon, “Genocide, Evil, and Injustice,” 71. 35. Scott M. Thomas, “Faith, History and Martin Wight: The Role of Religion in the Historical Sociology of the English School of International Relations,” International Affairs 77, no. 4 (October 2001): 907.Google Scholar
  28. 36.
    See Vendulka Kabalkova, “Towards an International Political Theology,” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 29, no. 3 (2000): 628–83. Scott Thomas suggests that there are four possible reasons for this state of affairs. First, he argues that with modernization came secularization and the assumption that modern society is secular in orientation. Second is what he terms the “Westphalian presumption,” the idea that after 1648 religion became a matter “to be disciplined by the state” and, as a result, could no longer be viewed as “part of international politics.” The third factor used to explain the marginalization of religion in the study of international relations is the fact that the dominant paradigms and traditions of thought, according to which the subject is conventionally viewed, have not considered such social forces to be of great importance. Although it is not necessarily incompatible with religious thought—the works of Reinhold Niebuhr stand as testimony to this—realism, the dominant perspective of twentieth-century international relations is, of course, the major culprit in this state of affairs. By focusing on the state and conceiving power primarily in military terms, realism has managed to ignore religion as both a social and an intellectual force. Finally, Thomas also cites the rise of positivism and materialism as a further reason for the marginalization of religion in international relations. By privileging “facts” over “values” and in applying scientific methodologies according to which hypotheses are tested and “general laws, patterns or regularities”“discovered” religion, and in particular religious belief, is pushed beyond the margins of acceptable scholarship. Scott M. Thomas, The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations: The Struggle for the Soul of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 54. 37. See the conclusion to my work Hugo Grotius in International Thought (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); Daniel Philpott, “The Religious Roots of Modern International Relations,” World Politics 52, no. 2 (2000): 206–45.Google Scholar
  29. 39.
    John Kekes, Facing Evil (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 28.Google Scholar
  30. 40.
    Ibid., 11.Google Scholar
  31. 41.
    Ibid., 11–12.Google Scholar
  32. 42.
    Ibid., 12 and 28.Google Scholar
  33. 43.
    Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, vol. 1 (London: Nisbet, 1941), 18.Google Scholar
  34. 44.
    John Haldane, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Religion (London: Duckworth, 2003), 94. 45. Gordon Graham, Evil and Christian Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), xiii. See Renée Jeffery and Nicholas Rengger, “Review of Gordon Graham, Evil and Christian Ethics,” Conversations in Religion and Theology 3, no. 1 (May 2005): 24–42.Google Scholar
  35. 50.
    R. Douglas Geivett, Evil and the Evidence for God: The Challenge of John Hick’s Theodicy (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985), 3.Google Scholar
  36. 51.
    C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (London: G. Bles, 1940); For a work viewed by many as providing a more honest assessment of pain see C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (London: Faber, 1961), written after the death of his wife.Google Scholar
  37. 52.
    Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990). This criticism is a little unfair as Lewis directly addresses the reality of pain as follows: “You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. You need not guess, for I will tell you; I am a great coward. . . . But what is the good of telling you about my feelings? You know them already: they are the same as yours. I am not arguing that pain is not painful. Pain hurts. That is what the word means.” The Problem of Pain, 93.Google Scholar
  38. 53.
    Jennifer L. Geddes, introduction to Evil After Postmodernism: Histories, Narratives and Ethics, ed. Jennifer L. Geddes (London: Routledge, 2001), 3.Google Scholar
  39. 54.
    Ibid. 55. Ibid.Google Scholar
  40. 56.
    Ibid., 3–4.Google Scholar
  41. 57.
    Michael Oakeshott, “Present, Future and Past,” in On History and Other Essays, by Michael Oakeshott (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999), 18.Google Scholar
  42. 58.
    Michael J. Shapiro, Language and Political Understanding: The Politics of Discursive Practices (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 20. 59. Murray Edelman, quoted in Herbert Hirsch, Genocide and the Politics ofMemory: Studying Death to Preserve Life (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 98.Google Scholar
  43. 61.
    Hans Georg Gadamer, “The Universality of the Hermeneutical Problem,” in Philosophical Hermeneutics, trans. and ed. David E. Linge, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 3.Google Scholar
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    Hans Georg Gadamer, “Man and Language,” in Philosophical Hermeneutics, trans. and ed. David E. Linge, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 62.Google Scholar

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© Renée Jeffery 2008

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