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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS PROGRAM PRESENTS: The Enemy Within: How Political Trials Domesticate International Conflict

Date & Time:
January 31, 2019 | 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Science A Building, 124A
Canadian Forces College/Royal Military College of Canada

About the Talk:    The line between the domestic affairs of sovereign states and international relations between and among those states has always been permeable, lending an “inside/outside” nature to international relations. Conflict and post-conflict demonstrate this permeability. When kept to a manageable level, conflict within the state is labeled a crime rather than civil war while armed conflict between and among states fits under the rubric of “war.” Wars and conflicts, civil or international, have to make sense on a domestic level, regardless of regime type. One of the ways this has occurred historically has been through political trials. Political trials are often concentrated micronarratives that make sense and meaning of a larger transnational conflict. The choice of defendants, punishable offences, prosecutorial strategy, the type and way in which evidence is used, and the larger political agendas served, together illustrate how and why this occurs. Put simply, political trials are about the elimination of political foes, an expurgation of the “enemy within.” They are often about dealing with the crimes of the past, establishing official narratives about threats, and setting the limits of permissible dissent. These dynamics will be illustrated with examples from the Cold War and the contemporary War on Terror.