It is a commonplace of political liberalism that discussion and debate are good; we learn through considering different points of view, including those to which we are opposed. Commonplace because true - consider me an adherent. It is also the case, however, particularly with the volume of published opinion there now is, that some particular debates can get exhausted; they begin to go round and round, and people stop learning anything, some of them (if indeed they are among those who ever did). At such times, with such debates, one thing you can do to maintain a level of interest is to see what philosophy might be derived from views that are constantly repeated, repeated without benefit of amendment in the light of counter-argument. As a friend has lately reminded me, no less a figure from the history of philosophy than Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once wrote that reading the daily paper is 'the realist's morning prayer'.
Today Yasmin Alibhai-Brown adds her voice to that of Desmond Tutu: she wants Tony Blair to face the International Criminal Court for his part in the Iraq war. Not new and, so far as I can see, without any fresh point to make. Alibhai-Brown does, though, give us two theses from her implicit legal and political philosophy.
(1) '[T]he masters of our universe ignored public opposition...' Or: when political leaders are confronted by opposing views in a matter on which opinion is much divided, they must defer to those opposing views. This is a variant of the plea, 'We marched but (sob) you didn't listen' - what the hell is parliamentary sovereignty anyway?
(2) 'He [Archbishop Tutu] even called for the two leaders [Bush and Blair] to be tried at the International Criminal Court. Well why not?' Why not is because - even leaving aside that there was a legal case for the war - the ICC does not yet have authority to try the crime of aggressive war, won't do for a while yet, and when it does its powers won't be retroactive. I've explained this here. Alibhai-Brown cites Sir Geoffrey Bindman as agreeing with Tutu, despite the fact that Bindman, for his part, is aware that the ICC can't try Blair for the crime she wants him tried for. She seems to be amongst those sticklers for international law for whom law is just what we - the right-thinking sort - want it to be. It is a novel conception of law.