Crane to lecture on ‘kaleidoscopic conflicts’



It might seem irrational.

“How can we govern an ungovernable world?” is a question that geopolitical events and his own life experience has raised for David Crane, Syracuse University law professor and chief prosecutor of the Special Court of Sierra Leone.

Regarding these issues, Crane will lead a discussion titled “Industrialized Killing! Accountability and Justice for Syria” at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ. Crane’s talk is part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series.

Crane said after the Berlin Wall came down in the 1990s, people never contemplated the geopolitical shifts that would occur.

“Ours is an age of extremes,” Crane said. “There is no longer a counter weight of the super powers. The world is off balance.”

He calls it kaleidoscopic conflict — where one thing changes and everything changes, on an hourly or weekly basis.

“Our planners were not prepared for this,” he said. “We can no longer predict what will happen and seem always behind what happens next.”

Crane said he is, by nature, an optimist and as a child of the 1960s has wished for a peaceful world. Now, however, world peace is only spoken of in the halls of beauty pageants.

“We live in a world that seeks solutions and stability, but there is little of either,” Crane said. “Can the world live with such instability?”

And things are not getting easier. Just 13 years ago, as chief prosecutor of the Special Court of Sierra Leone, Crane helped initiate the legal proceedings and the rational selection of evidence that eventually led to the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor (and others) for war crimes.

Using Syria as an example, making such a legal case is much more difficult.

“We have to understand the role of social media and how it impacts positively and negatively the possibility of holding people accountable who kill their own citizens,” Crane said. “We are inundated with too much information”

With Syria, 99.9 percent of the information coming out through social media is useless in a court of law, he said.

“It is like finding a needle in a haystack,” Crane said.

Difficult is not to say impossible. Crane has been part of an investigative team that has established and authenticated 50,000 photos taken by “Caesar” (a pseudonym), providing evidence of direct industrialized killing in Syria and under the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Nonetheless, even with authorized evidence, Syria is a mind-bending example of the strange world we live in, Crane said.

“We are both allied with Assad and calling him a war criminal for the way he has treated his own people,” he said. “We work with him in the fight against ISIL and we want to depose him at the same time.”

Syria is an example of kaleidoscopic conflict — constantly changing.

“Syria exists as a geographic point. But it is a failed region of the world,” Crane said. “Assad is president of 20 percent. ISIL occupies half.” And other factions occupy the remaining 30 percent. “All parties are unwilling to compromise.”