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Competing Theories of United States Policy on Transitional Justice LEGALISM VERSUS PRUDENTIALISM

I. Introduction

In this chapter, I develop a conceptual framework to explain U.S. policy on transitional justice. Specifically, I consider two theories—the dominant theory of “legalism” and what I call “prudentialism”—about what motivated USG support for, or opposition to, various transitional justice options described in the previous chapter for each of this book’s four primary case studies (Germany and Japan after WWII, as well as the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda after the Cold War) and two secondary case studies (the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the 1990-1991 Iraqi offenses against Kuwaitis). Later in this book, I assess these two theories’ relative strengths in explaining U.S. policy in each case.

Part II of this chapter discusses the particular problems and concerns transitional justice represents for international relations, focusing on security and cooperation. Part III then reviews what two prominent international relations theories, realism and liberalism, would posit about transitional justice issues. I then set out, in Part IV, two transitional justice theories: legalism and prudentialism (which are subsets of liberalism and realism, respectively). Part V concludes the chapter by discussing the application of these transitional justice theories to this book’s case studies. Much of the analysis in this chapter concentrates on ICTs, one of the many transitional justice options discussed in the previous chapter, because ICTs are the focus of legalism and are also central to the case studies of this book.

 
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