Lest my recent trip to the UK return me home without at least a small taste of what has yet to make it across the Atlantic, I picked up a copy of the paperback edition of Robert Harris‘s latest novel, The Ghost: A Novel. I wasn’t expecting another episode of popular-fiction-author-predicts-the-possible-near-future, but just as Richard Clarke and Michael Chricton struck chords in my pleasure reading about our national security (see my post about Breakpoint and Next), so it was a little jarring to read Harris’s book, which centers around a ghostwriter hired to assist the fictional and recently former prime minister of the UK in the writing of his memoires. Harris’s story sets the the strong support this notional PM gave to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, against its potential Spitzer-esque backfiring on that very same ex-PM when when that indicts him for war crimes conducted during the course of his administration’s support for America during the war on terrorism.
Think it’s far-fetched? Perhaps, but as last week’s news that the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Al-Bashir shows, the issue of state sovreignity (especially for senior members of the executive branch) remains very much a paradox for The Hague. (See this on-point but somewhat dry article in the European Journal of International Law.) While some of us may rest on our first world laurels and be content to watch the ICC indict the Sudanese president and thereby attract the collective disapproval of the Arab League as a result, we shouldn’t rest too easily: it’s not quite so different for Harris’s retired Prime Minister to see his own name on an ICC arrest warrant—and escape it only by calling upon the US (ex parte to the court and at whose bidding the fictional PM performed his actions) to save his skin. Is Harris’s fictional PM simply a thinly veiled portrait of the very real-life Tony Blair, against whom similar claims have been made? You be the judge (or let British journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft do so for you in his Slate article). Clever writing indeed. Let’s hope it remains fiction.