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A captured pirate once told Alexander the Great, “Because I [raid the seas] with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an emperor.” Controlling State Crime: An Introduction (Garland), a collection of essays edited by Jeffrey Ian Ross, expresses the same sentiment toward piracy writ large. Crime furthers debate on such subjects as police brutality, military torture, and the crime of “unaccountability”; it includes points of view from Brian Martin’s “Eliminating State Crime by Abolishing the State” (which threatens to throw the baby out with the bath water) to Luis Molina’s “Can States Commit Crimes?” (which questions how much impact the international community can expect to have, given that enforcers seldom punish themselves).
“Much of the current literature merely describes crimes of the state, and while that’s a start, there needs to be more,” explains Ross, a senior research associate with the Center for Communitarian Policy Study at George Washington University. He structures Crime to include several models for change, from increased citizen participation à la Amnesty International to ethics training for military and law enforcement. “The next step,” notes Ross, “will be to come up with realistic solutions, which may be combinations of several proven ideas.” For organizers and theorists—and anyone else brave enough to wade through its sometimes heady academic prose—Crime provides a provocative, temperate framework for discussion.