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Democracy's Blameless LeadersFrom Dresden to Abu Ghraib, How Leaders Evade Accountability for Abuse, Atrocity, and Killing$
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Neil James Mitchell

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814761441

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814761441.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
Democracy's Blameless Leaders

Neil James Mitchell

NYU Press

This introductory chapter explains the gravitational theory of accountability. This theory has one central proposition: blame falls to the bottom. In particular, when things go wrong with a policy, people try to shift the blame. Those best placed to do this are those at the top. Even when there is evidence of complicity at the highest levels of government, blame will find its lowest plausible level. For instance, when the news of abuse or atrocity hits the front page, leaders faced with managing the blame are likely to react in a self-interested and opportunistic way and seek to deny and evade accountability. In arguing for this proposition, the book places political and military leaders at the center of the explanation of how democracies manage the blame for atrocities by giving modest expectations about their motives as they adapt to the demands and pressures of their political environment.

Keywords:   gravitational theory, blame, accountability, atrocity, military leaders, political environment

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